Monday, 30 November 2009

Shrag - Rabbit Kids (WIAIWYA)

I don't really get the Huggy Bear comparisons when it comes to Shrag - i think it's a bit lazy, really. And as much as I'll always hold Huggy Bear very dear, Shrag make songs with just as much pop vitality as the riot grrrl heroes.

'Rabbit Kids' is like a siren for happy times. It should be installed into every alarm clock in the world. It starts off like a punk rock Glitter band and the sticks two fingers up to everyone and everything. It's the sort of record you can skip down the road with your best mate to, but you can also do the ironing on a wet Tuesday afternoon with this in the background, and it'd still sound important, righteous and thrilling.

Yes, it passes the ironing test.

Shrag have recently finished recording their second album, ‘Life! Death! Prizes!’ which will be released in early 2010, it says here. This single is out on 14 December. Buy it, for heaven's sake.

Ballad of a boot boy

I am sat in a Northampton hotel desperately trying to write a speech for this work thing I have to host at half seven in the morning, in a different hotel, close to the M1, that I can't afford to stay overnight in. I can't even find solace in a bottle of wine tonight because I have to concentrate for an hour in the morning. Life isn't sweet.

Me and Northampton have form. I lived here for three months once in the mid-90s, and had the worst time ever. I didn't really quite realise how much it'd affected me until I got off the train, walked through the town centre and spotted a few buildings I vaguely recognised. If I listened to Belle and Sebastian's 'The Boy With the Arab Strap' album - a record that I will forever associate with Northampton bus station - I might have one of those proper breakdowns I hear so much about.

A quick straw poll of friends revealed that parts of Athens, Aberdeen, and (of course) Scunthorpe made other people feel like this.

Shining brightly across from my hotel window is a neon sign that says 'Northampton's best kebabs', or something like that. I might have to find solace in some dubious lamb-based product.

Actually, one bottle of wine won't hurt, will it? Thank heavens I have the Afternoon Naps album to keep me company.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

How many boyfriends?

Leeds has, from time to time, thrown up some ace indiepop bands. Think Boyracer, for example. But for one gem, you have you to wade through what seems like a million Babyshambles wannabes, and then after that you have to try and survive getting home from a gig in one of the most intimidating city centre atmospheres I've ever experienced. The latter was one of the reasons I stopped putting on gig on there.

But like a pound coin in a bucket of turds are This Many Boyfriends, a noisy, quiet, charming five piece that put me in mind of The Regulars' more frantic moments, or perhaps some of Mascot Fight's poppier episodes.

They have this ace song called 'That's What Diaries Are For', which, it wonderfully transpired, is about a Leeds self-promoter par extraordinaire who, for the sake of wanting to sound superior and IN THE KNOW, I'll not repeat here.

Anyway, I want to get these lot over to play in Nottingham very soon.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

London Popfest can't come too soon.

A whirlwind week at work has left me needing something to look forward to, and so it's a good news that the 2010 London Popfest looms, twinkling, on the horizon.

Last year's London Popfest was lost for me in a haze of drinking too much, too early, but I'm determined not to make the same mistake twice when this (or next, I suppose) year's event comes 'round.

London Popfest is put together by Sean at Fortuna Pop!, Marianthi and Ian of Spiral Scratch, and John at WYAIWYA - so you know you're guaranteed a blinding line-up.

Already announced for February is Rose Melberg and long, lost Swedish indiepop types Dorotea who are getting back together for a couple of shows between then and now.

I's pretty wonderful that we all have something to look forward to that doesn't involve bloody Christmas, really.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

An interview with The School

I know I've rattled on ridiculously about The School lately, but so what? They're great. And here's an interview with that Liz. I make no apologies. I just hope her boss isn't reading.

What are you up to today?

I'm at work on the internet.

How was the Nottingham all-dayer for you?

Amazing, one of my favourite School gigs of all time. The day itself was very long and tiring but in a good way, there were so many great bands on the bill. We finally got to watch bands we hadn't seen before like The Just Joans, and saw old favourites like Allo' Darlin, Tender Trap and the Rocky Nest. Our set was fun, it was the first time some of us had met (there are so many of us now and getting everyone together at the same time is difficult!) so it was a little shambolic but a lot of fun. The crowd were fantastic, I didn't expect so many people to know our songs let alone be able to shout them back louder than me!

