Thursday, 28 February 2013

INTERVIEW: ESPER SCOUT

We recently put forward Esper Scout for the Emerging Talent Stage at this year's Glastonbury Festival, along with Moats, and Voices. We thought it would be a great idea to find out a little more about them, so we spoke with Sarah, Kirsty, Rebecca, and Lou from the band. 

To view the full long-list of 120 acts that made it through to the next stage of the competition, as well as all the blogs that took part in the voting process, head over here.

Q1. Congratulations on getting through to the next stage of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent stage! What made you apply for this competition? How do you feel about making it through?

Sarah (guitar, vocals): "I was spurred on through separate recommendations from two of our friends who are both passionate about the band and love Glastonbury. I didn’t tell the rest of Esper Scout and so finding out that we’d been selected for the long-list was an extra surprise for them!"

Kirsty (guitar): "Obvious to say we’re flattered! It feels like we’ve been working hard recently and it seems to be paying off. This is a really great opportunity, even if it just means that one or two extra people hear about us."

Q2. Where are you guys from? How did you meet?

Sarah: "We’re based in Leeds but Kirsty, Rebecca and I were born, raised and met in Manchester, actually our town is appropriately called Bury. Me and Kirsty ended up sat next to each other on a school coach trip to Germany and shared mix tapes. I’ve never realised before how poetic that could sound and I guess it is! When we got home I decided to pursue drums and she picked up the bass and guitar." (ED: aww that's awesome!)

Kirsty: "Yeah, at first it was just so you’d have someone to play with. Turned out alright."

Sarah: "Thanks for doing that! How I ended up singing and playing guitar in a band I’m not quite sure. After some ‘can I/can’t I?’ deliberation in the beginning I feel that something’s definitely started clicking between the four of us over the past year and writing and self-demoing for our mini-album which we’re recording in Spring has given us an injection of confidence."

Rebecca (bass): "Yeah definitely. The three of us moved up to Leeds in 2008 without much of a plan and met Lou through the city’s network of musicians. We’ve been writing and playing together since then but Esper Scout only came in to being a couple of years ago through changes in line-up and finding a collective and better focused mind-set."

Q3. Describe your music in three words?

Lou (drums): "‘Loud/Quiet/Rock’ says everything about us and nothing at the same time."

Q4. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Sarah: "I think you can hear reflections of dynamic, melodic guitar and drum driven bands like Thrice, Silversun Pickups and Alexisonfire in our songs. My most prized possession is a ‘Rap Band’ beatbox machine which plays half a dozen electronic drum patterns depending on what buttons you press. An Uncle bought it me for Christmas when I was six and apparently I sat there for days pressing different combinations of three buttons which, as much as they say they were happy for me, must have driven my family and their friends a bit bonkers."

Lou: "I never looked up to anyone in particular when I started playing as much as I think I just felt a natural draw to drumming; a compulsion to build and elaborate on beats. I found out that my Granddad used to play and he was a well-respected man which inspired me to keep on at it through admiration for him."

Rebecca: "What we seem to have in common is that we all found an interest in sound before we identified specific music or artists we liked. Non-musically, seeing injustice and imbalance when it comes to female rights first motivated me to pick up the bass. From a young age I felt strongly about women becoming as empowered as men and it made me realise how important it is to have your voice heard which in turn has influenced me artistically and expressively."


Q5. What's on your agenda for 2013?

Kirsty: "We’ve been asked to play Not Woodstock festival in Northumberland which is taking place at Featherstone castle 3 miles south of Hadrian’s Wall. Me, Rebecca and Sarah are visiting the USA’s West Coast in May and we’re hoping to play a bit whilst we’re out there. Open mics, guitar shops, wherever will have us!"

Lou: "We’ve just finished demo-ing our mini-album so after recording the six songs properly in the studio we’ll be busy with mixing and all the other things associated with a release such as videos, singles etc. Most importantly we’ll be playing some gigs in support of them, including a week down south which we’re excited about."

Q6. Any new bands/artists you recommend us checking out?

Sarah: "With us being based in Leeds you don’t have to look far to find great bands. Festivals like British Wildlife, which takes place at the Brudenell Social Club, and Live at Leeds, show just how high the quality of music is in the city is, both in terms of ideas and passion. Bearfoot Beware, ENVOYS, British Racing Green and Insatellites, for example, who are all currently working on exciting things. We’re really lucky to be able to be part such a well-connected and encouraging community of musicians, videographers, writers, graphic artists and illustrators etc., the coming together of which is aided by the newly opened Leeds Music Hub which is quickly becoming an invaluable resource."

