Music Mondays #3 – Flaming June

Blogging??? It must be MONDAY! Alright, it’s technically going to be Tuesday before this is up but I haven’t been to bed yet and it’s my blog so I make the rules… Which is actually why we’re running late…

This week I decided I was going to write about Megan Henwood as I only first heard (and met) her recently, but it turns out that she’s won a bunch of awards and has the support of a label, so I had to rule her out. Sorry Megan, independent artists only (she’s still really good though). So, here’s a (literal) eleventh hour replacement blog.

You can see the thought process behind all of this here, but every Monday I’m going to highlight an independent artist who I think deserves a bit of promotion and some of your valuable time. Hopefully I’ll make them sound interesting enough that you’ll click the link and show them some support or share their work with your own social network of choice.

Flaming June

The pseudonym of singer/songwriter Louise Eatock and her backing band, Flaming June have been self-funding a series of EPs on their own label since 1999 which is pretty much the definition of what we’re looking for on this blog. Based around the now familiar modern folk format of acoustic guitar, bass, drums and violin, they describe themselves as “indie folk” but across their releases thus far there are tinges of acoustic punk, straight pop, rockabilly and folk of various flavours. There are strong choruses to be joined in with and some really infectious earworms to be found; Nerves Of Steel, Dopamine Oxytocin, and the haunting piano riff from Heal Me, Believe Me spring to mind. But there’s also a smart, fiercely confrontational and independent spirit behind the songwriting, unafraid to write frankly and openly about abusive relationships (I Know What It’s Like), the representation of female characters in fairytales (Freedom’s Fairytale For Girls) and also find time to mock the hypocrisy of the oblivious (The Insane Ex-Girlfriend Parade). I mean, where else would you find an album title like Rumpelstiltskin & The Perils and Promises of Womanhood? It won’t be for everyone, but if folk with strong melodies and complex, sometimes challenging, themes is your thing then you should click the links.

Links, glorious links! – Flaming June have an official site, and are pretty active on Facebook.You can listen to and purchase their music at their Bandcamp site. You can also get them on Amazon/iTunes, but Bandcamp pays more money direct to the artist so please check it out.

Essential Album – It has to be In Pursuit Of Happiness. The step up in musicianship, arrangement, production quality, and the maturity and polish of the songwriting in the two years between the previous release and In Pursuit Of Happiness is striking. It retains the bitter emotional bite of the earlier work wrapped in more accessible and, for me, enjoyable music.

Essential Track – This was actually a tricky call between a couple on the album mentioned above, with an honourable mention to the hilarious The Insane Ex-Girlfriend Parade from Nerves of Steel. But, I am going for moody, violin/drum driven romance tale of The Sailor Boy. Brilliantly evocative.

 

What do you think of the artists I’ve featured so far? Do you have a favourite independent artist that you think I should listen to? Drop a note in the comments and let me know, I don’t promise to use them all but I do promise I’ll listen to every single one of them! See you next week…

Music Mondays #2 – Mother Mooch

And here we are again! As detailed in my original post on the topic, every Monday I’m going to highlight an independent artist that I think deserves a bit of promotion and internet love. There will be a bit of blurb on each artist, links to where you can find them online, and my picks for an essential album and single track that you should check out even if you try nothing else. Hopefully I’ll make them sound interesting enough that you’ll click the link and show them some support or share their work with your own social network of choice. Let’s get stuck in to #2…

Mother Mooch

I’ve seen a lot of different genres thrown around to describe this Dublin-based band – fuzz rock, psychedelic rock, desert rock, doom-grunge – but I think the fact that they are a little bit different is why I keep going back to their album up every now and then. So, how would I describe them? If you were to imagine a female-fronted cross between Queens Of A Stone Age, Monster Magnet and Black Sabbath you’d probably be in the right ballpark, and damn it’s a really fun ballpark to be in. The band themselves clearly have a strong idea of what they want to be, and there’s plenty of variation in their debut album to keep you engaged and be pretty broadly appealing. Album opener The Tempest is a combination of moody grunge and balls-out desert rock, all fuzzy guitars and attitude and – while this isn’t the album for fans of shredding – whether grinding out thick grunge riffs on Misery Hill or providing clean, moody atmospheric hooks on tracks like Into The Water the guitar work here is always bold and effective. The tight rhythm section drives the whole thing along, the vocals are full and drip with character and attitude, the lyrics are full of dark themes – it’s a rich, heady mix which everyone should try once. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this band goes. Check them out!

Links, glorious links!  You can find the band at mothermooch.com, and you can listen to and purchase their songs at their Bandcamp site.

Essential Album – This is pretty easy as at the time of writing they only have one full album out, Nocturnes, but it’s really good. You should listen to it.

Essential Track – Into The Water is probably the album’s standout earworm with it’s strong hook, but my personal pick is Misery Hill – a thick slice of Monster Magnet-style psychedelic rock.

 

Do you have a favourite independent artist that you think I should listen to? Drop a note in the comments and let me know, I don’t promise to use them all but I promise I’ll listen to every single one of them.