The album seems to have been a long time coming. Any reason for this, or are just a perfectionist?

It was 30% due to bad luck with timing e.g. having to wait for the Christmas drop before releasing it in the new year, it was recorded ages ago! 30% writer's block mainly due to personnel changes causing some delays, 40% perfectionism. I didn't want any fillers, I wanted something that I'd listen to over and over again. I feel bad keeping everyone waiting and hope they feel it's worth it, people don't seem to have forgotten about us which is a good sign. Also Elefant wanted to give plenty of time to promote it properly - there are so many albums that I don't even realise have come out yet, we want to make a big fuss! The long wait has been good for me though because I've had time to start writing the second album, so there shouldn't be such a long wait next time.

What's with all the personnel changes? Is this just bad luck or a conscious decision?

A mixture of both really. Some people weren't able to be in the band due to personal commitments, some really weren't suitable and didn't have their hearts in it, and some just left. We're still looking for a permanent guitarist but have 2 people on board to stand in until we find the right person - there's such a lack of indiepop musicians in Cardiff. The person I regret losing the most is Rob who left because being in a Cardiff band when you live in Birmingham just isn't practical, and there's also that other band he's in (The Voluntary Butler Scheme) who are a bit good aren't they?!! Rob just seemed to 'get' us. But the rest of the band at the moment are fantastic, I couldn't ask for a nicer bunch of people, I've certainly found some musical soulmates there..

Is it annoying that you've had to go overseas to get your records released?

I didn't really consider where labels were based when I initially sent off the demos, we only sent a few to people we loved and Elefant had always been the ambition, but I didn't expect them to react so well - I assumed they'd only end up listening to us after we'd released a few singles and even then would never have thought we'd be an Elefant band, I feel so very lucky.

Looking back now it was the right decision, I could've waited around to see if other labels were interested or tried going after big advances, but it wasn't what I was looking for. Elefant have such a good reputation and back catalogue, a loyal fanbase, and they're genuinely wonderful people. They've been going for 20 years now so have got good connections, they're well respected all over the world and they know what they're doing!

What's been your best moment as a band so far?

The Nottingham alldayer, playing Indietracks in 2007 and 2009, getting to play outside the UK and watching the Spanish film 'Yo, Tambien' which features two of our songs - 'I Don't Believe in Love' and 'Kiss You in the Snow', it was unreal.

You're also involved in organising gigs in Cardiff. What's the response like over there?

It's good actually, we've been promoting under the name Loose for several years now, the first one being an alldayer with The Loves, then I was hooked. We've put on some amazing acts like Daniel Johnston, Of Montreal, Shonen Knife, Vivian Girls, Neko Case, Marnie Stern, Mae Shi, Broken Family Band, Apples in Stereo.. but we also get to bring indiepop bands here that wouldn't have made it otherwise, like Saturday Looks Good to Me, The Motifs, Lucky Soul, Speedmarket Avenue, Brontosaurus Chorus, Dressy Bessy, Still Flyin'.. loads! It's taken a long time to perfect the gigs, establish a small following and get contacts with agents but I think we do ok.. I've just got a job in-house at 2 venues we've been using so it's my dream job, and hopefully will free up more of my spare time to dedicate to School activities!

This looks like you're biggest tour to date. What it's like travelling around with such a big band?

It's exciting! After all this time and playing so many shows we still get really excited about playing any gig like small children, no matter the size or location. We absolutely love playing live and meeting people, it's probably the best thing about being in a band, but also getting to hang around with each other all day, we all get on really well. It'll be the first time we've travelled with so many people as some couldn't get time off work previously, but we've tried extra hard to make it work for the album tour. Harri owns a minibus so we'll be going around in that with Allo, Darlin'. We've still got a couple more shows to announce but it should be approx 12-13 dates in the UK, followed by 4 in Germany, 5 in Italy and then some Spanish dates in April/May.

Where do you get your dresses from?

I need new ones so badly!! Some are from eBay, some have been fiddled with from charity shop bits and some are Liz originals (the wonky ones) - I'm learning how to sew at the moment, I'm really really bad right now, but hopefully in March there'll be a whole new selection of slightly less wonky Liz dresses!

