Monday, November 29, 2021

Interview with Asteroid Blues

After forming in late 2019, but then having to deal with the inevitable delays of covid, Sydney, Australia's Asteroid Blues have finally released their eponymous debut EP.  I recently had the chance to do an email interview with guitarist Keegan where we discussed the band and their new EP, the impact of covid, what's on the horizon for the band and more. 


Can you give me a bit of a band history?

Tristan and I had a rippa night and woke up the next morning and just thought it would be fun to start a band, so we wrote a status asking if anyone wanted to join a band and sure enough we got some hands. We picked up lemon on bass and Corey on vox. We all grew up around the same parts so we were all already mates or mates of mates. We all just clicked and got along. Ewan on drums joined a bit later down the track, he fit in well and here we are. It’s definitely more than just a band these days, we’ve had the ups and downs but at the end of the day we are good bunch of pals that enjoy what we do and power on through.

“Blackstar” is a great psychedelic rocker, but then it also shifts into some reggae influenced passages here and there.  How did that come about? 

Thanks man! "Blackstar" was actually the first tune we completed as a band!  I think when we wrote it we weren’t too sure what sound we were headed for, so we kind of just did whatever the hell came to us. We all came from different music backgrounds at the time and I guess we were still looking for a foundation or common ground. Could say there’s a lot of different influences inside "Blackstar." Turned out pre sweet but 

I love the slow build of “Hallucination Bay”.  It starts off with a simple acoustic guitar and vocal and then builds and builds, but also kind of ebbs and flows at the same time.  Can you tell me a little about that song? 

The acoustic intro idea came to us whilst in the process of recording the ep. the bloke that recorded us Isaac Lewis suggested the idea and we all jumped on board. 

The foundation of the song came from our ex drummer Dylan Watson, absolutely talented man on all instruments. At the time we were all dwelling deeper into the sound we wanted to create. And when we heard the jazz and groove influence it has we knuckled down, still incorporating the heavy hitter sections we all loved.

Most of your songs have alot of dynamics with the tempo shifting at some point.  Is that something you consciously try to do or does it just happen? 

Absolutely not something we do consciously! We didn’t even realize until we tried playing the songs to a click. All the fellas are super passionate, and really feel and anticipate what's coming next, so I think we all just feel when something needs to slow down or speed up and do exactly that. We are all definitely conscious of it now and considered keeping things the same tempo when recording. but thought, hey screw it this is how we play it, and it just feels right. 

Were you able to work together to record the EP or was it done with you working remotely? 

We were lucky enough to be able to record it all together. Was the first time we went through the recording process together so we are very lucky to have been able to experience it together!

Alot of your songs have some sections that sound like they would really enable you to expand on them when you play them live.  Has that been the case?

It’s something we’ve always considered. For a lot of us Asteroid Blues has been our first band, and the first time we’ve played in front of people, performed in general, so I think we’ve never gone for it just because we are just focusing on perfecting the songs live as they are. But these days we have all grown as musicians and performers so I dare say some live improv is on the way.

The band has been together for a few years, so it’s taken some time for this debut EP to be released.  I heard the new song “Fools Company” through a stream on Orbital Radio there in Sydney.  Do you have alot more songs ready and if so do you think we will be hearing them sooner than later?

Oh man, we’ve got a couple of songs up our sleeves that we are super keen to get out. Everyone’s knuckled down and worked hard on their instruments since the EP, and the chemistry is peaking now. We are super proud of the songs we’ve previously written, so we are gonna push to release new music as soon as we can! 

Has covid had a lot of impact on the band?

Yeah, it definitely kicked us in the knee, it’s half the reason we sat on the first EP songs for so long. I’m pretty sure the first wave hit after like our third gig together. We were all loving life and working hard and then bam, as soon as the ball got rolling it got stopped by that damn covid-19 

You recently had an album release show.  What other plans do you have for promoting the new EP? 

Hopefully just more gigs dude! We are super keen to get rolling and play as many as we can!

Are any of you involved in any other bands or musical projects? 

Nah man, we are all super open minded, and very versatile with our music taste and have tried other things here and there. but AB through and through baby

Anything else you would like to share with readers?

Hope everyone out there is kicking ass, and being great. If you are down with it, Expect more from us soon! Have a good one.

