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SXSW 2017: summary of SXSW Conference session Bella Union at 20

 
By on Monday, 3rd April 2017 at 11:00 am
 

In the course of its 20-year history, British independent record label Bella Union has become what you might call a “household name”, if your household were made up of musicians, music journalists, promoters, or other industry types. Headed by former Cocteau Twins member Simon Raymonde, Bella Union was originally founded as a vehicle for releasing Cocteau Twins’ own work, but it expanded to new ventures when the band broke up in 1997. Bella Union’s most acclaimed signees include artists like Fleet Foxes, The Flaming Lips, and Father John Misty, as well as TGTF alums The Trouble With Templeton, Midlake, Emmy the Great, and exmagician.

Bella Union internal 2

In celebration of Bella Union’s 20th anniversary, Raymonde was featured as a session panelist at SXSW 2017, along with Midlake frontman Eric Pulido (who also showcased in Austin with supergroup BNQT) and actor Jason Lee. Pulido’s appearance on the panel wasn’t surprising, but Lee was a bit of a question mark in my mind going into the Friday afternoon session. As it turned out, we had to wait a bit to find out what Lee’s role would be in the discussion, because he was delayed trying to find a parking space. Even featured speakers aren’t immune to busy downtown Austin SXSW traffic!

In Lee’s absence, Pulido took on the role of session faciliator, and he led a spontaneous conversation with Raymonde about the guiding philosophy behind Bella Union. As an experienced and successful musician himself, Raymonde emphasised the “gut instinct” aspect of his label’s work, saying that he strives to release music that genuinely strikes a chord with him on first listen. Pulido remarked that Raymonde’s diplomatic criticism often begins with the phrase “I don’t love it”, but doesn’t necessarily shut the door to future endeavours from promising artists. In fact, much of Raymonde’s success with Bella Union hinges on his openness to his artists’ perseverance. Midlake’s 2006 album ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’ garnered critical accolades, despite Raymonde’s initial reticence about its unwieldy title.

Bella Union internal 1

When Lee arrived to take part in the discussion, he revealed that it was Raymonde who turned him onto Midlake back in 2004, around the band’s also oddly-titled debut LP ‘Bamnan and Silvercork’. Lee was immediately hooked and eventually directed a video for a single from that album called ‘Balloon Maker.’ The video, and Lee’s continuing enthusiasm for promoting the band, led to a more expansive collaboration, the documentary film ‘Midlake: Live in Denton TX.’

Raymonde highlighted the role of artist interaction and fortuitous timing in his discussion of Bella Union’s continued success. He named Midlake’s collaboration with American singer/songwriter John Grant as a prime example. Grant, who was a longtime fan of the Cocteau Twins, had initially contacted Raymonde during his time with The Czars, and though it took some convincing, Raymonde was eventually persuaded to take the production helm on the band’s second album ‘Before…But Longer.’ Raymonde’s dedication kept The Czars afloat until they broke up in 2004, but his relationship with Grant didn’t end there. Midlake’s artistic collaboration on Grant’s debut solo album, 2010’s ‘Queen of Denmark’ brought Grant back to Raymonde’s attention, and Grant’s fruitful partnership with Bella Union was renewed, continuing through 2013 album ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ and 2015 release ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’.

One of Bella Union’s more recent protégés, singer/songwriter Holly Macve, also started with stroke of luck on Raymonde’s part. Macve had taken a job in a café in Brighton where Raymonde had set up a basement studio, and he happened to hear her sing at an open mic night. His ear for talent and the aforementioned “gut instinct” immediately drew him to sign her to the label. Macve made her American debut last year at SXSW 2016, garnering accolades from NPR among others, and she returned this year with a stunning debut album, ‘Golden Eagle’, under her belt.

Bella Union co-hosted a 20th Anniversary showcase with TuneIn Studios on the Wednesday night of SXSW, featuring current artists BNQT, Holly Macve, Mammut, Pavo Pavo, Will Stratton and Horse Thief. High-calibre artists like these represent the future of Bella Union as the label moves into its third decade of excellence among independent record labels. Stay tuned to TGTF for our coverage of Holly Macve at the British Music Embassy in our roundup of Thursday night at SXSW 2017.

