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SXSW 2018: Thursday night with artists around the world and dealing with the unexpected – 15th March 2018 (Part 2)

By on Tuesday, 3rd April 2018 at 11:00 am

This was my seventh SXSW. Having been punched and groped in 2016 and then having been turned away at a venue despite my having a SXxpress pass this year, I thought perhaps I’d experienced all the peculiarity and awfulness that was meant for me in Austin in this lifetime. You may say I’m getting old and I should just shake these things off, but my tolerance for BS is minimal these days at best. Having crossed off Munich’s Joasihno and Solingen’s Blackberries at German Haus’ Wednesday afternoon programming, Thursday night was supposed to be a pretty relaxing evening stroll from venue to venue. Pretty sure I jinxed myself…

Like Wednesday evening, Thursday evening began for me with a stop at a drinks reception, this time the Le Bureau Export New York / France Rocks’ drink and food reception at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop. Call me crazy, but I assumed that after visiting the House of Scandinavia on Monday and snacking on some faux meatballs, we’d be getting some champagne and French-themed food at this reception. I think there was a major miscalculation in attendance predictions, as I got there pretty early to queue and by the time I got upstairs, nearly all the food was gone. The French contingent might consider either ordering more food next year, or do a better job limiting access. It was very strange, too, that except for one sign advertising the event that was stood next to a picnic table full of official staff, there were no other indications that this was a French event. At the Focus Wales night the evening before, there were Welsh flags down the bar and on individual tables; German Haus had awesome-looking banners and their unique blue-green design branding in front of Barracuda’s indoor stage.

The reception was useful in that I was in the right place when the first act of the Bureau Export France showcase began. They even began before 8 PM, pretty tops. I had seen electronic act STAL 3 years ago playing at the Clash Magazine showcase at Coalition at the 2015 edition of The Great Escape. At the time they were based in Paris, but they now call Los Angeles home. At STAL’s core is composer Pierre-Marie Maulini, who cut his teeth on rock bands in the early Noughties before forging a friendship with and going on tour with Anthony Gonzalez’s M83. It’s purported that the 2 years Maulini spent touring ‘Saturday = Youth’ with Gonzalez and crew inspired him to start his own project and thus STAL, the word for steel in various languages, was born.

STAL Thursday at SXSW 2018

STAL’s music has morphed in the last few years; recent single ‘The Crime’ (my review here) sees them veering towards a more overtly mainstream pop sound, probably what Maulini meant in a previous Facebook post in which he mentioned them going on “a brand new journey”. Time will tell if this will translate to bigger success for them as I had hoped for when I saw them in 2015. What will help them big-time in this regard is the energy of their live show. You can tell they’re friends and getting into it, and as fun as it is to watch them, the frenetic motions onstage encourages you to join in on the floor and dance. Maulini and live guitar and synths bandmate Jeff Di Rienzo (guitar and synths) were constantly moving their bodies to the beat. Newest single ‘Magic’ that came out last Friday is more in line of what I think of from an electropop band; check it out in its premiere on our friends Glamglare’s Web site.

On my way down the stairs, I stopped to catch a song by girl group TAWINGS who were playing on the indoor stage at the Sounds from Japan showcase. Channelling ‘60s garage rock, the Tokyo group’s sound chugs along like so many bands we’ve heard before. So much that you might think you’re listening to another band. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, that’s what they say, right? Any other night, I could be quite happy listening to a band like this. At SXSW, not so much.

TAWINGS Thursday at SXSW 2018

I left STAL’s set before it ended, because I had a long walk to the Kobalt AWAL / blahblahblahscience show at the Palm Door on Sabine Street. I made it just as East Anglians turned Londoners Otzeki, who I’d written about in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, began to play. It was some luck that I had given them a pass Tuesday night, instead choosing to stay for The Academic’s full set at The Main II (see more here). Otzeki’s show that evening was shut down by bouncers two songs in because singer Mike Sharp had commandeered a bottle of Maker’s Mark (the Seven Grand is a whisky bar) and refused to surrender it to staff.

