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Interview: Safari

By on Tuesday, 19th April 2011 at 12:00 pm

Emmy was able to get a moment of London band Safari‘s time to ask them some questions. Like how exactly they got to the band name of “Safari”…read on…

First off, a simple background check question. How, when and why did the band form and what are the roles of each member?
We took a risk to change our name after recording an album and realising that we weren’t the same band that we were a year before. Our sound has changed and so had our outlook on life, it seemed fitting put a new name to this new era of our music! We have Ian Larter on guitar and lead vocals. Robert Hardy on keyboards, guitar, backing vocals (le multi tasker). Jonny Flynn on keyboards. Craig Miller on Bass. And Sim Smith on drums and drum machine button tapper.

Who thought of the band name Safari? Have any band members been on one? What other band names, if any, did the group consider?
It’s hard to say whose idea Safari was. We went through a process of writing down hundreds of different ideas one night…getting to a point where words such as Lamp, Yak, and Bulb all seemed appealing and bold… Luckily, we snapped out of it and settled on Safari. It means “Journey” in Swahili…a perfect metaphor to what being in a band is all about…but unfortunately no one in the band is yet to partake on a true Safari!

Upon listening to the very catchy “Reason”, some listeners might hear influences of bands such as Foals and Surfer Blood, and perhaps some ’80s new wave bands like Duran Duran. But how would you describe your sound and what are your influences?
It’s always interesting to hear what people compare your music too…Duran Duran is a first, but maybe some of those sounds soaked in during childhood days out in the family Ford Escort! I guess our sound merges electronic and indie (our label is independent!). Our influences as individuals are all quite varied…from dubstep to folk! There are elements of all different genres that we enjoy…our songs on the whole have a strong sense of melody, and a strong rhythm. I guess that’s an influence of bands like Animal Collective and Daft Punk. We trust each other’s judgment and spend hours trying things out. We also spent some time recently in Berlin and you begin to understand how a city can influence a bands sound, the rhythmic sound of the trams and the grid layout seems to lend itself to an electronic outlook!

What would you consider to be the most exciting part of the overall music scene last year? Any particular bands stand out?
These New Puritans‘ album ‘Hidden’ was a highlight for several of us in 2010, along with the steady rise of the xx who actually made it down to one of our early shows at the Social in London. The sun shining at Bestival last year was also a massive plus.

If you could recommend three albums from any genre and any time period, what would they be?
Forward Russia – ‘Bring Me a Wall’
Daft Punk – ‘Discovery’
Depeche Mode – ‘Violator’

Lastly, what’s on tap for the band as a whole?
I’m not sure we have anything on tap?!? Social interaction maybe, “your never alone with the internet”, although that does sound like a moto for some scary cult! Let’s just say creativity at the moment, we are in a good place in terms of our songwriting and artwork. We went through a bad period just after our last band split up, but I think we just needed to recharge the batteries and change the barrel! If people want to check out what we’re doing, we’d love them to check out our Facebook page.


Interview: The Violet May

By on Thursday, 31st March 2011 at 12:00 pm

The Violet May are rooted in Sheffield, but their sound is influenced by a much broader spectrum. Formed in early 2009, the band has earned a reputation for a raucous live show with loud and lunatic tunes, leaving many a venue battered and bruised all across the UK and audiences hooked on the energy produced by a band in its raw stages. Exicting things lie ahead for the band. Just recently they were picked up in NME’s ’10 Best MP3s This Week’. Emmy asks the band some burning questions…

First off, when and where did the band form and how did the band come together?
Chris: We played our first gig in January 2010. We didn’t announce it, just turned up in a bar and played a 25-minute set. Me and John had met in an office over cigarette breaks and found out that we both shared the view that the British music scene was in a mess, a general feeling that there were no great British guitar bands around at the moment and decided to have a go at being in one.
Dan: John basically recruited us one by one: he used to work with Chris, knew Jono from his old band and lived with me and Al in the coldest house on earth. So when we all got together we didn’t really have a clue who each other were, but a bottle of cheap champagne and a jam later we were a band.
Jono: As things came together it just took over and we’ve been hard at it together for the last 18 months. It’s just 5 lads who are inspired by music that makes you wanna get drunk, dance, fight, fuck and smash shit up, haha….all the small pleasures in life. I think that’s what brought us together, making music for people to get off on.

