Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Swellers – 05-12-11 – Birmingham Academy 3 – With Support from Broadway Calls

It’s a cold dry night here in Birmingham and so I'm glad there is no queue to get inside the nice warm Academy 3. I arrive at the venue before Broadway Calls take to the stage, only to find that the room is less than half empty, now I've been in this room once before and that was for My Passion a year ago, and you could not move for people! It was wall to wall with bodies and I expected more of that tonight!

Broadway Calls or Calling Broadway as it said on the venues stage times, take to the stage and burst into a set of punk rock, it's very fast it's very loud and its fun! The Oregon 3 piece don’t really talk to the audience but it doesn't matter, as I'm sure they can come and talk to everyone individually later as it wouldn't take them to long! They blast through a half hour set of rocky tunes with simple heavy riffs and nice harmonies, the drums are thumping and the sound is raw. This is right up my street and the vocals are very similar to Less Than Jake which puts a smile on my face. Myself and the rest of this small audience enjoy their set which hardly leaves you time to relax in between songs.

The Swellers, who in case you don’t know, are a 4 piece punk rock band from Flint, Michigan. They come out on stage and get everyone to come forward, the once sparse room now turns into a hectic front of room party full of moshing and dancing! Singer Nick Diener tells the crowd why he loves England, "short drives, babe-a-licious babes, handsome dudes, and the weather sucks, but in different ways". He also comments of how great the crowd are tonight “in America people sing along but don't know the words, it's like they’re eating water melons, but here you know them all! Thank you”. The band kick into my personal favourite, Fire Away, the sound is really loud, deafening even, but the band comes across clearly. The bass flows freely and the guitar runs smooth into these punky tunes with a bit of pop drilled in.  

 This is their first proper headline tour, and I thought with endorsements from bands such as Paramore and Motion City Soundtrack people would be flocking, their videos are always on Kerrang and they've supported bands over here quite heavily in the last year. They’re also on Pet Wentz’s label “Fueled by Ramen” and yet there playing to a half full Academy 3 and not to a full Academy 2! I mean, I know allot of people say how they remember seeing huge bands in small venues, but those venues are small and a full, they’re not half full.

This is a band who are jumpy and pumped full of energy, they’re really good fun, if  more people where at this gig, it would have been awesome but the atmosphere just isn't there, people don’ t fully let themselves go if people might be watching them. So next time around get your arses down and see this great band, that is keeping punk flowing through to the next stage! I have no doubt that this band will be huge, so don’t miss out on seeing them rise to fame!

Broadway Calls – 3/5
The Swellers – 4/5

Twin Atlantic – 2/12/2011 at Birmingham O2 Academy 2 – Support from Dinosaur Pile Up and Arcane Roots

Well tonight is a mixed one for me, I've heard allot of twin Atlantics songs and really want to see how they perform live, but Dinosaur Pile Up are supporting and the last time I went watching them, I wrote a review which wasn't greatly received, basically it said that they were ok, but on the whole the night was poor.

Arriving at the venue at half 6 for an interview with twin Atlantic I find out that the doors have been open for half hour and that my interview is taking place whilst the Arcane Roots are on stage, and I'm glad I missed half their set.

Arcane Roots are not my thing at all, thrashy trashy guitars with lots of high pitched cymbals whilst the singer (if that’s what he is) whine’s strange noises into the mic. In the middle of their songs there are quiet breakdowns that seem to go on forever, until they build up and overflow with a burst of noise and energy. I'm sure on another day I could get into them, maybe at a festival but tonight I’m not a fan, luckily though there's quite a few people here who enjoyed there set.

Next up is Dinosaur Pile Up and I'm anxious to see how they’ve come on since the last time. The answer..... Not far. They seem to blend into the background this time around, just standing, moaning on, with almost every song sounding the same. There’s the odd song which changes the pace and passion, but most of the songs seem to fade away into obscurity, just moments after hearing them. The vocals are drowned out by the sound of the bass, with just the harmonics of the guitar being slightly heard over the rest of the noise coming from the tinny drums. I think after two tries of going to see them, I just don't like this band, which sucks because I really thought I'd love them when I heard them on the radio, which leads me to another point, they didn’t play their main single “Mona Lisa” which to me suggests they want to stay underground and want to play for themselves, which you just can’t do, because who pays for the bands to play, the fans and what fan is going to watch a band that doesn’t play the songs they like. Ah well, the set comes to an end and next up is the main act!

Twin Atlantic, this Glaswegian 4 piece have come a long way over there 4 years of being a band, they’ve had a great year gaining success in the US and getting bigger here in the UK playing Leeds and Reading Festivals the great aplomb.  They’re a band that put allot of effort into what they do; tonight you can tell this straight away just by the lighting and the way they enter the stage, the lighting has been dark and dingy but now the stage is lit by hanging light bulbs and brightly coloured lights that flood the stage and when mixed with their intro music make an amazing atmosphere, the crowd are eager to rock out and when each member appears one by one adding to the music the room is ready to explode, finally singer Sam Mctrusty appears on stage with his hood up and the crowd go wild, Twin Atlantic know where to take this energy and that’s to pour it straight into one of their biggest singles “Beast Of Myself” which goes down a storm. The band feed off the audience and play a stonking set that sounds amazing, the band have allot of work to do, but they make it seem effortless, switching between instruments mid song, whilst also jumping around. I’ve seen allot of bands this year and I have to say that Twin Atlantic are up there in bands of the year, both live and on CD. I cannot recommend this band more highly, there set is amazing and during song “Human After All” Sam leaps into the crowd with guitar still rapped around him. The set comes to an end to the great single “Free” which demolishes the audience.