The well-lit venue gave folks plenty of room to drink, dance and observe the band however they wanted to. The bounce of their electronic-driven music was funky and seemed to be intriguing the audience, most of whom I guessed didn’t know who they were before wandering into the building. Then things got weird. Sharp repeatedly bounded into the audience with his microphone, leading to impromptu twirls around and serenading of punters. This in itself is not unusual. Most music fans like this kind of interaction, and the women he confronted seemed to enjoy the joke. Having had close calls with guitars and microphone leads in my face in the past, I prefer such interaction at a distance.

Otzeki Thursday SXSW 2018

He decided to take his shirt off, then gaffa tape his chest across his nipples. Er, okay, performance art. Then he decided to pick up the water dispenser that all Austin bars have. Bar owners know that revelers drink too much during SXSW, and their defense is to keep these people hydrated. What happened next seemed to move in slo mo. Sharp must have jumped in the air with the dispenser, and what seemed like all the water in it fell on me. I’ve had some stupid stuff happen to me in my life, but this took the cake.

Was he acting provocatively during SXSW to create a buzz about their act while in Austin? Good that it happened to me and not some A&R dude, I guess. Their manager was kind enough to try and source me some actual towels, but I soon decided I had to get out of the air-conditioning and out of my clothes ASAP. I walked by a hotel staff member on the way back up to 6th Street and she asked me what happened. After hearing the story, she said, “you’re taking it awfully well, considering.” What else could I do?

I refused to let this incident get the best of me. I headed for St. David’s Sanctuary next, warning the door staff that my clothes were wet, and would that be okay if I sat in a pew to enjoy the next performance? They waved me on and said that if I needed a blanket, they had some in the back that I could help myself to. That was nice of them. Being able to sit is not a perk you get in all venues, and after what happened, it was mighty welcome. When I arrived, soulful electropop singer/songwriter Benji Lewis of Melbourne, Australia, was still setting up with his live bandmate and friend Allen. I hadn’t missed a moment of what would be one of the most magical performances I witnessed in Austin all week.

Benji Lewis Thursday 2 at SXSW 2018

Like many Aussies wanting to be noticed beyond antipodean borders, he’s moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of global stardom. In this interview with our friends at The AU Review, Lewis explained that he stripped back his set at St. David’s to respect his environment, choosing to go with lighter sounds. The decision paid off in spades: the Aussie singer’s falsetto floated lighter than air, making songs like his standout single ‘Drift’ sound absolutely beautiful within the incredible acoustics of St. David’s. While I may have been down when I arrived, Lewis’ velvet tones were just what I needed to regroup and remind myself why I was in Austin. Check out his newest single ‘Deep Blue’ below. For more of my photos from Thursday night at SXSW 2018, visit my Flickr.


(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #133: Joel Roberts of Otzeki

By on Friday, 9th March 2018 at 12:00 pm

Header photo by Lauren Maccabee

As our own editor Mary wrote in The Music Blogger’s Guide to SXSW 2018 and in her Bands to Watch feature on them earlier in the week, London-based electronic duo Otzeki have an unusual relationship for band members: they’re not siblings but cousins. Mike Sharp and Joel Roberts have released two EPs already in Otzeki’s short history, and they are excited to drop their debut long player ‘Binary Childhood’ on the 13th of April, just after their trip to Austin for SXSW 2018. Leading into their Texas adventure, Roberts was kind enough to provide some rather cheeky answers to our SXSW-themed Quickfire Questions, which you can read below.

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Electronic. Dance. Rock. Or EDR as we like to refer to it in jove.

Is this your first time at SXSW? What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
I think overall we are just extremely excited, as I have never been to America before, and lots of people said it was their favourite festival.

Of the bands who have already been announced, are there any you’re particularly interested to see? If yes, who are they and why?
We are excited to see Francobollo as we are playing at the same event as them, whilst our producer works with theirs. We have heard great things. Also a Brazilian artist called LaBaq, who got in touch with us, and sounds great! Maybe Frank Turner, just for the singalong shits and gigs/nostalgic reasons. And our French friends Fishbach!

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
I think we are most looking forward to eating some ice creams in the sun, playing some concerts, seeing lots of bands, partying, meeting people and our friend Rob coming from New York.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
There is genuinely nothing unusual that I am ‘packing’.

