The phrase the ‘Nicest Man in Rock’ is bandied around quite liberally these days; Dave Grohl seems to have held onto the title the longest, but I am here to petition you that this accolade, that all makers of mosh pine for (not actually true) belongs to another individual, a certain Andrew Groves (@AndrewRoots) of Arcane Roots. Now, Andrew is but one-third of the beast that are Arcane Roots, with Adam Burton (@RootsBurton) and Daryl Atkins (@gunsandwolves) completing the line-up on bass and drums respectively.
Upon meeting Andrew, I’m not met by a battle weary rock-diva at the end of a triumphant set at Concorde 2; I’m instead met by a personable gentleman in a faux-tweed jacket, impeccably groomed and reaching my way with a welcoming hand in the cold Brighton air. I’m led towards Andrew and the band’s secluded tour bus for a brief chat before the entire Roots posse go in search of some famous fish and chips on the seaside. It’s a welcome reward for a band that seem to have taken everyone with a shock, after the release of their debut record ‘Blood and Chemistry’ and as they begin to make inroads on the mainstream rock circuit a la Biffy Clyro et al. (But more on them later.)
So where did Arcane Roots come from, I ask Andrew as we sit nestled in the tour bus, next to the band’s copies of comic book films Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim?
“Well, it wasn’t a name that came out of anything particularly relevant, or serendipitous, instead it was quite a manufactured process. We first came up with Arcane because we thought it sounded like a good name for a band! Then we went through what we thought would sound good with Arcane, so Arcane this, Arcane that, something Arcane and so on until we landed on Roots and it just worked.”
After meeting a lot of bands and hearing of even more artists who have now grown to loathe their name that they foolishly branded themselves as they first picked up a Fender, perhaps this way of going about it is more organic. Mr. Grohl gave Foo Fighters their name after “Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe various UFOs or mysterious aerial phenomena seen in the skies over both the European and Pacific Theatre of Operations”. And the ‘Nicest Man in Rock’ has grown to loathe the name, saying it’s a stupid name for a band.
Now, with Arcane Roots still in their rock infancy in comparison to such a behemoth of the music world, it’s not a surprise that the band have no qualms with the title they gave themselves less than half a decade ago at the band’s inception.
With the three-piece garnering positive criticism from the Kerrang!s and the Rocksounds of this world, it seems that it is a name that the rock community should get used to hearing. Especially if you add to that that their new record ‘Blood and Chemistry’ is arguable one of the strongest and most consistently brilliant rock albums of 2013.
So how did the album come together? Andrew admits that it was a less than organic process again: “Going into the studio was incredibly stressful for the main part of it! It was our first album and we put a lot of time and thought, probably even too much time and thought into everything we do, so just trying to decide what we wanted to be as a band, as it had been 2 years since we had put something out and we’ve been playing it a lot and we are at kind of a gateway deciding what kind of band we wanted to be, so it was kind of the hardest part everything coming together with the label, so it was mega stressful, right up until the last minute.
“We spent a month rehearsing and it was the three of us, just rehearsing in a room, as that is what the band is. We just woke up and made a new song every day, and really enjoyed ourselves, as it is nice to wake up and just create something.
“Putting it together was a very mathematical process though, so I would kind of feel like, ooh I want a 2 and a half minute song here, and this song would be good as number three or four on the record, but in the end it tells a kind of story, which is what we were going for.”
The record as I mentioned has been receiving positive reviews all around the blogosphere, and for good reason. It’s clever, and as Andrew mentioned intelligently, put together as well. While it has more hooks than a fishing port on market day, and riffs sharper than the aforementioned hooks!
So they’ve got a massive record and Andrew is going to take a lot of beating to be surpassed as my ‘Nicest Man in Rock’, I mean take it from one of his contemporaries, Itch, formerly of The King Blues. When posed with the question what is the band like to tour with? His response: “They’re just so nice, almost too nice! Because it makes me look even worse, so in the nicest way you’re hoping that they fuck up a bit or do something really bad so we end up looking less like dicks.” So it seems that even while the ‘lads are on tour’ they still behave immaculately, professionally and make friends along the way. Even if said friends wouldn’t mind them trashing a hotel room, or something equally rockstarish.