Monday, 23 November 2009

The importance of being optimistic

The news that Next Time Passions have reformed and have posted two mighty songs on their myspace page got me round to thinking about how much great Greek indiepop there's been over the last 15 or so years.

My introduction to this tiny, but vital, scene came nearly nine years ago when Marianthi wrote a great piece on Greek indiepop for my fanzine tasty. I hope she doesn't mind, but I've reprinted that here, because it got me into so many ace bands, and I think it's important that it's shared. So here it is. From the swoonsome Kissamatic Lovebubbles to the sublime One Night Suzan, Marianthi charts the ebb and flow of those precious times.

Greek Indiepop: the importance of being optimistic

It may sound nostalgic or just plainly boring to those of you who have never heard of the existence of a Greek indiepop scene, but for about four years at the very beginning of the 1990s, Athens was the centre of our little world. Then, what with that wretched military service, what with real-life taking over, that little world collapsed. But, as it happens with music, things were left behind that make it worthwhile to write a few words about it 10 years later.

In a funny sort of way, our story goes back a little further, well into the 1980s and it takes place a few thousand miles away from Athens. In 1980, brothers Constantis and Alexandros Veis move to London to study the arts and they find themselves in the whirlpool that was Mike Alway’s mind. Inspired by the alluring sounds and aesthetics of Postcard Recordings, they sent Alway a demo and the legendary Fantastic Something and their “If She Doesn’t Smile” 7” is born (Cherry Red, 1983). Then they move to Blanco Y Negro, record a LP and they disappear into oblivion- no one knows where they’ve gone until very recently when a brand new and lovely pop fanzine from Athens (Carousel) tracks one of the brothers down and torture him into confession. The ‘80s give Greek indiepop one more record to be proud of, The Jaywalkers 12” on Virgin Records (not so indie, yet so pop!) which included the now legendary “(You Can’t Be) Happy All The Time”. Then, suddenly, there is silence.

…Until the fanzine craze comes along that is. In Those Days and later Little Charmer, two wonderful pop fanzines written with unprecedented fervour and feeling, transform Athenian sleeping independent minds into enthusiastic indiepop hearts. They introduced us to the wonders of él, early Creation, Sarah Records and Marsh-Marigold and before we knew it, their soap-bubble parties had become the stage for Greek bands playing indiepop and a new label was on its way: Innocent Label.

The legend has it that Dimitris and Christos (the boys behind those two fanzines) had decided that urgent label action was needed when a band called One Night Suzan presented them with their trumpet-filled indiepop anthem “Until” in ’91. “We have to let everyone know this beautiful song exists”, they agreed, almost in tears. Isn’t it how it all begins in indiepop music? Money was needed to actually release “Until” on 7” vinyl, and until this was found Innocent Label had to release tapes. One Night Suzan’s Autumn Falls was the first Innocent Label release (Guilty 01) and it included the song that started it all along with another five gems of either loud yet melodic guitar pop in the form “Postcards” or ethereal epic noises (“Autumn Falls”).

Guilty 03 was Next Time Passions’ Sleepy Hollow Lane and there are only 50 copies of it - the colourful covers were too expensive to make! They were playing a kind of sensitive, organ-based pop with fragile vocals and a drum machine sound to die for. Next Time Passions also had their own little studio, appropriately called “Sunnyside”, in a suburb of Athens. When the time had come for Innocent Label to release “Until” as a single, disaster struck and the copies were lost before they managed to get to the shops or to anyone’s hands for that matter and a great opportunity was lost. Still One Night Suzan, Next Time Passions along with a couple of other bands like the electronic masters Sound Devise (and yes, this is the correct spelling! I was told off once…) and masters of the political Groove Machine did not give up and kept performing live in mini-festivals organised by the two fanzines, inspiring other people around them to form bands and be part of this majestic atmosphere.

Kissamatic Lovebubbles was one of these more inspired bands characterised by pure pop frenzy. With their name taken from a Strawberry Story and… oh, an unhealthy obsession with The Wedding Present… the Kissamatics set out to conquer the world of Greek indiepop. Their noisy jangly guitars and Vassilis’ heartbroken voice never failed to impress the audiences with drunken tales of lost love.

