It Felt like magic.

Meeting Lawrence

On Monday I did something which scared me. I spoke in front of an audience of about 100 eagle-eyed people in order to interview one of my all-time heroes, Lawrence, for the Lawrence of Belgravia screening at the Hackney Picturehouse. In my decidedly non-Paxman, professionally seeking brush with the sweat-inducing spotlight of public speaking, I think I emerged (relatively) unscathed. Maybe it was the Irish coffee I surreptitiously necked before making my entrance or maybe it was my introductory chain smoke with Lawrence beforehand which helped to demystify the enigma, I can’t be sure. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say I enjoyed myself.

I would file Felt alongside TV Personalities, Yo La Tengo and Belle and Sebastian as one of those bands of which I will never tire. I can listen to them for hours on end, rediscovering and discovering new nuances at every turn. For me, ‘Forever Breathes The Lonely Word’ and ‘Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death’ are picture-perfect moments in time. With the electronic organ at the helm, Lawrence weaves his fey, undulating voice in and out of songs which sparkle and fizz with incomparable beauty. He’s an outsider, living on the periphery of a stardom to which he will sadly never belong. And he’s an insanely articulate, gentle-natured luminary – by no means the cantankerous cynic I was expecting –  who has produced some of the most beautiful music ever written.

Having spent the weekend immersed in preparation, I had typed up a list of questions to ask Lawrence and the film’s director Paul Kelly. Although as I was only really acting as the compére , the mouthpiece to get the ball rolling, I discarded my question sheet and attempted to ‘freestyle’. I forgot to introduce Lawrence and Paul to the audience and dived straight in, but actually didn’t think it was imperative to introduce them and maybe a bit superfluous as everyone knew who they were (although Lawrence had something to say about this after the Q&A!). Lawrence signed my record and postcards afterwards and it was as an absolute honour meeting him. An experience engrained in my memory forever.

Thanks to Sam for the (rather insalubrious) iPhone picture!

Soul searching: Light Asylum interview

Originally published:

An unrelenting torrent of needle-sharp beats and industrial sized vocals, Brooklyn based duo Light Asylum – aka high priestess Shannon Funchess and electronic wizard Bruno Coviello – make earnest, shouty, party hard fuel for the fire. It’s urgent drum pad synth-pop with clout, dance music cut open to reveal a pulsating, 80s core of gothic persuasion.

‘Heart of Dust’ is taken from the pair’s eponymous debut album – released at the start of the month on Mexican Summer – and is visually accompanied by a striking, motif-heavy video which shows mud wrestling in a new, sinister light.

Directed by David Riley and Grant Worth, the video was inspired by NIN’s storied performance at Woodstock ’94 – the one where they covered the audience head-to-toe in mud – and takes its cue from “oil spills, Pompeii and carnival celebrations,” according to Riley, whereas Worth favours “Grimms’ Fairy Tales and The Rapture.”

Alongside an exclusive premiere of the video for Dazed Digital, we caught up with Shannon, David and Grant to talk shop.

Dazed Digital: What were the main challenges you faced whilst making the video?

Shannon: “Everyone… most definitely the band jumping, running and rolling around in this food processing vat/tank with god knows what decaying on the floor… Also there was a very narrow opening to the tank and it was really hot inside so shooting inside of it for six hours straight was a serious personal challenge for me…We went pretty far to make art happen and appeal to our audience and fans. Hope they like the results. We are very happy with it and appreciate everyone being so down to do it.”

Grant:  “The weather was a big concern for me…We filmed in early April and I was imagining tents and everyone wet and naked and huddled around space heaters.  Luckily global warming saved us.  We still tortured everyone, yet they were all unbelievably amazing.  People had potting soil coming out of their ears for a week.  I think we even sent one person to the eye doctor to get some rocks removed from her cornea.”

David:  “The main challenges were physical. The metal tank was hot and dusty, and we had to take regular breaks to let the camera cool, clean the dust off the equipment, and give our talent a chance to breathe. The outdoor scenes were like an endurance test: cover the cast in oil, slime, powder, hose off and repeat! So many bands would be worried about messing up their hair, or ruining their designer clothes, but Shannon and Bruno took one look at the mud pit and jumped right in.”

Read the full interview here


The Proper Ornaments

They look like a cult of scruffy-haired, sun-starved Californian hippies and their defiantly retro sound is certainly testament to this.

