Monday, 17 May 2010

The Elastics / The Way / Bleached Wail @ The Sugarmill Friday 14th May 2010

Review by Liam Kelly

Photo by Simon Bamford

Arriving a little later than I had originally planned; I was greeted upon entering The Sugarmill by the techno funky beats of powerpop indie band, The Elastics. Having never seen the lads before, I was incredibly impressed, particularly by the energy and excitement in front man Jack Bloor. Perhaps not the strongest vocalist in Stoke, but easily one of the most entertaining and one who certainly knows how to work a large crowd. Pulling off covers such as The Wombats hit, ‘Moving to New York’ and the challenging ‘She wants to move’ by N.E.R.D, which really went down well with the boisterous crowd, getting the lads the reception they deserved.

Next to take stage was local band, The Way. Banging out tracks in an indie/punk genre, The Way seemed to have built themselves a decent fan base, many of which were here tonight. The heavy bassing of Scott Powell combining with the radiant drumming of Rich Howshall, brought out the bands strongest track in their set, ‘Yesterdays News.’ Dean Dales guitar riffs backing the melodic voice of front man Stef, the band pulled off crowd favourite ‘Katwalk Krazy,’ sending The Sugarmill into a frenzy. It’s not always easy playing your newest tracks to such a big crowd and often bands receive a poor response, but not The Way! The 3 new tracks they played (unfortunately I didn’t catch the names) saw their die-hard fans throw themselves off the stage into the crowd and cause general havoc. The band finished with what seems to have become their calling card, ‘One Time Round,’ with the crowd screaming back the lyrics to Stef and co. I was told this track is available to download from ‘iTunes’ and I would recommend that all local indie lovers make the purchase, and if a hooky chorus is what you love, this is the track for you.

The final act of the night and headliners came in the shape of the rowdy Alsager trio, Bleached Wail. A group that I call the marmite of local music, you either love them or hate them, but from the reaction of a near full mill, you have to assume that Stoke love these lads. Starting with ‘Rumours,’ you get an instant impression of what people love about Bleached Wail, the pure energy that runs through them and their on-stage charisma and quirkiness.

Throwing themselves round like a couple of wild beast escaped from their cages at the zoo, ‘Stolen Thunder’ saw tight and poppy guitar riffs from Gus and the confident bassing of Floody, with the crowd jumping around as much as the band. Newest track, ‘Distraction,’ shows a heavier side to Bleached Wail’s music, but as always they pulled it off superbly, and I was particularly impressed by the sledge hammer drums of Nick. ‘Get Rowdy’ was certainly a crowd favourite and this is exactly what the band did; you find yourself asking, ‘how do they store that much energy?’ Next up was the hard hitting punky anthem of ‘This man’s life,’ and saw Gus’s lyrics yelled back to him throughout by his fans. The night was finished with ‘Hot on his heels’ (a track with a chorus that will certainly stay rattling around the brain for days), Gus and Floody urged the crowd to give it their all for the last song, just as they did themselves.


The Elastics

The Way

Bleached Wail

Monday, 10 May 2010

Faux Feet / The Sport @ The Underground 7th May 2010

Review by Liam Kelly

Photo by Leo Mazzocchio

Tonight’s eagerly anticipated gig was to see local favourites The Sport, and the newly formed Faux Feet pack out the underground, and display great scenes of the talent possessed in this city.

Faux Feet took to the stage to their usual crowd and flew into things with the upbeat tempo of their first track, ‘Stand tall.’ Authoritative bass lines from Carl and the talent in Sian Matthews vocals alongside Ben Finney’s tight guitar riffs give the band the platform to pull off anthemic tracks such as ‘Beauty Queen’ and ‘Keep on track.’ It’s clear to see Sian has some serious talent and constantly demands her audience to get involved. Her melodic and powerful vocals make it easy to forget the youthfulness of this band and they have a serious amount of talent and potential. In tracks such as ‘Rise and fall’ and ‘Found’ the band play confidently backing Sian’s tuneful vocals with conviction and precision. An enjoyable set which grew stronger through each song and gave Sian a wonderful opportunity to showcase the strength and versatility of her voice.

