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(Holiday!) Video(s) of the Moment #2255: Violet Skies and Fiona Apple

By on Friday, 23rd December 2016 at 10:00 am

’Tis the season for snippets of music and DIY videos! This December has seen intimately conspiratorial, up-close-and-personal videos from a pair of feisty female artists, Welsh singer/songwriter Violet Skies and American alt-rock icon Fiona Apple. Though both new songs are ostensibly Christmas-themed, neither of them could be classified as jovial or jolly.

Violet Skies internal

Violet Skies, who we met at SXSW 2016, has composed an original holiday tune, aptly titled ‘Little Sad Christmas Song’. Arranged simply for keyboard and her own soulful singing voice, Violet Skies’ track is forlorn rather than festive as she sings “We both know you’re not coming home for Christmas / and we both know I couldn’t make you stay.” Her wistfully wintery vocal tone might not be chock full of Christmas cheer, but it’s nonetheless appropriate for the season.

Fiona Apple (pictured at top) takes a far more bitter tone in her remarkably witty parody of a Christmas classic. Her pointedly political remake of ‘The Christmas Song’ is unambiguously subtitled ‘Trump’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire’, in a less-than-celebratory reference to the recent American presidential election. Though it appears that Apple’s parody was originally intended just for a devoted fan club Web site, Apple also performed it live last Sunday night at a Los Angeles area benefit for the Standing Rock Sioux. Barbed lyrics like “everybody knows some money and entitlement / can help to make the season white” are a stark reminder of where American society stands as the 2016 holidays approach.


TGTF’s previous coverage of Violet Skies can be found right here.  Our archive of Fiona Apple coverage is back this way.


CMW 2016: early Wednesday at Drake One Fifty and Adelaide Hall – 4th of May 2016

By on Tuesday, 17th May 2016 at 2:00 pm

Most of the band performances at Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016 wouldn’t take place until after the sun went down. However, conference delegates and anyone else curious were welcome to partake in a series of free late afternoon shows at an outdoor stage outside Drake One Fifty, a chi-chi restaurant and a bar a mere block away from the hub of convention activity at the Sheraton Centre Toronto hotel. On Wednesday, I made it just in time to for all three acts and while it was chilly, it was sunny, and with CAN$5 Bud Light and sangria, a good time was had by all.

Woodes CMW 2016 at Drake One Fifty Wednesday

First up on this afternoon was Melbourne-based producer, singer and songwriter Elle Graham, who performs under the name Woodes. The tall blond 23-year old with amazing braids cut a dramatic figure in front of her small table of synths and controllers. I really enjoyed Graham’s vocals, expressive yet also fragile in their beauty. Paired with her syncopated beats such as on her track ‘Daggers and Knives’, she gave a winning performance.

Alex Flovent CMW 2016 at Drake One Fifty Wednesday

For a different change of pace, Woodes was followed by entertainment from a chillier locale on the opposite side of the globe from Oz. Axel Flovent is from a Northern fishing town in Iceland and during his short set at Drake One Fifty, he cracked jokes about the sun not shining (much) back home. Judging from the titles of his songs like ‘Snow’, he clearly has a fixation on the inclement weather of his homeland. Check out a live performance of the song below to fully appreciate the warm, gorgeous tones of Flovent’s voice. I imagine his singer/songwriter style will do very well in the UK and America.

Violet Skies CMW 2016 at Drake One Fifty Wednesday

Welsh singer/songwriter Violet Skies closed out Drake One Fifty’s afternoon programming. We here at TGTF are no stranger to her music, as we covered her at the Monday night Trackd and at the Friday afternoon Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcases. Her silvery-lilac hair was stark against her usual black garb, which was less flowy and outrageous and more street than in Austin. Her setup at Drake One Fifty was stripped back from her usual live performances. What hadn’t changed was her soulful vocal delivery and her cutting lyrics from her personal life, including a cutting commentary about a past horrible boss in ‘Liar’.

