Ruth's Manuvas


My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Metronomy – interview


I caught up with Metronomy’s brainchild, Joe Mount, after the band’s last sound check before their first UK tour date in Nottingham earlier this year, to talk about the traditional English seaside, the Pyramid Stage and t shirt lights…

Does the first date of this tour fill you with excitement or nervous apprehension?

I think it’s a bit of both really. The first date of a tour is always really exciting, and we’ve not been to Nottingham for ages. All the responses to this album so far have been to mention this sudden pressure we’re under to perform that I wasn’t aware of! So it’s fair to say there’s apprehension there, but mostly excitement.

The English Riviera coastline encompasses your home turf, Totnes, in Devon. Was the album something of a homage to where you grew up?

It kind of is and isn’t at the same time. I grew up there and I’ve got a lot of happy memories, but the album’s also me trying to re-invent it because it’s not the most stimulating of places from which to create music from – the way of life is quite laid back. So I’d say it’s both affectionate and a bit of a kick up the arse.

Your latest single, The Look, actually has that traditional seaside sound – I take it that was a purposeful move looking at the album title?

I was aware of playing that jaunty organ sound so I know people will connect the two, so it was a tip of the hat of sorts towards the idea. We travel to different countries and there’s an attitude that people have towards the seaside that’s very English, as they consider those towns to be quite depressing old resorts so I think I was trying to be a bit romantic about them.

The new album’s got a different sound to Nights Out, and definitely Pip Paine, which both feel like soundtracks to parties. Was the change purposeful or organic?

Half and half. Part of me knew that people were more expecting us to do something predictable but I think the fans who understood us knew that wouldn’t be the case. I also just wanted a change and for everything to feel fresh. It wasn’t a struggle though so I suppose in that sense it was quite organic.

You’ve also slowly made vocals more and more prominent within your material. Has storytelling become more important to you?

Not so much. But I felt I needed to do something more confident vocally than Nights Out, something more engaging. It’s all part of this thing where I can see myself moving around between new ideas, but I would like to go back to instrumental on the next album.

Was there pressure to match the critical acclaim of Nights Out?

There is an element of pressure, and not to sound bigheaded at all, but when you start making music you have this idea that you are going to improve over time. If you created a good album and thought that was as good as it was going to get that would be depressing. I had no ideas how this album would be received – I hoped people would respond well to the chances we took with the sound.

You’ve produced all three albums, along with mixing other artists’ work, so how do you think that’s helped you develop?

A lot of the remixes have definitely helped, especially as you learn more about how other people have arranged songs. Writing with other people has also had an influence on the way I’ve worked over time.

Your videos are always imaginative, the latest using backwards footage on She Wants and pigeons on The Look. Does the band play a big part in coming up with these concepts?

On the last album I was involved with the videos but for She Wants I said I didn’t really want to be in them as we were touring. The mad idea for the seagulls came from Lorenzo, the director.

Onto the summer festivals… You’ve been placed on the main stage line up for Glastonbury. Does that feel daunting or a natural step up?

Someone told me about the Pyramind Stage and I was like, “What?!” as I suppose I kind of thought we might be put further up the bill on other stages but to be there is crazy. Having said that in the past I’ve been the one walking past the Pyramid around the time we’ll be on and I’ve felt sorry for those bands as people are just lounging about in the sun and there’s not really a big crowd, so that’ll be us this time! We’ve just always been the kind of people that roll with the punches and enjoy ourselves whatever so this’ll be fun.

I’m sure you always get asked about your t-shirt lights you have on when you play live, but it’s always been a burning desire to know the answer to that question! Where did the idea for those come from?

It was about three days before me, Oscar and Gabriel (Stebbing, former band member) were due to do our first ever live gig. I thought we needed something to pep the show up a bit as we were focusing on the laptops, so I went into a pound shop, saw the covered lights and thought I’d stick them on a t shirt. It was really a spur of the minute idea that’s become quite a permanent feature.

You’re also a fan of the on-stage theatrics and dance moves, will the change in style curtail the antics?

I think we’ll always weave it in to our gigs as we’re the same band and we come from the same place, and I think to ditch it would be to turn our backs on where we’ve come from so we definitely won’t be losing the theatrics.

Reviewed for Gigwise


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Dog Is Dead – Interview

Dog Is Dead

A canny knack for five-part vocal harmony is an impressive feat by anyone’s standards. And it’s definitely an accomplishment that achieves a chunk of individuality for Nottingham’s Dog Is Dead.

Gigwise caught up with abashed bassist and vocalist, Rob Milton, to chat Glastonbury, sax and the band’s revolt against style over substance.

Rob introduces Dog Is Dead as five 19-year-olds from Nottingham, most who grew up together through school. They all sing in harmony sharing the vocal responsibilities, they have one bassist, two guitarists – one of those on keyboards too – a sax and a drummer. And that mix is reflected live, as Dog Is Dead have a mish-mash of influences that just seem to fall into place. The shouty lyrics, saxophone, beautiful vocal harmonies and glockenspiel are just part and parcel of their unit – nevermind fusion food, this is fusion music.