(Asteroid Blues - Facebook)


Sunday, November 14, 2021

White Plains - The Collection  

I have to admit that when I first got this box set from White Plains I had no idea who they were, but about halfway through disc one “My Baby Loves Lovin’”, a song that hit number 13 on the US charts in 1970, came on and I realized that I had definitely heard them before. They never managed to hit the upper charts in the US again (“Lovin’ You Baby” made it to 82 and they did have five top 25 songs in the UK), which is unfortunate because over the course of two albums and numerous singles they released some outstanding music that bridges the gap between lush, orchestrated 60‘s pop and early 70‘s AM pop and contains some stellar vocal harmonies.  The band actually evolved from the psychedelic pop band The Flowerpot Men who were know for the song “Let’s Go To San Francisco” and whose last three songs initially recorded as The Flowerpot Men instead ended up being the first three recorded as White Plains.  A large majority of the songs by the band were written and produced by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook, neither of whom were members of the band, while the actual members of the band were a bit of a revolving door that almost needs a flowchart to follow who was in the band and when (the CD booklet does a good job of detailing all of this, although after all this time even the members have a hard time remembering who was in the band when).  

On disc one you will find the band’s eponymous debut CD (which was retitled My Baby Love’s Lovin’ in the US) along with two bonus tracks that were originally released as singles.  An interesting fact about this album is that due to the ever-changing band lineup there were no band photos or member credits anywhere on the sleeve, with the only credits being the recording engineers and producers.  In addition to “My Baby Love’s Lovin’” (a very catchy tune, but to me one that doesn’t really truly represent their sound), some of the highlights include “Today I Killed A Man I Didn’t Know”, “I’ve Got You On My Mind”, “You’ve Got Your Troubles”, “Young Birds Fly”, “Sunny Honey Girl”, an upbeat pop tune that was later a hit for Cliff Richard and sounds a little like The Archies and “Miss Her Mississippi”, an outstanding cut that shows a more soulful side to their sound. 

Even though many tracks from their second release, When You Are A King, have shown up on various compilations, disc two marks the first time the complete album has shown up on CD.  Opening the album is the title track, an absolute stunning song with a beautiful arrangement and melody that’s fleshed out with concertina and in my mind should be the one they are best known for. Among the other highlights here are “Lovin’ You Baby”, “Home Loving Man” (previously a hit for Andy Williams), “Every Little Move She Makes”, “Noises (In My Head)” and “I’ll Go Blind”, which has a bit of a Bowie vibe to it.  Disc two also contains nine bonus tracks, again all originally released on singles.  A few of these really stand out including “I Can’t Stop”, a very Crosby, Stills and Nash sounding tune (“Look To See” also sound like CSN, but borders on being a clone), “Dad You Saved The World” and “Beachcomber”, a really interesting cut that is a bit moodier than most of their other songs and has a really nice rolling organ running through it.  

The final disc in the box is comprised of eleven tracks that are all rarities and are much sought by collectors.  First up are four songs by Crucible, which formed when the solo projects of two former members merged (both projects also had contributions from other former members).  An album was recorded, and while it ended up getting shelved these four tracks were used on the soundtrack for the 1972 documentary film Extremes.  These songs are more guitar driven rock bearing no resemblance to White Plains with the Beatles-esque “Box Man” and “Elvish Queen”, a folky acoustic song with a bit of a prog vibe well worth a listen.  The next four tracks are from Zenith, a band formed by three members who continued to work together after the band came to an end in 1974, and would easily fit in on a White Plains album, although none of them really stand out that much.  Lastly are three tracks from two former members once again released under the White Plains name in 1978.  Strangely, two of these (“Dance With You” and “I Wanna Fall In Love With You”) have a 50‘s doo wop vibe to them, while “Plains” is a soft rock instrumental.  Completing the package is the aforementioned 28 page booklet that in addition to detailing the various band lineups includes plenty of pics of the band and memorabilia.   The Collection is an outstanding, very in-depth and well put together look into the diverse career of this band.

(7T's Records)

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Interview with Wednesday's Child

Wednesday's Child, the London based duo comprised of Emily Roberts and Georgia Williams, recently released their debut EP, a unique amalgamation of everything from psychedelia and punk to 60's girl groups, jazz and much, much more.  I recently did an email interview with them covering their backgrounds, the EP, their upcoming live debut and a variety of other topics.  