As the Sport arrived on stage at 9:45pm, the Underground was rammed to full capacity. The question on everyone’s lips - are The Sport currently Stoke’s number one unsigned band? Their loyal fanbase seem to think so and tonight’s performance certainly justified not only their growing popularity, but the buzz and hype that surrounds them. Kicking off their energetic set with ‘Freakshow,’ not only were the crowd sent into delirium, but frontman Nic seemed intent on joining the party, launching himself off the stage into the crowd. Next up was an older track, ‘Answers,’ also proving to be popular with the crowd. Matt Jones rapid and furious drumming is somewhat underestimated, almost taken for granted, but rhythmically, he is the backbone that fuses The Sport together and sets the platform for the band to produce anthemic tracks such as ‘Holiday’ and ‘Questions.’ And how can you forget the heavy bassing of Nick Gallagher combined with the robust riffage of Alex Shenton and Mark Taylor on guitars. Nic Andrews is arguably the best frontman Stoke has to offer at the moment with his Sky scraping melodies and soaring vocals, it’s easy to see why.

‘Dead Stars’ sees the crowd screaming back the lyrics to Nic and shows not only does he have a melodic voice, but has the talents to produce lyrics as captivating and memorable as the chorus to ‘S.L.O.W Down.’ The final track of the night came in the shape of the bands calling card, and definite crowd favourite, ‘Tick Tock.’ A band that surely must be breaking down the doors of record labels soon, in my opinion the Sport offer Stoke’s best chance of a ‘big band’ breakthrough, producing unforgettable performances and continually going from strength to strength.


Faux Feet

The Sport

Friday, 7 May 2010

The Wonder Stuff Interview

Interview by John West

Image by James Butroid

For those of us who are enjoying the resurgence of 80’
s fashion, and for those of us who are have noticed the reminiscent sound of some of the music around at the moment, one band albeit from the late 80’s who are also enjoying reflecting back on this decade are The Wonder Stuff.

Emerging from the Midlands and with a distinctive wry outlook on life, and vibrant songs, they tickled the indie scene in a way that made it hard not to bounce along to tracks such as Radio Ass Kiss, Don’t let me down (gently) and Cartoon Boyfriend.

2010 sees Miles Hunt and Co back on the road to celebrate the 21st Birthday of their album HUP. Sparing us some time from his busy touring and recording schedule Miles shared his thoughts on the industry today, some of the greats, and how it feels to be bringing the album back into the spotlight.

SS. Well you're celebrating 21 years of HUP, what are your thoughts on the album now?Was it difficult to follow 8 Legged Groove Machine and get over the so called 'second album syndrome'?
M.H. HUP was very much a working album written on the road. We’d really enjoyed touring 8 Legged Groove Machine and wanted to move on.

SS. You’ve been touring HUP for a while now, how’s it going and how is it being received?

M.H. The tour has been really high spirited and has been great to do.

SS. With HUP you successfully maintained the vibrancy and energy of the first album, with a folky psychedelic twist. Was it intentional to broaden the band’s sound?

M.H. It was a working album that was written very much on the road; we really enjoyed the 8 Legged tour and wanted to move on with the sound. We felt that it was a natural progression to have samples and different instruments on it and that this was a positive.

SS. HUP came out in a year with a number of great Albums being released; do you have any personal favourites?

M.H.There are certain bands and albums that stand out such as Green [REM], and The Waterboys.

SS. How about Stone Roses, an album which has really stood the test of time in my opinion?

M.H. I found that a bit ‘Stadium Rock’ with a bit of a Simple Minds vibe, but I totally understand the importance of it.

SS. We listen to music very differently now. How much has the industry changed for you since then?

M.H. It used to be all the Major labels, but now you can record at home and make a decent recording so you don’t have to ask record company permission to create your art or to distribute it, and I think that this puts the power into the hands of the creators not the businesses.