Music Mondays #1 – James PM Phillips

So, what happens when you announce you’ll be doing a weekly blog? You immediately catch a virus that knocks you on your arse for a couple of weeks meaning you totally fail to post, silly! Apologies for that. In order to get back on track for being ill recently, and to make this inaugural post a bit special, today I’ll be posting two entries to catch us up.

As detailed in my original post on the topic, every Monday I’m going to highlight an independent artist that I think deserves a bit of promotion and internet love. There will be a bit of blurb on each artist, links to where you can find them online, and my picks for an essential album and single track that you should check out even if you try nothing else. Hopefully I’ll make them sound interesting enough that you’ll click the link and show them some support or share their work with your own social network of choice. Let’s start with…

James PM Phillips

Full disclosure, I’ve known James for many years. Does this make me biased? Maybe, but I’ve never worked on any of his music and I’m not on commission so I think I’m safe. That said, James makes fantastic and intelligent folk music which is worth your time. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist and a great singer, for me his ability to tell wonderful, evocative stories through his music really elevates it. Songs like She Said, Four Years, and Mary paint compelling, and often incomplete, portraits of melancholy characters that resist the urge to give too much information, leaving it up to the listener to fill in the blanks. These contrast with the heartfelt first-person narratives of tracks like Ring Of Flowers or Give Me Wings, but which are no less poetic in their execution. Fans of unusual guitar tunings and poetic lyrics would do well to give James a listen.

In addition to all of this, James dedicates an enormous amount of time and energy to giving opportunities and exposure to other independent and young acts through running various gig nights and open mic nights. People like this keep independent music alive and kicking, and that helps to make him exactly the sort of person that deserves to be opening this blog.

Links, glorious links! – James is on Facebook, and you can listen to and purchase his work at his Bandcamp site.

Essential Album Tea And Hangovers. This EP has best production quality, some of my favourite writing and I think James knocked the vocals on this album out of the park.

Essential Track – I have huge soft spots for Love You and Give Me Wings, but if you can only check out one track, I would recommend Ring Of Flowers.

 

Do you have a favourite independent artist that you think I should listen to? Drop a note in the comments and let me know, I don’t promise to use them all but I promise I’ll listen to every single one of them.

Independent Music Mondays

“It’s never been cheaper and easier to make music. It’s never been cheaper and easier to distribute music. It’s never been harder to get people to pay for it.”

This is something that’s been on my mind for a little while now, for a variety of reasons. Being the type of guy who hangs out with independant musicians who don’t have label packing or huge fanbases, this sort of conversation comes up a lot. Income from downloads from services like Amazon and iTunes are down, streaming services pay artists basically nothing, and music venues and studios are offering less opportunities to artists than they used to. Just like many small business owners/self employed people, it is lean times for a lot of artists. Sure, there are innovative ways to make a living if you are a smart business person, but not all talented musicians are also great at business, marketing, production or the many other things involved in being a musician today.

But instead of moaning about it, let’s try (in our own small way) to do something about it.

The internet is a great tool for making people aware of artists you’ve never heard of. The more people who see a link, the more people will click the link, and the more people will find a new artist they like. So, every Monday for the rest of 2017, I will be using this blog to promote an independent artist. Not someone with a million subscribers already, but someone who I think is creating interesting work and deserves a little bit of your attention. There’ll be links to where you can listen to (and buy) their music, and all I’m asking people to do is check the artist out. Some I hope you’ll like and some you won’t, but if you like what you hear, buy a song or two. Leave some feedback on their site. Maybe tell your friends. Our support is what enables these artists to continue to make the music we enjoy.

So, that’s the plan for Mondays. We’ll see how it goes. If you have any suggestions for artists you’d like to see featured, or ones that you just think I might to listen to, post a comment below with the details. At the very least I promise to check them out. 🙂

Blatant advertisment

Do you like your music folky, emotive and tinged with fantastical storytelling? If so, go to http://jamiewakefield.bandcamp.com/ and check out the clips there of “Hit & Mist”, and pay the princely sum of £9 to donwload the whole album, or even individual tracks if you like.

What’s that? You already have a copy? Don’t feel left out, chum! You can also purchase “Second Wave“, an EP featuring the extra tracks from the Pre-Order edition as well as remastered versions of Jamie’s other works.

In all seriousness, please – at least click the link, check out the preview clips and make your mind up whether you like what you hear. Support independant music and musicians, and help us make more.

Cheers!

Brief Update

You are not going crazy, but this may be as close to crazy as you’ll ever feel.

  Just a quick update to say that I’ve not disappeared from the world, just that I’ve forgotten about blogging a wee bit. As many of you will know my Dad died what is now just over six months ago. Since then my appetite for music, for most things to be honest, has been very up and down. Right now it’s running at a fairly low ebb. It’s funny how you can feel like you’re doing OK some days, and then out of nowhere it sneaks up on you and sucker punches you in the kidneys.

 

  For now feel free to take a look at the current tracks at My Soundcloud page, and hopefully I’ll have some new material coming soon to enthuse about.