It was time for action again, it seemed, and This Happy Feeling was born: it involved more or less the same people as Innocent Label and it made its first appearance with Next Time Passions Painter Girl 7” which included three mellow, yet rhythmic melodies. The aesthetics were there, although the money wasn’t and this first release (limited to 500 copies) stands out as the more DIY record the kids ever made. The indiepop manifesto of the insert whispered words about lovers, hot summer days, Pale Fountains records and the happiness of doing your own thing!

The three records that followed Painter Girl were released under the same umbrella of long lost dreams that had to be recovered and included the C86 sounds of Kissamatic Lovebubbles, the ‘60s loud guitars and trumpets of One Night Suzan (“Until” was at last put on vinyl) and, for the first time, the mellow, bossa nova gems of The Crooner. We had come across this name before, when the Spanish label Elefant had released a wonderful split 7” EP with the Passies and a psychedelic combo under the name of Impossible Tymes. At the time, the Crooner was one of them, the almighty Zissimos, aka voice and guitar with ONS… For the purposes of Happy 04, however, The Crooner had become a band. Sounds complicated? Well, it is! Still, if you know anything at all about the currents whereabouts of Greek indiepop, you should have come across The Crooner, by far the most successful exponent of where it all heads towards.

This Happy Feeling is no longer around but there is a new label called Pop Art which promises to not let the unique sensitivity of Greek bands die. Pop Art recently released a wonderful compilation entitled Try a Little Sunshine where one can encounter most of the roads followed by Greek indiepop bands, old and new. They have also released records by Byron’s Girlfriend (whose delightful “Hey Beauty!” should be the first song of every serious mixed tape) and Vel, a new all-singing-all-dancing combo with an unmistakeable summer feel to it. I should also note here that the brand new Crooner album just came out and you should be able to find it through the usual mailorders. Other labels that have released songs (either in compilations or as separate records) by Greek bands, include Shelflife (US) and Les Disques Aquatic (France).

Needless to say, if you‘d like to know more about indiepop from Greece you have to try bit harder than just reading this article! It is really difficult to avoid namedropping when you are just writing to let everyone know of the existence of a relatively unknown music scene, but I hope I did my bit to make you slightly more curious to find out what this is all about …

The School announce album and tour

Fresh as Grimsby haddock (that's very fresh and lovely, by the way) from their damp-eyed performance at the Nottingham all-dayer last week, Cardiff's finest, The School have announced the release date of their long-awaited debut album.

'Loveless Unbeliever' will be released on 15 February on Elefant (I think), and there's a great big tour to promote it. You can catch The School on the following dates at the following places:

Sat 6 March - CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach - album launch * **
Thurs 11 March - SHEFFIELD venue tba *
Fri 12 March - EDINBURGH venue tba *
Sat 13 March - GLASGOW The Flying Duck *
Sun 14 March - ABERDEEN Tunnels *
Mon 15 March - tba (probably newcastle) *
Tues 16 March - LEICESTER Firebug *
Fri 19 March - CHESTER Telford's Warehouse
Sat 20 March - BIRMINGHAM The Victoria **
Sat 27 March - LONDON Bush Hall * **
Sun 28 March - BRIGHTON The Prince Albert
Wed 31 March - CHELMSFORD The Basement

* = with Allo, Darlin'
** = with Pagan Wanderer Lu

I'm thinking of taking the pony and trap up to Glasgow for the evening, so I'll see you there.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Fleeting moments

There's a song by Math and Physics Club called 'Weekends Away' I love so much that I had it played during my wedding. It's a pretty simple tale of getting in the car and naffing off somewhere for a, um, weekend and leaving all your troubles behind you at boring old home. And it's the story of a two fearless adventurers - one who does the driving, and one who reads the map.

As someone who doesn't know one end of a car from the other, I try and fail miserably to read the map, but it's the journey that I find most exhilarating. I was saying to someone the other day; the journey to somewhere is almost better than the actual destination - at least I think so. It's sort of like gig promotion in that I find all the arranging and technical bits and pieces leading up to putting on a gig sometimes more satisfying than the actual gig itself.

Anyway, this was the feeling I had last night as we crawled slowly through a sodden Peak District on the way to see our friends' new baby. The rain was pelting down, and the sky was an inky blue-grey - the sort you only get this time of year at 3pm in the afternoon, and the sort that makes you feel almost priveleged to be out in it, but also sheltered from it.