SS. This comes across in line with your own work ethics and you come across as a very hard working musician and have been involved in a number of projects along the way. What are your plans for the future and are the Wonder Stuff recording any new material.

M.H. As well as the current tour with the band, I perform with Erica [Nockalls], and we’re working on a project called ‘Shared’ which brings together established and new artists.

I haven’t found anything I love as much as making music so it’s the natural thing for me to be doing. I’m working with, Wayne Hussey, and Roddie Frame, and a guy called Dirty Ray focussing the work mainly in the Shropshire Area, but we’ll be hitting the road soon. It’s Acoustic; sitting on sofa’s with a couple of acoustic guitars, which is how 8 Legged started, and if it doesn’t sound good then. It probably won’t sound good in the studio.

SS. At Stoke Sounds we aim to promote the very vibrant local music scene, do you have any advice for the musicians out there?

M.H. Control as much of it as you can yourself. Your problems can begin with the labels, so stay somewhere where you can control things yourself, do take advice from people like managers but don’t let go of the reigns.

You often get people going on about X Factor and the like but really nothing’s changed, there have always been talent shows and there was a big explosion of indie labels in the 80’s so there will always be a way through for musicians.

Let them keep going on, as banal as it is, and let the rest of us be as creative as possible.

SS. You’ve played the Stoke area a number of times; do you have plans to return in the future?

M.H. Me and Erica will play where ever wants us. Do they still have that venue with the pub next door?

SS. The Sugarmill?

M.H. Yes, we’ve played there loads of times, it’d be great to come back

SS. Lennon’s ’Gimme some truth’ is looming at the front of my mind with the election being current. You appear to be a very open and honest song writer too, so I see a connection there, would you agree?

M.H. Well, it’s written by a genius. I play this with the lyrics on a stand - you don’t want to get a genius’s words wrong. You can’t go wrong with a fucking fantastic song.

SS. Bands such as PiL reforming, the Stooges playing again, and Primal Scream performing Screamadelica, I think this is great.....

M.H. I agree. In the early 80’s when Gary Numan announced his retirement, my Dad said ‘a true musician doesn’t retire’ I mean look at Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Coltrane. Iggy [Pop] wrote the book and it’s great that he’s out there just like The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. It’s still great for kids to be able to see them up there just doing it, it’s not like they’re going to get knocked off the podium anytime soon (laughing).

It was a great pleasure to talk to Miles, and we wish the 10 legged psychedelic raggle taggle country tinged groove machinists all the best. Do spend some time looking them up, or catch them on their current tour.

If you fancy winning 2 guest list places to their gig at JB's in Dudley on May 15th, simply enter our competition, Winner will be announced on Thursday 13th.

Many Thanks to the Band and Tom at Spirit for donating this prize, and to Miles for his time.


The Wonder Stuff


Official site

The Wonderstuff

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Party Horse @ The Sugarmill 27th April 2010

Interview and Review by Sian Eardley

Photo by Simon Bamford

Party…Horse. Party Horse. It’s a good, strong name for these electro glam warriors, currently voyaging around the country with disco-loving Chew Lips. (And yes, in-case you’re wondering, they do love to party and they rather like horses, so they bunged the two concepts together and hey presto!)

Anyhoo, when the assignment came round to interview this hip and happening band, I set to work on looking them up. On their MySpace webpage
, I was wowed by the trance sonic sound of “Lazer Beam’, an 80’s funk tune integrated with Space Invader blasts, producing a cosmic coolness. I was even further delighted by the fact that such an advanced and awesome sound was produced by a twosome – a married duo to be precise. This, I find to a construct in their appeal and charisma, it’s a new approach that we don’t really see too often in music nowadays. This ambitious, young, and fashionable couple are soon to ride on top of the world with their infectious and body popping music fantasies. To actually meet the band was even more of a pleasure. Northern Dave hailing from Sheffield as a more sane, blonde Noel Fielding, and his intriguing wife Ursula, who was quite quiet during the interview (but soon came to life on stage!), spent a few minutes with me on their 9th day on their leg of their tour, telling me what they made of their first venture to Stoke, what they have in store for their performances, and what lies ahead for Party (the) Horse in 2010….