And it’s no accident that their voices wouldn’t sound out of place coming from choir robes, as Rob explains, “We’ve always been into choirs and gospel groups as the sound is so clean, so we wanted to do our own, modern take on it. The problem was we’re not natural singers so it’s taken a lot of practice to get them right.”

Then there’s that saxophone – synonymous with jazz, infamous for dodgy 80s power solos. Dog Is Dead flip the concept on its head, using the instrument to inject warmth and melancholy into their indie pop sound.

“To be honest the band set up just evolved out of the fact we were just good mates, and Trevor was a saxophone player so we just thought, ‘Right, we’ve got a saxophone player’”, Rob adds shruggedly, while taking time to vehemently confirm they are ‘definitely not a new jazz band’.

That carefree attitude to playing whatever they’re into is a refreshing contrast to the self-consciousness that a lot of their indie counterparts expose over their image.

Rob explains, “We’re not conscious of having an image or an image to uphold and I think our personalities come out in the type of music we play. It’s not like you have to take heroin to be memorable anymore in music – that feels quite old now – and I think that’s where bands go wrong when they put all their energies into their look.”

The five are also no strangers to festivals, having played their home town’s Dot to Dot Festival the last two years on the trot, as well as the Bristol and Manchester legs in 2010. Among the rest, playing the Glastonbury BBC Introducing Stage this year set the Dog Is Dead name alight, gaining them critical acclaim in the music press.

Rob admits, “Playing Glastonbury was pretty scary. We felt like small fish in a big pond but you have to take what you can from it. It’s hard to tell whether it’s been a catalyst for us yet, but the single sales are a giveaway. At the moment though, we still feel very much like a grass roots band.

“Having said that, when you get a band like Mumford & Sons who were playing small pubs in Nottingham not that long ago going on to headline stages at the big festivals, it is encouraging, so I think we all draw a lot of confidence from that.”

In June, the band released their first official single, ‘Glockenspiel Song’, after an initial EP in 2009 and have ‘Young’ out for release on 20 September. It’s testament to how far they’ve already come that they have a headline tour this autumn visiting cities including London, Cardiff and Manchester. And beyond?

He adds, “We’ve got the material for an album and although we’re hoping to have one ready next year, we just want to see how everything goes first so we’ve just got to keep our heads down, play it by ear and see what happens.”

Interviewed for Gigwise

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Two Door Cinema Club – interview

My interview with Two Door Cinema Club’s Kevin Baird at the beginning of the year…

Two Door Cinema Club

On the afternoon I caught up with Two Door Cinema Club, the band had already spent their day so far on a whistle-stop promotional tour – a fair indication of the inroads they’ve made into UK music over the last couple of months.

Although the TDCC name has been slowly simmering away in the musical cauldron for a while, their placement on the BBC Sound of 2010 longlist looks like being the ‘abracadabra’ to finally cast the spell for these Northern Irish lads. And with debut album, Tourist History, released on March 1, the timing has been magical.

The band, who met at high school in Bangor, Northern Ireland, are Alex Trimble – lead vocals, guitar, synths and beats, Kevin Baird – vocals and bass and Sam Halliday – guitar and vocals.

Two years on from when they first established themselves as TDCC, they now stand on the edge of their first album release. Only these boys have killer tunes, lauded live performances, plus a record deal with trendy French label, Kitsune to catch them.

Column inches have compared the band to Death Cab For Cutie and early Bloc Party. Acknowledging these influences, Kevin describes the band’s sound as a mix of electro, pop, indie, rock and a lot more to boot; “we like to think we’ve got a really fresh sound about us, something a bit different,” he adds contemplatively. He’s not wrong, because TDCC have the same musical effect as a sunrise peeking in through a chink in the curtains.

Tourist History itself is a 10-tracked 35-minute affair full of genuinely positive mental attitude-inducing electro indie pop. Kevin explains, “Sonically, the sounds on the album are different from the singles, but it’s really accessible and easily to listen to as a whole.”

The album name sprung out of TDCC’s experiences of new places on tour, as well as their memories of growing up in Bangor –Northern Ireland’s equivalent of Blackpool in its 1950s heyday. “We grew up really on the ashes of its tourism, so it’s fitting to have a title in relation to where we come from. It’s about having to choose to leave a town to make a record, which was a difficult decision to come to.”

Labels don’t get much cooler than the cutting edge, independent French Kitsuné name they are signed to. Has it given them a leg up? Kevin agrees this is quite likely and adds, “It’s been really important, because we knew we wanted an indie label. If we’d been pushed in the wrong direction we know we’d only have a short shelf life. It just means we’re bigger fish in a smaller pond.”

TDCC were originally signed after performing at a Kitsuné gig party for La Roux in Paris. They also sit on the label alongside fellow breakthrough act for 2010, Delphic, who were named third in the BBC Sound of 2010 list and whose debut album has notched up some serious critical acclaim already this year. These coincidences could easily prompt a degree of rivalry between the two, But Kevin assures they are good friends who just see it as a chance to exchange banter.