Can you give me a bit of a background on the two of you and tell me how Wednesday’s Child came together? 

We both grew up in pretty rural places and then moved to London separately in our late teens; Emily to study jazz guitar, Georgia to study acting. During lockdown, we began collaborating by sending song ideas back and forth and getting to know each other. By the time we got to playing and recording in-person, we already had a lot of material ready to go. Both of us had Wednesdays free to meet up, and things just grew from there...

How does your songwriting usually work?

It’s different every time. Sometimes one of us has a song already written which we then bring to the band and rework together to make it sound ‘Wednesday’. Other times we start from scratch with a lyric idea or guitar riff.  There’s not been any kind of songwriting structure we go by, which is probably why the songs are more like collages than ABC. We follow our guts and enjoy mashing two opposing sounds or ideas together. If it feels good, we keep it!

Can you tell me about the recording process for the EP (since it was during the pandemic were you working together in the same room or separate)?

We wrote and recorded the early stages of "Begin Again" and "That Thing We Had" separately during the pandemic and had to send ideas and feedback over email and video call! We didn’t really have the budget to go into any studios, so we recorded almost everything in our own bedrooms. Both of these factors in combination have given the EP a very DIY and personal feel.

“Begin Again” is an outstanding song.  It’s swirling and hypnotic, yet a bit distorted and haunting, then there are the tempo shifts, jazz flourishes and the interesting noises going on in the background.  Can you tell me a little about that song?

Thank you, we’re glad it communicates all of that! "Begin Again" started with some twisted lyrics and punchy chords which Georgia wrote over the Christmas period. Emily created a hybrid of jazz, psychedelic effects and James Blake-inspired production, and we drew on nonsense poetry for some of the lyrics. All of the writing and production was done ourselves, and it became the second song we recorded together. Because this process was so insular, we were able to be as expressive and experimental as we wanted without any outside noise. It is exactly how we wanted to open our debut EP.

“Nearby Nowhere” is probably the most mainstream song on the EP with a bit of a 60‘s sound that really sets it apart.  What was your inspiration for that cut?

We were very much inspired by The Ronettes and Rubber Soul-era Beatles. Georgia was awake one night in January and feeling quite stuck, so she started to write "Nearby Nowhere" as a way to move forward and feel more hopeful. We then worked on the song at the start of the summer (it was the last song we recorded for the EP) and came up with the main hook to tie everything together. Emily took inspiration from Queen when writing some of the guitar parts as she was previously in a Queen tribute band. We enjoy mixing influences from different decades and then creating something fresh. 

I love the feel of the song “Puppeteer”.  It has a bit of a circus/carnival vibe.  What can you tell me about that one?

Emily and Georgia’s passion for musical theatre comes into play in this track where theatrical and spoken elements are in place. It’s very playful in terms of the production and all of the crazy instruments we have in there - there’s banjo, accordion, the lot! The speed change at the end was initially a mistake, but we ended up keeping it because we like how it falls apart unexpectedly.

“Gabriel and the Window” is a beautiful song and is much simpler and more straightforward than the other cuts.  Is that what you were striving for with that song?

It definitely was, but ironically this song took the longest to finish. The chorus for "Gabriel and the Window" was one of the first pieces Georgia ever wrote on the guitar, and it was for her brother who was going through a blue time. Then, jumping forward to Wednesday’s Child, we created three different versions, each with their own vibe. The first was jazzy, the second a bit more upbeat and electronic. We eventually settled on this much more intimate sound which builds into a fuller, visceral experience. It felt like the right way to tell this story, and also give a bit of softness at the end of the EP. Linking back to the song’s rooting in family, we included audio clips from Georgia’s home videos.

I mentioned the sounds going on under “Begin Again”, but there are other little things like that throughout the EP.  Could you elaborate on some of the things we are hearing?

We wanted to recognize ourselves in our music and not try to sound like someone else. As we started recording, there would be happy accidents like catching one of us giggling or improvising and it just fit as a texture in the song. We also needed to get inventive - sometimes we knew exactly what we wanted but just couldn’t find anything that sounded like it. We used pens instead of picks to play guitar, cracked knuckles for percussion, and used bird wings as beats. It helped make the EP completely our own.