And then on comes 'Unloveable' and 'The Headmaster's Ritual' and finally, and wonderfully, 'Well I Wonder' by The Smiths, and the strand in your life that is missing when you go to work and then come and home and then go to bed and then get up and go to work... is complete. It's like that amazing verse in Pocketbooks' 'Fleeting Moments':

Fleeting moments are insomnia for the curious and
Untied endings are the curse of inquisitive minds
And so what’s potential,
When potential might be all you ever know?
I don’t know

And then all too soon you're home back to the washing up and two hungry cats. Life's like that, I find.

Listen to 'Weekends Away' by Math and Physics Club here.

Friday, 20 November 2009

New Horowitz single rumour verified

Back when I were a lad, there was this story doing the rounds that Horowitz were releasing 'How to Look Imploring' as a single on Cloudberry Records. Seasons passed, years came and went, my hair got even thinner - and yet nothing happened. Maybe the story was a thing of fantasy, or maye I dreamed it along with that one about Sophie Ellis Bextor joining Horowitz as a second guitarist and then asking me to marry her from the stage of their MEN Arena gig.

I accepted, by the way.

And yet when I opened up my Facebook inbox this morning and saw a message from Horowitz, these words hit me like a firm trout: New single out November 25th(pre-order now!)

And so this single is no longer the staple of hushed conversations in pub room gigs; it's real, it's living, and that money is burning a hole in your pocket. And if you don't want a copy, then you can buy me it as a birthday present. See here for pre-order details.

If you hadn't noticed, then 'How to Look Imploring' has been on Horowitz's myspace page for a while now, and it's one of the best songs the band have written. Defiant bubblegum pop at it's very best.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Tales from the fringe

Of all the shoegaze bands I loved, Blind Mr Jones were perhaps the most ignored. Which sort of suited me quite nicely, because by the time they managed to release their second, superior album, 'Tatooine', in 1994 anyone admitting they still listened to shoegaze records was put in the village stocks and had rotten fruit thrown at them.

'Tattoine' was sent to me when I edited Atomic Magazine, and it made a healthy change from the early 90s dross that was coming out of both the UK and the US, as well as getting on the nerves of the friend who I ran the magazine with, who was getting into gabba at an alarmingly fast rate.

The album mixed the racing pop of Adorable with some of Ride's poppier moments, which was right up my junction at the time, and it even made me forget or ignore the fact that half the songs on the album featured a pissing flute.

Tracks like the appalling named 'Spooky Vibes' provided me with a pop rush that saw off the fact that I was somehow living off a daily diet of macaroni cheese and a weekly dole income of £35. And when I was feeling a bit down on my luck, then you could rely on the a doleful hymn like 'Hey' (they weren't much good at song titles, Blind Mr Jones).

But my favourite track was 'Disneyworld'. In fact it remains my favourite track of the early 90s, and might interest fans of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

Cherry Red have two compilations available, but I'd give those a miss and just buy 'Tatooine', if I were you. Fifteen years on it still sounds bittersweet, innocent and homely.

The School live in Nottingham

Quite a few people now have said how great The School were in ending the all-dayer on Sunday. Luckily, you can now download their set from here.

Thanks, whoever you are, for recording this. It's ace, and a lovely momento.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

There's always going to come a time when we go dancing

One hundred people dancing to The Rocky Nest; Standard Fare looking almost shy that people knew the words to their songs; Liz from The School getting a bit teary during their set; Elizabeth Darlin' making grown men weep and swoon at the same time; and Tender Trap playing a set so effervescent that it belied the fact that they were by far the elder statespeople of indiepop.

All these things and more made the all-dayer on Sunday such a wonderful, wonderful day. It started at 11am in The Bell where I met Andy and drank a couple of Sunday morning(!) pints to fight off the nerves, and ended, for me at least, around 10.30pm, competely dead on my feet.

Every act was great, but Standard Fare ruled the day for me. I always think it must be strange being in a band and hiding yourself away for hours, trying to write these songs, and then actually having people love them. That's what seems to amaze Standard Fare more than anything else in the world, and it's completely disarming and wonderful. And Emma's voice doesn't so much send shivers down my spine as paralyse me for half an hour.

The days after events like this - events when you've seen so many friends in the same room as you enjoying the same things - are horrible. Luckily we've got the London Popfest in February to look forward to, and it's nearly time for Indietracks again, right?