Rebecca: "There are always at least three or four decent gigs a week across a wide scope of genres. Venues like Wharf Chambers and the Brudenell are really passionate about the bands they put on and how they treat audiences."

Lou: "We recently invited our friends Kassassin Street from Portsmouth to play with us and they are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. We wouldn’t be surprised if they did well for themselves this year."

Q7. If you could tour with any two artists, past or present, who would they be and why?

Kirsty: "It’s been a dream of mine for ages to tour with the Bloodhound Gang around Europe on their party bus. We’d need to bring some ear defenders and eye mask for Lou. The girl’s gotta sleep."

Lou: And a cycle helmet so nobody shaves my hair off. Nobody wants a Lou with a head-chill!

Q8. What 3 things would you have on your perfect tour rider?

Sarah: "I think I can speak for myself and Reb when I say porridge oats and marrowfat peas. Those actually might be a pain to prepare without a hob, so that’d be my third request. Am I asking too much? I’ll probably bring my own camping stove then, and a pan."

Rebecca: "Add bananas to the porridge and you’ve got yourself a treat for any time of day."

Lou: "Clean socks, a book of arrow-words and Diet Coke."

Kirsty: "Beer and twiglets. We chose more than three but on average less than three each if that counts."

Q9. Aside from the world of music, what do you get up to?

Rebecca: "Some of us get out cycling and running along Leeds-Liverpool canal and the forest near our base in Leeds. A bit of travelling too, when time and funds allow!"

Q10. How can we find out more about you?

Sarah: "Our main site is www.esperscout.com for news and music, with all external links accessible through icons at the top of the page."

Interviewer: Jon Sidwell

Many thanks to Sarah, Kirsty, Rebacca, and Lou for taking time out to talk us here at Music Liberation. We wish them luck in the next stage of the competition!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

ALBUM: SUNSHINE - SUNSHINE

Drawing together all the happiest bits of melodic dream-pop, beachy chill-wave and vintage, washed out shoegaze, Trevor Risk, Gillian Damborg (vocals), Tyler James Quarles (bass), Ian Urbanski (guitar) and Sean Tyson (who also drums for Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party) are Vancouver’s sunniest 5-piece.  

Sunshine are a band with a sound that suits their name and they defy - with a cheery, reverby shake of a fist - the dreary overcast weather of their hometown. Following singles 'Arnprior' and 'Two Hundred Grand' that cheered up our dark December last year, the band’s debut album arrives to brighten up our grey February skies. 'Sunshine' is both an eclectic and coherent record, with sound spanning the ranges and touching the edges of sub genres from watery washed out dream pop 'Wet Thankyous' to alternative/noise rock 'The Star Spangled Rammer'. This lush array of washed out sound is complimented by guest appearances by local bands as well as producer collaborations with the likes of Sune Rose Wagner (The Raveonettes), John Collins (The New Pornographers), Woodie Taylor (Morrissey) and Hayz Fisher (The New Values). Coupled with this producer Timothy Stollenwork is expert at pulling the uplifting, the melodious and the beautiful from the rocked out guitars. 

With jangly guitars and beautiful, bold and playful electric guitar riffs, this is dreamy jangle pop at its chirpiest. Melodies, riffs and even lyrics are relentlessly sunny and upbeat, but with a heavy use of reverb and vocals paled back in the mix it never gets too much. Guitars enmesh with vocals into an enticing hazed up sound, but riffs and melodies are not blurred out so much that the sound loses its rock foundations – example: the electric rock distortion in the outro of ‘Two Hundred Grand’; or ‘Mariah,’ whose twinkly music box synth riffs dart between distorted guitar solos in a sweet as sugar cloud of melodies. 

Heavy musical influences include Nineties shoe-gazers like My Bloody Valentine or The Swirlys, and alternative noisy dream rockers such as The Raveonettes. There’s a definite UK jangle pop vein throughout the album - ‘French Exit’ being a prime example, as well as 'Two Hundred Grand' -powered by a 60s beach pop rock feel (think The Byrds). ‘Star Spangled Rammer’ takes a purer 90s rock twist – noisy, melodic, and dark with tambourine bashing and classic riffs. Single 'Arnprior’ has touches of alt and noise rock and quirky melodies with bold, fuzzed up vocals reminiscent of The Flaming Lips

It’s a juxtaposition of twee vocals and melodies with more alternative rock leanings that define the sound of this debut self titled record by Sunshine. They are certainly a band to watch out for, with this album being yet another eclectic, life affirming gem from Canada.