You recently released a video for “Begin Again”.  Can you tell me a little about the video?

We always knew that our music had a visual extension (Georgia is a filmmaker, Emily is an artist) and there’s a storyline all the way through the EP if you’re listening for it. We wrote, directed, produced and edited the video ourselves, and ran a 50/50 female/male ratio on the project. Both of us separately came up with a similar initial concept for this music video which was the mundane morphing into the insane! It showed how much we are on the same page when we came together to share video ideas and we had almost the same outline.

Since you started collaborating during the pandemic have you had the chance to play live?

Our first gig is on Sunday 7th November at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney, and this will be the first time playing live as Wednesday’s Child. We’re really looking forward to translating the EP’s energy to an onstage setting. 

I read you will be playing some new songs at your album release show.  I know the EP just came out, but can we expect more music sooner than later?

Definitely – we are ready for more! 

You have some other musicians also playing on the EP.  Is it just the two of you live or do you have other musicians playing with you?

We will be playing as a five piece band to achieve the fullness of the EP. We also have two support acts which we are looking forward to.

Do either of you have any other musical projects?

Wednesday’s Child is both of our main creative musical outlets currently, but Emily is also a session guitarist so has experience playing in other people’s various projects and in the theatre. Georgia is also currently developing the musical feature film AVA which draws from golden age Hollywood; specifically, swing music and tap dance.

What are your plans for the band in 2022?

More releases, more gigs, festivals!

Is there anything else you want to share with readers?

Follow us on social media to keep up with any announcements and new releases:

www.instagram.com/wednesdays_child_music/

www.facebook.com/WednesdaysChildMusic/

www.twitter.com/wedschildmusic


Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Vandenberg - The Complete Atco Recordings 

Vandenberg came to life in 1981 from the ashes of guitarist Adrian Vandenberg’s previous band Teaser.  They had released one album, but then after completely revamping the band’s lineup with all new members and getting a label deal they decided to change the band’s name to Vandenberg.  Over the next six years the band released three albums before vocalist Bert Heerik left the band and Vandenberg joined Whitesnake thus ending the band (Adrian did release a new album under the band name in 2020 with him being the only original member).  The four-disc box set The Complete Atco Recordings 1982-2004 collects together these original albums with a fourth disc of rarities and live tracks.

Even though it contains the biggest hit of their career in the hypnotic ballad “Burning Heart" (a song that hit 39 on the US charts) I feel their eponymous debut (disc one) is greatly underappreciated as it showcases an outstanding collection of bluesy hard rock highlighting Vandenberg’s virtuosity on guitar.  Standouts here include opener “Your Love Is In Vain” with it’s bluesy swagger and groove, “Back On My Feet”, “Wait”, a great rocker that also got some radio play and opens with an killer Spanish Guitar solo with some Eddie Van Halen flair, and the adrenaline fueled rockers “Ready For You” and “Out In The Streets”.  

For their second album, Heading For A Storm, the band shifted a bit away from the bluesy hard rock sound and moved towards a bit more of a melodic 80‘s metal sound with the keys alot more present here than on the debut.  Having said that there is plenty of great guitar work and some definite highlights including the power ballad “Different Worlds”,  “Time Will Tell” and a couple of really strong straight ahead rockers “This Is War” and “Waiting For The Light” (this one definitely highlights the guitar work with a nice acoustic opening a some great shredding solos).  Overall this is a bit of a step down and a bit disappointing after such a great debut, but still worth the listen.

On Alibi, their final album of this era, the band pretty much went full force into melodic 80‘s metal.  While there are a handful of good straight-ahead rockers like “Voodoo”, “Dressed To Kill” and “Fighting Against The World”, they all sound a bit dated today.  Even the power ballads on this album, “Once In A Lifetime” and “How Long”, are a bit too much like all the other cliched, hair metal power ballads of that era. Having said all that the album does close out strongly with “Kamikaze”, an excellent instrumental that really allows everyone to shine.  

