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Handmade Festival 2016 – Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 11th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

If the only music festival you’ve been to (and this is potentially more aimed to UK readers than U.S. fans) consists of standing in a muddy field in wellington boots or becoming heavily inebriated while trundling to the next stage to see a mildly hyped-up indie band, then an indoor festival, or metro-festival, is a highly different experience. Leicester’s 4th annual Handmade Festival took place on the May bank holiday with the stated goal of gathering “the best new and forward thinking music, comedy, art, film, performance and photography and bring(ing) it all together for one weekend”.

When I first arrived at the University of Leicester on the Friday, the welcoming sign of ‘H A N D M A D E’ spelt out up the stairs in large plastic letters beckoned festival-goers into the venue and gave a great indication as to how the festival sees itself: welcoming and with a hint of non-seriousness. Being a completely independent venture, Handmade is unique in that it prides itself on being a place to discover brand new things, and this is most prominent in its musical lineup. The headliners themselves are tenured enough in the industry to draw a crowd, particularly We Are Scientists (pictured at top), Deaf Havana and Lonely the Brave, who jointly win the award for “Largest T-Shirt Representation”. With these crowds drawn in, it was up to the acts beforehand, both local and national, to cement the weekend, and this they did.

On Friday, we were given the choice of either Lacura or Estrons, two bands that cover the rock spectrum nicely, with Lacura taking on the dreamscape, ease-you-in side of things and Estrons taking the face grabbing route. With both sets comfortably and officially kicking things off, the small crowd that had gathered at this early stage of the festival soon ventured to the weekend’s main stage, Academy 2, to witness Ash Mammal. This was the first sign that it would be easy to find your new favourite or soon-to-be favourite band here. Ash Mammal brought a raucous set, reminiscent of early Placebo and not easily forgotten.

An important aspect to mention before heading into any more detail on the weekend is the venue layout. In total there were three main stages for music, not including the smaller stages in the venue landing area. The main stages were the aforementioned Academy 2, the Academy 3, which was found by venturing down into the basement of the complex and through a labyrinth of corridors into a seeming ex-dance studio, and also The Scholar Bar. The initial trial of finding your way around the complex was confusing, but after one trip around the available open areas, it turned out to be a well-laid out routing that consisted of a multi-layered circle. Getting lost was a fool’s errand, and a mistake only made once.

The rest of Friday’s highlights included Black Honey, who are already gaining a serious amount of traction and for good reason. They combine blues-tinged, reverb-heavy rock with a frontwoman who has the sultry and confident attitude of Debbie Harry, Alison Mosshart and Cherie Curie combined. Sheffield’s 65daysofstatic brought an electronic turn to the proceedings with a light show and tunes to make a strong enough statement that should also aide their current hype. By far the biggest highlight of the day was punk band Pretty Vicious in The Scholar Bar, a tiny venue that already made the softer acts seem edgier than you would believe. Pretty Vicious brought out their re-birth of British punk and showed us exactly how they’ve managed to score a major label deal. Snotty, abrasive with purely fantastic riffs, they’re enough to give the Sex Pistols a run for their money.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/X6uBrek6Kd4[/youtube]

Headliners We Are Scientists proved why they’re still going strong in the game after over a decade, a solid set full of the massive hits that first put them in the spotlight, peppered with newer songs which sounded just as strong. The show itself did feel like a watered down version of an atypical We Are Scientists event, at times feeling rushed. However, having taken to the stage 15 minutes late this was potentially an executed measure to get through all of the crowd pleasers.

Stay tuned to TGTF for parts 2 and 3 of Steven’s roundup of Handmade Festival 2016, which will follow in the coming days.

 

Album Review: We Are Scientists – Helter Seltzer

 
By on Tuesday, 26th April 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

We Are Scientists Helter Seltzer album coverA band’s fifth album is always a curiosity. At this point in their career, you’d assume they’d have evolved beyond the sound of their earlier works, perhaps not completely because you can’t simply forget what made people fall in love with you. But at the same time, you can’t attract a new audience or keep everyone else’s attention without shaking things up a little. We Are Scientists have followed this fact and over the course of five albums they have gone from scrappy, indie upstarts to mildly maturer experimenters of sound.

