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TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Huw Stephens with PRS for Music and British Music @ SXSW at the British Music Embassy – 15th-16th March 2016

 
By on Monday, 29th February 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

The British Music Embassy will return to Latitude 30 at 512 San Jacinto Boulevard, right by the heart of the action off 6th Street during SXSW 2016. Get ready, because the lineups are looking pretty brilliant! In this post, I’ll be previewing the talent on show from Tuesday evening through Wednesday evening. We’ll be running additional previews of the BME’s programming later this week, including another one by me on the artists of Thursday’s bill and Carrie’s own to tip the offerings all day Friday and Saturday to close out the festival.

As he has done for many years running, BBC Radio 1 specialist presenter Huw Stephens will be hosting the opening night of festivities at Latitude 30. This year, this showcase is being put on with the auspices of the UK music copyright, licensing and royalties body PRS for Music. Huw has put together an eclectic bill with no two acts in the same exact genre. Get down to the venue early to experience Kent’s self-described ‘dirty pop’ quartet Get Inuit (our past coverage of them here), who are currently working on their debut album, with help on its financing thanks to the kind backing of PRS themselves. Lo-fi post-punk will be provided by Belfast’s Girls Names (our past coverage of them here). They released their fourth album ‘Arms Around a Vision’ on Tough Love Records last autumn. The scuzz in your ears from the first two bands will be washed out by the social commentary of Hertfordshire teenager Declan McKenna, who I profiled last month in this SXSW 2016-flavoured Bands to Watch feature.

Pop continues on in an equally unique but slightly different way with the quirky yet lovable Oscar. He will be releasing his debut album ‘Cut and Paste’ on Wichita Recordings in May. For the next act on the bill, a head up to the North West is in order for Liverpool’s Clean Cut Kid and their bouncy, indie pop melodies and amazing harmonies. Rebecca profiled them with recent tourmates and fellow SXSW 2016 showcasing band Fickle Friends back here in January. The night will be closed out with the pomp and oomph of hip hop of South London’s Loyle Carner, using his rhymes to express his perspective on life.

The music continues Wednesday afternoon at the British Music Embassy. Chad Valley is Oxford’s own chill wave artist Hugo Manuel when he’s not busy with his other band Jonquil or remixing the work of his mates Foals, among others. He’ll start the day’s activities with synthy goodness. He’s followed by Welsh band The People The Poet, one of BBC Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary’s favourite discoveries from last year’s festival (read our past coverage on the band here). The bill then turns its focus to Cheshire-bred singer/songwriter legend Jane Weaver. The lineup stays in the North West for former Liverpool choir boy turned pop artist Banners, who released his self-titled EP last month on Island Records (read our past coverage on him here, including Rebecca’s Bands to Watch from January). The afternoon’s programming ends with East Hampshire trio and Transgressive Records signees Blaenavon. Their in-your-face sound was recently reigned in for this recent Burberry Acoustic video for ‘Dragon’ live in Manchester.

Latitude 30 will reopen for Wednesday evening at the British Music Embassy for the previously previewed BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation night. It will begin with a touching tribute to the late Viola Beach and their manager Craig Tarry. The band from Warrington were due to open the BBC Introducing night before they who lost their lives tragically in a car accident in Sweden last month. We encourage all to attend and pay their respects to our fallen friends.

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #99: Banners

 
By on Friday, 26th February 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Ahead of SXSW in Austin in mid-March, just as we have in the past 2 years of our preview coverage of the big dance, we’ll be bringing you showcasing artists’ answers to a special SXSW 2016 flavoured set of Quickfire Questions. Today’s subject is Mike Nelson, now known under the stage name Banners, an up-and-coming pop star who came from a decidedly un-pop beginning.

Last month, Banners released his self-titled EP, and at the moment, he’s currently on tour in North America. However, before he left blighty for our shores, he kindly answered our Quickfire Questions for us. I have to admit, I am a bit biased towards this lad, as he’s from a North West town not only near and dear to my heart but incredibly important to my own musical background, but he also support the same footy team I do, and well…anyway! Read on…

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Oh wow. Okay… Anthemic. Heartfelt. Intimate.