I was lucky enough to catch the band twice in as many weeks at two festivals, Liverpool Sound Cityat Screenadelica and again at the Great Escape 2013 at Concorde 2. After the Great Escape show, Andrew admitted that festivals can be a mixed bag: “They’re more stressful than normal shows, they are pretty like frantic kind of get on and go and you have 2 minutes to check, so hopefully everything works out all right. No sound check, just get on, people are moving stuff everywhere and stressing out, so it’s always nice when you just get on and the sound engineers are pretty on it.
“It was nice to see a nice crowd had come out to see us, as we didn’t play Brighton on our most recent tour. So it was nice to see people singing along and rocking out! I like to see people enjoying it, and every time we play anywhere across the country, it’s nice to see even one person singing along, as it just makes you seem more at home and in a way amongst friends. It’s a more relaxing experience, at least.”
So after a triumphant set at Concorde 2, Arcane Roots set off, in search of their fish and chip supper and the further success that seems almost guaranteed for the band. I left with a sense that I’d met the heir to Grohl’s throne, perhaps not in a musical sense, but definitely in the niceness stakes, Mr. Groves is up there with the kings.
Nina Nesbitt‘s star is flying high these days, so what a coup that John got a chance to chat with the lovely lady in Brighton during the Great Escape, in a very VEVO-themed tent. “Nesbians”? And John challenges Nina to a very, very sour sweet challenge. Who comes out on top? Watch the video below to find out…
“Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Mr. Pane, the lanky Nigger with purple frames.” His words, not mine…
Most artists will rock up to The Great Escape by train or, if they’re a little higher up the musical food chain, in their tour bus, in whatever shape or size that may be. Mikill Pane rolls up to The Fishbowl by bike after cycling from the O2 Arena, which he joshingly told GQ he could sell out (http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/entertainment/articles/2013-05/30/mikill-pane-great-escape-video). Now, PR stunt or whatever, he’s saving the rainforest and I love a bit of green thinking, plus cycling is bloody cool. Mikill says, “it was just a stupid idea, I managed to go through with, and it was cool. It was a slog, yeah, parts of it were a real slog, but most of the time it was some really nice scenery, really good quality of tarmac compared to London!”
But what did I expect from a lad who penned a tune about being a ‘Dirty Rider’ around the streets of London. So I decided to ask the up-and-coming rapstar for his top three tips for cycling ‘in the big city’:
1. Don’t expect anyone to respect you as a cyclist, people WILL hate you. This isn’t Sweden or mainland Europe where they respect cyclists.
2. Avoid going between two busses… (Mikill has evidence on his leg).
3. Watch out for potholes, they can properly do you in.
Mikill also does a charming song about throwing a house party at University. “I studied at UCL, but I almost walked out four times while I was there, as it just wasn’t for me. But with education, my Dad put the fear of God into me, and he loves anything to do with educational institutions, and that’s why he sent me to London Oratory, even though they couldn’t afford it. Because he loved education so much, I think that is why it made me hate it.”
So to keep with the theme of top tips, we asked for his guide to throwing the best, hippening and most happening party on campus. Sadly though, we may have to take his advice with a pinch of salt, as Mr. Pane has only ever thrown one party, “we played spin the bottle and it was allright, but nothing crazy.”
1. Don’t invite Michael Barrymore.
2. If you think you have a decent concept of fun, throw a party. If not, DON’T AT ALL COSTS.
3. Be willing to let half of the people into your house be people you don’t actually know.
So there we have it, Mikill’s guide to traversing London by bike and his tips to how to throw the best party you can as a student.