After a quick dinner and an unsuccessful queueing up for a ridiculous ice cream at Sweet Jesus (I mean, seriously, look at these monsters), it was time to finally see a band from England. As many of you who have met me in person know, England has always felt more like home to me than America ever has. I feel most connected to the North, and when I saw a band from the North East that Martin had covered for us at Deer Shed a few years ago, I knew I had to go and represent. Smoove and Turrell, purveyors of “Northern coal music” with plenty of soul thrown in for good measure, were to perform live at Adelaide Hall.

Smoove and Turrell CMW 2016 at Adelaide Hall Wednesday

Delaying their set by half an hour allowed more punters to filter in to the city centre venue, much to the delight of John Turrell, who admirably led the Tyneside band through a series of groovy numbers that got punters’ arses shaking. I mean, how could you not get into it as their band’s keyboardist was playing his Nord with his feet? However, there was plenty of music west of the city centre for me to partake in during the rest of the evening.


SXSW 2016: Friday afternoon with strong women at the International Day Stage and with Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales – 18th March 2016

By on Thursday, 7th April 2016 at 5:00 pm

Another day dawned after the awful event of Thursday evening at SXSW 2016. Despite my still shaken nerves, I was determined to make the most of my remaining time in Austin and my Friday afternooon would include the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30. First up though was a lovely breakfast and quick catch-up with our friends from Music from Ireland / First Music Contact’s Angela Dorgan and Brendan Millar at B.D. Riley’s ahead of the full Irish breakfast lineup (Carrie’s review of their act are forthcoming). Then I was off to the Austin Convention Centre for a visit to the panel entitled TV Promos: Sync’s New Best Friend, which was a follow-up of sorts to another sync-orientated panel I sat in on at Norwich Sound and Vision 2016 in October. (For a review of my time at convention panels during SXSW, read my roundup post here.)

After being sufficiently buoyed by the hope that song syncing for tv, film and adverts continue to be a good way for artists to make much needed income to support the music-making side of their craft, it was off to start seeing band trying to make a go of it. Staying in the Austin Convention Center, I went up to the 4th floor to the International Day Stage to catch London-based electropop duo Avec Sans. They clearly had made a good impression prior this appearance, as several megafans of theirs appeared to see them again at this afternoon appearance.

Avec Sans at the International Day Stage at Austin Convention Center, Friday at SXSW 2016

Avec Sans are platinum blonde Alice Fox (originally from Manchester) on vocal duties and Jack St. James on electronics. As TGTF’s resident electro fan, I’ve seen my fair share of duos with a similar setup, and I can say without a doubt that this pair are in the top tier of acts I’ve had the pleasure to witness live. Like Claire L. Evans of YACHT at Easy Tiger the previous night, Fox is a charismatic presence live, providing the human side of Avec Sans with beautously yearning vocals and the perfect foil to the deliciously mechanical machinations of St. James. Watch and listen to the duo’s latest single ‘Heartbreak Hi’ below; their debut album will be out on the 3rd of June; you can donate to their recording effort on PledgeMusic. A headline UK tour will be accompanying its release (all the details here on their Facebook).

It was a nice coincidence, according to Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales manager Fionna Allan that their line-up scheduled for Friday afternoon at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 was entirely made up of acts with strong female or female-fronted acts. Allan was all the more prouder about her showcase when I explained to her that there was an important feminist element to this year’s SXSW, as Carrie previewed in this feature prior to our week in Austin. Three of the five acts performing on this bill were Welsh, including first two acts Rozi Plain (a favourite of BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley who I unfortunately missed) and Violet Skies, who I covered as part of the Trackd showcase and chatted with Monday night. True to her word and despite her relative newness to America, Violet was the consummate professional, garnering a massive audience hanging on to every soulful word she sung. As she sung her debut single ‘How the Mighty’, I became even more convinced in her chance at worldwide success. Good luck to her!

Violet Skies at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

As I had been with Jane Weaver on Wednesday, I was more than a little excited to finally see Gwenno perform live as part of the Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales showcase. After making the difficult decision to give her appearance Wednesday night at the Heavenly Recordings showcase at Barracuda a pass, I was grateful to have another chance, and to be honest, it was probably best to see her here, as part of and also swaddled by her fellow strong female artists’ presence. Further, Gwenno’s ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ – originally released in Wales on Peski Records, then given another life by Heavenly with its re-release in 2015, as well as winning Best Welsh Album at the 2015 National Eisteddfod and the 2014-2015 Welsh Music Prize – is completely fitting for such an afternoon.

