Friday, 28 March 2008

SXSW Part III: Italian Beetroots & The Los Camp Megamix

The final day at SXSW and truth be told I'm pretty fucked - I've been giving those Belfast boys I'm with (Rigsy ATL, Johnny AU and Joe Stiff Kitten) loads of shit about being lightweight; but this morning I'm suffering.

It might be something to do with the fact that I went to bed last night at half three and was woken up at half past seven by a malfunctioning hotel alarm clock - the bastard thing wouldn't turn off! None of the buttons worked at all - what's that about - even when I unplug it from the wall it's still going?!


I have to get dressed go downstairs and throw the clock at the over-friendly concierge - 'We'll have another one brought straight up to you sir!'. No you fucking well will not. [Excuse my language in this blog by the way - disgraceful.]

Needless to say I couldn't get back to sleep.

That is until we go to see Ting Tings at The Bat Bar; I'm dead on my feet and it's only five pm; this isn't going well. After an excruciatingly ill-advised acoustic set, they play 'That's Not My Name' for about four hours. It's all really safe, poppy and dead boring. I don't give a fuck what your name is.

We go to 'Damn Good Tacos' (this is a shop not a band - just in case you were wondering) for some of the aforementioned, to try to revive the flagging feet and spirits - some life returns... part of SXSW I realise is like the Endurance Test on the Krypton Factor and this last evening is the A-Frame rope wall.

Sons & Daughters are pleasantly obtuse; I've never seen them before - they're one of the more distinctive British guitar bands on display, the best compliment that you can pay them is that they really don't sound like anyone else. They probably need another album under their belts before the whole set is engaging as the singles.

Oppenheimer ring the changes for the evening opening up at Emo's - after this show they have to drive 20 hours straight to LA for another gig on their never-ending US tour. It's a welcome relief to hear something rough around the edges. They are more confident and dissonant than I've ever seen them before - leaning heavily on new album 'Take The Whole Mid-Range And Boost It' the set is raucous and grungy. A new song 'Before And After The Earthquake' rivals 'Breakfast In NYC' for the best thing they've ever written. With this new found swagger and growing industry momentum; 2008 could be a big year for the band.

Okerville River need no description to this readership but if you haven't seen them live you simply must (this is my first time); they are wonderfully charismatic and musical without ever descending into muso territory. The fans are in rapture - the impartial observers are silent during the quiet songs. They have a classic sound not dissimilar to the E-Street Band, Afghan Whigs, Mercury Rev or American Music Club.This is a special band - I understand now why Daniel stalks them.

We're back on form now - let's keep this up; the queue for Nada Surf stretches all the way back to Houston Space Station - fuck! Luckily we run into The Whip in a sweet shop and they tell us about an Italian band they know called The Bloody Beetroots who are playing in the neighboring Vice Bar; never trust a Manc I reckon, but Johnny convinces me otherwise - and what a call. This is earth shuddering, four to the floor techno chaos.

It's the first time in a week that I've felt scared at a gig: it's the only bar that we don't get ID'd in - and you get the feeling that it could kick off at any minute - the whole place is pilled up to the teeth and I can't tell you HOW GOOD these guys are. Genuinely, thunderously mind-blowing and technically staggering. They have a hot Italian girl in a gold skin-tight dress dancing the changes and a mate who spits beer over everyone at the apex of each breakdown. We really don't mind him doing this - for some central European reason.

Trembling, we decide to go see Neon Neon Gruff SFA's new side project, how industry of us - checking out the supergroup... but supergroups being supergroups they have decided to play an hour earlier that it says in the programme.

It probably worked out for the best as if we had left getting into The Arts & Crafts Showcase any later it would never have happened. Los Campesinos are effortlessly wonderful - Gareth LC steers the pace of the set beautifully and even has time to give his label bosses some (self deprecating) grief "Look - you guys asked us to come over here and play and you're telling me we've got five minutes left - these people came for the hits, they didn't want to hear all that album shit"...

Needless to say the appropriate person gives them the nod to play everything they want to thereafter - 'You, Me Dancing' is amped to the max as a result. They even manage a version of 'Box Elder' in the closing "Megamix" - fifty seven bonus scene points. I love them.

