Okay I confess, in my last article I did, didn’t I, state there was a trend of indie music taming to mass appeal? And yeah, I suggested this is no bad thing. There will, however be exceptions to the rule, and rock will, and should always retain its hard edge; we have room for all here. Swindon’s Ryan Webb, for instance, who’s just dropped a new single, “Don’t,” takes no prisoners.
This is militantly metal, with spikes. It rocks with edge, it doesn’t hang around with an ambient intro, stop for a melodic break, the bridge is reached in seconds, the rolling guitar riff perpetually quivering your bones. A one-man red-hot chilli pepper, Ryan wrote, produced, sang, wailed his guitar, recorded and mixed the track in his studio. The only collaborator being Dave Collins, the mastering engineer for Metallica’s last album, who mastered this too.
It must be said, this not the template of Ryan Webb, who quotes influences ranging from Pink Floyd, Joe Satriani, and Zeppellin, to Coldplay, Muse, and Kings of Leon. He has the range encompassing any rock avenue, and projects all with comfort and competence.
“Don’t” though, whoa there Ryan, I’m inclined to put my frayed denim jacket over my AC-DC t-shirt and head-bang my way to the highway from hell, and I’m not usually one for all that; haven’t even got an army surplus bag with badly grafted pictures of Eddie the Head and Megadeath logos!
So yeah, if I like it, you iron maidens will love it! What is more, the track is “a plea to anyone contemplating suicide to take a step back and see that they have a lot going on for them in the world. Even when times are really bad, it’s important to talk to those around you.”
Ryan has chosen All Call Signs as the beneficiary for any sales from the single. All Call Signs is a UK organisation set up by two veteran soldiers, Dan Arnold and SJ James, in order to help other vets/serving military personnel who may be finding life difficult. They have also created an app which helps locate those reported missing and in need of urgent support.
If social media is the rearguard in music’s battle against the Coronavirus lockdown, there’s plenty of battalions networking at this last stand, and physical location is no issue. A virtual realm is borderless, and for this reason, while Devizine is concentrated on content local to Wiltshire, there are many avenues worthy to waiver the rule for. So, expect us to cover some bands and artists without borders, ones I’ll connect with through social media, such as the Facebook group I’m here to mention, as is the group’s tenet.
That said, Ollie Sharp is a young performer from within our geographical catchment, Bath, who recently set up said Facebook group for indie music, called, aptly, The Indie Network. Its welcoming and dynamic attitude is gaining attention. I joined, they cast a thread of introductions; made me feel old! Funny cos it’s true, pipsqueaks by comparison. Young enough to have to Google my antiquated phraseology, like cassette tapes and Danny Kendal. Some poor guy confessed he was older, at 43, at which he faced compassionate reassurances such as, “it’s only a number.” I knew then to keep my gob shtum, so I stated I was “old enough to know better, too old to care.” Least it’d do no good for our Kieran from Sheer Music, who also joined, to grass me up as an old skool raver, historical to those barely an itch!
Though we’ve jested before about the era of yore where never the twain would indie kids and ravers mingle, Mr Moore and I, and come to the conclusion I’m exempt on account of my eclectic taste. Let it be known now, I like the sound of Ollie’s recently formed band The Longcoats, and it’s just the sort of thing which allows Kieran to win the genre argument! It’s breezy, placid indie, acceptable on a larger scale than predecessors, much least my aging preconceptions, bit like what our Daydream Runaways and Talk in Code are putting out; and I like them. I even refer to them as “our,” see, like a northern working-class family. Shoot, pass my Smiths tee Mr Moore, I’m an indie kid! (kid used here in its most unlikely definition.)
Anyway, I digress. We’ve reached the part of the show where the artist mumbles “is this codger going to actually review my single?” Apologies for my Uncle Albert moment, ha, there was me thinking Boris had made arbitrary tangents trendy. There’s no telling some, he’s a bastard. However, we’ll never get going if I branch into politics.