Tonight’s gig was let down by the supports but Twin Atlantic where that good, it made me forget all about it. Tonight’s almost sell-out crowd seemed to love every moment and even the supports received a good reception, but it was made up of mainly, just legal, kids getting tanked up ready for the long night of clubbing ahead.

 Arcane Roots, 2/5

Dinosaur Pile Up, 1/5

Twin Atlantic, 5/5

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Twin Atlantic - Interview - 02/12/11

I cought up with Barry and Ross from the great Scottish band Twin Atlantic, who are playing the Birmingham academy two tonight. This band are really gaining some grownd recently and I decided to ask them a few questions about how they're progression is going.

You have not long got back from your American tour with Awolnation and Middle Class Rut, how did you find the tour?

Ross: Fantastic because we got to go to places that we’ve only been to once before and some that we’ve never been to before in America and there were people to play to because it was obviously their tour. It was really good fun, we got to see a lot of America that we hadn’t seen before and they were nice chaps (laughter)

Barry: It was good to play to crowds because in the UK people have a bad habit of coming down late to shows just to watch the band that they’ve bought the ticket for but, in America most people tend to come down when the doors open because their up for watching  new bands and checking out new things.

Ross: Everybody does that, I do it as well. You just go and see who you want to see and it’s horrible, you shouldn’t do that but you end up doing it all the time.

How do the American shows compare to those back here? And how did it feel to explore new places?

Ross: The shows we’re doing on this tour are a similar size but they’re our own shows so it’s a totally different thing. As fun as it is to go and play to people who don’t know you it’s also amazing to play to people who you can see that they’ve come because they want to listen to the songs and not just through default and you’re trying to win them over. It’s kind of a different experience altogether isn’t it?

Barry: Yeah it’s massively different but they’re both good. It’s two different challenges I guess, as Ross said it’s totally different trying to win people over as opposed to people who have already got some sort of familiarity or affinity with your music. What you just try to do is put on the best show possible so that they leave having had a really good night.

Do you have plans to revisit the US in the near future?

Ross: I think we’re going back at the start of the year again and in the summer for various. I think next year we’ll probably be there a lot more than we were this year as things are starting to roll out over there. I think the album only comes out in January in America so that means a lot more time over there but still focusing on here mainly because that’s where we’re from. 

You are currently on a headline tour of the UK, how have the shows been so far?

Ross: We’re three shows in and all three have sold out which we didn’t expect at all. That was kind of overwhelming but everybody has been up for getting involved and having a good time.

Barry: I’ve been looking forward to all the shows but there’s something about this show. We’ve been here quite a few times and this has usually been the place where things are going to go wrong or there hasn’t been as many people, so tonight is quite exciting for us because we’re playing a slightly bigger venue.

You have Arcane Roots and Dinosaur Pile Up supporting you on tour, how have you found touring with them? Do you enjoy their music?

Barry: Yeah totally. They’re two totally different bands. Dinosaur Pile Up are more of your throw back 90’s Nirvana grunge band and Arcane Roots are more techy, it’s kind of schizophrenic  at times but that’s cool. They’re both great bands for different reasons we’re excited to have them both playing with us.

You originally released ‘Free’ back in April but it is due for release as a single again on the 19th December, what was the decision behind this?

Ross: We kind of felt at the start that we really liked the song and because the amount of people coming to our shows has taken such a big leap since we released it we wanted more people to get to know it. People seem to be picking up on it and the video seems to be being played a lot so we though if people want to hear it then bring it on. If we were fed up with it then I think it would be different but as the album has only been out a while it’s still quite new.

You have just announced the Twin Atlantic ‘Instagram Project’, can you tell us a little more about this?

Ross: Basically we’ve teamed up with the people at instagram to do this thing where people can upload their pictures to our specific instagram account and all of the photos are going to go into a limited edition lithograph. So if you take a photo it’s going to go onto a Twin Atlantic artwork lithograph so when you get one you’ll see your photo and everyone else’s. It’s cool as well because the more photos that get added the more stuff gets unlocked. I don’t know if that’s the right word but photos will be added and an acoustic video that we recorded.

Barry: And some B sides that never got released.

2011 has been a massive year for you but what would you say your main highlight of the year has been?

Ross: This is funny because this is a question that keeps popping up. We haven’t done a lot of press just lately because of being in America but this week we’ve had a few people asking us to look back and remember stuff from the year. Up until this week we hadn’t done that because we’ve been so busy with releasing the recording and going on tour. 

Barry: Having done so this week I’d probably say getting to play Reading and Leeds for the first time was incredible for us. Well just festivals in general because we got to do a big slot at T in the park as well.

Ross: For me it’s been this week and being able to these shows has been a highlight. We’ve been working so hard all year and been away so much so it’s almost like having an end of year gift which has been amazing. It’s almost like a reward for us, being able to come back and play on these stages and have fun. It’s a really enjoyable experience, not that being in a band isn’t because there are some things which are hard but this is like a Christmas present a present

Barry: A Christmas present (laughter)

You hail from Glasgow, which seems to have a great music scene at the moment but what new bands from Scotland would you recommend?

Barry: We had a band out last time called the Lafontaine’s and they’re a weird blend of rock music, pop music and hip hop. Maybe they’re kill me for describing it like this but if you take Professor Green and fucking oh I don’t know, I honestly don’t know. Maybe the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and mashed them up and somewhere in the middle you’d have this thing that was them but not like either of them. That was a really shit analogy right there but that’s what I’m going for.

Ross: There’s so many it’s hard to name them. There’s a band called The Xcerts who are good friends of ours, they’re amazing and they’re doing really well right now. They’ve been out on tour with a few bands that I like, they’re all really good guys and their album came out earlier this year and it was a really good album.

Do you plan to have a much earned rest over the festive period?