Secondly, if you had to describe your music to a first time-listener, what are some of the things you would say?
Chris: It’s raw, its raucous, but it’s very real. The current indie bands all seemed very polite with lyrics about their day at the shops; we go for a more rock and roll sound, it’s loud and angry, but soulful in my eyes.
Jono: It’s what you wanna make of it really, if you look closely there’s influences of punk, American rock, metal, blues…but the live shows are just our soundtrack to a riot. You can analyse and catagorise all you want but we just want people to let go.
Dan: I’d say pour yourself a stiff drink, turn everything on full and make sure there’s someone around to complain about the noise. We’re trying to invoke some passion out of crowds, I hate it when people say they love the music but don’t express it in fear of looking ‘un-cool’.

If one were also to follow the band around for 1 day, what would they see, who would they meet and what would they learn?
Dan: Depends what day. One day they might see us bored out of our skulls trying to make money to pay the rent, the next would be sat in a van laughing non-stop, playing a raucous show and drinking ’til we hit the floor, the next sat in a room playing the same song over and over and over until it’s ready to unleash. Basically they’d learn its fucking hard work to do this but none of us would change it for the world.
Jono: Well we all work our fucking asses off 9 to 5 doing all sorts of shit, then when night falls we actually go to work, rehearsing, recording, drinking, smoking, travelling back up the M1 at 4 in the morning, playing rock ‘n’ roll shows. Sheffield has a beautiful array of the weird and wonderful, so we can usually be found with them putting the world to rights in some local boozer, wouldn’t change it for anything.

You’re all from the Sheffield area, correct? What bands are you influenced by that also hail from the same region? What are you influenced by in general?
Chris: Sheffield has such a rich musical heritage, it’s an industrial city, famous for making steel. When the government decided to cut thousands of jobs and rip the heart of the city out, it left a lot of empty spaces around. These rooms were soon occupied by musicians, producers in studios, singers and artists alike, and music replaced steel. The 1980’s was such an inspiring time for electronic music and bands such as the Human League, Cabaret Voltaire and ABC put Sheffield at the epicenter of electronic music throughout the world. And of course there’s the Arctic Monkeys and too many others to mention on here. You’re inspired by your surroundings and Sheffield is fruitful for this. We call it “a dirty picture in a beautiful frame”.
Dan: There are some really good bands in Sheffield at the moment who we’ve had the pleasure of playing with, Wet Nuns, The Hope Explosion, Lenders in The Temple, RSS, each one doing something different with music. But we’re mostly influenced by the shit bands, the ones that are reproducing the same old shit and sound like everyone else. They’re the ones who piss us off enough to write something different and change the formula to make it exciting again.
Jono: We all live in Sheffield but only Chris is born and bred. I think this probably worked in our favour as we all bring different musical influences to the band. Sheffield is full of loads of little scenes, anything you want is going on somewhere if you know where to look. There are some great local acts around at the moment that we love to watch and support but as for influences we just kinda get on with our own thing.

Speaking of Sheffield, your band’s frontman graced the album cover of the Arctic Monkeys’ debut back in the day. Do you as a band stay in touch with them?
Chris: I still speak to Alex and Matt when they’re around and our parents are really close; however a lot has gone down since we were fucking around as 16-year olds. I still see Andy Nicholson every day, he is the man. Jamie Cook is not allowed to come within 1 mile of me, I have a court injunction out on him, long story.

Do you remember what was the first record you bought? What are some albums from this year that you would recommend?
Chris: The first album I bought was ‘Oliver’ (Charles Dickens) the soundtrack, the songs were by a man named Lionel Bart, I loved the lyrics to them, I still play it now and again, haha.
Dan: First record I ever bought was Button Moon and the Singing Hot Pots, it was from an old kids show, after that I had no need to buy records (and no money), I just stole my brother’s music, he has a lot to answer for! As for records this year, the stand out one would be the Black Angels’ ‘Phosphene Dream’, what a fucking album that is!
Jono: Not sure really, although I remember hearing ‘Definitely Maybe’ (Oasis) for the first time at the start of the ’90s – the perfect response to the lightweight poppy guitar bands that were flying around at the time. Just from the first chord you knew it was something different. Bet some of the lads hate that album though, haha… As for this year, not really heard anything that’s blown me away yet. Black Mountain got a lot of air time in the van for a while though.

