This is for the ones didn’t overcome the odds
Still stacked against them.
For the ones who dropped out of school
And didn’t launch a startup.
For the ones who left a career
To follow a dream that didn’t want them.
For the ones who fought a family for a lover.
For the ones who gave up when the going got tough
And the ones who didn’t even try.
This is for the ones who don’t roll with the punches.
They’re built to bleed
But it’s all right.
If you feel like letting go.
Let’s be clear.
‘Hey’ is the greatest shoegaze track to emerge out of the 90s.
I would listen to ‘Hey’ before I listened to ‘Soon’ or ‘Alison’ or ‘Pearl’ or ‘Black Metallic.’
And Blind Mr. Jones are only the most exotic group to ever walk the earth.
Because Blind Mr. Jones are the only the only group I have ever known to have a flautist as a band member.
How many flautists could there possibly be in Marlow?
(filling in crosswords on park benches)
Shoegaze community, you have let me down.
Your tenacity is a delusion. Your loyalty is an illusion.
I’ve only been playing nothing else for 4 days.
Maybe don’t listen to anything else for a while.
The bandmance between Whirr and Nothing is legendary, and the friendly rivalry/imminent bloodshed between Whirr fans and Nothing fans maybe even more so. Hop over to either band’s page on last.fm and you’ll find comment after pointless comment fighting the interminable fight to answer the question that has haunted mankind for the last four months.
Guilty of Everything or Sway?
At AE, we pride ourselves on being a beacon of unwavering objectivity. If it’s emotionless appraisal you’re after, you’ve come to right place. Aglet Eaters never allows its opinions to be swayed by even the most dogged of majorities, least of all by a majority that erroneously believes Nothing’s Guilty of Everything is a better album than Whirr’s Sway. Such a majority is not only mistaken, but also partially deaf.
I say they are only ‘partially deaf’ because there is no doubt that Guilty of Everything is the second-strongest album to come out of 2014. Who can even count the number of babies that were conceived to the outro of ‘Bent Nail’? Who hasn’t abruptly deserted a significant other in favour of a life of solitary prayer and devotion to ‘Beat Around the Bush’? How many wars have we prevented by simply seguing from ‘Endlessly’ into ‘Somersault’?
But to say it is superior to Sway? Impossible! NOTHING is better than anything by Whirr.
(…OK I see what might have happened.)
Whirr aren’t receiving a whole lot of love at the moment, owing to their slightly abrasive online personas. You’re not supposed to mistreat your fans, apparently, but if you don’t, then how can you tell apart the ones who really, really, really, legitimately love you always and forever <3 <3 <3 ?
See, you couldn’t pay me to not listen to Whirr. You could try, though, if you’re the kind that enjoys a challenge. Whirr could run over my foot with a stretch Hummer and I would ignore the crushed appendage as well as the wanton destruction of the ozone layer and still limp loyally behind them. Whirr could sleep with my best friend and hold me responsible for their lapse in judgment and I would still love them more than my own useless life. Whirr could put out a restraining order against me and I would remain stolidly convinced that they’re just playing hard to get. Under pain of death, the absolute worst I can say about Whirr is that the first 15 seconds of ‘Swoon‘ are probably unnecessary.
Despite Sway not being Distressor, who wouldn’t give up the rest of their lives for a day with the 20 second bridge at the end of ‘Press’ (2:22 – 2:42)? Lovers have died waiting for each other on either side of war-torn borders with “I like the theme of you and me swaying slowly” on their lips. And the day Hope leaves you, her parting words are “weigh me down and cry”.
I’ve played Sway so often, even Whirr have told me to get a life.
It’s playing again.
Album of the year 2014.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Every online publication has its darlings. Drowned in Sound unfailingly raves about the National. The Quietus will never get over Swans. NME is still hung up on anything that sounds remotely like Oasis. And I remember my budding hatred for Pitchfork came into full bloom when they removed MBV from the #1 Spot on their “Top 100 Albums of the 90s” replacing Loveless with OK Computer (which, till then, had sat at the equally undeserved #2 position).
This is where I would usually launch into my rant about the hypocrisy of ‘independent’ music publications that are meant to serve as stalwarts of taste but instead end up catering to audience expectations, and their own set preferences, but let’s accept it – advertisers want eyeballs, not originality.