The audible evolution became most prominent on third release ‘Barbara’, where the use of electronic instruments, particularly synthesisers, became more common place. The overall sound also changed into a more rich and indulgent experience, with the compositions seemingly structured around creating a sound reminiscent of the ‘80s more and more. With the latest offering, ‘Helter Seltzer’, we find the band at a point of plateauing in the sense of having reached a peak in the evolution. The songs sound as loud as ever, with rousing choruses and cut from the heart lyrics, but there’s a depth that can only be heard after multiple listens.

For example, track two on the album, ‘In My Head’, has only a soft repetitive guitar line while the rest of the track is built around a flurry of synthesisers and rumbling bass. As you break away the layers you can hear the depth to which We Are Scientists are reaching. The in your face guitar attacks are subdued, instead replaced with orchestrations of thick synthesisers and reverb-soaked drums. The same is found on the follow-up track ‘Too Late’, which is yearning in its lyricism and harmonised vocals.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le7kyRgMsuE[/youtube]

The first insight to this new material was in the form of ‘Buckle’, which is perhaps one of the most true to form We Are Scientists track on the album. Beginning with thumping drums and a compliment of bass and guitar, once again there’s a soft littering of synthesisers but it mostly revolves around the basic instruments and their effect experimentation. It’s a powerful track that kicks things off but doesn’t necessarily signal what the rest of the album holds. ‘Classic Love’ is another track that doesn’t stray too far from the evolutionary boundaries being set, with acoustic guitar being a prominent fixture layered below the rest of the instrumentation. The song is riotous at times, with a rollicking chorus that pics up the acoustic underlay and covers it in screeching and searing guitar sounds. A similar fashion is found on ‘Want for Nothing’, another longing track that shows just where the mindset of singer/guitarist Keith Murray is at.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFCipoFNYmY[/youtube]

Throughout the album, you can hear exactly how much We Are Scientists have matured over the years, the spritely youthfulness has been replaced by awareness of the world around them. Of course, they haven’t lost all aspects of their personalities: just watch them live, they’re hilarious, yet professional. But on the recordings there’s a depth that just keeps on growing, bringing us a new angle to the band that have survived a lot longer than any of their peers.

Experimentation is definitely doing positive for We Are Scientists: they have indulged in a profound use of effects, both on the instruments and vocals, particularly on album closer ‘Forgiveness’. This experimentation will undoubtedly lead We Are Scientists into the future, ensuring to not be left behind by the ever-changing and self-destructing industry. What comes next is anyone’s guess but whatever they do, it’ll be for themselves. We Are Scientists have reached their zen point, and it suits them just fine.

8/10

‘Helter Seltzer’ is out now via 100% Records. You can also catch We Are Scientists on tour next week, including headline slots at this bank holiday weekend’s Handmade Festival and Live at Leeds.

 

Handmade Festival 2016: writer Steven’s best band bets

 
By on Tuesday, 26th April 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo of The Magic Gang by Dan Kendall

If you didn’t already heed our warning that Handmade Festival this weekend in Leicester is the festival to be at this season then perhaps, just maybe, the below list of acts that you’re going to be missing out on will change your mind. And for those who will be joining us in during the weekend, take the below list as a starting point for your own weekend musical adventure, there’s plenty to not miss out on so let us give you a bit of guidance. (To read Steven’s earlier preview of Handmade, go here.)

Lacura – Academy 3, Friday 29th April, 17:00

Drops of psychedelia amongst massive indie sounds, Lacura are your perfect opener to the weekend. It’s a toss-up between Lacura or ESTRONS, and Lacura just pip it with their dreamscapes and ethereal feel.

The Magic Gang – Scholar Bar, Friday 29th April, 18:45

To continue your ease into the festival, The Magic Gang (pictured at top) will use their harmonious, ‘60s psych-pop style to command your elation and help you forget about that outside world. Friday afternoon’s never sounded so good. (For past coverage on The Magic Gang on TGTF, go here.)

Black Honey – Scholar Bar, Friday 29th April, 19:45

Black Honey are gaining a lot of momentum with their dreamy, shoe-gaze-esque rock and vocals that call to mind Lana Del Rey if she actually gave us what we wanted rather than slow tempoed ballads. (For past coverage on Black Honey on TGTF, go here.)

We Are Scientists – Academy 2, Friday 29th April, 22:00

As mentioned in our preview piece, the indie duo who are affable beyond belief are gracing our shores again in support of their fifth studio album. With a guaranteed good time to close out the first day of Handmade, to miss out on We Are Scientists would mean depriving yourself of laughs and such major tunes as ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’, ‘After Hours’ and new single ‘Buckle’ from brand new album ‘Helter Seltzer’. (For loads more coverage on We Are Scientists on TGTF, go here.)