Finally, what’s on tap for the band regarding an EP or album and where do you plan to take your songs in 2011 and beyond?
Chris: We have our new single ‘TV’ coming out in May with a 5-track EP to follow in June. In-between we’ll be recording new material and continue to strive to be that great British band.


Bands to Watch #201: Dark Dark Horse

By on Thursday, 16th December 2010 at 12:00 pm

Ahh, the electronic genre. It’s a mixed bag, isn’t it? Some people love it, others despise it, and then there are those that walk the proverbial tight rope, falling into either category on a given day. For the group of skeptics, let’s introduce you to Dark Dark Horse, a new and unique electronic project from Leicestershire. The three-piece band is fronted by Jamie Ward, who has played roles in notable bands such as Kyte, maybeshewill and Tired Irie.

A post-rock instrumental/electronic outfit, Dark Dark Horse recently released their mini-album ‘Centuries’ in Japan through said country’s label Rallye. And if things go Ward’s way, then the rest of the world will soon be fortunate enough to hear the atmospheric music the relatively new band have recorded. “I have a dream of doing a series of releases round the world slowly getting closer to the UK, touring each one and then arriving in the UK as a tightly oiled machine,” explains the hard-working Ward, who produced the pleasantly polished album.

Similar to Kyte, Dark Dark Horse holds creative and distinct song-writing structures, and it all kicks off with the opening album track, ‘Sharks’. Perhaps the most upbeat and infectious song on the LP, Sharks has a bounty of electro-loops and hooks and all other kinds of musical wizardry, resulting in a perfect and infectious way to draw listeners in. Lush sounds, dreamy landscapes and introspective lyrics blanket the album, and the electro-textures provide listeners a serene trip out of the real world and into another one where one’s imagination can run wild with a pure and organic soundtrack in the background.

Although the chilled-vibe feeling going on in the middle tracks might sound a bit similar to each other (Southwest of Orion, Midnight Mass and Two Gestures), the rest of the album makes up for that, particularly ‘Spit Out Regret’ and ‘The Sound of Muscles That Have Frozen Closed’. The former, for example, opens with a spine-tingling, beautiful piano introduction that instantly draws listener in to a poptastic melody and cleverly crafted song structure which would make the Postal Service drool. Meanwhile, ‘The Sound of Muscles That Have Frozen Closed’ is a tune which seemingly belongs on a Kyte album with semi-hushed vocals, electro-tranquility and an overall placid song worth regularly going back to.

And perhaps that’s what Dark Dark Horse is – a coolly composed band who has the skills and talent to construct a quality album, and if the world listens properly, Jamie Ward will soon find his plan of taking the album to new lands turn into a reality.


Interview: The Last Republic

By on Wednesday, 15th December 2010 at 12:00 pm

Welsh band the Last Republic are emerging as one of the next big acts in the UK, being compared to the likes of Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers. Impressive, right? Take a listen to their latest album ‘CCTV’ and you’ll understand why such comparisons are more than valid. Lucky for us, fame hasn’t gone to the band members’ heads, as lead singer Jonnie Owen was very kind enough to answer my questions below.

First off, many have tipped your band off as the next big band to emerge from Wales. How does it feel to be possibly mentioned in the same breath as the Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, etc?
It would be a privilege to be mentioned amongst such great Welsh bands to be honest. We are a very hard-working band and when the press say such great things it makes us very happy and want to work harder towards achieving just that. We grew up listening to the bands mentioned and they came from very similar areas with the same big ambitions. They too worked very hard to achieve their place on the global music scene. We are very confident that the music we are writing and off the strength of our live shows will get us a place on that list.

Now, to the album itself. Can you recall the point in time when you wanted to focus on what many consider the ‘bigger issues’ in life? That being ‘CCTV’ and, even more so, the political/social issues tagged with it. What made you want to do an album address such issues?