(It has to be noted the band was quite accustomed to the lingo of Stoke – apparently even the men call one another ‘Duck’ further up the A53.)

Stoke Sounds: So guys, what do you make of Stoke?
Dave: I dunno really…seems like any English town really…all the shops are all here and that…there’s lovely countryside driving down here:

SS: So have you come straight from Sheffield?
D: Yes we had a gig there last night

SS: Do you prefer playing up there to anywhere else?
D: Not really, no. In fact, I prefer to play out of Sheffield really because y’know, you play in front of your friends…y’know it’s fun but it’s just that your friends have seen you a lot and you get really nervous.

SS: How long have you known Chew Lips?
Ursula: Well we met a year ago at a festival…and we started e-mailing and stuff

SS: What festival was that at?
D: We played Rockness last year and we just got together really. Chew Lips were playing after us, we didn’t really know who they were then, it was a chance meeting. We’ve done some songs with their producer, so that’s how this all came about.

SS: Are you playing any festivals this year?
D: Yeah, we’ll play Tramlines – sort of Sheffield’s festival, which started last year. We’re not sure yet, there’s a few things being worked out…Hopefully getting to make an album this year is the aim really.

SS: How come you decided to release ‘Lazer Beam’ first?
D: I just think it’s a strong song. The sound is a good representation of where we’re at; it’s got the right feel. ‘Lazer Beam’ is a strong title, like ‘Party Horse’, it’s quite striking, it’s not like ‘I need you’ or ‘I don’t love you anymore’.

SS: It’s a good dance song. It’s pretty out there…
D Yeah – it was gonna be called ‘Can you feel my Lazer Beam?’
U: Yeah, but it was too long

SS: Have you done any more work on your album?
D: Not really, no…we just keep writing songs, I think we’re going back in the studio soon, but our producer’s very busy and he’s also been stuck abroad with the volcano thing.

SS: Is it true that you’re on your own label?
D: Not really. We wanted to put out a single but we haven’t got a record deal, but we just want to put it out as a download, ‘cause we’ve got this tour and it’s good to have something people can purchase and have, and then you also get reviews and blogs and get to speak to people…A release is something to aim for… It’s not really about the sales at this point.

SS: I love your MySpace Promo pictures (See the site!) and flyers with the tape. Tell us about it!
D: Yeah, it’s quite unusual, like as if we’ve been kidnapped…maybe that could be the theme for the next video…?

SS: What band influences have you got?
D: Many things really, we listen to loads of different things, we like music quite direct and quite bold. We like a lot of Prince and just party music, maybe even more dancey music.
U: It’s not just music we get inspired by but also films and TV shows, to capture a feeling, more so than being a genre.
D: Yeah we’re not a genre, we’re just loose, we’re just pop. We’re not an indie band, we’re not a rock band, we’re not a full electro band. We just kind-of make pop songs really…

SS: You say horror films are a big influence in your material?
U: Not so much the dirty ones, we like thrillers.
D: Yeah, like The Exorcist is probably the best horror film, but I also like Halloween.
U: We like haunted things…
D: We just like to be scared; it’s a good feeling.

SS: Tell us about the name – the fabulous ‘PARTY HORSE!’
D: Well, we like to party and we like horses…. it’s got a nice ring; we wanted it to sound fun when you hear it.

SS: Tell us more about being a duo…
D: It’s very, very simple and also very nice for us not to have to go round with many people…it’s difficult to sustain being in a band at the best of times.

SS: What do you make of current music – do you think ‘mainstream’ and ‘indie’ has got a bit boring?
D: There are some great bands but we’re just a bit tired of that sound. We just need something a bit fresher… not just chequered shirts and beards – smelly men!
SS: (Laughs!)

SS: What are you planning set-wise?
D: Well, we’ve got smoke, lights…
U: Sparkle!