Ross: I mean when we go home we’ll probably have a couple of days before Christmas.

Barry: Yeah we’ll have a couple of hours to ourselves (laughter)

Ross: And then the time before Christmas and New Year except for our rehearsal for our New Year’s show in Aberdeen. 

Barry: After this year we’ll definitely need to recharge our batteries and Christmas is one of those times when most of your friends and family are back home so it’s always nice to see them. We always say we’ve got such a selfish lifestyle because we leave all the people we love for months and months so it’s nice when we do come home and spend some time with them.

What can we expect from you in 2012?

Barry: We’ve got loads of touring that we’re just about to announce and then we’ll probably have to think about new material as well. Not that we haven’t been but we’ll have to think seriously about what we’re got do and when we’re gonna do it.

What’s your take on music reality TV shows such as the X Factor?

Ross: I actually really like them, I’m a total sucker. I watch it as much as I can because I think it’s so different from normal music. For young people who might not ordinarily get into music because they might not have an access point. But if they here one of them sing something like  a Queen song  and really like it then that’s like an access point for them into music. It’s also so different from this world of music that I don’t even think that’s it’s offensive. It’s a competition to find a performer and there will always be good performers whether there was a TV show or not. Simon Cowell was always going to sign somebody to sing a song written by blah blah blah so I don’t see a problem with it.

Barry: I used to like the X Factor more than I do now. I used to like the audition stage because you’d have a dude walk in and you’d have literally no idea what he was going to sound like. Sometimes it’s fairly hilarious and other times the guy comes out with an incredible voice. Now it seems to be more of a popularity contest rather than about singing. Like this year Frankie Cocozza is possibly one of the worst singers I’ve ever heard but he was put in front of millions of viewers week after week because people thought he was funny or hot. He’s a dreadful, dreadful singer and because it wasn’t about the voice I stopped watching it.

Where do you hope to see yourselves in a year’s time?

Barry: Who knows, a whole lot can happen in a year. When we look at the wacky journey we’re had this year it’s hard to fathom where we’ll be in a years’ time. Ideally back in Birmingham playing downstairs in the bigger room (laughter). For us this band has always been about progression. When you go to a place for the first time and there’s five people watching you and you go back again and there’s twenty people then it’s amazing because you can see that bit of growth. I think there’s 600 people in tonight but if we come again and there’s 750 or 800 then that’ll be amazing.

One last random question that we ask every band, if you could be an animal out of a zebra or Giraffe which one would you be and why?

Ross: There’s pros and cons to both because Giraffes and eat from up high but if you have to fight then you have to do this neck whip thing and that looks really sore.  Zebras have the worst camouflage of all the animals

Barry: Not true, Zebras have black and white stripes because it confuses Lions.

Ross: Zebra then.

Barry: It’s an evolutionary thing and it’d also be really cool to wear a black and white jacket every day. One thing you couldn’t do as a zebra though would be come into town because if you used a zebra crossing you’d just blend right in (growns)

Thanks for your time is there a message for your fans reading this?

Ross: No (laughter) thank you for….

Barry: I want to see where this is going (laughter)

Ross: I don’t know, thank you for buying our record and if anyone has been to one of our gigs then thank you for coming.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Wonder Years Interview

I managed to catch up with Soupy just half hour before him and the rest of The Wonder Years went out on stage at the HMV Institute in support of Saves The Day and Yellowcard, heres what he had to say.

Now The Wonder Years have been around for a five  years or so, you’ve released 3 albums and have toured all over the place, now for people that might not know a lot about you of you can you give a brief history of the band and how you came up with the name?

Soupy: A brief history of the band is as follows. We thought it’d be funny to write some songs about senseless bullshit, we wrote said songs, said songs came out on a record. We then decided to be a real band and to write real songs, those songs came out on several other records and since then we’ve just been touring as hard as we can. The band’s name holds no significance whatsoever. At the time we were just writing these empty songs about nothing just for fun and there was no point in putting any thought into a name at that point. We then thought it was unwise to change the name midway through the upswing for us so we left it.

What can someone who has never seen you before expect from your live show?

Soupy: If we’re headlining we’ll play 15 to 17 songs but if we’re supporting we’ll play about 8. We generally play a mix between “The Upsides” and “Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing”. If we’re doing a headlining set then we’ll do some tracks off some of our 7” records. Six guys on stage getting sweaty is what you can expect and we tend to do stupid things. I don’t want to say expect it, cus you know, I don’t jump off the PA stack every time we play, but it happens*. It depends on the show and the vibe as well as how dangerous of a dive it is. We just tend to put everything we can into our live set.

*Just half hour after the interview, Soupy decided whilst playing the gig that the stage was too small, so he jumped off stage and performed half of their set in the crowd, so he didn’t jump of a PA but he did make their set memorable!
Your latest album “Suburbia: I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing” was released in June this year, how has it been going down with the fans and critics?

Soupy: It has been critically the most warmly received album we’ve ever done. The reviews were all really highly rated which was exciting for us. I guess the best judge is when you play a set and you look out and see kids going off just as hard for the new songs as the old ones. That’s not a common thing so it’s exciting for us.  A lot of times people want to hear the old stuff and when you play the new stuff they’re more laid back. We get the same reaction for any song if not a bigger reaction for the newer stuff. That’s a good sign because it means we’re growing.

You've just released the video for your new single "come out swinging", which has a girl dressed as a ghost playing pranks; do you guys like playing pranks?