I'm off back to bed.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Internet Forever

I don't know much about Internet Forever, but I do know that I've fallen in love with their debut single, 'Cover the Walls'.

For some reason, they've been supporting Johnny Foreigner on tour later this month. It doesn't take a genius to know that there is a wonky bill.

This will embed itself in your brain and send you loopy in the best possible way imaginable.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Mascot Fight - Losers Can't be Choosers (Cassette County)

I'm going to twatter on about Mascot Fight until they are kings of the world, although that moment might be slightly closer after this ace new ep.

There's no great change of style here, unless you count the odd choirboy theatrics of
'Shonan Bellmore' (I'd like to know the last time Mascot fight went to church), but there's just more of the same sort of crackling, twisted songs you found on this year's marvellous 'Pantomime Hearse' album.

Highlights for me are the biting 'Haha, That's not Anarchy', a diatribe against class tourists, with the ace line: "You're a revolution in yourself/While I'm not worth/So slice open and bridge that class gap/Since it's easy to dip down/And tour those Camden towns/then choose who's deserving of your bootstraps." Great stuff.

But the best track here, for me, is 'Reunion is a Laugh', a sort of early Pink Floyd fantasy-rhyme with nonsense lyrics about paper aeroplanes and magic carpets. That makes it sound shit. It's not. It's ace.

Mascot Fight are that most wonderful of bands: they tell stories in their songs. Everyday life might be boring and drudgeful from Monday to Friday, but it sounds sort of thrilling when Mascot Fight sing about it.

Monday, 9 November 2009

You'll always find me into the Kitchens

For years now, when I've been feeling down or nostalgic, or any of those other shit emotions that come around (usually on a Sunday afternoon), I've often turned to a Kitchens of Distinction record to bring me round.

And so it's sort of wonderful that Patrick Fitzgerald is still making music as stephenhero. His new album, 'Apparition in the Woods' is out today, and you can buy it from here.

Why it was only this morning that I was walking through the dark streets of Nottingham on my way to work that I had Kitchen of Distinction's 'Drive That Fast' running around and around my head. That often happens, because they seemed to make the sort of music that I could only listen to on my own. I don't think I've ever sat down and enjoyed a Kitchens album with anyone else, I really don't. Maybe that says as much about how wilfully unpopular they were more than it does about me, mind.

Download Patrick's acoustic version of Kitchens' 'Goodbye Voyager' here.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

New Sourpatch video

Lots of exciting news from Happy Happy Birthday below, but if buy one more record before Grimsby Town lose their Football League status, make sure it's Sourpatch's 'Crushin'', details of which below.

Here's the beautiful 'I Want You Either Way' from the album.

How good is that? You can download a demo version of Sourpatch's 'Water Without Land' here. Thanks, Andy, for finding it.

Also, there's the free single from WIAIWYA, which is ace.

Here's the rest of the HHBTM news:

Hey folks,
First off the Tunabunny / Hulaboy split 12" is in and available and ready to ship right now. I have roughly 30 copies. Tunabunny is a true Athens band... danceable, minimal, care freee, Hulaboy is the combination of Hula Hoop and Boyracer. The version of this 12" on HHBTM comes in a silkscreen sleeve while the 555 Recordings version comes in a letter press sleeve. Both versions of the 12" comes with a CD-R of the record.

You can now download the Marshmallow Coast albums "Times Square" & "Coasting" with bonus tracks and the regular version of "Seniors & Juniors" via emusic, itunes, or your favorite download service. Andy is currently reworking Seniors & Juniors into "Super Seniors & Juniors" which will feature more guests than you could imagine. Look for a CD / LP release in summer 2010. There might also be vinyl reissues of Times Square and Coasting as well to follow shortly before or after.

Cars Can Be Blue are currently writing a new album which will come out next year. Their debut album "All the Stuff We Do" will be back in print on vinyl in early 2010 with a much bigger pressing this time around. All the Afternoon Naps pillowcases and Bunnygrunt dolls for the special pre-orders are gone.