“Used to Being Used” is the single I was sent, the earlier one of two on their Bandcamp page. It follows a blueprint of indie-pop, there’s a trudging guitar riff, a theme of dejected ardour, yet it’s done with skill, catchiness and promising aptitude. The latter single, Drag, which came out in March takes a similar tempo, and cool attitude; there is no need to be angry in an era which accepts the genre, so ever with edge but only enough, The Longcoats create a beguiling and entertaining sound to appeal wide.
Last year guitarist Arthur Foulstone and drummer Kane Pollastrone added to frontman Sharp’s lone act, which bridged the gap between band and solo artist. The final piece of the puzzle came upon recruiting permanent bassist Norton Robey. With the assistance of producer Jack Daffin, The Longcoats have created a defining sound which is appealing and instantly recognisable.
There is nothing about this Bath four-piece indie-pop-rock band here, I’ll be honest, which will act as their magnum opus, but an auspicious start dripping with potential. Here’s one to watch, with their debut EP ‘October’ in the pipeline, here’s hoping it’ll reach us before the month of its namesake.
But it’s not so much about the individual band here which maketh this article, rather the conscious efforts to unite and network, thus creating a scene. Even through this era of wishing for a live gig, the networks thrive, perhaps even more so. Ollie also created Wise Monkey Music, a multi-media music and events promotion company based in the Southwest, of which we look forward to hearing more of; attention, the like Facebook group The Indie Network is likely to bring. They even let this aging raver in, dammit; though my white gloves and whistle must be in a box in the loft somewhere, it’s a deceased stereotype, of which I’m glad.
I do find though, as someone who glued and photocopied zine after zine, aside the mass media driven pop tripe, the underground thrives as it ever did, the internet only creates an easy route in. Just like the bands of the now, such as The Longcoats and others rapidly joining the group, what’s not to like about it?
Joe Edwards has his debut solo album, Keep on Running released this week, here’s my tuppence on it…..
Under the “write what you know,” philosophy, if I’ve been critical in the past regarding local Country-fashioned artists using cultural references alien to their natural environment, i.e. a band from Wotton Bassett crooning about boxcars and wranglers, I have to waive the argument in the case of Keep on Running, the debut solo album by Joe Edwards, of Devizes. Not because Joe is well-travelled to apt locations and it was recorded and produced at Henhouse Studios in Nashville, though he is and it was, or it’s so authentic it’s more authentic than the authentic stuff, but because, in a word, it’s so absolutely gorgeous.
I’m going to be hard-pressed to find a different album of the year, as if this was a new Bob Dylan release the headline would be “Dylan Back on Form.” But it isn’t, and if one can rebuke Dylan as eaten by wealth and the machine he once repelled against, here, with freshness, is Highway 61 really revisited. The characters here can be akin to Dylan’s, questioning romance, bittersweet with humanity’s cruelty. Keep on Running never faulters nor diverts from its mellow method, if the tempo raises it’s only slight, and if it slips a toe under the door of rock, shards of both folk and blues roots are methodically preserved with finesse.
“…if this was a new Bob Dylan release the headline would be “Dylan Back on Form.”
When preacher Casey picks up hitchhiking Tom Joad, recently paroled from the McAlester pen in the Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck paints a picture with his words so immaculately precise you’re in that pickup with them, sensing the raw sting of the dustbowl and the smell of the dying cornfields of Oklahoma. With every banjo riff, or twangy guitar, Joe paints a similarly genuine image of the Southern American states.
The writing is sublime, acute blues. Characters are often despondent, impecunious and dejected. Yet this is not Springsteen’s Nebraska, somewhere they’re thrown a curveball and the air of melancholy is introverted, altered to positivity in the face of all things terrible. You may be riding their train of pessimism, yet it’s not discouraging on the ear, rather selfless muse executed with such passion there’s an air uplifting, best compared with Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.”