Soupy: No (laughter). We’re not really social guys, we’re kind of awkward and I feel like all the pranksters are cool people. I don’t think I have pulled a good prank in my entire life. The video wasn’t so much about pranks for me. I wrote the treatment for the video and the song has the line “I spent this year as a ghost” so I started thinking about just ghosts in general. That led to me thinking about the idea of being lost, psychically lost like being away and not always having a place and then in more of a metaphorical way of being lost and being angsty. I had this young girl dress up as a ghost and use her suburban terrorism as a kind of outlet for the angst. That feeling of being upset but you’re not sure what has upset you. It’s kind of this thing of I’m upset and fuck the world, I’m gonna take it down with me but put into the ideology of a child and what they could do to tear down the world.

Did you direct the video?

Soupy:  I came up with the idea and then it’s all d.i.y. We had our friends Mitch and Larry help and we got my little cousin Megan to dress up as a ghost so that was her big acting debut, although she did play Eeyore in a school play (laughter). So yeah we just got our friends together and shot it over two days and Mitch and Larry made the ideas in my head come to life for me. We like to be hands on in any way we can. For instance when a lot of people write a record they’ll write pieces of it and then go into a studio and work with a producer and cut out some songs. We wrote thirteen songs for this record and all thirteen of them are on it because we spent months on each one crafting it before anyone else even heard it.

Your website has a nice idea which shows a map and which tells the fans what locations inspired the songs on the latest album, who came up with this unique idea, does it mean allot to you to share your inspiration and what’s the deal with the pigeon?

Soupy: I stole the idea from a band called “The Hold Steady”. A lot of their songs have a lot of references bedded into them and somebody took the time to find those references and put them onto a map of the twin cities. I thought it was really cool and wanted to do something similar. We wanted to make it more localised so we made it about our home town and told our stories through that medium.

The pigeon began with our old keyboard player who hated pigeons; it was just this horrible bird that nobody wanted around. We just started thinking about it more when we were all going to college. Because we weren’t really a full time band it means that nobody can really “care too much” as far as the industry was concerned. I’ve put air quotes around that so please include that and this in your transcription (laughter). As far as the industry in concerned that want people who are working on this all the time and we were only working on it part of the time but twice as hard to catch up. If we couldn’t be on tour because we were at school then we were writing and releasing a 7” or touring all weekend. We were running ourselves ragged doing this because we had jobs. Classes and then I was doing these teaching programs at different schools. Nobody cared and nobody listened because we weren’t a full time band. We felt like we were unwanted but instead of letting that destroy us we let that be the catalyst to a lot of things and we would push harder. I fell that’s like a pigeon and what a pigeon does. They’re everywhere in every city in the world in their droves despite how bad people hate them. That’s how we felt about ourselves as a band, no matter how much people didn’t want us there we were gonna crash the party. 
You’ve played allot of gigs and festivals this year including the Kerrang tour with Good Charlotte and Four Year Strong, The Warped Tour, your own headline tour, you’ve just finish New Found Glorys “Pop Punk’s Not Dead” tour and your now on this Saves The Day/ Yellowcard tour. You’ve pretty much been none stop touring since the start of the year. Do you find it hard being on the road of have you grown used to it and  what has been your main Highs and Lows of the this year?

Soupy: It’s definitely hard especially when you’re doing a US tour. We’ll be here and our driver will be like “ahh man we’ve gotta drive six hours tonight” and I’m like “yeah”.  He thinks that’s far where at home an average drive is six hours where a bad drive is like twelve or thirteen and sometimes you have to do those and then play a show. We don’t get to leave after a show until one in the morning, load in is at 2pm so there’s only thirteen hours in between which means you have to drive nonstop.  You get gas, cram food in yourself and try to sleep in the van but it’s not really comfortable. It’s hard, you get sick and your back hurts. You definitely want to go home sometimes but at the same time I got to spend this entire year playing music to people that want to hear us play, I got to spend most of this year on tour with people that I’ve spent my entire life looking up to as musicians and as people and I’ve got to go to a lot of countries in the past couple of years. We’ve played almost every state and seen those sites that you go on vacation to see. We stopped in the Redwood Forest and we got to see the biggest tree in the world, although I think it’s like the third biggest tree in the world because they don’t want to tell you where the biggest one is in case you carve your name in to it (laughter). There are pros and cons to it like there is which any job although this one definitely has a lot of ups 

What does the future hold for the Wonder Years?

Soupy: This is our eleventh week without going home so in two more we go home but we play three shows. Then I’m going to Monday Night Raw and then we’re off for like two months. After that I think we’ll do some headline stuff, come back here and hopefully go to Australia again. That’s really where our plans end at the moment and then it becomes this ambiguous do we go on tour again or do we start writing some more songs and that question hasn’t been answered yet.

One last question that we ask every band, if you could be an animal out of a zebra and a giraffe which would you be and why?

Soupy: A giraffe because they’re big as shit. That’s a good of reason as any right? (laughter)
Thanks for your time; do you have a message for your fans reading this?

Soupy: That’s a weird question because it’s normally the same answer that everyone gives, you know, that were grateful etc. Er I dunno, whatever the last band you interviewed said copy and paste that for me but put that I said that (laughter)

Me: Er, what band was it? I think it was Capdown or New Found Glory

Soupy: Definitely put New Found Glory’s answer down!

“Thank you so much for supporting our band, we appreciate it and hopefully we’ll see you next time we come through!” – Ian, New Found Glory

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Yellowcard with support from Saves The Day and The Wonder Years – HMV Institute Birmingham– 29-11-11

Well I arrive at the venue later than planned due to the chaotic traffic on the Birmingham express way, an hour late for my interview with first support The Wonder Years and by the time I get in its only half an hour till they go on stage.  But due to them being such nice guys I still get an interview with lead singer Soupy as he and the rest of the band are getting ready. After the interview I go out and take my place by the barrier and shortly after....