The Proper Ornaments are a low-riding band of Byrds worshipping Londoners – featuring James from Veronica Falls – who casually extrapolate the very essence of 60s West Coast pop with its utterances of understated psychedelia, in a jangly British, C86 climate. I’ve seen them play live on three  different occasions; a stripped-back instore at Kristina Records, a hipster-ready show at The Shacklewell Arms and last Friday’s packed-out gig at Powerlunches and have borne witness to their gradual expansion.

They’ve morphed from a modest duo (James Hoare and Max Clapps, originally called The Mystics) into an uncompromising musical unit (now featuring Wes from Let’s Wrestle, among others) and reel off the kind of melodies which linger on the breeze for days.

The Proper Ornaments’ self-titled EP (No Pain In Pop) lovingly doles out five tracks of the most fluidly melodic guitar pop – and with the added organ/keys, brings to mind Flying Nun lynchpins The Clean.

Looking forward to seeing them at Indietracks!


Sounds From The Other City!!

Bleary-eyed and laden down with bags I shot through Victoria Arcade like a thunderbolt, ripping up a path of hurricane sized destruction in my wake. Would I make this fated Megabus?  An 8am journey was an ambitious undertaking and all the signs were pointing towards a gargantuan feat of seriously bad timing. But I had faith, because what else is there?

After hijacking the National Distress in a red-faced state of utter delirium, I was quickly hurried along to the correct stop, beads of sweat clouding my judgement.  But I found a seat with just seconds to spare! (and spent four and a half hours squished in like a Sun Maid raisin, next to a rather rotund fellow..)

Manchester bound, I settled down for the foreseeable and spent the journey drifting in and out of a soporific dream world, cradled by the treble-y sounds of Beach Fossils/Wild Nothing/Black Tambourine and the hypnotic whirr of that glorious British institution; the Megabus. But I had made it and lived to tell the tale.

Sipping on the delicious nectar of a cold can of Strongbow – with the weak sun forcing itself through the rain clouds – I found a perch and was immediately befriended by a young gentleman named Ian who proceeded to tell me “this is Salford, not Manchesterrrrr” and who went on to offload a lovely bedtime story about his girlfriend Tina who he had “banged seven times the night before and who had broken his bed.” Aaah –  but the show must go on!

Sounds From The Other City Festival; ‘A one day celebration of new music and performance, uniting the cream of the national and international scene with some of the city’s finest independent promoters, collectives and club nights.’ So what of the music?

Verity Susman needed no introduction for as one promoter quipped “she’s the most famous person on the bill.” Quite. The Electrelane maven sounded the fanfare for the start of the festival with all kinds of topsy-turvy wizardy; saxophones, keyboards, looping, mesmerising visuals, and of course, a voice to sink a thousand tug boats. Sacred Paws spun spun spun technicoloured yarns aplenty from the fabric of post-punked Highlife guitar and drums and Jesus wept! They’re an insanely glorious hybrid of Golden Grrrls and Trash Kit who breathe new sugary life into pet cemeteries everywhere. Of the Glasgwegian glitterati, Michael Kasparis ( Please/The Lowest Form et al) unleashed his incendiary new one-man show Apostille in the form of a gloopy electronic feast which sparked a dancing frenzy and all-girl trio No Womb gave us all a run for our money and tore a strip off the pretenders with turbocharged punk outbursts and concentric fuzz tornadoes. Covergirl hit the north and brought the sweaty-disco-party-mosh-pit up another notch, with their self-styled beeeer fuelled foam! The Rebel got curiouser and curiouser, a diamond in the rough with an incredible deep-toned country voice and Gameboy in hand. But it was Swedish-born, Berlin-based Molly Nilsson who was, for many, the star of the show, winding gloomily deadpan lyrics around icicle breath and teasing out synth-lead ballads and missives from beneath her austere, staggering, moonlit presence.

I ‘DJ’d’ pub rock (off an ipod at 5pm, to an empty room), whilst stuffing my face with Twiglets and Party Rings; a fine interlude for one of the best city festivals I have been to in a long, long time! I also danced my socks off until the small hours in Islington Mill with Covergirl and even found time for a quick pint with Ken and Deirdre in the Rovers! Pretty nice all round.

Weird Menace

Bass/guitar/drums trio from London – including Merida from La La Vasquez – who drag their heels against the ground with sludgy harmonies and driving guitars a la Sonic Youth.  They take their name from a type of 1930s/4os horror pulp which means they are definitely girls after my own heart.

Preferring to hide in the shadows of obscurity, they have no real internet presence as of yet and remain cloaked in mystery. But as 2012 goes on will no doubt unveil la grande illusion – they’re playing Powerlunches on Saturday May 19th so be sure to check them out if you dare…

Listen to their demo here –