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Our tipple is usually a Guinness, although lately I have been getting very much into lagers. And also red wines! You can choose. Thanks in advance.

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

What song is your earliest musical memory?
I think ‘Three Lions on the Shirt’ is our earliest musical endeavour. We remember buying it from Woolworth’s with our dads, and every time we hear it we feel so nostalgic it almost makes us cry. I thought it was Aqua’S ‘Barbie Girl’ but just checked the release dates, and Badiel and Skinner’s classic came out first apparently!

What was your favourite song as a child?
Well, it depends really, I don’t think that there is such a thing as ‘favourite’, as also being a child is quite a long time! I mean, when I was little I loved Spice Girls, but when I was 10, 11, 12 nothing would beat Blink 182! Mike had the tape by DJ Otzi’S ‘Hey, Hey Baby’ and used to bring it to our house when we were children! That was great, as was Crazy Town’S ‘Butterfly’, which used to fly around a lot when we were together as children! (and still gives me goosebumps)…

What song always makes you laugh?
We occasionally play a cover which is half ‘5 Years’ by David Bowie and half ‘Satellite of Love’ by Lou Reed using a default preset drum loop off my old guitar pedal which cracks us up.

What song always makes you cry?
You probably get this all the time, but ‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley.

What song reminds you of a specific memory? (For example, the first time you fell in love, the first concert you ever attended, etc. It’s up to you if you want this to be nice or naughty!)
‘Evangeline’ by Angels of Light reminds me of a very happy time when Mike used to live in Wapping and I used to come to stay, when we first got together (not sexual) and drink loads of beers and smoke fags on the roof, then go down the beach and watch the sunset with our brother Charlie, who is now also our manager.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
I think any of the greats by Bob Dylan, which for me constitutes as ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’, ‘One Too Many Mornings’, or ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’. I think he is one of our favourites. I often think of Simon and Garfunkel as the pinnacle of music, but mainly only ‘April Come She Will’, ‘Sound of Silence’ (1964 version without electric guitars), ‘Scarborough Fair’ or ‘Mrs. Robinson’. None of the others.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I would be full time at the Carphone Warehouse.

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.)
I spoke to God last week, and he said we can bring as many albums into heaven as we so wish, and that this rule was only created by a blog. He said he is God and promotes a generosity of spirit and happiness that acquaints to as many albums as anybody pleases. But would probably be ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ by Pink Floyd, TBF.

Do any of your friends and/or colleagues have any upcoming music releases we should know about?
Our friends Island are also releasing a shit hot album in April 2018 called ‘Feels Like Air’. Gene on Earth’s second EP coming out on his own label ‘Limousine Dream’ for fans of underground dance music. And our good friend Liam/Desert Sound Colony is releasing some killer music at the moment, both on his own label ‘Holding Hands’ and others.

Our thanks to Thomas and Charlie for arranging this email q&a. As with all of the SXSW 2018 showcasing artists we feature here at TGTF, Otzeki’s appearance in Austin is subject to change. We recommend that you consult the official SXSW Music Festival schedule for the latest information and updates.


TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: best bets among UK electronic artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

By on Thursday, 8th March 2018 at 11:00 am

In terms of the SXSW shouts this year, the field of UK representatives in electronic music is stronger than ever. For starters, despite only sending a handful of acts to Austin this year, Wales admirably has two of the most intriguing electronic acts set to appear from all from the UK. House producer and DJ Doc Daneeka, who now calls Paris home, is named after a character in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. That’s certainly worth a drink and a chat in Austin, methinks. His 1-hour mixtape ‘WALK.MAN’ has delighted dance fans with its varied textures and interesting drops. Singer and electronic artist Rachel K Collier is a rising star from the coastal town of Swansea. Through Grimes’ sharing of her own terrible experiences, we know how difficult it can be for women in the electronic genre. Collier is, then, an important inspiration to young girls everywhere who are keen on getting involved in electronic, as she proves it’s not only entirely possible for a woman to break through in this genre but you can also have fun doing it and in the way you want to.