Jurassic Pop – Scholar Bar, Saturday 30th April, 15:00

In case Jurassic Pop have slid under your radar, they are a band who write songs solely based around the Jurassic Park film series. Debut EP ‘Jurassic Park 4 1/2: The Erotic Adventures of Jeff Goldblum’ is filled with punk, indie and spoken word. If this alone isn’t enough to get you to see the band then nothing will.

OhBoy! – Scholar Bar, Saturday 31st April, 17:45.

This will be around the half way point of the festival, so chances are you’ll be a pleasant state of jubilation and will want to continue this. OhBoy! are you best bet here, with songs that are both ferocious and charming, they’ll certainly kick your Saturday evening off.

The Xcerts – Scholar Bar, Saturday 31st April, 21:15

Powerful pop songs that call to mind fellow Scotsmen Biffy Clyro at their lightest. The Xcerts have been around for 10+ years and over this time you’re guaranteed they’ve worked out a killer live set that will match the brawn of their sound. (For past coverage on The Xcerts on TGTF, go here.)

Johnny Lloyd – Academy 2, Sunday 1st May, 17:15

If you haven’t heard ‘Hello Death’, the debut single from ex-Tribes frontman Johnny Lloyd then you are missing out something extremely special. Heartfelt and solemn, it’s a thunderous track that is surely going to be a wonder to behold live.

USA Nails – Scholar Bar, Sunday 1st May, 19:45.

Harsh, abusive sounding punk that calls to mind Black Flag and Minor Threat, USA Nails are a safe bet to ensure you leave the festival with ringing ears and to get that final bit of energy out of your system.

Beans on Toast – Academy 2, Sunday 1st May, 22:00

Of course, the hardest question of any festival is who to see to on the closing night. With a couple of fine choices, Beans on Toast is potentially the perfect physical representation of that festival ideology, be it a metropolitan one like Handmade or Glastonbury. With songs filled with observation and thought that appeal to every straight minded one of us, when this is matched with the sing-a-long stylings, you have a guaranteed memorable closer and one that will stick with you on that tired, hungover train journey home. (For past coverage on Beans on Toast on TGTF, go here.)

 

Video of the Moment #2054: We Are Scientists

 
By on Monday, 4th April 2016 at 6:00 pm
 

In mid-March, a new song by We Are Scientists was being reviewed on Steve Lamacq’s BBC 6 Music weekly evening feature Roundtable. Much was made by the panelists that it represented a different kind of sound and approach by Keith Murray and Chris Cain ahead of the release of their next album ‘Helter Seltzer’. It’ll be their fifth, which is astonishing in this day and age of bands folding after just one or two LPs. Murray and Cain have been together for over 2 decades now – equally astonishing – and Murray speaks on this and newly unveiled song ‘Too Late’:

Although the lyrics are couched in the language of a love song, it’s as much about my friendship with Chris as anything else. We’ve known each other for almost 20 years now, and despite the well-proven adage that being in a band is an excellent way to destroy a friendship, he’s still the person I most want to hang out with. It’s pretty weird to spend three months on a tour bus with someone and then, upon returning home, be able to wait only about 48 hours before calling to see if they want to go to a movie, or something.?

Definitely a bromance that has been brewing and ongoing since way before Obama and Trudeau were a thing. Watch the hilarious (as usual for We Are Scientists) promo for ‘Too Late’, in which the pair try to save the bees, below. Stay tuned for ‘Helter Skelter’, which will drop on the 22nd of April on 100% Records, just ahead of their appearances at Handmade Festival, Live at Leeds and Live in Glasgow at the end of April into early May.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjHJClA6t6Y[/youtube]

 

Preview: Handmade Festival 2016

 
By on Monday, 11th January 2016 at 9:00 am
 

This may come as some surprise, despite all of the doom and gloom at the moment surrounding the current state of the UK music scene, which seems to be a feeling exclusive among the music-loving public. There are actually a wealth of music-supporting communities and people doing what they do because they love it. Case in point, Handmade Festival in Leicester. Now in its fourth year in (30 April – 1 May) and having upgraded to the Leicester Apollo, it’s going stronger than ever. And even better, it’s completely independent.

Being curated by the same team since its origins, Handmade Festival has seen the likes of Scottish darlings Honeyblood (2015) and indie rock foursome Tellison (2014). Due to its smaller size and the sheer volume of volunteers it sees, people who offer up their free time to make such a great event happen, even more thought and process can go into curating the best bang for your buck lineup.