Me, I’m no innocent. The Microdance are Æ’s babies which is why I’m stoked that Alex is down to talk about their new album New Waves of Hope months before its official release.
It’s TMD’s very first LP – they’ve been a singles group so far and I’m a big fan of their before-they-were-famous stuff (‘Fucking Fucker’ is fucking phenomenal). However, given this, er, DYNAMIC era of music production and consumption we’re living in, why put an album out? What purpose does it serve? Does the end justify the means? Why are we even here?
Existential crises rule. OK, here we go:
Æ: FINALLY we have an album! Thank [higher power of choice] New Waves of Hope releases in 2015 because if not I’d have to make room for it in my best of 2014 list and I really don’t want to do that. How does it feel to have an actual long play album out and why did it take you so long to put one together?
Firstly, it feels great to have New Waves of Hope ready to go. I’m confident that this one will feature in your best of 2015! I’d say it’s ten years overdue – not for this band, but for me personally.
The short answer to your second question is: ADHD. It’s a term that’s being thrown around quite liberally at the moment to describe the cultural and artistic shifts of this generation – you know, instant gratification, the death of the album: what we’re calling the iPod shuffle generation. Referring to that cultural change – which has as much to do with new business models as it does the people buying into it – as ADHD is a lazy misnomer. I’ve lived my whole adult life with no executive function. It’s a pretty pernicious and insidious disorder and my diagnosis this year certainly explained to me why I have been functioning at something like 5% of my capacity in every element of my life, including music.
Anyway, we got it done and I really hope that it will open the floodgates for this band to be as prolific in releasing material as I am in writing it. This is not in any way a reflection of my band-mates – it’s not their fault I never finished and sent them the 1,200 song ideas I’ve had in the last three years. They are fucking fantastic – they just have to deal with this dawdling idiot!
Æ: Is there really a point to putting out an album at all? Why not just stick to EPs and single tracks? Don’t get me wrong – I think full albums are manna from heaven, but who else does?
That’s a tough one for me to answer because I think I’d need to divorce my romantic idealism from the cold truth. New Waves of Hope is 70 minutes long; there is no dip in quality anywhere – we made damn sure that it’s A* TMD throughout. So, in theory, it does its job for those people who still want to be immersed taking in an opus and I’m happy about that. I also truly believe that we’ve made an album of the sort that not many bands out there are even capable of making – notwithstanding whether or not they would choose to, whether their label thought it a good idea etc. So, given that it’s ten years late, given that it’s 14 songs from a pool of hundreds, and given that we would want our favourite bands to release something as expansive as this, we’ve justified it.
The album format also gave us the opportunity to go a bit deeper with a particular sound. We were very conscious that it should be a cohesive work – just because we think albums work best that way – so it allowed us to explore and mine that territory as deeply as we could. What we have lined up next could be material that we didn’t feel was congruous. We’ll probably put out a gothy, new wave, shoegaze type EP within 9 months of the album’s release. I’m also super keen to go heavier – like crushingly heavy! (zomg a Jesu version of Devour! - ed)
The cold truth may be that no one gives a shit! But at least Gavin, our amazing producer Frankie Siragusa (who played a huge part in guiding the album’s vision) and I can say that were integrious and didn’t pander to some low common denominator even if we were being somewhat quixotic!
Æ: I don’t blog as much anymore, because I’ve got a job now and it leaves me with not much time to put my thoughts together. Do you feel the luxury of time to introspect or come up with ideas is where creativity comes from or am I just being a slacker who should get off my bum and go write something amazing?
Ha ha! Maybe a bit of both. I have no idea how I create – none whatsoever! I’m amazed that people think I’m a productive guy because it feels like I’m doing nothing 95% of the time; especially during the depressive periods since my diagnosis. I think what actually happens is that those flashes of inspiration and what becomes of them are somewhat out of your control on a cognisant level. That’s not to say that we are not responsible for them – more that we are a conduit for an energy that we did not create consciously. I know people who allot time to write – as in ‘I’ll sit down to write my album from 3-6pm every day’. That’s alien to me. Maybe you’re the same. Don’t think about it too much!
Æ: What makes you WANT to make music every day? Are there days where you feel like going ‘fuck it, this is pointless, no one cares”? (aka: what are the best and worst things about the music industry today?)