You sense a running theme; yes, life is shit but I’m dammed if I’m going to let it piss on my chips. A feeling Joe nurtures as the album continues, reaching an apex with a track called “Don’t Let the Bastards Get you Down,” and continuing to the title track. Hereafter you understand the metaphor to “Keep on Running.” If not, the cover is a meek lino-cut akin to labelling of a Jack Daniels bottle, with a road heading off to the mountains, just to make sure.
“Yet this is not Springsteen’s Nebraska, somewhere they’re thrown a curveball and the air of melancholy is introverted, altered to positivity in the face of all things terrible.”
After the title track, there’s a road ballad in true Americana style, the venerable symbolism for changing your life, which is never a negative notion. If the finale then spells the most adroit blues tune, “Mine oh Mine,” the beginnings, “Beth’s Song” and “Cross the Line” herald the better country-inspired ones, but between them, an insolvent blues tune, “Capital Blues,” as a beguiling teaser for what’s to come. In contrast the achingly poignant, “Gambler” is perhaps the most accomplished bluegrass, filled by a tormented soul pouring his heart out for want of an extra six dollars.
It flows so incredibly well, George Harrison well, though, like a concept album of the 1970s it’s a single unit to be heard complete. This doesn’t prove a problem; you’re engaged throughout and wouldn’t dare press pause.
Nothing is tentative about Keep on Running; you get the sense Joe is deliberate in where he wants to take you. Despite remaining faithful to the formulae set by Guthrie and continued by Dylan, Segar and Lynyrd Skynyrd, where nothing is experimental, nothing is cliché either. One listen and you’ve entered a grimy western saloon, biker citizens pause shooting pool to glare, and a cowgirl in daisy dukes and a red chequered shirt tied at the waist welcomes you, piercingly.
“It flows so incredibly well, George Harrison well.”
There is no in-your-face blast of sound, it traipses mellowly, and Joe executes his vocals with a whisper, as though he’s pouring a heartfelt secret to you alone, and for that you’re honoured; you should be. This is sweltering Sunday morning music, preferably slouching in a rocking chair on the veranda of a log cabin, sipping whiskey and rye, plucking a banjo. Though the least I can do right now is watch Oh Brother Where Art Thou!
Since the jazz era, musical genres start covert and underground, and with popularity they’re refined to mainstream acceptability, packaged into a new pop wave, and eventually fall into a retrospective or cult hall of fame. I first stood aghast at the selling-off of our adolescent anthems when I heard Leftfield’s Release the Pressure in an advert for Cheese Strings. When this happens to you, you’re officially past your sell by date!
When my daughter is in the car it’s paramount, she controls the stereo, at least it is to her. I’m indifferent, the bulk of contemporary pop irritates my senior ears, but occasionally there’s a something interesting hidden. There was one, once, don’t expect me to root through her playlist to tell you what one, pop, but with the backbeat undeniably inspired from drum n bass.
My attention was drawn to a tune this week, Falling, from Devizes’ drum n bass outfit SubRat Records via Gail Foster, who shot the video for it. Listening took me to the aforementioned moment; how drum n bass was now part of the “norm” rather than primarily an underground genre. If it has come of age and entered the realm of acceptable pop, though, there’s still room for experimentation and the fusing of styles, which is no bad thing, and precisely what Falling is. Chris, hereafter known as Tone, has set up SubRat, and Pewsey’s Cutsmith is the vocalist on this particular track.
Cutsmith is current, using hip hop to inspire his acoustic compositions, so it melds effectively. In the way David Grey produced Babylon, Suzanne Vega did with Tom’s Diner or the entire catalogue of Portishead, fusing up-to-date dance styles with acoustically driven tunes is a winner, if done correctly. If not, it’s a howler, but I’m glad to say, this one really works wonders. Falling has a sublime ambient texture and glides causally through a mass-acceptable drum n bass riff. Cutsmith’s smooth vocals complements it perfectly, breathes mood into it and gifts it with meaning; the combination, a match made in heaven.