SS: Are you going to do your own tour at some point?
D: We’ve done some stuff of our own, but yeah we’ll be going back to that after we finish this tour, but it’s good with other bands, we get on really well with them. We’ll see what happens in the summer.

A couple of hours later, Party Horse goes live at Stoke Sugarmill:

The electro, elegant funk etiquette has been set tonight, with a Bowie/Bolan aura in the air. After a rather dismal first act, Party Horse was able to inject the life back into the audience with a rocking synthpop spectacle. Fairy lights around Dave’s guitar and Ursula’s set-up was a fantastic little touch never seen before, a minute detail, but effective in leaving a very distinct impression of awesomeness.

A sinister sounding intro swept across the stage as they leapt on amidst a storm of smoke to set up the drama. It was more than a mere gig, it was a theatrical and musical array of aural splendour, and more memorable. They unleashed the energetic and feet-tapping ‘Lazer Beam’ which did blow me away, the superb sound quality sounded just like the polished record version, all achieved by ‘mono e mono’. Ursula’s fun-loving grooves came into play, transforming the stage into a dance floor, a vision of glamorous rock Irene Cara, yet with more cool, and the way she moves her hands and body is like a sensual dimension, another instrument in motion with the synth and guitar fitting the sound perfectly.

It was a power-packed half an hour set, and they really do make you wanna get up and shake your bootie. It’s upbeat and feel-good music, but with added depth in the lyricism, making it even more different to what we’d usually expect or be accustomed to. It’s funky baby, and their chorus of ‘we’re shooting stars’ they clearly resonate as a glittery cascade onstage, defining their musical repertoire.

Quite comically, Dave and Ursula combine together as a modern-day, electric pastiche of Cash and Carter on stage, with their tiffs in-between songs as they fight to talk to the audience, again, adding to their charisma and the fact that they’re more than just your average band with a dream. They also played out ‘Chinese Takeaway’ (on their MySpace page too), which was really enjoyable as it was given an amplified sustenance when performed live, and another unique touch seen is their ability to make the mundane (a takeout meal) into something lusting and sanguine, as a successful piece of energy pop. Their tunes simply flow ‘in [their] blood’ and are intensified by the boogieing going on –onstage.

Besides the electro feel, Dave’s guitar work and funked-up solos were very fresh and impressive, leaving you with the happy feeling that you definitely get more than your money’s worth with these guys. Then, more surprises, out come the sparklers! Just when you couldn’t think it, even more glitz and glam was added to their sonic antics and was left to beautifully glitter away on Ursula’s synth. Again, a very unique touch to add to the memory of the set, and acting as a metaphorical supernova of the band. This was followed by a swap of guitar (which had an autobots logo on – very cool, and very 80’s), and the unleashing of ‘You don’t have to go to New York to Have a Good Time’, which I can personally guarantee will stick in your head for days, it’s that good. It was the true pinnacle of their show, even people at the front were clapping in beat to it, with the chanting and feel-good chorus, which transpired the essence of Kiss’s ‘Rock n Roll All Nite’ vibe, and could certainly be very interesting if performed acapella style.

Not to say it to be biased or courteous, but Party Horse were, and are, so, so good. A bit like a pringle, once they pop there’s no stopping their electro musical array. This is where music really is at – at the moment. It’s at its best, more lively and fresh than the monotonous manufactured indie, released track after track on a production line.

It’s zeitgeist baby, and damn good for it! As per usual, I’d urge you to see them, if and when they return with their album in tow. For an unknown, yet undoubtedly talented upcoming band, the pair have got a stellar air of vocals on them, as seen in their finale – a mainly vocally dominant song with an 80’s tropical beat, a lamenting song of ‘bereft’, but an example of their beauty and zest all the same.

A solid imprint of a performance overall – a marriage of love and a marriage of music, which will faultlessly take your breath away, I’m all for Party Horse. The only downside was the CD they had on sale at the gig didn’t have that stupendously good ‘New York’ track on it!

Party Horse