The LP’s key themes include fighting against Big Brother and the constraints of a patriarchal society, which Gwenno helpfully and eloquently pointed out in between songs is sadly a reflection of today’s times, stressing the importance of individualism, strength and feminism. This banter between this strong, female and Welsh artist and the audience created an indelible connection between artist and fan, and that’s even before we even consider the music. As an electro head, watching her simultaneously sing like an angel and manage an impressive set of synths and sequencers and effortlessly was a real treat. Adding more fuel to Ms. Saunders’ argument of the Man holding women down, stage management warned her she had to cut her set. Instead of stopping when she was supposed to, in true revolutionary fashion, she kept going. Way to stick it to them, Gwenno! To hear my interview with her that we posted on TGTF last week, go here.

Gwenno at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016 1

Fickle Friends were up next. If you’ve been keeping tabs on indie British music in the last few years (and America’s similar scene, for that matter), you know that synthpop bands are a dime a dozen. If you have been keeping up with our SXSW 2016 preview coverage, you would have read Rebecca’s great Bands to Watch on both this Brighton band and their seemingly similar Liverpudlian counterparts Clean Cut Kid, who I saw on Wednesday night at the Paradigm Agency showcase at Maggie Mae’s. Due to Rebecca’s piece featuring both bands, I could not help but compare their performances in Austin.

Fickle Friends at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

Fickle Friends put on an admirable performance that received a great response with loads of cheering from the audience, especially when they swapped out the words to their song ‘Brooklyn’, changing them to ‘Austin’. However, I didn’t find anything about their music that distinguished them particularly from all the other synthpop bands Britain has been churning out over the last few years. Will there be a North vs. South divide over these two bands’ corresponding success? We’ll have to wait and see how things go this year.

Concluding the female-strong afternoon of Cerdd Cymru / Music Wales at the British Music Embassy were Liverpool’s Stealing Sheep, who I had the great pleasure of seeing play in their hometown, at the cavernous Red Bull Studios at the Garage stage at my first Liverpool Sound City in 2012. Since releasing ‘Not Real’ in April 2015, they’ve adopted a much more colourful stage presence, which in Austin meant neon bright leotards and tights and mirrored sunglasses. Without a doubt, it’s an attention-grabbing look within a dark club; some may call it a gimmick, but it works for them and will keep them firmly in festival-goers’ minds. (In comparison, Fickle Friends looked like they could have been any American band in t-shirts, baseball caps and jeans.)

Stealing Sheep at Cerdd Cymru Music Wales at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, Friday at SXSW 2016

The talent and fun with Stealing Sheep is multifold. Each of the three band members have a strong enough voice to take the lead, yet their harmonies together on album title track ‘Not Real’ are fantastic enough to make you think they’re all sisters (they’re not). The handclap-happy ‘Apparition’ (watch the video below) demanded audience participation, and you can’t help but get drawn into the percussive nature of their music. Despite stage management calling them to stop, they kept on going, to the delight of the punters. Of all the British acts I saw in Austin, I’d rank these Liverpudlian ladies in the top 5 of having made a lasting impression on American audiences that should serve them well in their continuing career.


SXSW 2016: Monday night’s Trackd showcase at Latitude 30 – 14th March 2016

By on Thursday, 24th March 2016 at 2:00 pm

After we were sufficiently fed at Casino El Camino – and heard ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ twice, thanks to overzealous Sweet fans feeding the jukebox? – it was time to make it over to Latitude 30 for the first of a week of nights featuring (mostly) British acts who had made it across the pond to perform for SXSW 2016 audiences at what is now famously known as The British Music Embassy. Instead of a Creative Belfast night as had been done for many years past, this year’s Monday night showcase was sponsored by Trackd, a new app for available for iPhone that allows the user to record music, collaborate with your audience (in an artist’s case, their fans), be able to remix other artists’ work, while also providing yet another social media platform where one can build a fan base of like-minded, inventive artists from the ground up.