Currently at the pressing plant is the debut album "Crushin'" by Sourpatch which will come out in January 2010 on both CD and LP. To celebrate this fun little pop record we are doing a pre-order like always and a contest. The pre-order will start on Monday November 9th. The pre-order will consist of either the CD or LP and the bonus goodies will include a silkscreen Sourpatch tote bag, a button, and a CD-R EP. We will choose a random name from the pre-order and this person will receive a mix tape from the band, a 3 color poster, postcards, stickers, a letter, and a phone call on their birthday. I'd get in on the pre-order early as the Bunnygrunt and Afternoon Naps ones didn't last long. The Sourpatch CD will ship in mid-December while the LP will ship in early January.

If you haven't joined the HHBTM newsgroup yet then you really should. You can join the newsgroup or news list by going to the site and clicking the newsletter button at the bottom of the site. Each Friday I pick a subscriber at random and send them free stuff. The last two winners have received the new Tunabunny / Hulaboy split 12" or the 08-09 HHBTM CD catalog. The next giveaway will be next Friday with the winner get a mix CD box set.

There are three new videos up at the website in the media section, or you can use the links below....

Cars Can Be Blue "Eyeballs" from the album Doubly Unbeatable

Casper & the Cookies "Little King" from the album Modern Silence

Sourpatch Fun" from the album Crushin'

Charlie Mcalister - Turn of the Century Photograph (unread)- South Carolina banjo spaz pop...imagine a very southern fried Dan Deacon minus the schtick and keyboards. cassette $4.00
Charlie Mcalister - Creosote (unread) LP $12.00

Afternoon Naps
11.13 - Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
12.10 - Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom

11.21 - St Louis, MO @ Casa De Black
11.27 - St Louis, MO @ Schlafly
12.4 - Columbus, OH @ Used Kids Records
12.4 - Columbus, OH @ Treehouse
12.6 - Brooklyn, NY @ Bruar Falls
12.12 - St Louis, MO @ KSHE Klassics
12.26 - St Louis, MO @ Off Broadway

Casper & the Cookies
11.7 - Athens, GA @ the Secret Squirrel

Lovely Eggs
11.13 - Birmingham, UK @ Autumn Store
11.20 - Manchester, UK @ Star & Garter
11.27 - Lancaster, UK
12.7 - Preston, UK @ the Continental
12.8 - Manchester, UK @ Sake Bar
2.6 - Newcastle, Uk @ Popklubb C86 Festival

Red Pony Clock
11.17 - Los Angeles, CA
11.20 - San Francisco, CA @ Amnesia
11.21 - Merced, CA @ Partisan
11.22 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar

Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records
P.O.Box 742
Athens, GA 30603

Saturday, 7 November 2009

There's more to life, but not much more

There are some bands that just get better and better with each release. In recent times there's been Math and Physics Club, Electrip Pop Group, Northern Portrait, Pocketbooks... and probably a few more that I've forgotten.
Add to that list Allo Darlin' and The Middle Ones, who both have new singles which take them way beyond anything they've released before.

I'm sort of scared at how brilliant Allo Darlin' are, and could be. Disarming and self-effacing they might be, but when they smack you square on the nose with a pop song so instantly loveable as 'The Polaroid Song' it makes my jaw drop in awe. I have a new favourite single almost weekly, but this has been my most cherished song of the year so far this week. It has everythng; delicately plucked guitars; girl group backing vocals; a really, really, ramshackle guitar solo; and even a flute. At least I think it's a flute.

You can hear 'The Polaroid Song' and its b-side 'Will You Please Spend New Years Eve With Me' (which I might add is the finest anti-New Years Eve song every recorded) on All Darlin' myspace page, and you can - you must - buy it in December from Fortuna Pop!

The Middle Ones' new single is the kind of brittle folk pop that they've been gently building over the last couple of years. Their eponymous, debut ep is a 10" single in hand made scrapbook sleeve. The tracks are 'River Song, 'Slow Bridge, 'Courage' and 'Young Explorer'. I've heard the last track there and it's gorgeous.

This is another must-buy before Christmas, I think. You can get the record from Rough Trade or by emailing John and WIAIWYA, who are releasing the ep.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Interview with Souvenir

I've rambled on about Souvenir on here before, and so after Ed at Sheflife sent me the couple of records he put out by the band, and after I'd listened to them to death, I thought I'd get in touch with Jaime and ask him a few questions.

I sort of lost contact with the band after the records you put out on Shelflife in the early 00s. Were you happy with those records, and what happened after them?