 

The BBC at Glastonbury 2014 (Saturday): Midlake cover Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’ at the BBC Music Tepee

 
By on Sunday, 29th June 2014 at 1:00 am
 

Wherever you will be hanging your hat this weekend, whether you’re joining the sheep at Worthy Farm or you’ve got your feet up in front of the telly, us here at TGTF will have you covered when it comes to Glastonbury 2014. The dedicated people they are, the folks at the BBC will be working all hours during the festival and feeding us live coverage as it becomes available. What does this mean for you? We’ll be passing along all the best bits to you, our faithful readers.

It’s past midnight now and it’s time to chillax. The acoustic style of Midlake, who TGTF caught in April supporting Neil Finn, suits the aesthetics of the BBC Music Tepee to a T. So it makes perfect sense that their three-piece setup would stop by there Saturday before their appearance on the Other Stage. This special acoustic performance is their cover of Bob Dylan‘s ‘I Shall Be Released’. Watch it below. Then get some rest, because we’ll be up and at ’em early tomorrow morning with more videos!

For more of the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage online, head this way. Stay tuned for more videos from Glasto 2014 right here on TGTF.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO0t-84EVl4[/youtube]

 

Interview: Eric Pulido of Midlake

 
By on Thursday, 24th April 2014 at 11:00 am
 

Just over a week ago, Editor Mary and I had the opportunity to catch Neil Finn at his sold out show at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC (reviewed here). One of the highlights of that gig was the opening act, a band from Denton, Texas called Midlake. Normally a band of six, Midlake were represented on this tour by only three of their members – lead vocalist/guitarist Eric Pulido, multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler and guitarist Joey McClellan – for an acoustic interpretation of their atmospheric folk rock sound. While their full electronic complement might have seemed a more suitable pairing for Finn’s recent experiments in psychedelic rock, Midlake’s stripped back adaptation worked remarkably well, even allowing some intermingling between the two acts during the show.

Midlake’s fourth album ‘Antiphon’ was released late in 2013, after the band underwent some significant line-up changes with the departure of their former lead singer Tim Smith. Current frontman Pulido seemed confident in his newly adopted role when I chatted with him after their Lincoln Theater gig, talking readily about the new album, the band’s upcoming tour plans and the experience of performing on stage with Neil Finn.

Midlake’s fourth studio album ‘Antiphon’ is out now on Bella Union Records. Midlake will perform a handful of shows in the UK this summer, including both festivals and headline slots; dates are listed on the band’s Web site. Stream the album’s title track below.

 

Live Review: Neil Finn with Midlake at Lincoln Theater, Washington DC – 12th April 2014

 
By on Monday, 21st April 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Photos by Carrie Clancy and Mary Chang

It’s always exciting to see a favourite artist live, and I had been happily awaiting Neil Finn’s show at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC for weeks before the day actually arrived. That kind of gleeful anticipation can occasionally lead to a bit of a letdown if the show isn’t quite up to par, but Finn and his band of cohorts seemed particularly determined not to disappoint on the night, and they most definitely didn’t. The evening was a mix of happily obliged expectations and a few surprises, both planned and spontaneous.

The first of those pleasant surprises for me was opening band Midlake, who played an acoustic set with only three of their usual six members in attendance. Hailing from Denton, Texas, Midlake were an interesting choice of guests for Finn, but the chemistry between the two acts was clear. The Lincoln Theater show was the last on the North American tour, and the bands celebrated it by comingling freely, with Finn appearing on stage to play piano on one of Midlake’s tunes and members of Midlake returning the favor at several points during Finn’s set.

Midlake played a handful of songs from their debut record, ‘Antiphon’, pointing out several times that these versions were “stripped down especially for Neil Finn.” I quite enjoyed their streamlined sound, especially the deft and dexterous use of the flute in several of their arrangements by keyboard player Jesse Chandler. Midlake closed their set in appropriate fashion for an acoustic set, with a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released.’ I’ll admit to not being very familiar with Midlake before this show, but I was impressed enough to chase down their frontman, Eric Pulido, for a quick interview after the show (stay tuned for that audio clip in the coming days).