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
I’m mainly looking forward to carrying my unbelievably heavy amp from gig to gig….. I’m actually really looking forward to soaking in the atmosphere, to being completely surrounded by music and musicians.

Of the bands who have already been announced, do you have any that are must-sees on your schedule? If yes, who are they and why?
I’d like to go and watch Hooton Tennis Club. I’ve heard they’re great and with them being fellow Liverpudlians we’ve gotta stick together. I’ve never actually seen them live, so I like the idea of going all the way to Austin to do it.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
My Liverpool scarf. It’s the thing i’d run back into the house to save from a fire. Once all the people where out, obviously. My Grandma gave it to me years ago and it goes everywhere with me. I’ve gotta remember to give it a wash actually! [::sheds a tear:: I knew he was a good’un! – Ed.]

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Vodka and Coke please. It’s the only hangover I can deal with. Beer does something weird to my throat and my songs are hard enough to sing without me self sabotaging! I don’t know why I made them so high. Idiot.

What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
This is the first time I’ve been to SXSW. I’m signed to Island in the United States, so I’ve played in America a few times. I’ve got a little American tour in the run up to SXSW, too, which will be fun. I like America and Americans. An English accent goes a long way too! I’m really looking forward to it. The lads I have in my band are all great, so I’m confident we’ll do a good job!

Now, let’s get into our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
My mum singing a song called ‘The Skye Boat Song’ to me and my twin sister when we were really really small.

What was your favourite song as a child?
I used to love ‘Life on Mars’ by David Bowie. My dad bought it for ‘Hunky Dory’ for me as a kid, and it was the first album I owned. I think he did it in case I ever got asked “what was the first album you owned” in an interview. Thanks Dad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v–IqqusnNQ

What song makes you laugh?
Petty Sessions by Half man half biscuit. “I ring up Dial-A-Pizza/and say that’s not how I would spell ‘Hawaiian’…”

What song makes you cry?
‘Emily’ by Joanna Newsom. My god I love Joanna Newsom.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
‘Kids’ by MGMT. I really fell in love when that song was playing once. Plus, it’s a total banger. A love banger. Whole new genre. You’re welcome.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Well, I used to be in the cathedral choir in Liverpool, which prides itself on its high standards. One of the hardest pieces was by a guy called Palestrina, so anything by that fella. Because singing it meant I was about to be upset because I was about to get shouted at for doing it wrong! I know you died 400 years ago Palestrina but man, every now and then, you made my life more difficult than it needed to be.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen (made boss by Jeff Buckley).

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Guy Garvey. I love the honesty, I love his voice, I love the melodies, I love the lyrics. I love you, Guy Garvey. [I think I have to help make a collaboration happen between these two. Am I right, Carrie? – Ed.]

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
What’s the job where you’re totally lost and unhappy? That one.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
So I’ve died and the big man’s not even letting me bring my iPod? Bit mean. Have they not got Spotify up there? I’d take ‘Grace’ by Jeff Buckley. ‘Oracular Spectacular’ by MGMT so nearly made it and so did ‘Sea Change’ by Beck. But I’m hanging out with Jeff and his lovely lovely voice on a cloud with a harp, thanks.

We thank Mike for answering all of our questions and making us smile!

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: Banners – Banners EP

 
By on Tuesday, 9th February 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Banners debut EP coverBanners, the stage name of Liverpudlian singer/songwriter Mike Nelson, is set to make waves at SXSW 2016 next month. (Read Rebecca’s introduction to Banners from last month here.) Why do I say this? Every once in a while, I get a weird feeling in my bones about a new artist after listening to their music and I just know that superstardom awaits them. (Full disclosure: while I haven’t been 100% accurate, my record is none too shabby, having correctly predicted the success of Two Door Cinema Club, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Kodaline and The 1975.) I got the same kind of feeling upon hearing the opening track of Banners’ self-titled EP released last month.