We were really happy with them, and the fact that they were licensed in the US by Shelflife and in Japan by Tone Vendor made us really proud! We had formed the band in 1999 and it felt great to have our songs heard abroad, and to be asked to take part in compilations like the Marina Records tribute to Brian Wilson (Caroline Now!) alongside bands such Saint Etienne, Alex Chilton, members of Teenage Fanclub and Belle And Sebastian… The original idea was to do French Pop songs in a contemporary context but with the spirit of the 60s. Then we started integrating other influences, the sound of bands such as The Go-Betweens or The Pale Fountains, and things like surf music…. Anything that we liked at that moment, really.

You sound seems to have changed a lot over the years - why is this?

It’s part of that impulse for integrating new elements all the time… we get bored easily, so after a couple of records we started dropping the yé-yé elements and looking more at other types of music we loved. So our third and fourth records (Recto/Verso, 2003, and Des équilibres, 2005) had elements of indie pop, electronica, 80s, country music… In 2007 came the biggest change, though. We had grown a bit tired of being tagged as ‘melancholic pop’ and we needed to do something totally different. So in 64 (2007) we embraced electronica and techno pop. In this year’s record (Drums, Sex and Dance) we’ve kept on that path because we feel really comfortable with what we’re doing now.
Are you big popstars in Spain?

Ha, ha, well… not really. I wish we were! We’re an indie band, and one that sings in French too… down here most of the indie bands sing in Spanish or English, so we’re a bit like freaks in a way. That said, I have to say that we’re really happy about our situation in the current alternative scene… we’ve got great reviews in the media for all our records, our songs are played very often in Radio 3 (the only Spanish radio station which plays independent records) and we feel really appreciated. Our label takes care of us, we’re playing love more than ever, we get to do nice videos… we’re happy. But we’d love to be more popular abroad, because we think that what we do could be appreciated in other countries.

I love the video to 'Monkey See Monkey Do'. What's the story behind that?

Well, this guy who directs videos and films contacted us to try and work with us. We met in Barcelona and he came with this huge notebook full of crazy ideas for a video. We discussed all the options and we went for that idea, a weird late night story about a boy and a girl monkeying around… The filming was done one hot night in August in Barcelona and we had a great time with all the crew and some friends who came to take part as extras… the video is a bit unusual, but we really wanted to do something different after a couple of videos (Allô, allô and Ta Machine) which were ‘nicer’. We wanted something a bit rougher.

Tell me about your new album - are you happy with it?

We’re really happy. It’s the first record we’ve made entirely in our studio, so our vision hasn’t been biased by having to use a producer and someone else’s studio. For better or worse, it sounds exactly as we wanted - and it’s taken us 10 years to get there! The sound is less polished than in 64, the beats are heavier but there’s still room for melody. These are the songs that work better with the audience when we play live.

As far as I'm aware, you've never played in the UK. Would you like to?

No, you’re right, we haven’t. We’d love to!

Who are you current musical heroes?

Vince Clark, Lux Interior, Ellie Greenwich, Bat For Lashes, Radio Futura, Duane Eddy, Suicide, Brigitte Bardot…

Is the band your full-time job, or do you have a dull proper job like the rest of us?

We have dull proper jobs, yes… nursing and teaching pay the bills! But we love our jobs, though. Plus they guarantee a certain artistic freedom – we make records because we want to, not just because we have a band we depend on to make a living.

And what's next for you?

We’ve sort of finished the 2009 leg of our tour. We’re hoping to have more gigs in 2010. We’d definitely love to be able to play live abroad. In any case, in 2010 we’ll start working in new songs for a forthcoming album and keep playing with our other bands too. So no room for boredom really!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Indiepop killed the video star

To my mind there should be more indiepop videos. I remember watching a great video called 'Carry on Disarming' that NME put together in aid of CND, that had amongst other ace clips, the video to The Bachelor Pad's 'Country Pancake'. It was something of an epiphany after being subjected to a diet Curiousity Killed the Cat videos coming out of the telly, and it made me think more indiepop bands should make videos.

Here's the Bachelor Pad video.

Of course these days, just about anyone can get their video seen what with that there YouTube and the rest, but not many bands either have the time or the money or the inclination to make something fun.

Tender Trap have, though, for their download-only single 'Fireworks', and whilst it might be slightly more high-tech than the Bachelor Pad effort up there, it's no less disarming. So, more indiepop videos, please!