Midlake’s atmospheric sound and stream-of-consciousness lyrics were a perfect foreshadow for the songs from ‘Dizzy Heights’ (reviewed here), two of which opened Finn’s set. Hazy album opener ‘Impressions’ and debut single ‘Flying in The Face of Love’ both played perfectly off the psychedelic stage backdrop. From that point forward, Finn interspersed older hit songs with the newer ones, touching on Split Enz, Crowded House, Finn Brothers, and Pajama Club tunes throughout the set.

While the older numbers were inevitably well received by Finn’s audience of diehard fans and Frenz, I was most impressed with how comfortably the ‘Dizzy Heights’ songs fell into the playlist. Finn gave the new songs full attention and full arrangements, which highlighted them against the creative and often sparser reworkings of some of the older songs. ‘Better Than TV’ and ‘In My Blood’ were both charged with energy, and ‘White Lies and Alibis’ was absolutely electric toward the end of the set. The last played of the new songs, ‘Pony Ride’ was performed with special energy for Finn’s father, who was in attendance via the magic of Skype.

Finn’s onstage banter included several references to Bruce Springsteen’s recent Australian tour and the marathon-length gigs The Boss puts on, even at this late point in his career. Finn was apparently inspired enough to emulate Springsteen in his own shows; according to a printed set list nabbed from the stage, Finn had planned a lengthy set for DC, and while he did eventually deviate from his own agenda, he most certainly didn’t cut the song list short. He mentioned that he was trying to honor as many last minute fan requests as possible, which led to a widely varied set, including a few rare gems, such as the extended jam in ‘Chocolate Cake’ and a loungey piano version of Split Enz track ‘Message to My Girl.’ I was near to ecstatic when Finn closed the set proper with a personal favorite of mine, solo hit ‘She Will Have Her Way’.

Naturally, Finn acknowledged the customary and genuinely enthusiastic crowd request for an encore. (At this point, a disclaimer: I went into fully-fledged fangirl mode during the encore, dancing and singing along rather than taking notes. The actual encore deviated significantly from the set list in the above photo.) He broke out several fan favorites, playing to the heady desires of his audience, including an exquisite version of ‘Private Universe’ utilizing the vocal and instrumental talents of Midlake. Having already touched on the ubiquitous ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ earlier in the set, Finn chose to end the evening with an impromptu and delightful performance of ‘Weather With You’.

Neil Finn takes his ‘Dizzy Heights’ tour to the UK and Ireland starting next week. Full tour date listings can be found here.

 

Preview: Glastonbury 2010

 
By on Friday, 23rd April 2010 at 12:00 pm
 

Surely I don’t need to explain to you what Glastonbury is – it’s simply LEGENDARY. Even as an American (though, admittedly, an Anglophile), every year I drool over the lineup, despair at not being able to attend and then scour the internet for pictures and videos when it’s over. Each summer, the enormous site at Worthy Farm (about a mile and a half in diameter) turns into a mini-city for the  largest greenfield festival in the world. Since the first Glasto was held 40 years ago in 1970, the festival has come to be known for its truly amazing lineup, and this year is no different.

One of the perks of being the biggest festival around is that you can get the biggest artists around. This year, the Pyramid Stage will be graced by some of the most recognizable names in music. On Friday night, Irish rockers U2 are headlining, with support from Dizzee Rascal, Vampire Weekend, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, and Corinne Bailey Rae. Saturday night sees headliner MUSE share the stage with the likes of Scissor Sisters, Shakira and Jackson Browne. And on the final night, legend Stevie Wonder tops the bill, closing out the festival after performances from Paloma Faith, Norah Jones, Jack Johnson and guitar legend Slash.

But it’s not only the main stage that’s worth visiting. Punters will get quite a workout running between that and the other 12 stages, of which the Other Stage, the John Peel Stage and the Park Stage look the most promising. Over the course of the weekend, the Other Stage lineup reads like the index page of NME: The Flaming Lips, Florence and the Machine, La Roux, Hot Chip, Phoenix, the Courteeners, the Cribs, Kate Nash, Editors, Two Door Cinema Club, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT, We Are Scientists, Temper Trap, the Hold Steady and more.