Though this may not be an entirely ground-breaking formula, I’d like to train spotter a nod towards a lesser-known tune on A Guy Called Gerald’s revolutionary album Black Secret Technology, where through splinters of drum n bass, an unknown Finely Quaye covers Marley’s Sun is Shining. But if you’d rather me example recognised tunes of singers who launched a career from featuring on a dance tune, from Seal to Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and renowned artists who regenerated theirs, like the day William Orbit got a call from the queen of pop, here’s two local artists collaborating for each other’s good, rather than one tossed a rope to the other.
I wanted to probe the mind of producer Tone, about this concept, as what he’s got here is something very marketable, as opposed to something which would only appease the drum n bass fans. I asked him if this was the intention with this tune, yet I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea; I meant this in the best possible way. Even if, Bohemian Rhapsody, for example, is timeworn and cliché, it’s popular because it’s a bloody amazing song. Pop doesn’t necessarily have to be a sell-out, cast yourself away from Stock, Aitken Waterman.
“You’re definitely right about this particular track sounding more marketable and commercial than your everyday underground D&B piece,” he expressed. “I had no intention of making it sound acceptable to the masses but I’m glad it is like that. I think more people should be able to enjoy drum and bass for all different backgrounds. I’m not really trying to make what everyone wants; I just make what I like the sound of, and quite often or not it’s easy on the ear for everyone.”
I wanted gage the story behind this belter. “When we worked on this piece,” Tone replied, “I started out making the entire track without having any intention of putting vocals on to it. I sent it over to Josh (Cutsmith) and he said he’d love to do something over it, which is when we started recording. It turned out really well even though throughout the production I didn’t think I’d be making anything that sounds like this. My roots are actually firmly with the rave scene and I absolutely love sub-heavy underground vibes.”
Is this a debut single from Sub Rat, I asked him. “This is the first free release off of our label, SubRat Records, by myself, Tone. In a hope to bring people in and start a fan-base.” So, does Tone consider himself a DJ and producer? “I’m based in Devizes and solely a producer right now. I haven’t DJ’d for a long while. I produce a lot of drum and bass, but often step into other genres like Hip-hop, dubstep, grime, modern rap and more commercial stuff etc.”
If our local music scene is blossoming, it can be limiting regarding genres, so I welcome this with open arms. To assume such genres are generally confined to a municipal environment you’d be mistaken. Prior to our chat delving into rave memories, as the typecast urban raver always excluded the rural counterparts since day dot, I tried to keep current and ask Tone if future releases will follow a similar pattern, and where he saw SubRat heading.
“Aside from my solo journey I take pride being in the background for vocalists/rappers and providing the music/instrumentals for them,” he explained, “I want to see people succeed off of my tunes!” I hope so, this is promising and like to see other local singers benefit from an electronic dance music makeover, and if so, judging by this excellent tune, through SubRat, drum n bass is the key component.
As predicted, the void where live music reviews used to sit will be filled with an abundance of releases from our local music circuit. I’ve a backlog building at Devizine Tower; here’s the first this week, from Swindon’s indie-pop four-piece Talk in Code, and much as we’ve enjoyed watching streams of Chris in his car, yeah, this is more like it, cool.
Some pensive prose swathed in the upbeat eighties-fashioned synth-pop we know Talk in Code have mastered. Courage (Leave it Behind) offers a “wake-up call,” as the press release defines, yet does so with all the hallmarks of another catchy anthem. This lockdown-themed leitmotif hails what you’re probably questioning yourself, “it’s that feeling of realising something is not right and has to be changed. But, knowing what needs to happen and taking action are two very different things…”
The world will undoubtedly be the different after this pandemic, the unity binding us could potentially tear us apart; did Joy Division predict this?! If not, there’s a ghost, least an inspiration from those early eighties new romantics fused into this contemporary tune, and again, just like the previous singles, while Talk in Code songs sound as if they’d slot into the background of a John Hughes coming-of-age movie, listen again, they also ring modernism in both production and subject.