But let’s talk music then, that’s why we’re here, right? Mikill has some friends in high places, very high in the music business. Movers and shakers like a certain Ed Sheeran who was the hottest thing going at The Great Escape 2011, and Rizzle Kicks who Mr. Pane toured with. Mikill insists, though, that with regards to collaborations with artists like these, it isn’t a manufactured process. Instead, it is quite the opposite, something that incidentally just happens…
“I always get to know the person with regards to collaborations, I don’t even think about music most of the time when I am getting into it. It’s normally just hanging out, like, ‘I know you do music, you’re a cool person, I wouldn’t mind spending some time in the studio together’, do you know what I mean? It becomes work if you just keep hand-picking people that you don’t know to collaborate with. Even if you do something like that you should *at least* try to hang out with the person for a week, to get what they are about.
“If you know what makes a person tick as a person rather than an artist, you get to know them and understand them a lot better.”
Have a listen to his track with Ed Sheeran and you may see what I mean, it’s not just samples, it’s a deeply touching and at the same time disturbing tune, which could only come from Mikill’s deep understanding of what makes the ginger-haired strummer tick.
Mikill though comes across as a deeply thoughtful man, and for someone who says he felt alienated from education, it’s obvious that he is a deeply intelligent and pensive thinker. His puns are sharp and his lyrics strike an accord with the demographic that his music is aimed at, so I see no reason for him not to do well? You could say I have a ‘Good Feeling’, yeah, I punned…
Many thanks to Kat for sorting this interview for us, and of course, Mikill Pane for his time chatting to John at the Great Escape; surely he must have been exhausted from all that cycling???
By Mary Chang on Monday, 3rd June 2013 at 11:00 am
If it’s something we learned in the last 12 months, it is always trust Gary Barlow. Last summer, he Tweeted about loving a new band from Dublin called Kodaline. At the time, I wasn’t sure how to pronounce the band name (yes, how embarrassing; I know now, it’s Koda-LINE [rhymes with SiGN]) and we really didn’t know much about the band at all.
Fast forward many months later, and after a BBC Sound of 2013 nod, their first appearance at SXSW and loads of other firsts, I caught up with singer/songwriter Steve Garrigan in Brighton for their debut appearance at the Great Escape 2013. In this interview, I learn that the band used to live in the seaside town (who knew?), they thoroughly enjoyed their time in America supporting the Airborne Toxic Event (tears were shed!) and much more. We were sat outside the Dome in brilliant sunshine and you couldn’t have asked for a better backdrop, really.
I thank Steve very much for this interview, as before we started recording, I learned that the poor guy had just flown in from the TATE tour in Toronto and of course was still on American time and very jetlagged. The fact that they went on to perform that night (at Brighton Dome no less), then do two more shows the following day, just blows my mind. Thanks for being a trooper, Steve!
Standing in that unique niche between the Britpop revolution that is Blur and the metal behemoths Slipknot are, seemingly, Dingus Khan. With that kind of billing, it’s a wonder you haven’t already heard of them! But since they sound nothing like Slipknot, I think you should make your own mind up and listen to their debut album ‘Support Mistley Swans’, which comes with its own supporting comic. It’s utterly, utterly brilliant and includes the line, “who would want to listen to a band with less than three bass players?” Do I need to sell it further?
But onto the band, who I caught up with after their set at Nottingham’s Hit the Deck Festival. Where did I catch up with them? Just nonchalantly on the roof of a 16-storey parking garage that overlooks where the festival’s debauchery takes place, here’s a video of our elevator journey up there with the eight members of Dingus:
As we arrive atop the windswept parking structure the band proceeds to introduce themselves, to which I understand they all gave each other’s names. Which is bad for a feature, but good if you want some comedy from a gaggle of eight sweaty lads atop a building in the middle of Nottingham. Lead singer and guitarist (I think) Ben Brown announces himself by explaining why he has a bleeding gash on the top of his head: “Tom (or Alex) jumped on me and smashed me in the head with his bass guitar, and I caught his eye before he did it and I think he probably did it deliberately!”