Buy 'Sunshine' // Sunshine


Monday, 18 February 2013

ALBUM: TORRES - TORRES

Mackenzie Scott is Torres, a young 22 year lady from Nashville, Tennessee, who earlier last month released her debut self titled album. Like most solo singer songwriters she has a story, however hers is somewhat more believable and that only adds an extra dimension to what is a deftly strong opening body of work.

We are told that is was during the Christmas of 2011 that Scott was given her first electric guitar - a Gibson 335 for you guitar heads out there, which was a present from her family. With it she discovered that her previously acoustic based songs could take on a whole new form, growing into the ten songs which form her debut LP.

Opener 'Mother Earth, Father Good' starts with some sombre strings, before a distorted guitar is added alongside Scott's solemn vocals. This rather melancholy beginning might instantly make you feel like there's going to be great depth to this album; well you wouldn't be wrong. As soon as 'Honey' kicks in you know how important that discovery of the electric guitar has been, with Scott herself saying "I didn't quite find the sound I was looking for before I started playing electric".

'Honey' is a 5 minute plus amalgamation of EMA like vocals set against some gorgeous guitar work and knowing drums. The lyrics suit the music poignantly, with the not always perfect guitar and vocal delivery matching up with the content of infatuation, jealousy, and betrayal. It is a theme which is repeated and expanded upon during the course of the album. 'Jealousy and I' is purposely sparse, with the lyrics of "Jealousy and I, we're two of a kind, and she's all mine" resonating strongly throughout.

'November Baby' is perhaps the most personal and intimate song on the record, so much so you kind of feel like you shouldn't be listening as it sounds like an entirely private affair for Mackenzie herself. But it's this blatant honesty that makes the song all the more endearing, and with the backdrop of a gorgeous sounding guitar throughout the track is a real standout of the album. It's also over 7 minutes long, allowing for plenty of space for everything to be taken in.

'When Winters Over' is a more straight forward rock track, which is fine, but after the delightfully strong opening you are left feeling a little flat. Thankfully 'Chains' takes on a different edge entirely, led by an eerie drum machine, Scott's vocals are given full license to roam, and roam they do throughout, with her deep tones penetrating the icy sound scape which is created. It's haunting, truly brilliant stuff.

'Moon and Back' is more of the standard rock stuff, perfectly formed but...yeah. 'Don't Run Away Emilie' brings us back to the good stuff, as does 'Come To Terms', with both tracks stripped back nature a clear staple for success; letting the vocal/guitar combination stand out and just be lovely. The record finishes with 'Waterfall', which is a completely satisfying closing track, featuring soft hooks aplenty, warm ambient bass, and a positive vibe which is at odds with all of what has gone before, obviously.

Captured almost straight to tape 'Torres' is an album of often simple and sparse arrangements, something which is incredibly brave for someone of Scott's tender years to bare her thoughts and ideas on such an open platform. It's quite a personal record from start to finish, which when combined with her fairly rangy vocals and retro sounding electric guitar (which is pretty much lush throughout), ultimately leads to a debut album which is bold, authentic, and full of integrity - quite frankly its utterly brilliant.

You can download 'Torres' now, or buy the physical version on CD or Vinyl later this month - here.

Monday, 11 February 2013

ALBUM: FALL CITY FALL - VICTUS

The fine lines between hardcore punk, post hardcore and metalcore have been obscured within the last decade, predominantly thanks to the attempts by pigeonholed bands to free themselves of categorisation. So, you have hardcore bands positioning themselves as DIY punk rock, post hardcore acts aspiring to lose the ‘post’ (in an attempt to dodge association with the emo-end of the post hardcore spectrum), and metalcore bands refusing the crossover tag in a bid to keep the metal-heads onside. 