Chromeo are the only way to round off a week like I've had - the club they play in is suitably Miami Vice - the place is bouncing; it all goes a bit blurry after that... I seem to remember a Texan woman trying to get me to buy her a drink - I think I bought her one if she promised to leave me alone, then we went to see The Gza's festival closing set - he does most of 'Liquid Swords' in between checking his text messages - he might have been good, but I can't honestly remember.

So, I'm back in London now - typing at 09:14AM and my body thinks that it's 1AM in Texas. It's probably going to take me a month to recover from this, it was a great trip - the label got loads out of it for all our bands, it really is a great way to meet people - but the best thing I can say about SXSW '08 is that it was massively inspiring artistically. Nowhere else could you have the night I've just have, you can genre hop all night - and it's all about brand new music - even from the established artists.

Track Of The Week - 'Hey Boy' by The Blow
Performance Of The Week - Los Campesinos
Punk-Rock Award - Har Mar Superstar - you can't deny the funk
Best Attack On A Member Of The Stage Crew Award - Raife Burchell on behalf of Ed Harcourt
Worst Idea Of The Week - Doing tequila slammers As N.E.R.D. walked onto the stage
Best Idea Of The Week - Listening to those Mancs - they're not wrong all the time
Best Possible New Name For A Band - Damn Good Tacos

I'm going to bed - x -

Thursday, 27 March 2008

New Alan MX blog

Check it out, "Young Alan" (as he's known at STA Towers, he goes by Alan MX in the real world) has gone and got himself a blog! Go read some stuff about his forthcoming Warpsichord LP and about the creative process behind it - what inspired it, how he made it and stuff. It's now finally mixed (by the golden hands of Harvey "Backlash Cop" Birrell), artwork is being prepared (by the gold hands of Matthew "Public Service Broadcast 9" Barnes), and it's going to be out sometime in the next few months. It's pretty exciting. I know it's natural that one should be excited about artists you're releasing and suchlike, but I really do feel this is going to be a special record to (hopefully!) a lot of people.

More soon. Over and out. Etc etc.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Macmillan 'Cancer Rubbish' Charity Project

Good friend of Jetplane Landing (remember those guys); Peter Young has put together a compilation CD all profits from which will be donated to Macmillan - the cancer care nursing charity. Costing a paltry £7 the CD can be ordered via Big Cartel. Meet Me In St. Louis, Yndi Haldi and some old blokes shouting about revolutions being the particular highlights.

If nothing else you should buy this CD from Peter because he lives in Sheerness in Kent - which I've played in and is scary - and I come from Derry.

Tracklist me up:
  1. Bout To Get Fruit Punched - The Wonder Years
  2. Serious - Crash Romeo
  3. Delta - The Filaments *previously unreleased*
  4. Rude Boy - Babylon Whackers *previously unreleased*
  5. Ship Ahoy - Pickled Dick
  6. Im High - Fandangle
  7. Sound of a revolution - Sonic Boom Six
  8. Doves With Hawk Heads - Suicide Bid *previously unreleased*
  9. We Are the Ordinary - Over It (acoustic version)
  10. Fan the Flames - Luke Leighfield
  11. Dash and Blast - Yndi Haldi
  12. Fix Up - Johnny One Lung *previously unreleased*
  13. This Is not revolution Rock - Jetplane Landing
  14. All We need Is a Little Energon, And A Lot of Luck - Meet Me In St Louis
  15. Skeleton Crew - The Ruined
  16. Infected - This is Hell
  17. Another Sinking Ship - Sikth
There will also be a gig to launch the CD on April 19th - the headliners being My Awesome Compilation. Details for all that can be found here.

Good on ya Peter.

SXSW Part II: I'm rhyming on the top of a cop car

Hey - I'm back, this time with a monstrousmotherfunking hangover - take my oil, Day III at SXSW was worth it...

The temperature is up in the hundreds (sorry DF) and it's time to get to grips with this thing - no fucking about today lads - let's go!