It wasn’t on purpose, we never sat down and thought, “hmmm these issues need to be addressed”. I was born in the ’80s and since then I have witnessed and been affected by many National and International issues that as an artist I have found hard to ignore. My songs are about people rather than politics but it’s very difficult to distinguish what is and what is not politics. I’m not having a rant and trying to change the world, my songs are observational, I’m planting seeds, i want people to think when hearing the words and music, all music should take you to a place. The songs are based on snippets of my life compressed in to accessible visual stories and ideas that people will hopefully relate to and share those emotions. ‘CCTV’, the song you have mentioned, is about the amount of surveillance and security that is being pushed on us in the UK. When will it stop, when have the government gone too far, hence, “your home is not a safe place, in the next 100 years they’ll take our feelings too”. It is a concern for the future generations that we will be bringing in to this world. The UK has one of the highest rate of surveillance cameras in the world. ID cards have been a high topic of conversation for many years. Identification fraud rates are rising. Can you really trust people who live near you,that they won’t go through your dustbins and take your information from letters or bills? Other songs on the album such as The Fear discusses how much we underestimate technology and asks how much do we really know about it. ‘(C’mon) Flood The Gates’ is about my memories of the miners strike as a kid and how the closing of the mines have left a scar on my community and the people to this day. There’s a limited edition lyrics booklet available for the first lucky buyers.

What were some of your favorite parts of recording the new album? What songs are you particularly partial to?
There are so many, to be honest I loved every part of it. ‘Control’ was a lot of fun though, Dave was doing his parts on a grand piano which sounded incredible. I did my vocal parts with a megaphone through my guitar pick up with some tape delay and finally through a vintage VOX AC30 amplifier, and it just sounded so sinister for all the vocal distorted bits and the vocal howling at the end. It was a lot of fun. We also did some vocals down by the river just outside the recording room of Monnow Valley Studio. So there we were on a cold November night with a bottle of rum and lots of wires, microphones, laptops, lights singing by the river. (Hear ‘When the Crows Come Calling’ bonus track for this.)

For first time listeners, what can people expect from the Last Republic, both on the upcoming album and in a live setting?
I think we offer something different to the usual tripe that’s being forced down our necks on most radio and tv channels. It’s probably a good time to bid you to buy the album and come and see us live for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Can you give some background on how the band formed? Are all band members from the Neath area in Wales?
Dafydd and I met through being in bands on the circuit. Both bands split up and we met Aron and Joey in a musician and muzo hangout in Neath called The Duke. Dave replied to an add at a shop in Swansea when he went to get his keyboard fixed and the Last Republic were formed. We’re all pretty much from the Neath/Swansea valleys area, apart from Dave who is from Narberth in South West Wales.

Finally, what are your plans from the time your new album comes out to the end of the year?
We are currently on tour. We are 7 dates in and plan to stay on the road and gig and do as much promo as possible for the album. Live is where we love to be, so as long as it doesn’t get much colder we’ll be stopping by a town near you soon in our new splitter van.

Emmy reviewed the band’s album ‘Parade’, and you can read her review here. For tour dates, free tracks and more, visit the band’s official Web site.


Album Review: Kassidy – The Rubbergum EP Vol. 3

By on Tuesday, 14th December 2010 at 12:00 pm

With current airwaves being flooded with an overflow of electrosynth bands coupled with ever-growing popularity in the dubstep genre, it’s always nice to step away from the dropping beats and enjoy some good old fashion guitar strumming.

And that’s where Kassidy kicks in. The big hair and occasional western style clothing may be deceiving, but this acoustic rock four piece hail straight from Glasgow. The Word dubbed the Scottish lads as being the “authentic sound of the wild west of Scotland”, and Q described them as the “British Kings of Leon.” Once you hear their latest EP, ‘The Rubbergum EP Vol. 3’, it’s pretty obvious why such glorious claims are well justified.

Their latest collection of work kicks off with ‘Oh My God’, which may upon first listen echoes something akin to indie rock band Cherry Ghost, but a stomping melody and a belting chorus from the quartet remind listeners that this that the band have shaped a song in their own unique and infectious way. Moving on to ‘That Old Song’, listeners will hear a song that starts off in a stripped down manner, only to gradually skip and jump to a distant tumbleweed (metaphorically speaking, of course), rapidly building up to climatic anthem of sweeping harmonies to create a wind-blown, country-pop tune.