Northern Irish singer/songwriter Ciaran Lavery played first on the showcase, at what would turn out to be his least problematic performance in Austin all week. (I’ll leave Carrie to tell you what happened to him at the Output Belfast afternoon showcase on Thursday when we get there.) It’s unmistakable from his ginger hair and beard that he’s Irish, and in the great tradition of Irish musicians who came before, he is an incredibly emotional storyteller.

Ciaran Lavery at the Trackd showcase, Monday 14 March 2016 at SXSW 2016 1
His song ‘Shame’ touched me in particular, his voice cracking near the end with the words, “I want to live between the lie and where the truth dies.” Lavery’s next album ‘Let Bad In’ (including the stellar track ‘Return to Form’, which he also played in Austin) is scheduled to be out at the end of May on Believe Recordings, and we’ll definitely want to take that platter for a spin when it arrives at TGTF Towers.

Up next and showcasing at their fourth-ever SXSW 2016 were The Crookes, but with a new line-up since their last visit to Austin in 2014. (Original drummer Russell Bates was replaced by Adam Crofts in early 2015.) With an EP and four studio albums to their name now – their most recent, ‘Lucky Ones’, having been released on their own label Anywhere Records in the UK in January – they clearly had a tough decision in choosing which songs to play during their allotted 30 minutes.

The Crookes - George Waite at Trackd showcase, Monday 14 March 2016 at SXSW 2016 2

As one might expect, entries from ‘Lucky Ones’, including single ‘The World is Waiting’, plus both ‘Roman Candle’ and ‘If Only For Tonight’ (songs singled out by Carrie in her album review 2 months ago) were prominent inclusions this night in Austin. The Sheffield band set their devoted fans’ hearts alight, causing a massive danceathon down the front during their time on the Latitude 30 stage. (Hilariously, the same group of fans also followed around Kent’s Get Inuit during the week, including at the same exact venue at the same exact time Tuesday night.) For good measure, though, they could not forget breakthrough single ‘Backstreet Lovers’ nor set closer ‘Afterglow’, and upon the playing of the latter, I told Carrie I refused to honour our 2014 drink bet of the band playing it or ‘Maybe in the Dark’. Hey, it’s not my fault they don’t play their best single anymore, is it? Ha.

Third on the bill was the svelte and sassy blonde Violet Skies from South Wales, who I snuck out during Ciaran Lavery’s soundcheck to speak with outside Latitude 30 earlier in the evening. Her dramatic aesthetic of black, flowy garb matched well with her soulful voice, backed more than competently by her sultry beat-producing band. She was chosen as one of 12 bands for the Welsh Horizons / Gorwelions scheme in 2015, no mean feat considering the wealth of talent currently coming out of the land of the red dragon.

Violet Skies at Trackd showcase, Monday 14 March 2016 at SXSW 2016 2

This is definitely a case of not judging a book by its cover: I mean, how is it possible that from a young Welsh lass so slight – and baring her midriff, too – that such a powerful, emotional voice on a song like ‘Jealousy’ comes out? But it does, and her vocal delivery is near flawless. While the kids might be more keen on the hot goddess image she projects visually, I hope that it’s her gorgeous voice and songwriting talent that are what push her to the top of the heap of young British singer/songwriter hopefuls.

After a thank you to everyone for coming by the founders of Trackd, the evening closed out with a boisterous performance by Ghanese singer/songwriter JoJo Abot, now calling New York City home. When I say boisterous, I mean boisterous. The large black bow atop Ms. Abot’s head should have been a dead giveaway that this was going to be more than an ordinary performance of world music, if there is such a thing.

JoJo Abot at Trackd showcase, Monday 14 March 2016 at SXSW 2016

Soulful singing and equally soulful backing rhythms translated to a musical product so irresistible, I went to use the ladies’ for a brief moment, only to come out and find punters had invaded the stage. This was of course much to the chagrin of Latitude 30’s resident bouncer, who we have come to know and love over these many years of covering the festival. At the end of the day (err, night at the Trackd showcase), a good time was had by all and it was a good ease-in into the music festival proper that would begin in earnest on Tuesday.