To which Tom (or Alex) responds: “It wasn’t deliberate, because I was at the point of hitting you, upside down.”
Take this as a warning, to any who partake in the viewing of a Dingus Khan show, that it is an entirely participatory experience that requires vigilance from you as an audience. I looked away for just a minute when I saw them at May’s Liverpool Sound City in Sound and Vision and I looked up to find Brown, resplendent in blue robes standing atop a table roaring his lungs out to their single ‘Knifey Spooney’.
At the Nottingham gig though the audience enjoyed the rather bizarre performance from the band, which if I haven’t mention consist of three bassists, three drummers, an electric ukulele player and a guitarist: “There were some girls at the front of our gig who were just kind of like *mimes clapping like a seal would when handed a nice rubber beach ball* clapping along who did seem to be really enjoying it throughout, which did kind of spur it on a bit.
“As it’s the case with these kind of gigs that you turn up and you don’t know what it sounds like out front because you rush on, strum your guitar a bit, the sound guy goes, ‘great that’s a guitar’, and ‘ooh, that’s not a drum, hang on!’ Then you kind of rush on and hope that it sounds all right. So to see people enjoying it is good.”
Another band member chimes in; he said his name was Nick, so I’ll assume that his name is Josh: “Everyone kind of lines the walls at the start of the show when you are setting up, and then they kind of move in very slowly as you get going.”
The band have been trawling the festival circuit mercilessly and unrelenting performing their no holds bars kind of insane live set to as many people as they can get to bare whiteness to them in a small room as possible. Their unyielding touring though does have the disadvantage of a slight lack of control: “It’s our first time playing Hit the Deck Festival but we were kind of supposed to play in Bristol yesterday. But well…” (The attention then turns to a man named Gaz, who is tasked with explaining the tomfoolery.)
Gaz clarifies: “I was driving the van from a local gig up in Ipswich and the police stopped me because we had a brake light out and the police stopped me and it turns out I don’t have the right licence to drive a van of that size.
“So I got three points on my licence and a £60 fine.” To which the assembled band proceed to giggle and guffaw at the unlucky lad.
It seemed thought that 60 quid and a blot on an otherwise clean driving licence was not the end of their tumultuous tale of travel: “We needed to be in Bristol by like half 7, so we didn’t do it in the end and as you might of noticed we are one person short as well now. Well, that’s because one of the members of our band Tom Armstrong [maybe?] just didn’t travel along.
Why, I ask? “Well he has this thing where he can’t swallow at the moment and it’s become this kind of paranoia for him. It may sound untrue, but this is serious, he can’t leave the house at the moment and he is really ill.”
So what are this band about? When told they’re a link between Blur and Slipknot they politely as a group shrug off the billing and Ben, their Dingus in chief it seems says: “A bit between Oasis and AC-DC, with a bit of Supergrass and Slade and Pink.”
Tongue and cheek it may be, but this band are all about the tongue and indeed the cheek and a sense of humour is required if you are going to watch a Dingus show. But don’t take it away from the tunes, they aren’t a bunch of one trick ponies relying on their humour and quirks. They have big tunes, full of heart and covering ever relatable topics like, when your bag for life breaks in the shop, or when you can’t find a knife and you have to use a spoon.
So come on, give the boys a chance. ‘Support Mistley Swans’, they need YOUR help.
Many thanks to the band for this interview and Joe for setting this up for us!
Itch, former frontman of the King Blues, is now a solo artist in his own right. Festival liaison John managed to get a chat with the gregarious singer at this year’s Great Escape, and thanks to John’s PA for the day, Hannah Saul, we’ve got it preserved on video for all to see. Watch the interview below, in which Itch tells us about his recent solo tour in Europe, what bands he’s seen so far at this year’s festival and about this unusual performance he’s got scheduled in an art installation. BBC-style content warning: there’s quite a bit of swearing in this video, so you have been warned.
Many thanks to Itch for this chat and to Ashley, who helped sort this interview for us – cheers!