Ghost

Back when I started mucking about with recording as a teenager one of my inspirations was a little-remembered and, in my view, underrated US alternative rock act called Live. They first made it big with an album called Throwing Copper in 1994 which got a lot of repeat play in my bedroom as a teenager. But while their 1997 album, Secret Samadhi, was less commercially successful I actually think it’s far stronger musically with it’s touches of Southern Gothic and sweeping strings. One of the tracks, Ghost, really jumped out at me and I recorded a simple guitar version by myself using very basic equipment. Fifteen years later when I wanted to find a simple song I knew well to experiment with, Ghost came to mind.

I set aside a weekend to do all the recording. Originally I intended to just do a straight remake, keeping the very simple two guitar arrangement I had before but as the day went on I added bass, then drums, then MORE drums, guitars and MORE GUITARS. I used my Ibanez S540 on this rather than the strat. It gives such a rich tone and takes distortion really really well. Before I knew it I’d gone to a sort of 90s alt rock place without really planning it. However, like Ring Of Fire, after working a lot on folk music this is much more my cup of tea.

The slightly backwards recording approach wasn’t ideal really – it did throw up a few minor timing glitches here and there. I threw virtual amps and effects rigs on everything other than the main drum kit using Line 6′s Pod Farm 2. I really like working with virtual amps and effects, the ability to tweak settings in the mix is invaluable – especially if you don’t have a concrete idea of how you want things to sound at the start.

Really pleased with the sounds of the rhythm section on this. The kit is sounding really good and I’m getting back into playing shape. I’m pleased with the bass sound in particular too as I find my bass sounds to be something I need to work on (partly because I have an inexpensive bass guitar!)

The timing issues made for a fun editing challenge though, and over the course of a week or so I was able to get this out.

Enjoy.

Credit where credit is due but often neglected

So people seem to quite like Hit & Mist, which is pretty awesome and very gratifying. Some of the feedback has been really cool and nice to hear.

What it has reminded me of is something that has privately puzzled me my whole life – how the attention of your average music listener seems to fall entirely on vocalists. While I accept it as a universal truth and don’t mean to appear snobbish or belittle anyone, I find it hard to understand on a personal level. For as long as I can remember my brain has involuntarily dissected and pulled apart music; tracking the bass lines, picking out the pianos, mapping out the drum beats. Don’t get me wrong, I love vocalists. I love singing. I love music driven by lyrics and melody. But when it’s done right there’s so much more depth to music than just what’s front and centre and it’s the folks in the background who lifted this album above the obvious and into something more exciting.

I’m overjoyed that the vocalists on Hit & Mist are getting the applause they rightly deserve, but here are a few of my favorite things about the album that no-one has mentioned yet:

Bria’s fantastic double-tracked violin work on Sweet Mary Lou.
The strings on Silent Whisper and Horse On The Storm.
Abie’s backing vocals on Fields Of Talcontar and Skia Draco. Such a beautiful voice!
Gwen’s beautiful performance on Silent Whisper. Totally made the song what it is.
The drums on Mariana. They were NOT easy, people! 😛
Craig’s bass and Mike’s trumpet on Dark Streets Of Dagger. They totally NAILED the vibe we wanted.

Those are a few of the little things I love about Hit & Mist. I’d love to hear some of yours. 🙂

Dedications, that’s what you need.

Hello world, it’s been a while.

2013 has so far been an appalling year in practically every way, and without exaggeration just the worst time of my life. So much so that it’s taken me until nearly the end of August to really get back to being able to breath and think clearly.

However those who have been paying attention at the back may remember we talked in this post about an album release for this year. Not only did we make an album in my (totally unbiased) view we made a HELL of an album. We dipped a whole bundle of well-crafted fantasy folk tunes into a strange brew of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkle, Fleetwood Mac, Clannad, Levellers, punk, funk, folk and rock and pulled out something a bit unexpected.

Jamie Wakefield’s Hit & Mist came out this past weekend, and promptly sold it’s entire first printing run in just four days. … Whaaaaaat UP?!?

There will be another print run, and further copies can be obtained from the public Facebook page for the album launch. I believe Jamie will also be looking at the possibility of digital downloads in the future. Personally it’s still bizarre for me to hold in your hand some sounds you made in your back bedroom… and then give it to someone else… and they give you money for it. And when you see lots of people doing it… Mind. Blown.

What I never got any space to do was to put my own little comments and thoughts down about the whole project. So…

THANK YOU

To everyone who bought the album, especially the preorderers. You keep independant music alive.

To all the musicians and singers who came in on their free time and gave it their all; especially those whose contributions ended up getting cut in whole or in part and took it with such good grace. You allow me to do what I love.

To Ronnie and Paul, who back when it started helped me mess about with tape machines in the living room – who knew?

To all the musicians who ever supported me, taught me, inspired me, or drove me to be better just so I could kick your ass.

To Char, for not understanding but being incredibly amazing anyway.

To Dan, Simon and Gwen who were there when it mattered.

To my dad, who showed me what music was and who never got to hear how it all turned out. I hope you would have liked it.

And of course, to Jamie; for his patience, for believing me a long 18 months ago when I said I could do this, and for providing such wonderful tales and tunes. For real.

Living the bloody dream, people.