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Live Review: Gold Fields and A Silent Film with American Authors at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 4th February 2013

 
By on Friday, 8th February 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

Heading down the stairs at U Street Music Hall in Washington, DC is always a joy for me. No matter the band or the time, heading into the basement club feels special and secret. A newbie to the club told me she had to ask a local merchant where the door was. Turns out she had passed it twice!

American Authors Washington

Brooklyn-based American Authors started off the night. And it turns out they really are just that – writers of music from across America. Hailing from a wide variety of states flung across the nation, they produce songs that are catchy, boisterous and just plain fun. Affable fellows, mates Zachary Barnett, James Shelley, Matt Sanchez and Dave Rublin were clearly on a personal high since just 3 nights earlier they were signed to Mercury Records.

Peppering the set with songs penned just weeks ago, the band was clearly testing the waters for what to put on their debut album. Their song ‘Believer’ is currently in rotation on Sirius Radio’s Alt Nation (a weak approximation of BBC’s Radio6) and was clearly recognized by the gathered group. These guys are poised to make their splash, look for their record soon.

A Silent Film Washington

A Silent Film then roared onto the stage to greet the group of loyal followers at the front. Starting with the drum intense ‘Reaching the Potential’, this Oxford band has found a welcoming home on American soil, evident by the comfort all the members show on stage. Flanked by bassist Ali Hussain and guitarist Karl Bareham, frontman Robert Stevenson lured the crowd in by regularly coming to the front of the relatively tiny stage and beckoning with his entire body. Quipping that they had learned not to talk politics to Americans (especially in DC!) the band launched into their shortened set (nature of a co-headlining tour) with vigour.

Their two older songs were found mid-set and are among my favourites, ‘Driven By Their Beating Hearts’ and ‘You Will Leave a Mark’. As a testament to their connection with the crowd, Stevenson started one song off, unaccompanied, with a simple “oooo, oooo, ooo” and was greeted with a resounding “oh oh oh oh oh”. Pleased with the response, he stepped off to the keyboard and launched into ‘Harbour Lights’ using the assembled singers to carry that call and response throughout. They left the stage after a triumphant ‘Danny, Dakota & the Wishing Well’.

Gold Fields Washington

As happens when a gig is a co-headliner, the crowds for each band are often different. The entire front two rows changed hands at the conclusion of A Silent Film’s set. It was replaced with a slightly older, more sedate set of punters content to vigorously head nod. A five piece from Ballarat, Australia, Gold Fields’ strong suit is their rhythm section with Ryan D’Sylva playing the backbone and Rob Clifton on the synth and a full complement of drums, blocks, and bells. It evoked a bit of tribal baseness and mixed it up a bit from the standard indie fare.

A bit more shoegaze than I like, the band stirred up quite a bit of free flowing dancing at the back where I could smell a distinct eau de weed. But God help me, if I wasn’t struck by a decided Temper Trap-ness. I hate to compare these guys to their fellow countrymen, but perhaps they couldn’t avoid the influence. Vocalist Mark Robert Fuller, axeman Vin Andana and bassist Luke Peldys round out the band and certainly gave what they had to give, but when all was said and done, I think they were suffering from a bit of first-gig-of-the-tour sluggishness. Tour lurgy usually sets in at the end of a long stint on the road, but when you are 16,000 km and 16 hours away from home, it’s going to take you a bit to get your footing. (I happened to catch them the next night in Baltimore and can confirm that on the bigger stage and with another night in the Eastern time zone, their performance was much better.)

After the cut: the set lists.
Continue reading Live Review: Gold Fields and A Silent Film with American Authors at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 4th February 2013

 

Interview: Robert Stevenson and Spencer Walker of A Silent Film (Part 2)

 
By on Wednesday, 1st August 2012 at 11:00 am
 

We pick up Cheryl’s in-person interview with Robert and Spencer of A Silent Film in Annapolis, Maryland, while they are in a discussion of the band’s video to appear on, oh, the most famous music television station in America…

Part 1 of the interview is here.