First up is The Cribs at The Village Voice Party - noone told me that they don't tune their guitars - EVER; I'm surprised that they're so loose, speeding up, slowing down - generally fucking about with the songs. They're more The Jam than The Sex Pistols - once I get used to the vernacular the songs shine. I'm sorry to see them leave the stage - they could have played for another half hour, easily.

We high-tail across town for the Photo Finish Records party and Paper Rivals are onstage; they're american post-emo (I think we can say post-emo now), this guy can sing - Johnny T. asks why bands would ever need three guitarists - I'm inclined to agree. I suppose it didn't do Radiohead any damage.

It's hot as hell now - so lunch in the shade and home for zzz...

Back in action with Make Model at the NME showcase - I'm absotively certain no-one from the NME is here - that being said the small crowd are certainly enjoying the pretense. Make Model as you know are post-Fickle Public's Lewis and JC. Simon Sweeping The Nation put it brilliantly in last year - that there are 'industrial sized record company driers keeping this powder dry'. The secret is most certainly out now, Lewis tells me that their album is finished, finally after a year. They'll be on tour all over UK in April and May. You would do well to see them now - this is Pop with complexity, to say a brighter Broken Social Scene wouldn't be too far away, but there are acres of influence under that veneer. Fantastic players - my fingers are crossed for them and there is more than a touch of parental pride when I see them play. It's kinda emotional kids...

Aptly, therefore it's over to Emo's for Crystal Castles - damn that girl is hot (I suppose he isn't bad either) - but they are mediocre. You could bang these backing tracks out in half an hour on Garageband whilst making yourself a nice sandwich - very disappointing. The strobe lighting doesn't cover a multitude of sins.

JT reckons that we'll get into MGMT tonight - I'm not so certain, but he bounces the queue at Stubbs and we're in the front row. These boys need another album under their belts before they can command the attention they are currently attracting. It's basically Steely Dan mixed with bits of Journey, Pink Floyd and Bowie - don't get me wrong; I think they're good - just that the singles are too much of a high point; and I hate Pink Floyd so the drugged out instrumental sections bore me to death.

We bump into Rocky Oppenheimer who is on a mission to 'get bombed' - inspired by this single mindedness, we head to Be Your Own Pet @ Mowhawk - she's fiesty this girl. I wonder why XL signed BYOP - I know they look great and have got a cool name, but in a grumpy fit I wonder if they traded on their music alone how much we'd really know about them? In comparison to Tokyo Sex Destruction last night, this brand of punk is pretty un-evolved. Maybe I'm too old. By track three though I'm into it - her energy is infectious and the crowd are loving it - then THE PA BLOWS UP! WTF is going on with all this dodgy PA gear in Austin - I'm disappointed for our intrepid pets; they deserve better. Oh well.

The Whip are fucking chancers to be honest, I feel that they're taking the piss out of us - but their brand of Manc-Happy-Hardcore is typically British and thoroughly feel good; so what it's basically a bloke pressing the spacebar on his laptop and three others punching the air; they get the most movement out of a crowd so far tonight. Cool no - Mad Fer It - definitely. Good luck to them.

Damn the choices, the choices! Do we finish at the Kill Rock Stars night or the Polyvinyl night - in the end the beer does the talking and we end up at Shy Child (that boy is lethal on his keetar - I'll bet he would be pissed off if he lost it, where are you going to get a backup keetar in Texas?). They're a less complex Deerhoof or a more complex Jean Michel Jarre depending on which way you want to look at it.

N.E.R.D are the biggest 'rockstars' playing SXSW - as suspected, this is a masterclass of the Urban session musician variety. This is the first properly funky drumming we've heard in a week - and we're relieved - hands in the air, everyone is bouncing, Lap Dance is lethal and I'm shocked at how up for it Pharrell is - I thought he'd be much more up his own arse being The Biggest Rap Star In The World TM - but he engages his band and the crowd for a full hour. This is what makes America great - the rest of it is oversized and too damn salty!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Mission: Impossible VII

"No Culture Icons" by The Thermals is an absolutely perfect song.

Behold, the STA demo pile!

Actually, there's probably a lot more than this, but the really terrible ones tend to get filtered out before stuff comes to me. Small mercies etc.