Originally called the “New Bands Tent,” the John Peel Stage features a mix of old and new favourites. Friday night sees Groove Armada share the stage with the likes of Mumford & Sons, Ellie Goulding and Bombay Bicycle Club. Saturday night is jam-packed with bands we’ve featured here on TGTF, like the xx, Foals, Marina and the Diamonds, Delphic, Wild Beasts and Field Music. And Sunday night remains epic with sets by Ash, Julian Casablancas and the Drums.

All the way across the site, the Park Stage will play host to buzz bands like the xx, Broken Bells, the Big Pink, Midlake, Laura Marling, Stornoway, Beach House, Frankie & the Heartstrings and Dirty Projectors, ending with a headlining set by Australian electronic duo Empire of the Sun on Sunday night. And at the risk of making your heads explode by listing even more bands, at the other stages festival-goers will be treated to performances by Mos Def, Phenomenal Handclap Band, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Turin Brakes, Imelda May, DJ Fatboy Slim, Crystal Castles, Good Shoes, Fanfarlo and Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip.

If you’re not already overwhelmed by the sheer massiveness of the festival, then you can click here to view the complete lineup. But if you don’t already have tickets for the sold out spectacular, then be warned, it will turn you green with envy.

Glastonbury 2010 is completely SOLD OUT. It will be held from Wednesday, 23rd June to Sunday, 27th June 2010 at Worthy Farm, Pilton.

 

Preview: Latitude 2010

 
By on Wednesday, 7th April 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Believe it or not, the beloved summer season is just around the corner. This usually means a lot to most people. For music and art lovers, it’s a significant time to embrace such wonderful mediums, and this year’s Latitude Festival is looking to be loveable. Now is a good time to start scrutinizing that budget of yours. Those pennies you save will indeed be worth the oozing joy you’ll feel July 15-18 at Henham Park.

Having entered its fifth season, the Latitude Festival sure knows how to pack a mighty punch. If eclectic styles have been a festival highlight in years past, than this season will go beyond satiation. Ears will be filled with wonder, eyes will be filled with curiosity and mouths will be filled with, umm… food of course.

As in years past, Latitude will take place across four stages: The Obelisk Arena, The Uncut Arena, The Sunrise Arena, and the Huw Stephens curated Lake Stage. Some wonderful elements of comedy, poetry, theatre, literature and cabaret will supply culture and enlightenment to festival goes. Perhaps the most exciting feature, however, is the excellent line-up of performing musical acts.

Do we really need to justify our excitement that Florence and The Machine will be a headliner? And how about indie “twee” (yes, sorry, it is an outdated label) Belle and Sebastian also showing up as a headliner? This will prove to be an indisputable treat, given that a new album is in the works with this Scottish band. Now, come to find out, this will all be topped off with the generally loved Vampire Weekend. Sounds like a heavenly day to me, despite what the weather forecast has in store.

The plethora of excellent music doesn’t stop there, either. Fronted by the bald headed Tim Booth, Mancunian indie heroes, James, will be making an appearance. They’ll no doubt awe festival goers with their stand by classics like “Sit Down” and “Laid” but also probably pull some new songs from one of their upcoming mini albums, The Night Before.

Several American bands will also be wowing the crowds, like the rockers from deep down in Texas, Spoon; former jazz students, Midlake; the Brooklyn-based Dirty Projectors; and the universally adored Yeasayer. I ask how could you really say nay to any of these groups? Let it be known that I’m just scratching the surface of some bands performing at Latitude, by the way. Many other spectacular bands and artists are filling the Latitude slots as I type.

As mentioned above, there are other venues of interest to behold at the three day festival. There will be poetry reading by popular authors like Wendy Cope and John Cooper, while comedians such as Ardal O’Hanlon and Emo Phillips will provide a laugh fest. Still, those interested in theatre and dance productions should take notice that productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House will grace the stages with their extraordinary skill and talent.

The list of great acts, from music legends to film experts, literally go on and on. Check out the ongoing list if you’re still not convinced that Latitude will again delight just about everyone this year.

Tickets are selling out rapidly, but there are a few still on sale priced at £155 for a weekend ticket with camping.

 
 
 

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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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