Keeping in line with the acoustic catchiness, ‘Gamble Does The Gambler’ is a strong EP standout, with its rapid, razzle-dazzle vocal delivery neatly layered on top of the guitar plucks and mandolin strings. One can almost with the sympathize with the drunken ramblings spewing from the singer’s lips, and the harmonious vocals nearing the song’s end, results in an overall impressive track. ‘The Next Move On’ ultimately displays an overly up-beat song that is accompanied by nothing but boot stomping and random clicking and snapping. Although the song is extremely peppy, it’s a tad too over the top to make it worth repeating anytime soon.

‘Heart’ closes out the five-track EP. With lines like “I should I have listened to your heart”, the song is drenched in regret and echoes of those slightly cheesy rock songs of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Call it a guilty pleasure if you will, but this album closer is also extremely likeable if not the most sensitive of the pack and a great way to finish out an LP.

Clocking in just over 15 minutes, ‘The Rubbergum EP Vol. 3’ is a continuation of genuinely great songs from an extremely talented band. Let’s hope a full album comes to fruition in the new year, and a better album title to boot.

‘The Rubbergum EP Vol. 3? by Kassidy is available now from Amazon UK.


Album Review: The Last Republic – Parade

By on Monday, 13th December 2010 at 12:00 pm

Forget about the nightly news. If there’s one band out there who could give the low-down on global issue then it’s the Last Republic. That’s right, a five-piece band hailing from Swansea, Wales, aren’t only aware of their surroundings, but they know how to address the topics of the day in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion.

Government, war, drugs and society as a whole are just some of the matters of the heart cemented soundly into the band’s recently released album, ‘Parade’. Fortunately, the 10-track LP is easier to listen to than the 5:30 evening news, and although there are bouts of darkness sprinkled throughout, this album also a hidden optimistic on the world at large.

Explosive album opener ‘C.C.T.V.’ introduces first time listeners to a band that that meshes guitar rock with emotive lyrics, and riddled by indie-pop hooks that speak of individuals breaking the chains that bound them or their community. Vocally speaking, fans of Muse will no doubt associate the bellowing falsetto of Jonnie Owen to no other than singer Matt Bellamy.

Listeners will also find a smash of anger and confusion colliding together in a handful of tracks on the LP. ‘Let’s Make Bombs’, for example, is the sort of reactionary tune that will no doubt cause a stadium of angst-ridden students and fans in general go mental to the driving guitar riffs and sweeping chorus, while ‘C’mon Flood The Gates’, musically echoes of fellow Welsh band and legendary Manic Street Preachers, if only showing a tad more swagger in the poptastic department.

Meanwhile, haunting melodies layered with mean guitar licks storm the heart in halfway track ‘When Fools Rush In’, which starts off with an achingly similar to Radiohead then builds and climbs into a euphoric doses of pure guitar noise akin to Rage Against The Machine.

Ironically, one of the band’s stronger moments numbers is heard in one of its softer moments in album closer ‘Parade’. The soft tinkling of the ivories blends in well with the sincere and fragile vocals displayed by Owen, producing a spine-tingling, tear-inducing effect. Still, that’s just the first half of the song. Pretty soon we’re met with a stirring crescendo of noise from the rest of the band, which isn’t only uplifting but contagious.

Perhaps one of the more admirable aspects of this Welsh quintet is that while they’re quite obvious with their influences, such as the aforementioned bands like Muse and Radiohead, a heartfelt Snow Patrol and powerful U2, is that the band can uniquely shape their own tunes in a way which is both original and fresh sounding.

And the world is catching onto the band as well. Earlier this year, they opened for Bon Jovi at a sold out 02 Arena show. To top it off, they garnered the right to play on the V Festival’s Main stage with Britpop legends Oasis. And if that’ s not enough to grab your attention, then bear in mind that “Parade” was produced by Chris Sheldon who’s worked with the likes of U2, Radiohead and Doves. ‘Parade’ was released at the beginning of November, and the band is currently signed to Monnowtone Records. If this album is anything to go by, then the Last Republic has a very promising career indeed.


‘Parade’ by the Last Republic is available now.


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