The Wonder years come out on stage, this Philadelphian 6 piece were great when I saw them back in February supporting Good Charlotte, so I was hoping that tonight they’re just as good, but I was wrong, they were so much better! They kick off to their latest single, “Come Out Swinging” and although most of the crowd are hear for some emo and violins this pop punk outfit get people moving. After 2 songs there singer Soupy, declares to the crowd "this stage is the smallest tackiest stage I've ever played on, I’ve almost fallen off it 5 times" and so decides to get off stage and take it to the audience, performing in a circle of people, most have no idea what's going on, but it's fun and the rest of the band are rocking out on stage! He eventually goes back on stage for the last few songs, and his ear piercingly strong vocals demolish the audience. The room is hot and sweaty now and everyone is warmed up and ready for the next act

After a good wait, Saves The Day finally come on stage, there given a warm reception, the room isn't set alight but people look happy enough. The New Jersey 4 piece hasn’t played in the UK for 7 years so I was expecting the crowd to go wild, seeing as this was a joint headline tour! They’re set list is rather a long one which in the most is pretty boring. The singer’s high pitched voice grates me by the time they're 4 songs in. If you want a night of slow sways and high pitched ear bleeding then Saves The Day are for you. I know they’re emo legends and 10 years ago try where huge, but it seems like they're stuck there, I can't tell one song from another and they luck rather uninterested be to on the stage, I know each band member had about 500 pedals and it’s hard to have fun whilst concentrating, but come on your playing a gig, cheer up!

At least I can say they sound alright, but it’s just stringy guitar chords, and some flowing bass. Halfway through they slow it down which is hard to do seeing as most of their songs are as slow as treacle coming of a spoon. As you can tell I wasn't impressed with Saves The Day and a hour and 15 minute set is way to long for me and most of the audience to bear, with only a handful of people dancing and singing in a sold out venue! The only saving grace is at the end of the set they play mega hit “At Your Funeral” which sets the room on fire, and even the band seem happy! At least there last song has got the crowd going again and luckily Yellowcard are up next and they don't take too long to set up and get the crowd more pumped!

Yellowcard instantly get everyone moving, it seems they’re the band everyone came here to see! The Floridian rockers come out to For You And Your Denial which goes down well but their second song Way Away brings the house down, everyone is singing along and the band find it hard to believe, the Violinist Sean Mackin is High Fiving the front row in-between his parts and the energy of the crowd feeds the band as they start jumping and spinning around. This energy is fed back to the crowd and it’s hard for people not to be on their feet moving around! Their sound is great, the levels are just right, it's not over powered with violins or bass, it's mixed up great!

They were last meant to play the UK back in 2007 but the tour got cancelled and then the band went on hiatus for two years, so people of the UK haven’t had chance to see them in six years, they did support All Time Low early this year but by the time they were announced most shows where sold out, this is something the band seem overwhelmed by “Six years and a sold out show, I can’t believe the reception we’ve been getting here in the UK this year!” says singer Ryan Key.  They want tonight to be better than the gig than last night in Glasgow and by word the Birmingham crowd pull it off! Yellowcard play a stonking set of old and new including classics such as Lights and Sounds, Light Up The Sky and Only One before finishing there set with the song that put them into the big time back in 2004 Oceans Avenue.

Yellowcard where amazing, much better than on their support slot with All Time Low early in the year. I would have said The Wonder Years where the best band of the night but Yellowcard blew me and everyone in the venue away, a pure 5 star performance. I can’t wait to see them and The Wonder Years in the future, but I hope I don’t ever have the misfortune of seeing Saves The Day again.

The Wonder Years – 4/5

Saves The Day – 1/5

Yellowcard – 5/5

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Capdown with support from Anti-Vigilante and JB Conspiracy – Birmingham Library at the Hmv Institute

When I got asked to cover Capdown I was so excited, this band has always been there throughout my early gigging days, they were a band I never really listened to on CD (remember them?) but a band that I thoroughly enjoyed live, they just always seem to crop up as either a support band or at the right place at the right time.  They’re playing at the Library in the institute which is the smallest area of this multi room venue, which I’m sure will make the atmosphere tonight electric!

Anti-Vigilante are first up tonight this 4 piece from Milton Keynes know how to warm up a crowd.  Their style of atmospheric dub/punk/ska reminds me of King Prawn with a good mix of fast vocals crossed with a bit of sax instrumentals.  The deep bass pounds through the room and moves everyone with the vibrations, whilst bassist Gareth moshes like it’s going out of fashion.  The crowd are into it but seeing as the venue wasn’t full yet, people where standing back, so when singer Josh asks the crowd to move forward 4 steps I thought no chance, but tonight’s crowd are up for it and they move forward and get into the mood.  They pull off a good set and lead the way for the night’s second support

The JB Conspiracy who barely fit on this small stage with their 7 members are booming from the start. They get right into their fun time ska punk and whip the crowd into a frenzy. Some of their songs remind me of Slow Gherkin, lots of instrumental break downs that keeps building up and building up. They have a great sound mix with trumpets, sax and keys which make a really traditional ska/reggae style big band, which is awesome but at times can be quite tinny. All three vocalists come across to make clear harmonies which echo and bounce off each other.  They slow down there set with a bit of reggae which gives the crowd time to relax and catch their breath before getting the crowd swinging again. The JB conspiracy put on a great show and everyone has a good old skank.

The night is going great and finally the wait is over, Capdown take to the stage and bring their unique brand of punk/thrash/ska to the stage.  The atmosphere in the room is electric, they sound amazing, even if the sound is up to a ridiculous volume they still sound great, with the guitars, bass and drums all coming over amazingly well, you can feel the music running through your body.  Everybody loves it, and the whole crowd is moving.  Normally when I say that the crowd are normally just nodding there head as there all pressed to the barrier, but here everyone is dancing! The crowd of a few hundred are all in their own space and getting down to the beats, some people are in a pit, some people are moshing and some and skanking, but no-one is standing still and it’s really refreshing to see, that ska punk is still going down well even if it’s not really at the fore front of the scene. 