The final disc of the box is a collection of rarities and live cuts.  First up are seven demos, five from the first two albums and two for tracks that were never released.  The demos of the album cuts are rawer and dirtier and the lack of studio polish give them a sound even heavier than the final versions (take a listen to “Ready For You” or “Out In The Streets”). As for the demos that never made it to an album as a finished track, both are good enough that they would have fit in perfectly on any album, but “Help Me Thru The Night” is especially strong, an absolutely beautiful power ballad that evolves into a rocker at the end with some outstanding guitar work that sounds great as a stripped down demo and makes you wonder why it was never finished and released. Next up are a couple songs in edited versions and a “special mix” of “Once In A Lifetime” along with six live cuts that show just how solid they were as a live act. Closing out the disc is the unplugged version of “Burning Heart”, a beautifully done version with some really nice string arrangements that was recorded in 2004 for a compilation disc. Completing the package is a booklet containing an interview with Vandenberg detailing the band's career. 

(HNE Recordings)

Super Ghost - Left For Dust

Throughout the six cuts on Left For Dust, the Australian duo Super Ghost pull together elements of surf rock, spaghetti western, indie rock and a little punk resulting in an impressive debut EP.  Opener “Lullaby” pulls you in immediately with a wave of surf guitar, then draws back a little with a hypnotic swirling instrumental section before kicking things into gear with an uptempo indie rock sound with plenty of surf guitar flourishes throughout.  “Graceless” brilliantly meshes a dark and moody spaghetti western vibe (complete with horns) with a bit of rock resulting in a song that would make Ennio Morricone proud.  While some surf elements are still present on the next track “Preserved”, they change things up a little here with more of a math rock groove.  Next up are “Haze”, a straight ahead rock tune with some stellar guitar work and vocals, that does a great job of meshing a rootsier sound with a blast of punk energy and “Vertex”, a really infectious tune with a bit of a bounce and lots of great, somewhat jazzy guitar work.  The final track, “Waiting List” opens with a slow, throbbing bass leading into a dark, somewhat tension filled tune showcasing their excellent, at times intertwining vocals and more great guitar work and does a great job of bringing the EP to a climactic end.

(Super Ghost - Bandcamp)

Monday, November 01, 2021

Interview with Neu Sierra

While she has previously worked with the likes of Mike Stern,  Nouvelle Vague and Violent Femmes frontman Gordon Gano and was also half of The Bowdashes with Linn Holm, Neu Sierra marks Nana Nørgaard's debut solo project.  In between editing a new video she took a little time to answer some of my questions about the new EP, playing the autoharp and more.  


Prior to releasing Sulphur and Molasses you worked with a variety of big name musicians and also released an EP and album with Linn Holm as The Bowdashes. Can you give me a little background on yourself?  Also, what motivated you to do your own thing as Neu Sierra?  

I was born and raised in Copenhagen, where I live today. Since I was 18 I’ve played in different bands, performing all over Copenhagen especially at Christiania venues. Together with Linn, who I later played with in The Bowdashes, I went to Paris to work with Marc Collin of the Nouvelle Vague. We slept in the office of his record label, woke up when the label staff met in the morning and after a tiny espresso we went down to the studio in the basement to work. 

Back in Copenhagen I’ve joined different constellations - even jazz from time to time, and last year I released my debut single as Neu Sierra.

With everything else in life, I’ve acted very much alone. I’ve never been part of a big crew of friends, and I have no siblings. Doing my own thing is natural for me, but I’ve had fun and learned a lot working with Linn as The Bowdashes. I’ve always known that some day I would release something ‘as myself’, and the right time is apparently now.

You play the autoharp, which is definitely not something usually seen in a “rock” band, but I love the dynamic it gives your sound.  Can you tell me a little about what motivated you to think they would work together?

The autoharp itself has a big range sound wise - from fragile to grand, delicate to massive, and when I plug in my pedals, the spectrum widens. I like that you can express a lot with very little, which I guess is the deal with any instrument - the autoharp just seems to suit my temper pretty well. Sometimes I cut my fingers on the strings, or my warm fingers slide on a chord - then I’m suddenly not in charge of the harp anymore, and the sound coming from it is an awful surprise. But that’s also the fun of it. I guess I like the unpredictable.. 

Did the pandemic have any effect on the recording process for the EP?

Not really. My drummer had to record at home - but that worked so well, we continued working like that and I just got the most amazing drums sent from him.

Your music has a very dreamy, yet dark, cinematic quality to it, like something out of a David Lynch movie. Have you had any interest from anyone to use your music in movies or TV shows?

I get that a lot, which I take as a huge compliment! So thank you. The music hasn’t been featured in anything yet, but..