It is my aim to listen to every single one of these CDs this weekend. Let's see how that one goes, buh? NB: I am in no way focusing on a menial task because Andrew is at SXSW and I'm stuck in drizzling London. PERISH THE THOUGHT.

SXSW - Half Time Report

I've been in Texas for almost three days now, and I've hung out with a man called Bill who drives a hearse for fun; rubbed beer into Har Mar Superstars thighs and seen Jonny Tiernan from AU Magazine stripped to his ballhuggers.

God Bless America.

For those that don't know anything about SXSW or to give it it's full title - The South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals - essentially this is a mass convening of the music industry for five days of panels, workshops, showcases and bands playing in the most unlikely of bars along a single stretch of anarchic, alcohol-soaked tarmac in Austin, Texas. It is very unique.

Getting here from London is very straightforward - two flights, cost me about $400; the music delegate pass (get one of these) is $400 if you book it early enough and if you stay on a Craig's Listed appartment (everyone rents out rooms to the festival go-ers) you are probably looking at about another $100/night. So essentially on a budget you can do this thing for about £800. That might sound like a lot, but honestly - this is probably the best festival you could go to in terms of the volume of bands that you can see. There are literally thousands of gigs that you could go to - it's mental.

DAY 1: It kicks off with The Kills at The Fader Party - not for me it has to be said, I thought the drum machine needed turning up; Saul Williams looked very dapper and spat his verses in an equally elegant manner; Ra Ra Riot are Vanessa Mae mud-wrestling with Death Cab For Cutie - go electro cello!; Ed Harcourt is wondering why JPL Raife (his drummer) is going to punch fuck out of the stage manager whilst he's playing his set (no mean feat)?; Johnny Foreigner are revalatory in front of eight people and remain my tip for world domination; The Lemonheads play 'It's A Shame About Ray' from start to finish - that lad is a good singer, he should think about doing it professionally; The Blow are the experience of the night - sexy, provocative, funky and in your face 'Thanks for dancing, that's really nice - can you just do it down there, you're in my personal space' is the perfectly polite put down one over eager stage invader gets -

I leave thinking that Human Robotic Dancing should be on the National Cirriculum; The Black Keys wrap up Day 1 for me - they sound like Led Zeppelin still - without a bass player and a singer, anti-climatic after The Blow TBH - bad call Ferris!

DAY 2: I go to the Mall! I get an aforementioned Massage! I go out of town and eat a BBQ! I listen to Johnny AU tell me about how tight his trousers are and that he needs to change his underwear because he is 'so chafed' - KIDS WEAR LOOSE FITTING PANTS - you're endangering future generations.

Oh yes the music - FM Belfast are party hardcore from Iceland I think - they have a song about going to 'The Caribbean' and give out Olympic style gold medals; we then get dragged to some singer song writer bloke that is signed to Kiefer Sutherland's record label, he's shite; we go to the NME party which is housed in a ridiculous surf-themed bar and watch Dan Le Sac - it's not going well we need a plan... we conspire to stand in a queue to get into MGMT, this is never happening - KIDS DON'T QUEUE FOR ANYTHING EVER - so we leave with tails between our non-guestlisted legs.

Diplo starts to pick things up for us dancehall styleee - but then the PA blows up FUCK!; Tokyo Sex Destruction at the Primevera stage are incredibly good on all levels, they're RFTC mixed with the good bits of The Hives - band of the night; Har Mar Superstar is the only person that can finish this thing - he's fantastic and plays a song that he wrote for a Disney series that never made it 'But you know - I'm glad because it's way creepier when I sing it' - quote of the night has to go to HMS - 'Here's another Har Mar Superstar song - and it's a fucking gem!'

I have to agree.

Head hurts - need to drink water - no... more... red meat....

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Fort Awesome

I proper love The Mathletes, the musical project of minor internet celebrity (he'd hate that description, but it's kinda true) Joe Mathlete. The combination of his wonky vocals and lo fi records and songs about unicorns and being jealous of Conor Oberst and having a time machine and the fact that he's released about 20 albums over the last decade just can't fail with me. The last release was an album of covers, the wonderfully arrogant The Mathletes Own Other Peoples Songs, which you can download for free here. One of those covers is of My Bloody Valentine's "Only Shallow", and I've just discovered a video for it. Take a look:

It's really, really special.