Capdown play a great set and play all their great live songs including the sax heavy Cousin Cleotis to Pound For The Sound and the awesome Ska Wars, all this is wrapped up with Home Is Where The Start Is to end this amazing night of punk, ska and reggae with a bang.  Tonight has been great with all 3 bands proving that this type of music is still alive, and with Capdown still officially split up its humbling to see a band that doesn’t care about selling albums or for fame and money as there here, they’re playing music that they love and as long as there happy and the crowd is happy they’ll keep doing it. Let’s hope they come back for another tour soon as the world needs more bands with this attitude for playing music for the fun of it!
Capdown 5/5

JB Conspiracy 4/5

Anti-Vigilante 4/5

Joy Formidable at Birmingham HMV Institute 13/10/11 with support from Creatures Of Love and And So I Watch You From Afar

Tonight is a last minute gig, I was asked to do it a day or two before but only found out at 5 on the night that I had the gig for definite, so I grabbed my camera and headed out for a night of Indie beats. I get to the venue, get inside and start getting my kit ready only to find moments before the first band comes on stage that my card has corrupted and that I can’t take any photo’s, I tried my best to fix it but nothing happens, so I begrudgingly take my place in the crowd and get ready to enjoy the evening.
Creatures Of Love are first up, this atmospheric indie band are really interesting. They’re sound is different to most as they build up and tear down there beats all over the place. They are really hard to pigeon hole as they come at you from every angle. The sound is really impressive, great vocals over big beats and synth but I think it would sound allot better with a bigger stage, but unfortunately I can’t see them being everyone’s cup of tea and will probably not be a huge band, but if you’re looking for something different, something that will make great background music in a film then this is the band for you. They play a decent set taking you on a journey through sound; it’s a different start from the normal gig openers but a good one.
And So I Watch From Afar are the main support tonight, a punk rock band from Belfast. They’re not punk rock in a Ramones style they’re punk rock in the way they’re a mash up of different styles, they’re fast drum beats and screechy guitars scream punk, but the song progression is more prog rock. The tightness of the act is immense, this band no how to play and know how to put on a show, getting the crowd hyped up into a frenzy ready for the main event. It kind of seems odd that they’re on this tour but it makes for a night of eclectic noise that is really great, and makes a refreshing change from just seeing one genre at a gig. They’re sound is great but the lack of vocals at times makes it really frustrating as the tune is great but you just want a catchy bit you can sing along to instead of just bopping along to the sounds. The crowd is now pumped and ready for…
The Joy Formidable are a 3 piece indie band from Wales, I know Indie is a lame way to describe them but I really think it’s the best way, they do delve into different styles like rock and mellow but they are at the end of the day a great indie band, which they should be proud off. They take to the stage in great style to one of their better known songs, A Heavy Abacus, which instantly grabs everyone’s attention with the thrashing intro and plodding verses. They hauntingly beautiful vocals stand out miles and the sound is great, the bass is powerful and intentionally distorted, the guitar fuzzes through and makes the songs sound great. Halfway through the set the drummers pedal disconnected but this didn’t stop them, they continued on and had a laugh with the crowd keeping the night ticking on. They’re stage set up had a few touches with the odd bit of lighting and mic decorations. They play for an hour with plenty of heavy hitting songs that please everyone in attendance. They end there set with the stylistically booming song Whirring that wraps the evening up nicely, the song builds and builds till it explodes with raw emotion.
Overall I had a great night; with 3 differently styled bands under one roof all giving something unique and interesting back to this enthused crowd. Things would have been better if I could have taken photo’s but I guess that’s the way things go, I hope to see and take photos of these bands in the future as they all made a great first impression on me.
Joy Formidable 4/5
And So I Watch From Afar 4/5
Creatures Of Love 3.5/5

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

New Found Glory - Interview

I got to interview Ian the topless bassist from New Found Glory when they came to town, and heres what he had to say

Everyone has heard of New Found Glory as you've had 6 hit albums, many top charting singles and have toured everywhere over your 15 year history, but what can you tell us about the band that people might not already know?
Ian: I don’t really know what people know and what they don’t but one thing people may not know is that we don’t live near each other at all. Three of the guys live in California and the other two of us live in Florida. The guys who live in California are spread out and me and Cyrus are spread out in Florida. That’s the only thing I can think of because we don’t really have any secrets; everybody already knows pretty much everything about us.

You’ve done loads of gigs over the years, playing the world over from the U.S to Japan and your currently on a headline UK tour building up to the Leeds and Reading Festivals with all these gigs have you grown used to being on the road or do you still find it hard especially since most of you now have wives and children.
Ian: I think you get used to it by this point but you still get a little bit homesick. You get so use to being on the road that when you get home you want to leave and then when you go out on tour you want to be back home again. I think we’re content and we like what we do and we like being in a band so it kind of goes with it. No matter what your job is there is always going to be good and bad points about it, nobody really likes everything about their job.
Do your families come out and join you?
Ian: No, not for me at least. Usually when we’re overseas people don’t come and join us but in when we’re in the states sometimes the guys wives and girlfriends will come out. I think its better that way because otherwise it’s too hard; you end up having to babysit them in a way because it gets pretty boring being on the road

Your newest single "Radiosurgery" from your latest album of the same title has just been released; it’s a great track and we’re curious to know what we can expect with the rest of the album.
Ian: Before we did this record we were listening to a lot of older Green Day and Ramones records because we were doing the show with Marky Ramone. I think a lot of the songs don’t really have much thought behind them, it’s more a case of less is more. They’re just basic four chord songs with our melodies and Jordan singing on top. I don’t think there’s much more to it than that but it is a rock n roll record and I think people will like it