From its inaugural piano, through its beguiling beat to this cliff-hanging finale which leaves the question open to interpretation, this is an uplifting song; I expected no less though. “Finding the strength to make a change and every bit relevant to these challenging times,” as the blurb continues, is surely up to us, pop doesn’t preach as it once did, rather stages the dilemma for you to solve, and that, in a way makes it that bit up-to-date, rather than a retrospective eighties tribute.
For that reason, Talk in Code are pushing boundaries rather than dwelling, and the reason which found them on BBC Introducing In The West, on The OFI Monday Show, The Premium Blend Radio Show, Swindon 105.5 and Frome FM. It is the reason why the Ocelot, Dave Franklyn of Dancing About Architecture, The Big Takeover, and oh yeah, us, are singing their praises.
Providing optimism as a theme to this single is a biting reality, and Talk In Code still hope to play some of the fifteen festivals that were booked into this year, including M for, Daxtonbury, Concert at the Kings and Newbury Beer Festival along with a showcase for Fierce Panda/Club Fandango, to be rescheduled for later in 2020; hygienically rinsed fingers crossed, and toes.
COURAGE (Leave It Behind) will be released tomorrow, 30th April, on digital download at www.talkincode.co.uk and on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music and all digital platforms.
Had a nice chat with Sheer Music’s Kieran about acts, live streaming, future plans, and gardening this week… what am I on about? It’s always nice to chat with Mr Moore….
If the beginnings of Devizine was a learning curve in which I realised I’d bitten off more than I could chew, one might be mistaken to think now we must’ve covered every musical talent in Devizes, if not Wiltshire. Not so, as a post from Kieran J Moore of Sheer Music incited me to shudder. Why have I not heard the name Joe Edwards before?
Name does ring a bell, must have posted about the cancelled album launch at the Wharf which would’ve happened this week. Well-travelled, Joe has been touring through Europe as a drummer for Australian band The Wishing Well, plus his debut solo album Keep on Running was mixed in Nashville and mastered in New Jersey with Grammy nominee Kim Rosen; might explain it, and if I have encountered the name I had no idea how renowned and awesome he is.
Hoisted in the help of Kieran for this then, to insure I’m bought up to date; there is a new cool in Devizes, and I’m going to prompt him about it. The initial message on any chat window these days is enquiring of wellbeing, understandably. Mr Moore is positively beaming, “[I’m] getting so much done and achieved,” he explained.
I replied with a question, “Like the gardening?!”
A boundless list of household chores followed which included, “how to programme moving head lights, learned how to live stream, learned how to record and edit videos.” Bless, that’s our Kieran, dedicated to fetching us the best live music and promoting local artists, no matter what the era brings us; you have to tip your hat to the man. Seeking permissions to release sets Sheer recorded from 2012-14 and bootleg them onto Bandcamp being the latest venture.
What of the live stream though? My Virtual Festival started with good intentions, but there’s been so much of it it’s hard to keep up, some may not be appreciative my sharing of their stream; it’s a close call. In these frustrating times, I asked Mr M if he felt “people are going to get bored with the live stream.” I often feel it doesn’t make up for the real thing and enforces my sadness that we’re missing out on live music. Yeah, I know, right; then I apologised for my despondent attitude.
It’s a close call because artists earning from a live stream is problematic. Some have found methods of a pay-per-view stream, but many rely on a PayPal donation option. While I sympathise with the artists, also I ponder if charging for a live stream is justified when Wi-Fi can drop out, be overloaded, etc. “So,” Kieran added, “live streams have become a necessary evil, in the sense that everyone is doing them, and it’s really difficult to earn from them. Let’s be clear, live streams will never replace the real thing. No need to go into detail, we all know why, it just won’t.”
He believes they have a place in the future, though, after lockdown has ended. “You’d be a dolt not to recognise it! Whilst it may be difficult and lacking for most of us, these streams have enabled many people who wouldn’t usually be present, be it social anxiety, disability, or a myriad of other reasons, be able to take part and fell part of something.”
I gave mention to a stream-festival by Swindon Shuffle, it doesn’t have to be geographically grounded, organisers said people attended as far away as Mexico, and this increases the fandom of the performers to international levels.