‘Start a Riot’ begins as reverential as might be expected in this era of pop fully embracing synths and effects: with the electronic echo of a choir that are recalled a couple of times throughout the track. It’s a sweeping tune reminiscent of early Coldplay, with the guitars being the most energetic part of the track. Despite the single’s combative title, Nelson’s own vocals are more emotional than argumentative, providing support to a loved one “when your world falls apart” and “if night falls in your heart / I’d light the fire / in the dark, when you sound the alarm / we’ll find each other’s arms / for your love”. ‘Ghosts’ later on in the EP is another Banners track done in a wistful, Chris Martin style.

This slower, contemplative mood doesn’t last. You go straight into ‘Shine a Light’ next, a Kodaline-esque number with plenty of sing-along moments, so much that you can easily imagine it having been penned and sung by Steve Garrigan. Nelson has explained “the song is about feeling lost at sea and desperately searching for a beacon of light. It’s about waiting for that one big wave to finally pull you under while clinging on to that one last ray of hope. It’s a song to the person in your life that offers salvation while the storm is raging around you.” Given that, the use of Nelson’s forlorn falsetto in the slower verses to provide contrast with the faster, bouncier rock chorus is done to great effect, as if to mimic the highs and lows, the ebb and flow of our lives.

EP standout ‘Gold Dust’ is another anthemic pop number with a driving beat. In it, Nelson maintains a positive, engaging stance, insisting that like an alchemist, “when the nights grow cold / and it’s all gone to rust / we can turn it into gold dust”, he came make things better with his love. The EP ends on an equally strong note, with ‘Back When We Had Nothing’. It’s a nostalgic, yet painfully melancholic look back at a simpler, more innocent time.“I feel my blood rushing / burning like a glory blaze / back when we had nothing / we had everything”, he sings, with the desire of wanting to recapture that feeling. Nelson’s strong vocals, bolstered by glittering synths: pop doesn’t get much better than this.

9/10

The ‘Banners’ EP is out now on Island Records. If you’re lucky enough to live in North America, you’re in luck. Do yourself a favour and get yourself to one of the many club gigs Banners has scheduled before and after SXSW 2016. He also will be appearing at the Great Escape 2016 in Brighton in May.

 

(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #368: Banners

 
By on Monday, 18th January 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.

Solo artist Mike Nelson, hailing from Liverpool, is better known these days by his alias Banners. Previous to his work on Banners, Nelson honed his talent in his younger years, singing across Europe in variety of concert halls and cathedrals with the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and Liverpool Kop choirs. Upon hearing his eerie and ethereal vocal range on his latest single ‘Start a Riot’, you can see how this unusual training paid off. It was through collaboration between Nelson and Canadian producer Stephen Kozmeniuk, who has previously worked with the likes of Madonna and Nicki Minaj, that Banners was born. It’s safe to say that Banners is a big departure from both.

‘Start A Riot’ already has a 2.7 million listens on Spotify, while ‘Shine a Light’, which was also released in 2015, has an even more massive 3.6 million listens. This is impressive, considering that all of Banners’ releases have only been within the last 12 months. While there isn’t a lot out there for those keen on hearing more from Banners, what is available is quality stuff. Nelson’s smooth vocals are often reminiscent of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver: while Vernon’s voice is a tad more gravely, both artists capture the howling, haunting vocal range that evokes mountains, forests and misty seascapes.

The wavering guitar on ‘Start a Riot’ is reminiscent of Snow Patrol’s ‘Open Your Eyes’ or ‘You’re All I Have’, while Banners’ ‘Shine a Light’ reminds me of Imagine Dragons, specifically the hammering drumbeat and the warbling oohs in the background of the track. The dreamlike rhythm of ‘Start a Riot’, combined with the soulful oohs that are scattered throughout the track, both really make this song stand out as a bold and beautiful number. ‘Start a Riot’ begins gently, with just Nelson’s vocals and a soft piano, before building into a genuinely interesting and enthralling pop track of cascading sound and striking vocal melodies.

Along with the news that as Banners, he’s already signed to Island Records in America, the gravity and authority of the singles gives the distinct impression that Banners is set to make a big dent in the music industry over the next 12 months. Mixing catchy lyrics with a pop sound, Banners embodies a particular mainstream pop aesthetic that contemporary listeners are drawn to. Judging by the recent meteoric success of Ed Sheeran and Bastille, Banners appears ready to follow in the footsteps of giants.

Banners is scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin in March.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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