Did winning mtvU’s ‘The Freshman’ video of the week contest (for ‘Danny Dakota & the Wishing Well’) surprise you? Or did you have faith in your fans?
Spencer: I just have complete faith in the fans, especially when it comes to stuff like that. Everyone was so on it. The first day we were like ‘I wonder if we are going to have to sit and help this out’. And then by day two it was like ‘I think they’ve probably got this under control’. I think we sent out one message to everyone and suddenly we had 70% of the votes.
Robert: We are so grateful. We’re very lucky with our fans.
Spencer: And we had a lot of fun making that video, so it’s fun that it’s going to get played.

So I want to know, was the wishing well always the Grand Canyon or was that the director’s vision?
Spencer: We were really keen to do a video that reflected that area where we spent so much time making the album. So we wanted to do an Arizona video. The director was really enamoured with the shots of the Grand Canyon that he got and he said, “I’m using these, I don’t care what you say, whatever happens, I’m putting in the Grand Canyon shots”.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jktx9Ro60cI[/youtube]

So what’s with the ampersand thing, do you have a frustrated graphic designer in your midst? There’s an ampersand in the title of your album and your first single.
Robert: Oh really? Good point, I hadn’t really noticed.
Spencer: I guess it makes it harder to write, I hadn’t thought about that.
It makes it hard to put into your computer because it’s a character. [I concur, it does terrible things to to the backend of WordPress. – Ed.]
Robert: Well I don’t know about you, but I ampersand all day long. But really, that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I don’t worry about these things, it just looks pretty! Where does it come from, is it in every language, or is it specific to English? Now I’m going to have to research that.

Living in Arizona, lots of creepy crawlies there. Did you name your house scorpions, did you stomp on them or shoo them out the door?

Spencer: You can’t stomp on them because it’ll go through your shoe. So you basically have to capture them. We had a system of glasses, and sliding a thing under. And then they sit somewhere for a few days until they die.
Robert: But they don’t really sit, they bang against the glass, and they’ll sneak you, they move so fast and they scuttle.
Spencer: We had one that played dead for 24 hours and we almost took the glass off and it started attacking.
Robert: We had Bark Scorpions and they are the only ones that can climb.
Spencer: And use the internet to find out our weaknesses. They kept deleting stuff we’d recorded, you’d wake up and there’s be a scorpion on the laptop and then it’d scuttle away off the keyboard. So yeah, we had scorps, we had rattlesnakes, we had everything. We saw a javelina, we chased a javelina. They’re little angry pigs with big teeth. The only thing they do is knock over garbage cans.
Robert: But the locals are terrified of them, and we made fun of that. They hunt in packs, and apparently very territorial, but I still can’t see how even a pack of small pigs is frightening.
Spencer: The adults are this big (indicates about two feet) and have some serious teeth. But the babies look like micropigs.
Robert: But, apparently, this is what the locals tell us, they are part of the rodent family. So, as giant rats…….
Spencer: No, no, no. I had such as issue with that, it’s just a lie. I took some locals on because I researched it and they have hooves. And actually, the closest thing to them is the hippo family. So all the locals think it’s a rodent, but it’s not rodents have claws and they have hooves. So they are a pig/hippo crossover, but way smaller and ugly!

I hadn’t ever heard of a javelina, it sounds like it could have been a lovely instrument.
Spencer: The javelin? Yes, I’m a very accomplished javelina player, just touring the world, me and my javelina.

I see I am very lucky in that I get to see you play again next week with Civil Twilight – which was the line-up when I saw you for the very first time. How did that come about?
Spencer: We’ve been trying to get that together for about….well, pretty much since we finished that tour. We just had a lot of fun on that tour, it worked really well. It’s just a complete love in, we love each other very much. We also have the same agent, so it’s not the hardest thing to put it together, but the dates have been wrong, wrong, wrong. And then finally two days happened, and yup, we took them.