The move to being just at the Apollo instead of spread across smaller venues, such as Firebug that is managed by one of the organisers John Helps, has certainly not meant that its lost the charm or ethos of a small, independent venue. Utilising these smaller venues for preview show or after parties, they’re able to bring in more national crowds as well as showing off exactly what makes this scene in Leicester so great. It also means they can book larger, more established artists.

This year’s lineup so far has given us We Are Scientists (pictured at top), who interestingly enough are already on the bill for Live at Leeds, as well as Sheffield’s 65daysofstatic. Now three more acts have been announced. Joining the aforementioned heavy hitters will be Welsh indie sextet Los Campesinos, who haven’t released a record since 2013 so we may potentially see new material from them this year in preparation.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA2CG6WWcsg[/youtube]

Cantabrigians Lonely the Brave, who are well underway with their sophomore effort they are currently recording in Sheffield, have also been announced. Having undertaken a short tour road-testing new material, what we’ve heard so far is sounding as strong, if not stronger, than their 2014 debut ‘The Day’s War’. There is also Pretty Vicious who had a superb 2015. Despite only having released one single and performing a handful of gigs, they were soon signed to Virgin EMI and are gearing up more single releases.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrKmzVCcYfw[/youtube]

Handmade Festival is one certainly not to be missed. At just £30 for a weekend ticket, it’s easily the most affordable festival you can get to, and with a strong lineup so far, it’d be a crime not to. Festivals like Handmade are a rarity. It’s made by people who truly understand how to make an event memorable, not just another gig in another city. You’re guaranteed to remember every moment. And if that’s not enough to entice you then nothing will.

For more information and ticket purchasing information go to the official Handmade Festival Web site.

 

Preview: Live at Leeds 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 15th December 2015 at 9:00 am
 

For a festival that was first created to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the fine city that houses it, Live at Leeds has managed to survive – no, thrive – and will be in its 10th year in 2016 (30 April). Which makes this one rather special. The recently announced first acts, which include pop songstress Jess Glynne (pictured at top) and madcap indie duo We Are Scientists, are the first of what will is sure to be many more recognised names and even more unsigned, local faces.

A metropolitan festival can be a strange affair: whereas the norm at a festival is to get lost in a field for a few days, when it comes to a metropolitan one, you’re encouraged to explore the city itself, take part in various activities that are normally happening, all the while being within walking distance from any amenity a city can offer. Metropolitan festivals have seen a great increase over recent years, with another Northern festival, Beacons, being moved to urban areas around Manchester and Leeds after receiving feedback from attendees that attending a tent and field festival is increasingly more expensive due to transport and other costs. Not to mention the idea that if – and we are talking about the North of England here – the weather were to take a bad turn, the venues are all indoor, so there’s no worry about it being cancelled or acts being rescheduled. There are many positives to a city festival, and while you can’t replace the ‘drunk in a field’ feeling, it’s possible to get close.

2016’s Live at Leeds, for the first time, will feature a program of digital events, a la SXSW or The Great Escape. This is a strong move for the festival: it will draw in professionals, as well as music fans, and gives the event even more credibility. More information about these events and more will be announced in due course.

Looking back at acts who previously played the festival, one can’t help notice names such as Catfish and The Bottlemen (2014), who have seen their career expanded exponentially this year after a Glastonbury appearance, not to mention Ed Sheeran (2010), one of British music’s current biggest stars. Live at Leeds has a great track record of signing bands who are heading for great futures, as well as those who are far more than established in smaller circles. With 200 acts being announced for last year’s festival, it’s bound to be an even bigger affair this year.

Jess Glynne, who had us all singing last summer with an appearance on Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be’ and has her own fantastically bright solo career, will be a perfect artist to watch at this year’s event, along with the aforementioned duo of We Are Scientists, who are a staple in any independent festival lineup. They have the same draw now as they did when they first rose to prominence after releasing ‘With Love and Squalor’, which was 10 years old this year, pretty apt. Along with Band of Skulls, the ferocious rockers who brought us ‘Death By Diamonds and Pearls’ and more recently released their third album in 2014, ‘Himalayan’, and Circa Waves, the relatively new band from Liverpool, we’re looking strong already and the lineup is bound to get even stronger.

Tickets are on sale now via all good ticket sellers, which are listed on the festival’s official Web site.

 
 
 

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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.

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