SXSW 2016 Interview: Violet Skies

By on Tuesday, 22nd March 2016 at 11:00 am

Young Welsh singer/songwriter Violet Skies made her American live debut at SXSW 2016 in Austin last week. I thought perhaps she would be daunted by this prospect, but no. Like a consummate professional belying her tender age, she showed no sign of anxiety when I had the opportunity to chat with her before her first performance of the week, at the Monday night showcase by Trackd that took place at Latitude 30, the home of the British Music Embassy for the week.

In this interview, we talk about how her love for legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell came about among many other topics, and you can sense quickly just how driven this lovely young lady is. She is definitely one to watch. Have a listen to my chat with Violet Skies below. For our current and continued coverage on Violet on TGTF, go here.


TGTF Guide to SXSW 2016: Clash in association with PPL, and NME in association with UK Trade and Investment at the British Music Embassy – 18th-19th March 2016

By on Friday, 4th March 2016 at 2:00 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. On Monday and Wednesday, our editor Mary previewed the talent on show on Tuesday night (Huw Stephens with PRS for Music showcase) and Wednesday, then Thursday (Output Belfast and PIAS in association with AIM), respectively. This year’s showcases on Friday the 18th of March are set to include a host of artists from around the UK, including hotly-tipped acts from Wales and Scotland. The Welsh artists will be highlighted during the daytime show, presented by British Music @ SXSW in association with Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales. A pair of Scottish acts will feature on the evening showcase, presented by UK pop culture magazine Clash in association with music rights and licensing agency PPL.

The Friday afternoon show will feature a delightfully rich lineup of female artists, beginning with alt-folk singer/songwriter Rozi Plain and continuing with two Welsh acts, pop singer/songwriter Violet Skies and electronic musician Gwenno. Both Welsh women will be introduced in more detail in editor Mary’s upcoming preview of Welsh artists at SXSW 2016 later today.


Closing out the afternoon are two alliterative acts, our recent Band to Watch #372 Fickle Friends, followed by fellow TGTF alumnae Stealing Sheep. Fickle Friends vaulted to popularity in the UK with their debut single ‘Swim’ back in 2014 and have been on an upward trajectory ever since. Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep are sailing strong on their April 2015 release ‘Not Real’, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a hint of something new from them in Austin as well.


The Friday evening Clash showcase is set to begin with DJ/producer/all-around-Renaissance-woman Throwing Shade, whose soon-to-be released EP ‘House of Silk’ features the above reflection on pop culture and social media called ‘hashtag IRL’. Scottish pop songstress KLOE and avant/experimental trio Hælos will fill in the middle part of the evening lineup, ahead of a rather intriguing To Be Confirmed notation at 11 PM; bets are open as to who might fill that coveted slot.


Playing at midnight will be Glasgow electro musician The Revenge, followed by London-based soul pop duo Honne (read more of our coverage on Honne here). The Revenge will feature in our upcoming preview of Scottish artists at SXSW 2016, along with the aforementioned KLOE.

On Saturday, the 19th of March, the afternoon show at Latitude 30 will start with Sheffield slacker punk pair Nai Harvest (read more about them on TGTF here) and Leeds goth-punk band Autobahn. Falling square in the middle of the docket, Liverpool indie rockers Sugarmen are sure to win fans with their psychedelic recent single ‘Plastic Ocean’, while grunge rockers Fizzy Blood and Demob Happy finish off the daytime slate.


Latitude 30 will be taken over by recently retooled and relaunched pop culture magazine NME in association with UK Trade and Investment on Saturday night, the final event at the British Music Embassy for SXSW 2016. Leicester brothers Andy and James Stone, known onstage as synth-rock duo Lusts will open the show (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here), to be followed by rap collective Section Boyz. London five-piece Pumarosa have already announced an autumn 2016 support slot for SXSW 2015 hit act Gengahr and will feature in the middle of this final night lineup.


Deep-voiced Americana singer/songwriter Barns Courtney could easily follow in the successful SXSW footsteps of Hozier and James Bay before him. He’ll round out his trip to Austin with an appearance at the British Music Embassy, ahead of dance duo Formation (Rebecca’s introduction to them is here) and another tantalising to-be-announced special guest for the evening’s final set.



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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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