I am going to end our interview with some ‘tattletale’ questions….

Who’s the hardest to get out of bed in the morning?
Both: Ali
Who buys silly tchotchkes on the road?
Robert: What are tchotchkes?
Silly knickknacks at gift shops.
Spencer: I have an obsession with fridge magnets, so that would be me.
Who always has the camera out?
Spencer: Him! He’s Mr. Instagram.
Robert: Yes, at the moment I am really loving Instagram.
Who snores?
Both: Ali! Even he’d say so.
Who wilts the fastest in our summer heat?
Spencer: Well definitely not you, you wear a leather jacket in Palm Springs when it’s 115 degrees. Uhm……..Ali.
So now we just default to Ali? OK, who always drinks the last beer?
Robert: Ali.
Who’s the best cook?
Spencer: I would say me and Ali would say himself.
What’s your dish?
Spencer: I’ve got a number of things you’d probably be quite interested in. My most recent one was a really nice spring, very light, vegetarian lasagna with asparagus.
Who was most freaked out by the rattlesnakes and scorpions?
Both: Ali! Hands down, absolutely terrified.

So despite abusing their bass player Ali Hussein during the last part of the interview, Spencer and Robert were simply lovely and I can’t wait to talk to them again some time. A review of the gig they played that night will follow shortly. They promised to return to the UK to play a proper tour in early 2013 when their sophomore disc ‘Sand & Snow’ is released, so keep your eyes peeled for dates.

Many thanks to Joel for sorting this interview for us, and of course Robert and Spencer who sat down with Cheryl for this 2-part piece. Best wishes, fellas!

 

Interview: Robert Stevenson and Spencer Walker of A Silent Film (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 31st July 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Before their show at Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland, Robert Stevenson and Spencer Walker from Oxford band A Silent Film sat down with Cheryl to talk about success in America, getting back to England to play and scary wild pigs.

You have made a big splash over here, but that’s not the usual MO for a British band. Usually you make it big at home and then you come and try to ‘crack America’, why do you think it happened the other way here?

Spencer: I think there’s no template for how these things work and I think it wasn’t part of the grand master plan, it was something that happened, kind of one thing lead to another. I think that’s the way a lot of this stuff works.
Robert: You should SEE our grand master plan, though!
Spencer: We’ve got an AMAZING grand master plan!
Robert: If we pull that off….
Spencer: I don’t think the world is ready for our grand master plan! But yes, one thing led to another and we found ourselves here and ‘You Will Leave a Mark’ did enough on the radio to allow us to come out here. And then we made the decision to do as much as we could while it was fun over here and see where it led. We didn’t set out to ‘crack America’. I don’t know if that worked in our favor, because we didn’t have that pressure coming on us from a label. We expected nothing, so the fact that things were happening, it built and built quite naturally, organically. I think that going between England and America, it goes both ways. We are fans of a lot of American bands who really hit it big time in England before – the Killers, White Stripes, the Strokes, Kings of Leon. It was all around the same time, they blew up in England and then went back to America. And now they’re all massive global bands. But I feel like they needed England maybe as much as we need America.

The other thing you are doing that’s bucking the trend is summer means festival season and you’re not doing festival season over there, you are here. So, do you like being here, or do you miss the mud?
Robert: (laughter) I don’t miss the mud!
Spencer: We played some festivals over here and the load-ins are so amazing. They’re like car parks and there’s tarmac and it’s hot.
Robert: And you can park the van somewhere in the vicinity of the stage to put the equipment on the stage. Yeah, we played Glastonbury once and it was…..
Spencer: …muddy. I’ve seen pictures of festivals this year where it’s just……like Isle of Wight, just horrid.

Oxford’s got this amazing vibrant music community. Stornoway, Richard Walters, who I was hoping would come and support you here like he did in London at the Barfly gig…
Robert: Oh, we talked about this. He’s coming across to do a bunch of shows in October, we are hoping that we’ll be near him as well so we can grab him for a few shows.