When you are writing songs is there a different mindset that you have when it’s for Neu Sierra as opposed to a different project like The Bowdashes?

Though I’ve always written ‘personal’ songs that spring from me, Neu Sierra is my very own, and I can do and say and sing whatever I want. I have the last word which feels very natural and a bit frightening at the same time, and at times I miss Linn (The Bowdashes) to just make a bloody decision, when I find it difficult.

I don’t work with rules or concepts - It’s all about the feelings, and it’s important to me that the music supports the lyrics and the other way around. If, let’s say a guitar plays something just to fill in, but really has no justification to the song, I won’t use it. 

I read that you get compared to Nick Cave and Nico alot.  Every time I listened to the EP there were moments where it reminded me of something, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  Then I realized it was Johnette Napolitano, who was the vocalist for Concrete Blonde.  I think to me there is a vocal similarity between the two of you as well as a bit of the darkness to the music, although theirs had a little less noise and a little more pop. Have you heard that comparison before?

No, I have never heard that one, but I think it’s very funny and interesting to be compared to other artists. Of course I know and admire Nick Cave, but I don’t know his music well enough to really hear the similarities. On the other hand I do understand the Nico reference. 

You’ve released some interesting videos for some of the tracks on the EP.  Were you involved with the concepts for those?

Very much yes. I made them myself. 

You recently had a baby and I noticed in alot of the press photos and of course on the album cover you are proudly showing your pregnant stomach.  I love that you didn’t hide that and was curious if there was a conscious decision made to showcase your pregnancy with this EP?

Not at all. I’m very bad at preparing, and the pregnancy was a surprise. A wonderful one, but it just happened to be at a moment, where I was busy doing everything for the first time as Neu Sierra. It wasn’t really possible to hide the pregnancy, and why should I? There’s always the chance a booker skips your name on the list, thinking it’s a risk booking a pregnant woman. I think playing concerts while pregnant is great - I’m not the biggest person, but with a big baby bump you can really claim your space on stage. And with the extra weight I felt pretty grounded too. Sure, I could get nauseous or dizzy, but that also happens after drinking too much wine or a long drive - and none of that would stop me from going on stage. I could have chosen just to use photos of my face, but this was how I looked at that specific moment in time. I think that’s worth immortalizing.

I saw a live video for the song “In My Garden”, which I really liked.  Do you think we will be hearing a studio version of that?

Yes, I believe so..

Not a question, but I also wanted to commend you on the band you have playing in the live videos I saw on YouTube. They were fantastic.

Thank you. I will let them know! I’m very excited about them too, and I feel very lucky to have them with me.

Now that the pandemic is hopefully slowing down what plans do you have for the near future?

Besides breastfeeding and changing diapers I have some concerts coming up in the new year and I’m going to release new music..

(Neu Sierra - Facebook / Neu Sierra - Bandcamp)

 


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Interview with Afterbliss

After releasing three singles to a very positive response over the past year, the Irish five-piece Afterbliss have taken those three songs and added two more for their outstanding new debut EP Unknown Machine.  I emailed with the band about the new EP, recording it in the legendary Windmill Lane Recordings Studio, their plans for supporting the EP and more.  

Can you give me a brief band history?

The origins of the band can be traced back to 2018 when lead guitarist Alex and drummer Ally were playing together in another band. They found that they had a creative spark when they worked together and decided to start their own project. They spent time writing and recording demos while also auditioning band members. The Afterbliss line up was completed when Evan Cassidy (vocals), James O’ Gorman (rhythm guitar) and Shane Waldron (bass) joined in the summer of 2019. 

Alot of big names have recorded at Windmill Lane Recordings Studio, where you recorded the EP, and you worked with producer Alan Kelly, who has worked with an impressive list of musicians.  How was it recording there and working with him?

Alan was a delight to work with. He was able to listen to our home demos and figure out the essence of our sound. He knew exactly what each song needed and how to get the best out of the material that we have written. Then being able to record those songs in Windmill Lane was a dream come true. As you mentioned, a lot of very famous bands have recorded their previously. On our first session, the masking tape on the desk marking out all of Hozier’s channels was still there! It was a little intimidating at first, but once you start playing and get back to the music, we relaxed and had a very productive time there!