Moving our way up to Scotland, we’ve got a trio of all-caps acts to introduce you to. I featured Dumfries-bred ONR. (pronounced “honour”; pictured at top) in his own Bands to Watch preview last week. He’s been a difficult man to unmask, literally. To be fair, this might have been his intention all along, to let his music and sounds speak for themselves so we wouldn’t get sucked into his appearance or his backstory. Needless to say, at least for myself anyway, the mystery swirling around Mister ONR. has lead to my anxious anticipation of seeing him perform at SXSW. Professional and personal partners LAPS (short for Ladies as Pimps) and all-male band LYLO are both from Glasgow, yet they couldn’t be any more different. LAPS’ 2016 EP release ‘WHO ME?’ mixes their dancehall and dub influences that sound incredibly unique coming out of Scotland’s cultural capital. LYLO, on the other hand, are a synthpop group who also revel in reverb and the occasional saxophone solo.

Moving our way around and down to the big smoke, where you’d expect a lot of electronic acts to hail from, or at least be making their first career moves from. Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville, electronic duo IDER, received a shout from SXSW last year but could not come then. So it’s really great that they’ll be making their way to Austin next week. We featured the videos for their past singles ‘Learn to Let Go’ and ‘Body Love’ on TGTF, two songs I’ll be looking forward to hear them performing. With a less shouty band name, soulful cousin duo Otzeki originally from East Anglia will also be making the journey to Texas. Earlier this week, we posted this feature on the electronic-inclined pair, who will be previewing their upcoming debut album ‘Binary Childhood’ to be released on their own label Discophorus in April. Along with three other acts, I also previewed their appearances in Austin in a brief write-up in the the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, which you can read through here.

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2018 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook or official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.


(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #406: Otzeki

By on Tuesday, 6th March 2018 at 12:00 pm

NB: I wrote about Otzeki and three other acts scheduled to perform at SXSW 2018 in the Music in the Music Bloggers Guide to SXSW 2018, which you can read here.

We know plenty of siblings in bands: The Staves, Field Music, Tegan and Sara, just to name three. The members of Otzeki, on the other hand, are cousins. Mike Sharp (vocals, guitar) and Joel Roberts (keyboards, Ableton) are the East Anglia-bred, London-based duo, part of the burgeoning electronic slash rock slash pop genre sweeping Britain at the moment. Next week, they’ll be appearing at SXSW 2018, making their debut appearance in Austin. Impeccable timing: from there, it will be a month to the release of their first studio album, ‘Binary Childhood’, on their own label Discophorus.

The start of their story goes something like this. Independently and oddly the same exact week, Sharp and Roberts travelled to Berlin, arguably the heart of electronic music in this world. Sharp says Roberts “was always pretty clued up on the electronic stuff, though. He knew all the worthwhile parties and DJs so brought me into that whole scene when I was back in London… It was uncanny [we were there at the same time] and there was a big mutual feeling of needing to make something together and so we did, after Berlin.” I know the saying is “necessity is the mother of invention”, but surely inspiration (and passion) is merely second to necessity. The pair initially turned heads in the UK with their 2016 debut EP ‘Falling Out’. The four-track release featured the super catchy ‘Hope in Hell’, which successfully combines vocals oozing a beautiful desolation with a driving beat.

Other exemplary singles, such as ‘True Love’ and ‘All This Time’, and EP ‘Sun is Rising’ followed in 2017, all showing their adeptness in fusing irrepressible electronic beats, r&b infused vocals, and alt-rock guitar into something truly intriguing. A short time ago, they released their newest single ‘Pay the Tax’, which starts with a chill rhythm but soon morphs into more layered, brasher sound as the song hurtles towards its conclusion. Sharp admits that lyrically, it’s a rare political moment for me. “I’m pretty A-political [sic] in the sense that I’m interested in humanity, politics has become automatically associated with economics and business and humanity should come before that.” Currently being spun on BBC Radio 1, it’s a promising taster to the upcoming ‘Binary Childhood’, which has been promised to be a record “driven by rhythm, that takes their previous use of electronic loops and infuses them with more organic sounds and live percussion.” I, for one, can’t wait for both their live appearances in Austin and the tuneage that will be available to us on the 13th of April.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 showcasing artists we feature here at TGTF, Otzeki’s appearances in Austin is subject to change. We recommend that you consult the official SXSW Music Festival schedule for the latest information and updates.


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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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