I also feel the need to point you in the direction of his Joe Mathlete Explains Today's Marmaduke blog. If you've never read it, I can't stress how much you really, really should do.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Sunday Afternoon Five

Bored? Hungover? Just avoiding the rain currently blanketing London? Ignoring the first one (I don't have time to be bored anymore), me too! Have some fun links:

* Sonic Youth - Kill Yr Idols (Live, Brighton Zapp Club 1985) >>> Sonic Youth are pretty much my favourite band in the history of ever. Things like this are why. Check out the 'Related Videos' section, there's a clip of them playing 'Making The Nature Scene' on Brighton Beach, it's one of the most horrible/incredible things I've ever heard.
* Diary Of The Dead trailer >>> ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES! I love Zombies.
* October All Over - Vital Signs CD album >>> Recorded at the start of last year and finally emerging through Unlabel last December, the band kinda fizzled out in the period between. Shame, as this album totally slays - imagine late-80s Sonic Youth filtered through the GUITAR POWER of Rival Schools recorded somewhere sweaty in a decaying urban area and you're halfway there.
* Wet Paint @ myspace >>> I saw this band last week. They covered two Neil Young songs and made them sound like The New Pornographers. I spent their entire set smiling like a loon.
* The new STA Flickr Account >>> No photos currently. Soon, though! Add us. Go on.

Oh yeah, and something called Man Vs Monster by some band called Fighting With Wire finally hits UK shops tomorrow. It's our first release of what is shaping up to be a monsterously busy year. Excellent.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

The Coast Guard is on strike.

The news is telling me this. Better not go for a swim, eh?

So, here is some news. Friend-of-STA Aaron Connolly (he used to run the Fighting With Wire website and was a regular on the old Jetplane Landing boards before they were destroyed by spammmmmmers) is making a documentary about us! It's been brewing for a while now, but last weekend he shot his first footage, interviewing Alan MX during his mixing sessions at Southern Studios.

He's also putting a video diary of production on his youtube account. Check out the latest one below:

But here's something else: this has been talked about for at least four months now, and I've always been in favour of it. So why has it only just dawned on me that I'm actually going to have to be in it? Eep.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

I can't think of a witty subject line because it's 12:15am.

If you only have enough cash to buy two recently-released albums this month, I recommend Hold On Now, Youngster... by Los Campesinos! and Meet The Eels by Eels. The former because it's one of the most thrilling, intelligent and downright fun pop records you're going to hear all year (and probably all decade), and the latter because Mark Oliver 'E' Everett is pretty much the biggest maverick currently signed to a major label. I saw him play live last week (third row at the Royal Festival hall, get UB) and in two hours he managed to both bring me to the brink of tears and laugh like a fiend. He's a genius, simply put.

Oh, and some record called Man Vs Monster by some band called Fighting With Wire, although considering how many of the copies of it I've shoved into jiffy bags and taken to the Camden Town post office in the last two weeks, you lot out there don't need my coaxing to do this!

So I spent the afternoon today in Southern Studios with STA newboy Alan MX, watching him work on the mixes for his forthcoming Warpsichord opus with one Harvey Birrell (who's recorded loads and loads of bands, but is mostly known in STA-circles for doing the last Jetplane record). Kid-in-a-toy-shop doesn't even begin to cover it, he was absolutely hyper. The tracks I heard sounded incredible - crisp, punchy, and batshit insane with a million things going on at once in places. I found out that one song ('Flesh Emergency') currently has 49 tracks on it. As you can imagine, I'm somewhat excited to hear the finished product.

I was also roped into helping with a few screen tests for his forthcoming video shoot (for 'The Captain America Video'), which involved Alan chasing me up Wood Green High Road. I wasn't told how far I was supposed to run, so I kept on going. Obviously, he kept on chasing after me. All of this was much to the amusement of Lulu, the director of and brains behind the video. Dead professional, us. As always.