Over the years you've made some great music videos, what would you say was your best and worst videos to make over your career?
Ian: My least favourite video to do was it’s not your fault; it was one of those videos where they had people attempt to pick out clothes for us. I can’t fucking stand that because I just like wearing the same ratty shit that I’ve had for years. My favourite video would have to be listen to your friends because it was fun and easy. When you get into the treatment for the video your about to do it becomes a lot more fun. Sometimes when you get a treatment and you’re like this could be cool but who knows what it’ll look like till you’re done, those ones give me anxiety. Videos are like a 50/50 thing, you go in there not knowing how they’ll come out and some days you don’t really feel like making videos especially since nobody really plays them anymore except youtube.
Have you done a video for Radiosurgery?
Ian: We filmed a video for radiosurgery about two weeks ago but we haven’t seen it yet so we have no idea how it’ll come out

Now you've done two amazing movie song cover albums over the years, even though your just about to release your new album, have you any plans or discussed doing another one in the future?
Ian: Hopefully not for a while but they’re fun though. It’s an easy record to do because the songs are already written by other people so you just have to go in and record them. The first one we did to tide people over between records and the second one we did because people were asking for one but I don’t know what songs we would pick if we were to do another one. I think if we did another one I probably wouldn’t want it to be movie songs

You've come to the UK quite a lot over the years, so you know it pretty well. I have a list of a few things that I’d like you to tell me what are your favourites from the UK
Ian: Nandos even though I don’t like the chicken that much. I like the Halloumi cheese, the garlic bread and the peri-peri chips
Ian: I really like the coke in the glass bottles you can get over here, everything is better in glass
Ian: Hundred Reasons. They’re my favourite and I’m sticking to it (laughter)
Ian: I’d probably have to say Reading and Leeds because we’ve played there quite a lot
Football team
Ian: I don’t have one but Cyrus would. I’m a big American football fan but not really a fan of soccer. My favourite American football team would have to be the St Louis Rams. My buddy works for the Rams so he sends me lots of signed stuff and my brother works for the dolphins and he sends me nothing (laughter)
Ian: I’d probably say London because that’s the first place we went overseas

You’re doing this headline tour along with Leeds and reading then it’s off back to the states to do an amazing 37 date tour, called punks not dead with some amazing bands! Have you got any plans to return to the UK soon for some more gigs?
Ian: We’re already discussing it but I kind of stay in the background and don’t really get involved in those kinds of things because when you know your whole schedule ahead of time it kind of makes you a bit bonkers

Throughout the 15 years of being in the band what would you say your main highs and lows have been?
Ian: The highs of our band would probably be our gold records and getting to tour with Green Day and Blink 182. The only lows of our band would be dealing with label drama but every band has to deal with the bullshit behind them. The best thing for us was that when we started out we were already on a major label before we had management so we’re used to doing everything ourselves. When we put out a record and the label is kind of doing nothing we’re like fuck it we’ll do it ourselves. The bottom line is now a days with the way record sales are you don’t really need a record label because how many people actually buy the actual hard copy of the record.

Social network sites seems to be a big tool in the music industry these days, with artists communicating with their fans over it and some even ditching their own website and having just a Social network page, what are your opinions on social networks as tools in the music industry?
Ian: I think that pages like that are great for bands because it enables people to communicate with each other back and forth but I do think there are some negatives as well. Not everyone likes what you have to say, like with Twitter. Some people think you’re a certain way but they don’t really know you as a person, they don’t really know when you’re joking or they take things way to seriously. I already deal with a lot of that kind of stuff now which I why I set all of my stuff to private. I think it’s fun to talk shit sometimes if it’s warranted and if I see a band that I think are dicks and they’re doing shitty things then I’ll want to tell people about it. They shouldn’t be assholes if they don’t want people to know about it.

One last question that we ask every band, if you could be an animal out of a zebra and a giraffe which would you be and why?
Ian: I’d be a giraffe because they have longer necks so they could reach things which were higher up

Thanks for your time; do you have a message for your fans reading this?
Ian: Thank you so much for supporting our band, we appreciate it and hopefully we’ll see you next time we come through

New Found Glory – 21/08/11 – Birmingham Academy 2

Tonight I get to see a band that I’ve always wanted to see, but have never gotten round too. You know how it goes, you like the songs, you check out the tour dates but you never actually get a ticket, and if you do something comes up. This was that band for me, they’ve been around for over 12 years and they’ve played Reading and Leeds Festivals on numerous occasions and yet they still managed to evade me. Well tonight is different, I’m outside the Academy and I’m ready for some pop punk, the thing is, it’s not at the Academy, it’s at the Academy 2. Luckily it’s the same building so I head inside and check out the first support Save Your Breath

These Welsh punkers play a good set of fast old school punk, and by old shook I don't mean oi oi punk, I mean old school Greenday and Offspring with a twist of heavy breakdowns to make it sound more new and fresh. The are 5 members, and unfortunately the sound isn't great in the mix, but I’m sure they sound good on CD but at least the backing vocals are great, which add to the poppy New Found Glory style main vocals! The band goes down well and NFG’s Jordan watches a few songs from the side of the stage, I say the crowd are getting pretty warmed up and are ready for more of the same, but the next band isn’t going to do that.