Can you tell me a little about your songwriting process?

The songwriting process varies from song to song. In general we work remotely a lot so Covid 19 lockdowns didn’t slow down our writing process too much. Usually songs are introduced with a musical idea by Alex, who records a home demo of his idea. Next, Ally or Evan usually add lyrics to this and every band member chips in, adding parts for their own instrument. Then we re-record all of these ideas together as a “final” demo. Finally our producer Alan takes a listen and tells us to play it in a different key!

While I can definitely hear the influence of Muse and The Killers, at times there is a glimmer of an eighties synth pop vibe that comes through.  Are there any bands from that era that you would also consider an influence on the band?

Yeah there's definitely an 80’s synth pop vibe to our music. As you mentioned The Killers would be a band that we get compared to sonically a lot and some of their influences would include the likes of New Order, Depeche Mode and The Cure so the eighties vibe could be coming through that way.

I read you went into the studio with a lot of songs.  Can we expect to hear more of those sooner than later?

Yes, definitely! We went into the studio with close to thirty finished songs. We whittled this down and have recorded thirteen, which are in various stages of completion. Some are fully mixed and ready to be unleashed into the world and others are just instrumental tracks. Unknown Machine, our current EP will be the final official release in 2021, but we have loads of music we are eager to share next year!

What kind of impact has the pandemic had on the band and the EP?

It has been such a strange time for the music industry as a whole! We are all still trying to find our feet at the moment as some semblance of normality is returning. In terms of the EP, as I mentioned before, we do a lot of writing remotely so we were able to keep working on new material during the pandemic and we were able to record in the studio during more relaxed phases of lockdown, so musically we were able to keep going. In terms of the band, it had a huge effect. We were unable to meet up and rehearse or play gigs. The stage is where most bands feel at home, connect to audiences and find new fans and we have been denied that opportunity until now. 

With the band being relatively new and the pandemic going on, have you had the chance to play any live shows, either before the pandemic or now that things have loosened up a little?

We did not play any live shows before the pandemic. We could have, but we didn’t want to rush onto the stage as soon as we had 30 - 40 minutes of material. We wanted to develop our sound fully, record some music and have something to pitch to the audience. That delay pushed us to the other side of the pandemic, but ultimately I think it is for the best. We were tempted to play a live stream gig during the pandemic but in the end we decided against it as we didn’t want it to be our first gig. Our first gig is going to take place in Whelan’s (Dublin) on October 29th and we are super excited for it, we have an amazing evening planned for our audience. I would plug the gig but it’s sold out!

I really enjoyed the three videos you have released.  How involved has the band been in the concepts and production of those?

We were very involved in the music videos, so much so that we did the first two videos entirely in house! Alex, our lead guitarist, is also a tech wizard and he recorded, edited and polished the first two videos. For the second one we needed to record during lockdown so all parts were recorded separately in isolation and Alex edited all of our separate ideas together. For the third video, "Remnants", the idea, script and concept was ours but we also hired cinematographer, Kim Farrelly, to shoot it for us. We wanted a more professional touch for that video and I think the results speak for themselves. 

Ireland has been known to produce some pretty iconic bands over the years.  How is the music scene there these days?

It’s very hard to know at the moment, we are all still bouncing back from 18+ months of lockdown. Every band is very eager to get back on stage, so there are a lot of small, local bands playing at the moment. The larger, international bands are only starting to book dates again.

Now that the EP is out, what kind of plans do you have to promote it?

We have our debut headline gig coming up at the end of the month in support of the EP. We are delighted that this has sold out. We are plugging it to radio stations, both locally and internationally and it is being very well received. We are currently planning an Irish tour for next year, taking in more cities than just Dublin!

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

If you enjoy our music, please find and follow us on social media! We are on all the usual platforms, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc. Leave a comment and let us know you are enjoying our music, it means a lot. If you really like our music, share it with your friends and family! Then hopefully we will see you on the Afterbliss World Tour 2024!

(afterblissmusic.com)

 


Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Vinegar Joe - The Island Recordings 1972-1973

Before his days as a solo artist, Robert Palmer, along with Elkie Brooks (a successful solo jazz/rock/blues vocalist in her own right in the UK, but lesser known in the US) and guitarist Peter Gage, were the core of the British rhythm and blues based rock band Vinegar Joe.  Formed from the ashes of Dada, a twelve-piece band that counted the three of them amongst their members, although Palmer joined the band after their one album was released, Vinegar Joe released three really great albums that along with four bonus cuts can be found on Finer Things: The Island Recordings 1972-1973.