In these few short weeks, we’ve seen musicians getting more creative with the concept, nice to see Benji & Hibbs sitting around a fire rather than indoors,Jon Amor climbed onto his roof last night, and Phil Cooper is getting tech with green screens for a Lost Trades stream on 1st May. “A lot of people have invested in the technology,” Kieran expressed, “so why would it stop after? It’s just daft, of course it won’t. Also, the reality is that venues won’t be back and open before 2021. The possibilities are currently being peddled by MVT,” He continued, “and it’s being taken seriously.”
I felt the need to apologise for my grumpiness, it had been a long day at the diary. I would, however, like to see artists getting some releases out rather than live stream, but accept that’s not easy either, for a band, with social distancing. Talking blues though, surely some the most poignant music, particularly blues, comes from feelings of isolation, depression and disappointment; from teenage anguish or working on the chain gang! The lockdown should deliver some interesting content.
Talking local blues, though, on top of Joe Edwards, who after a listen to I’m liking to a raw George Harrison or Clapton, what else has Kieran got for me? “Jon Amor likens Joe to JJ Cale, which is nice,” he compliments. “Then we have Little Geneva, who actually do covers, but they’re so obscure, people don’t know them. I actually like that slant.” Ticked that box some time ago, Little Geneva playing the Cellar Bar was knockout, and I’ve nothing but praise for their authentic blues sound.
This said, Little Geneva have since recruited female singer Mariam Maz to add to their already talented gang, and this I have to witness.
“Then we have Will Blake in Bromham, a honky-tonk 12-bar type of guy,” but I’ve recently bookmarked Will too, sharing this soul cover multi-instrumentalist’s Isolation Sessions, which see him on piano in the middle of a Bromham field giving us a marvellous rendition of Man in the Mirror et all.
And finally, Kieran aims one I don’t know at me, a “swampy and dirty” contemporary Trowbridge four-piece, Sober Son. This is hard-hitting rock and one to watch. Looking to the future, where I predict an aching aftermath for concerts and gigs, many might frivolously suggest we have the party of parties, but Kieran is a doer. Can I spill the beans on his “overall idea?” “Say it’s currently Sheer’s intention to host an event!” he informs, yeah, will do.
Hosting a “Devizes Music Festival” is said idea, when the lock down is over, and to do a multi-stage bill, across the whole venue. Kieran’s dream team would consist of Jon Amor, Sober Son, Little Geneva, Joe Edwards, Will Blake and The Lost Trades, “etc.” I’m saying no more, not to get over-excited too soon, we’ve a long way to go with the lockdown; I could be a pensioner by then and only wishing to listen to Pat Boone!
Ah bugger, back to the now; do like the Sheer Music Facebook page, currently dedicated to bringing you the best local live streams, “the necessary evil.” But most importantly is the notion I’ve said before and will no doubt say again, unless you want to pop the bubbles of musician’s aspirations and see them pushing supermarket trollies, it’s vital you check out local artists and buy their music, be it from Bandcamp, streaming sites, their sites or send Vinyl Realm a message, as they stock a selection of local music too.
With all the hallmarks of Sam’s current releases,One of a Kind slips perfectly into the direction he’s heading; it’s smooth, echoes of slight melancholy but uplifts just enough to wet the taste buds. Proving Sam Bishop is one of a kind, carving a distinctive style with every new track.
But this one has one significant difference, all profits from it are going straight to Trussell Trust. Sam explains “a truly amazing charity that works to provide emergency food and help for those in need.”
There’s also a topical theme, reflecting the mood of the lockdown for young lovers, “this song is about missing loved ones whilst apart,” he continues, “and feels extremely poignant right now.”
He added how “terrified” he is as it’s the first track he’s produced solely, but it doesn’t fail to impress. It also gives much anticipation for a better day when his newly formed band while at college in Winchester, Midnight Running will re-join and I hope he can bring them back to his hometown for a gig. Until then, check out the single we campaigned to get crowd-funded a month back, as every penny goes to a great cause.