The most positive outcome from all this musical rejigging is the slew of bands that have just embraced all three subgenres, instead of worrying about what they are and aren’t. Canada’s Fall City Fall are one of these bands. Fall City Fall are: hardcore punk, post hardcore and metalcore. Signed to the legendary but largely inconsistent Victory Records, Fall City Fall are an extreme rock band made of five young members, including not one but two vocalists. ‘Victus’ is their Victory debut, and it’s half an hour of intense, penetrating hardcore, laced with occasional melody, intricate time signatures and bruising breakdowns. 

Opener ‘St. James’ serves as a short, slow-burning but brutal introduction, before the Every Time I Die influenced ‘Dissentipede’ kicks in with its vocal swagger and frenetic metalcore riffing. The majority of ‘Victus’ follows a similar, winning formula: fast-paced riffing and punk rock drums effortlessly glide into phases of progressive noodlings or post hardcore melody, before or after a Hatebreed-heavy breakdown. Tracks like ‘Anxiety Attack’ and ‘Shallow Believer’ showcase Fall City Fall’s advanced ability to create angry and technical hardcore music, with the latter featuring some hectic Dillinger Escape Plan-esque noise. Only ‘Many Lives’ offers a brief period of calm, but with its haunting prog guitar lines, the instrumental is more eerie than soothing. 

The record highlights come in the form of the impressive closing couplet: ‘Taken’ and ‘Victus’. ‘Taken’ is a slow, controlled moment of chaos, starting with quiet guitars and screamed vocals, progressively getting heavier and fuller, with an escalating, piercing siren sound adding menace in the background. Think a mini version of Converge’s title track from ‘Jane Doe’. The closing title track is an amalgamation of soaring post hardcore and crashing breakdowns, with pained screams and moments of guitar melody, reminiscent of The Bled circa ‘Pass The Flask’. 

The dual vocals of Zorn and Pylychaty are visceral and oddly complementary. The low-end growls are heavier than most hardcore vocal performances, while the screamed segments carry a bit of Frank Carter’s impassioned cries during his time fronting Gallows – the sound of unrestrained violence, conveyed all the more convincingly because you can comprehend the lyrics through the noise. Intermittent moments of pained vocal melody come in the form of the now commonplace off-key whine (à la Daryl Palumbo, Keith Buckley, Jason Butler). Fitting, but uninspired. 

Nonetheless, Fall City Fall have crafted a near-perfect debut record. Brutal but accessible, it’s crowd-pleasing in their inclusion of headbanging breakdowns, and progressive in their use of innovative mathcore and melody. Personally, I rank ‘Victus’ alongside the modern masterpieces by Converge (‘All We Love We Live Behind’), Letlive. (‘Fake History’) and Vision Of Disorder (‘The Cursed remain Cursed’) for sheer passion, but also for successfully bridging hardcore, post hardcore and metalcore without pretentious mutations of the subgenres’ – um – cores. Absolutely thrilling stuff. // Fall City Fall // Victory Records

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

ALBUM: HANDBOOK - TITANOMACHY

Handbook (Jake Brown), all the way from York (the old one not the New one) messes with vintage disco, Motown, soul and hip hop hooks, relentless stuttering cut-off and loops, and just the right beats. 'Titanomachy' is an album of danceable yet melodically appealing unadulterated remixes; Brown keeps the vintage soul of his samples alive.

It’s the relentless stuttering loop/cut-off effect of catchy hooks that really gets into your bones. Stand outs include 'Feet Feet' with an intensely listenable disco-style flute solo (yes - disco flute) that flickers in a loop/cut-off effect over funk beats and bongos. Irresistible too is 'If I' with a looped melodic vocal hook – a laid back soul feel with masterfully layered on subtle and solid beats, this is the sort of track that’s hard to switch off. Opening track 'All is Not As it Seems' hits you with afro sized vocal fanfares and light beats in a 70’s Motown mix up – Brown again manages to create a sound that’s catchy, danceable, laid back and loud.

'Those Days' plays with old school rap and deeper beats, whilst 'Ultimatum' steps away from disco towards the vintage Brooklyn hip hop feel: tasty funk guitar looped at the front of mix and male vocal and rap at the back. It’s a dreamy funk piece with attitude. Brown takes it down for tracks like 'Zero' – a sensitively mixed soul track with funk beats and emotional perceptivity - and the atmospheric and quirky 'Neurotic' – with stuttering drops into silence and auto-tune disco vocal.

We hope to catch this guy live soon, but for now head to bandcamp to check him out and download the album. // Handbook