On their self-titled debut the band starts things off showcasing alot of their bluesier influences.  After opening the disc with Palmer's lead vocals on “Rusty Red Armour”, a catchy tune with a bit of a Stones-y R&B swagger, Brooks takes the mic for a couple songs with “Early Morning Monday”, a rocking blues tune that showcases her powerful vocal chops that remind me a bit of Janis, and the laid-back “Ride Me Easy Rider”, a cut that also spotlights some excellent slide guitar from Gage.  Next up the band shows a bit of a early 70‘s Southern California vibe with the beautiful ballad “Circles” and with “Leg Up” you can hear alot of where Palmer would go a few years later with his solo career.  The most interesting track is the keyboard driven “See The World”, which finds the band delving into a very prog sounding direction and definitely sets it apart from everything else here.  “Never Met A Dog (That Took To Me)” is a great, straight-ahead rocker with more stellar slide guitar work from Gage and “Gettin’ Out” is a jaunty, piano driven soul tune that really let both vocalists shine and is another standout.  The last two songs give Brooks the opportunity to show her softer side with the bluesy ballad “Avinu Malkenu” and the slow, jazz of “Live A Little Get Somewhere”.  Closing out the first disc is the bonus track ”Speed Queen of Ventura”, a soulful, psychedelic acid rocker  that was originally the flip side to the “Never Met A Dog” single and is definitely unlike anything found on the album.

With album number two, Rock And Roll Gypsies, blues are still a big part of their sound, but the band does start shifting a little away from that in favor of a more rock direction. This is evident from the opening tracks “So Long”, an all out rocker that is full of swagger and finds Palmer and Brooks trading off vocals, something that really didn’t happen much on their debut, and the infectious southern rock-tinged “Charley’s Horse”.  They slow things down a bit on the next couple songs, the title track, a laid-back, bluesy tune with a bit of a country vibe as well as “Falling” with it’s laid-back funk groove.  Other highlights on this disc are “Buddy Can You Spare Me A Line?”, a blues song with a bit of a shuffling beat, harmonica and piano, “Forgive Us”, a really nice ballad with Palmer and Brooks trading off vocals again along with their strong harmonies in the chorus, and a really strong cover of Hendrix’s “Angel”.  The single version of the title track is added on to the end of disc two as a bonus cut.  

For their final record, Six Star General, the band once again moved in an even more rock direction as evidenced right out the gate with the straight ahead rocker “Proud To Be (A Honky Woman”) highlighted once again with Brooks’ bluesy vocals and Gage’s slide guitar work along with some rollicking piano work.  The band also got a little experimental at times on a couple tracks like “Food For Thought”, with it’s funk groove and strong vocal interplay between the two vocalists, but with some squiggly keys that give it a bit of an early prog sound and can be a little distracting, and also with Gage’s use of the talk box on “Talkin’ Bout My Baby”, a slinky blues tune with some raw, gritty vocals from Palmer.  Some of the other standout tracks include the country flavored rocker “Dream My Own Dreams” with it's great honky tonk piano, “Stay True To Yourself”, a funky rock tune with a touch of a reggae bass and some synths, “Let Me Down Easy”, a blistering rocker with Brooks Joplin-esque wail and Gage tearing it up on guitar, and “Fine Thing”, another really good bluesy rocker that once again shows a glimmer of Palmer’s future solo work.  Lastly is “Black Smoke Rising From The Calumet”, a track that I think is probably the best song of the band’s career - a beautifully arranged tune shifting throughout from jazz to blues, showcasing the band’s musicianship as well as Brooks diversity as a vocalist.  Closing out disc three are a couple more bonus cuts, one is just the single version of “Black Smoke...”, but the other is “Long Way Round”, a funky rocker with a bit of a Joe Cocker vibe that really would have been a welcome addition to the album.  

All the tracks have been remastered for the first time from the original Island Records master tapes and sound great.  Rounding out this outstanding box set is a booklet full of pictures and memorabilia along with exclusive interviews from both Gage and Brooks.  

(Esoteric Recordings)