Fight Like Apes
Are and Irish Electro punk band, you could say very Yeah Yeah Yeahs in style but allot more experimental. They start off with a weird and wonderful collection of noise, with random hits of the keyboard and the occasional shout that is definitely punk in its nature but it takes the crowd by surprise. They play a small set of songs, in which the lyrics are all over the place, and don’t tend to make the most sense, but they convey themselves through the music and stage presence with hair and body's going everywhere. I'm not sure the crowd gets it, but I do and I love it! It's different and reminds me of the Epoxies who are signed to Fat Wreck Chords. There's definitely a gap in the market for this style but maybe not supporting New Found Glory. On a plus note there set is short and so leaves allot of time for the main act!
New Found Glory
The Florida pop punkers kick straight into a 23 song set covering all 7 albums including a few covers! They start off the set with the amazing Understatement and the pace for the next hour and a half is set, fast punk songs that get the crowd and the band moving! They sound great, the mix is good and at one point in the set bassist Ian plays that hard that he messes up his bass and has to switch it out. I was confused when I arrived, why are New Found Glory, one of the best pop punk bands ever, playing the Academy 2? And half way into the set guitarist and Paramore lover, Chad Gilbert, tells us “We wanted to play some smaller venues as we miss playing to rooms with an atmosphere, we love big stages but you just don’t get the same feeling you do when you play to a smaller crowd of dedicated fans”. It makes sense, this band has played the world over, and to play to a smaller crowd than the norm, it makes the fans that are there feel special too, as they’re part of only a few hundred who get to see such a great gig. They play all the classics to perfection, including; All Downhill From Here, Kiss Me, Failures Not Flattering, Dressed To Kill Hit or Miss and ending with My Friends Over You. They even play the newest single Radiosurgery and give the Birmingham fans a treat when they play Boy Crazy due to chants instead of Better Off Dead. This band love they’re fans and they love they’re music, Chad tells the audience “I’m sick of people hating on pop punk, they think it’s a bad name to have, but we love it, it’s what we do and we know you love it to! So here’s to all the pop punkers out there!”.
Overall tonight’s been a great! With some interesting support bands and a long set of classic New Found Glory songs no-one is walking away disappointed. I’m happy that I’ve seen New Found Glory, but at the same time I’m annoyed, annoyed due to the fact I never checked them out live before!

New Found Glory 4.5/5
Fight Like Apes 2.5/5
Save Your Breath 3/5

Monday, 1 August 2011

Athlete - Birmingham Institute - 31/07/2011

Tonight is my first time at the HMV institute even though it’s been open for about a year now, and I tend to go to allot of gigs! Unfortunately I’ve not been to all that many this year, it’s just been one of those years where nothing seems to go the way you want it to, so I was glad to be going to see one of those bands that have been there for most of my adult life, who I have seen a few times before and who’s music always puts a smile on my face.

I arrive and the venue and find out the gig is in the part of the building called the Library which is in size like the academy 2 but is styled rather differently, with a balcony and weird triangular pillars that block your view from the bar, so you have to get in with the crowd or be about 6ft to see the stage whilst having a drink. The venue is nice though, the lighting is atmospheric and the crowd are all closed in so it feels like everyone is in it together, unlike other venues where you spread out and feel bad if you bump into someone.

But anyway, that’s enough about then venue let’s get onto the gig, the support band are called My First Tooth and are a four piece from Northampton. They consist of two men and two woman and sound rather folky. They have a nice consistent sound made up mainly of acoustic guitar, loud bass, snare drum and violins. They’re definitely Irish sounding and use many traditional instruments throughout their set.

“Tonight’s our last night on the tour and where already getting the post tour blues” They then ask the crowd to join in but don’t actually say how, I worked out that it was clapping with the bass drum but the rest of the crowd didn’t. The crowd seems rather nonchalant even though they go into a song which is reminiscent of Mumford and Sons. The next song is without bass and to fill in the gap the bassist claps and does backing vocals to a song that reminds me of the Magners advert (Galway Girl), but she flaps around like a fish out of water (literally what a fish out of water looks like!)

Overall they’re pretty good but this crowd came here to continue the support for one of Indie music’s best kept secrets, even though they have had success they’re still not up there with the Elbows they’re still much like the Ben Folds of the music world.

As the tour name suggests Athlete tonight are stripped back, the songs they’re playing are different to the cd's and this is due to the mellowness of the gig, all 4 members are here but the style is more acoustic with keyboards rather than full blown samples and electric guitar. Athlete are not a heavy band but there is a subtle difference in the sound between the cd and tonight and this difference makes a change as the atmosphere tonight is more of a sing along than a band playing to a crowd. If the band had spread out around the room instead of on stage then it would have made it more intimate but that's just my crazy ideas, there has to be a stage or it would be a sound and lighting nightmare!

The different, relaxed sound, shines through with songs like Half Light and You’ve Got The Style are stripped back and raw and instead of the big breakdowns the sound is cut out and heavy bass is lowered, so the atmosphere is not spoiled.

The singer, Joel Pott jokes "This is us stripped back, not stripped off as it would be weird! But were going to play some songs a bit louder and it may be different than what your used to!"

This makes the gig turn into something more like a remix album, than a straight like for like playing the songs as they normally sound and I guess that's a good thing as it makes it more interesting for the band to play the same songs, that they’re been playing now for almost 10 years. They burst into Westside and it sounds very different, as if it was being played underwater with weird, chugging bass and a repeating keyboard sample that sounds like a submarine. The crunchy guitar breaks through just enough to make the breakdown come alive and sound just as fresh as it did all those years ago.

Joel say’s “This is Last night and it’s rather relaxed, but we've been on the whisky! So it will be a good end to the tour” The band continue to play through classic tracks including Beautiful and El Salvador and end the night on the instantly haunting Wires. The crowd love it and sing throughout the set, with glasses held high a good time is definitely had by all!

Athlete are set to go back into the studio and record some new songs, and I’d recommend that people check them out, as they’re a great band that all the family can chill out and relax too.

My First Tooth – 3/5
Athlete 4/5