On the subject of the BBC Sound of 2010 longlist, the band cannot help but hope for the same catapult to success that it has offered others in the past. Kevin adds, “When we first heard it took a while to sink in. We were sitting in an airport in Tokyo and I was trying to get rid of my yen in an internet café. It was totally unexpected.

“The difference between us and Delphic and the other bands on the list is that we have been touring for two years, so to finally have that recognition felt really nice.”

Looking ahead, the band is looking forward to taking on some bigger venues across the UK and Europe when they headline their own tour in spring. It’s clear they’ve already got their 2010 carefully planned out, packed full of festivals and live dates, as well as a tour of America with a handful of dates alongside Phoenix.

As for a master plan, for now it seems, TDCC will be happy if they are able to continue making new music and playing gigs. With a diary this packed you wonder if they have time to dream and plot ambitions and hopes. Kevin muses, “My own personal dream is to play on the beach in Rio de Janeiro in my shorts with the carnival in the background.”

One, two, maybe even three components of his vision could be easy enough to manufacture. As for the Rio de Janeiro part, if you close your eyes, the sound of Tourist History might just take you there anyway.

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Two Door Cinema Club interview 18/02/10

Just a quick post to say my interview with Kevin Baird from Two Door Cinema Club is now up and ready to digest on Gigwise.

Read about his musings on Tourist History, Bloc Party and the little tourist town, Bangor…

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Maps interview – 5 October 2009

The end of The Music Magazine is nigh, which is pretty sad as it was a fantastic online site which really championed new music, didn’t just go for all the predictable buzz names and boasted some top quality writing. I didn’t put this up on my blog at first as it felt a bit rude, but I don’t want it to get lost in the ether once the page can’t be viewed so here it is. My interview with Maps…

James Chapman - the face behind Maps

With his second album Turning The Mind released this week and a tour fast on the approach, The Music Magazine chatted to Maps about Mercury Prizes, misappropriation… and erm, Eminem. 

What are the themes and influences behind Turning The Mind?
I took the title from a form of cognitive therapy called Mindfulness, which I got into about thee years ago. The whole album is about mental states and is much more personal than We Can Create was. It’s really about euphoria and what I have seen people go through.

It’s a darker, angrier sounding record than We Can Create…
To be honest that album was made from a whole back catalogue of demos I had made since I was 19 so I had loads to choose from – there wasn’t a cohesive theme there. I’ve recorded Turning The Mind from scratch and I think it really shows where I am at the moment – I really let it all out in the music on this album!

You worked with Tim Holmes from Death In Vegas for the recording, did that have a bearing on the sound, especially as you’ve taken a more electronic direction?
Tim was brilliant. He’s really talented and down to earth and we clicked straight away. The demos I had done in my bedroom this time around were a lot more advanced. Some made it onto the album needing only a bit of brushing up and a bit of sparkle adding, but other tracks had a real overhaul. Nothing was the one that changed the most – before it was a banging techno tune all the way through, but Tim had the idea of starting it with a piano loop and building it layer upon layer.

Going back to your Mercury Music Prize nomination in 2007, do you view it as a bit of a launch pad for your music? Did it put any pressure on you?
The nomination was great I was totally surprised by it at the time. It just got more people listening to my music and helped with sales, but I didn’t really feel any pressure with it. 

Which makes it perhaps surprising that after her win, Speech Debelle’s sales haven’t risen too much and the hype hasn’t really materialised yet…
A lot of people see winning the award as a bit of a curse. But with that £20k that would just make me want to would go and make an album that was even better – it would certainly put a rocket up my arse! 

Looking forward to your tour, do you have any idea what you would like people to get out of the gigs?
We have been working really hard so I’m really looking forward to it. Up until now it feels like I’ve been testing the water and it can be quite hard playing new material to people, but hopefully they will have heard Turning The Mind by the time the gigs come around and there will be a good response.

What’s your view on the illegal downloads debate? Does it nark you?
To be honest if people are downloading music, like it and support it by buying the album then it’s fine. But I’m a bit bummed out because all of the illegal downloads of the album are missing out on a sample that’s on there, so I really want people to buy the real one! I must admit have done it though in the past because I’ve been so eager to hear an album, then bought it on CD and iTunes, so as long as the support is there that’s what matters.

Is there anyone you idolise in music?
This is going to sound funny, but Eminem; he’s a Bob Dylan of our time. He releases albums just when I need them. I have had a hard time with addiction over the last couple of years and I’ve got a way to go, but I love his honesty and that’s what really stands out. You always know people are going to slag off his records but he just talks about what he’s been doing.

What are your favourite venues to play and to watch gigs?
I love Brixton Academy for the layout and for the fact it’s sloped so everyone gets a good view. Obviously it would be a dream to play there. Of the festivals I played Latitude was exciting – it has a nice vibe and its size means it is fantastic for being able to easily walk from tent to tent.

Do you have any ideas and dreams for the future of Maps?
I really want this album to do well so I can make a third album. Times are hard in the music world so that is as far as I am looking ahead to at the moment – that and being a success.

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Maps interview on The Music Magazine 05/10/09

My interview with Maps aka James Chapman is now up at The Music Magazine – well excited!

Go on… have a butchers…

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