The spectre of Oxford music, did that influence you at all, Radiohead, Supergrass?
Spencer: Oh yeah.
Robert: Just growing up in that town, there’s a road called Cowley Road, where it’s just the hub of Oxford music. Straight out of school we were on that road just living and breathing it and all the bands come from there and come back to there. It’s a really, really good space to come from. It’s very creative.

Did you have any family influences to go into music, do you come from musical families?
Robert: There was a lot of Meatloaf played in the car. And Bonnie Tyler. So there’s a general sort of what to avoid. Sorry Mum, sorry Dad….. No, they played me Beatles and the Beach Boys, I’m just being silly.
Spencer: My uncle had a studio in his house, not in any way a famous musician, just a guy who played everything and turned the basement of his house into a studio. So that was definitely a big influence on me and my brother when we were growing up. It’s nice to be introduced to a Hammond organ when you are young, or a double bass when you are 5. It was my dad’s brother and he is actually going to come see us play for the first time when we play Toronto in a month. Because I’m half Canadian, my dad’s family is from there. So I love playing in Toronto and it’s going to be the first show he’s been able to make. I’m actually really excited about it.

‘City That Sleeps’ came out eons ago. (All three of us say “eons” in unison.)
Robert: I knew you were going to say eons!
2008, because obviously I am talking about the UK release and ‘Sand & Snow’ doesn’t come out until next year. That’s over 4 years. Why?
Spencer: This goes back to the same thing about no grand master plan. The album came out, it did what it did, we worked it, we released it in Portugal and did a load of work there, we were starting writing for the next album and then got picked up over here. It just kept getting put back and put back. Because obviously when we decided to come and play here, it was a big commitment.

But why such a gap between the US and UK release of the album?

Spencer: And again that comes down to the simple fact if you are going to do America, as you are aware, it’s a huge country, and we didn’t want to just come over and spend a month playing America and hoping to crack it. We are way more invested over here.
Robert: We’ve already got our teeth into it, everything’s just building really naturally here. We equally didn’t want to just release the album in England and not be seen over there. And honestly we’re not on a big label, there’s nobody bankrolling it to release the album all over the world. We’re very happy doing things at our own pace and sorry people who have to wait. But we are going to come and spend a lot of time in England.

So how did the gig at the Barfly go?
Spencer: Great. It was amazing. The idea is really that you want to do justice to each place. This is our America year. But it was amazing, we hadn’t played there in so long. Early next year is when we spend time in England and Europe.

The second half of this interview, which includes a part where Cheryl asks Robert and Spencer to be ‘tattletales’ on each other, will post on TGTF tomorrow.

 

(TGTF exclusive!) Video of the Moment #890: A Silent Film

 
By on Thursday, 19th July 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

‘This Stage is Your Life’, the title track of A Silent Film‘s new EP – reviewed by Cheryl here – now has an official video. And we’ve got the exclusive of its premiere on the Web. Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYja8CGU6us[/youtube]

 

Album Review: A Silent Film – This Stage is Your Life EP

 
By on Friday, 6th July 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

In anticipation of next year’s sophomore release from Oxford band A Silent Film, ‘This Stage is Your Life’ is being released later this month. The EP highlights the foursome’s broad musical landscape from high spirited rocking tunes to delicate angst ridden piano ballads. Made up of Rob Stevenson (vocals/piano), Karl Bareham (guitar), Ali Hussain (bass) and Spencer Walker (drums/backing vocals), the band have recently found quite a home in America.

After charting in the U.S. alternative Top 40 with the single ‘You Will Leave a Mark’ from their debut release ‘The City That Sleeps’, the band relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, for a good portion of 2011 to work on their next album. For once, being in America pays off for this American writer. Not only have they toured relentlessly in the States and I have had the privilege of seeing them play twice, but also because their album was released here at the beginning of June.

The title track ‘This Stage is Your Life’ opens the record with a clear piano and prominent fuzzy bass that builds the song. Despite the tendency to think that piano rock bands rely too heavily on said instrument (isn’t it usually the front man playing it?), this song is nicely balanced between piano interludes and skillful guitar work.

‘Echoes Across a Bowl of Tears’ is exclusive to this EP. The first 10 seconds of this song is reminiscent of the opening strains of Radiohead’s ‘Reckoner’. But the song takes a soaring upturn before unleashing deep Tom Smith-esque vocals from Stevenson. In fact the song echoes some of the best the Editor’s offered up in their third album with driving guitar lines, great atmosphere and vivid imagery: “Are the weeds underneath your window keeping you from singing, is the lock on the back of your door keeping you from leaving, are the hands on the back of your neck keeping you from screaming, are the words that you never meant becoming echoes across a bowl of tears.” This track is available as a free download below:

‘Danny, Dakota & the Wishing Well’ rounds out the EP. This is a longer, solo piano version of the lead single from the album. Already a poignant love story, it takes on an immense quality when stripped down to the melody line and simple piano. Having just played London’s Barfly on 28 June, A Silent Film as set to capture the attention of their homeland as they have America.

9/10

‘This Stage is Your Life’, the new EP from A Silent Film, will be released on 30 July through Creative Media.

 

Live Review: Red Light Company @ London Camden Barfly

 
By on Tuesday, 12th August 2008 at 1:51 am
 

“So, erm, this is a song about death!” mumbled Richard Frenneaux, lead singer of Red Light Company when introducing “With lights Out” last night at London’s Camden Barfly. Let’s be honest – as you may be able to tell from that little quote, they’re not a light hearted, fun band like the Hoosiers or We Are Scientists. However, what they lack in fun they more than make up for in depth and darkness, as they showed the packed Barfly.

Earlier in the evening A Silent Film had brought a hint of Keane and awful Dad dancing to the stage for the first support slot. Movie-esque music, layered and gorgeous, but ultimately nothing that Keane, Coldplay and Longview haven’t tried before. However, the one thing that Keane and others haven’t tried was their interesting cover of Underworld’s Born Slippy, which suddenly had a dreamy feel to it… interesting, thought it’d take a few more listens to get us really convinced that they can pull it off.

They were followed by the awful Holy Ghost Revival who seemed to just want to cause trouble with their “seen-it-all-before” 70’s rock rip-offs. Halfway through their set a waterfight broke out between crowd and band, leaving their keyboard temporarily broken and a 5 minute interlude, before they unfortunately resumed their noise. The only good thing was the fact that lead singer Mikko Freeman responded to hecklers: “Yes, we’re gay stoner cowboys! Finally, London gets us!” he remarked. Yes, and we wish you’d just go with the other cowboys.

At this point, our faith in the London music scene was diminishing rapidly, and an early night was on the cards. However, when Red Light Company finally took to the stage at 10pm, we were immediately enthralled. To describe their music as a mixture of Black-Market Music era Placebo, Interpol and Hot Fuss era Killers would be doing them an injustice – they’re more than the sum of their parts, darker and catchier than many bands out there.

Frenneaux appeared distant throughout the set not really interacting at all, seemingly pre-occupied with other things, but managed to fill the stage with his gaunt frame. Surely he’s got to be a shoe-in for Brian Molko’s replacement for confused teenagers across the UK now that Molko has gone all disco-dance on us? Time will tell.

Previous single “Scheme Eugene” was thrown in early in the set, giving Frenneaux and bassist Shawn Day a chance to show off their vocal skills, and a chance for an early rock-out. Current single “Meccano” went down a treat mid-set, having everyone singing along and really going for it, following on from airplay with Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe on Radio 1. Closing out their set, there were no theatrics, just a simple thank you and off they trundled to their next gig.

If they work on connecting with their audience a bit more, then surely mega-fame is just around the corner for Red Light Company.

Photos and stuff to follow.

 
 
 

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