I don’t want to make band music every day. If it wasn’t for Gavin (the longest serving member of TMD besides me), I’d have gone solo a couple of years ago because being in a band this good in London in 2014 is a thankless task. There is no reward commensurate to our quality. There is nothing good about the music industry these days. People can argue that there is more opportunity and freedom for emerging artists. That is bullshit. The open market that is the internet has completely removed any filtering system and so we’re competing with 100,000 bedroom artists for a write up in a blog that has 50 readers [gee, thanks – ed]. In the old days, you listened to what was played on 120 minutes because there was no other means for bands to reach you – there was a quality filter that at the very least ensured that what you heard what fit for public consumption. I’ve also noticed that the model is now predicated on giving people what they expect; whereas there was a time when it was about spirit – the spirit and life of something new.
Æ: I have asked you nothing at all about New Waves of Hope. What are more than one and less than five things you feel everyone should know about the album?
1: It’s a grower not a shower. It has depth and that will lend itself to longevity.
2:It features Nicole Fiorentino (Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt, The Cold & Lovely) on backing vocals and Eric Gardner (Morrissey, Tom Morello, Tegan & Sara, Cyprus Hill, Moby, Iggy Pop) on drums.
3: A digital download will cost you less than a round of beers at the pub and will lead to you owning an emotionally edifying work of art that will live under your skin like an internal comfort blanket for the rest of your life.
Up until the album’s release, I find I can afford to buy a pint AND invest in a TMD track without burning a hole in my pocket. Who knew? ‘Making Plans for the End’ off New Waves of Hope is up for purchase over at Boxing Clever Records. Click here to pick it up.
Les critiques de Sway le déclarent une abomination. Pitchfork l’a qualifié d’album « paralysé » dans sa critique incompréhensible et lui a donné 6,9 sur 10 (bien sûr, Pitchfork est lui-même un site web abominable – mais quand même…). Un autre site lui a donné 4 sur 10, disant, je cite, que « Les voix ressemblent plutôt à une murmure et on n’arrive pas à les comprendre. Sans ces voix, cet album transmettrait le même message. »
Evidemment, M. Smith n’a jamais écouté une note de shoegaze.
Moi, je n’ai eu besoin que de 30 secondes de ‘Press’ pour arriver à cette conclusion: nous n’avons pas eu – depuis Guilty of Everything par Nothing – une sortie si belle, si émouvante et si authentique. Comme son prédécesseur, Around, Sway reste fidèle à ses racines – un hommage respectueux aux origines du shoegaze. En même temps – comme dans toutes leurs créations – Whirr apporte son sens de l’actualité – le groupe ne vit pas dans le passé, mais l’amène avec lui, en l’intégrant dans une esthétique contemporaine.
Fidélité – Whirr est une manifestation du genre – de la ‘discorde’. C’est ça l’essence du shoegaze. Je suis sûre que les membres du groupe ne seraient pas d’accord avec moi, mais selon moi la contradiction est le cœur de ce type de musique. Les voix éthérées flottent au-dessus d’un bruit intolérable. Un groupe abrasif crée des chansons d’anges. Les journalistes/bloggeurs – ils n’arrivent pas à réconcilier les deux idées. Nous préférons une vie simple – composée de noir et de blanc. Le genre nous oblige à faire face à la réalité incongrue. Whirr – ils font la même chose.
C’est subjectif, la perception de la musique. Je l’accepte. Sauf que – non, il n’y a aucune doute que Whirr a sorti un album magnifique. Ce qui est ‘subjectif’ est l’interprétation de leurs bouffonneries sur Facebook. Le groupe – M. Basset, en particulier – ne respecte pas le ‘tact,’ et moi, je suis avec lui. Ça lui est égal. Pour Whirr, les fans ne servent à rien, et moi je suis ravie de cette vision. Je ne peux pas exprimer suffisamment mon respect pour des artistes qui créent l’art pour l’art et pas pour les gens. Et Whirr – Ils sont têtus, ils sont orgueilleux, et ils sont arrogants. Mais ils sont honnêtes et rien n’est important pour eux sinon la musique.
C’est ça – l’authenticité.
Born the son of a god, believed to be the lowly son of a lowly charioteer, he lives a life of quiet misfortune.
Adopted as a brother by a king, he appears as a suitor before her. She mocks him mercilessly before an open court.
He should hate her, he tells himself, but he never forgets the tilt of her chin or the fire in her voice.
She first sees him when he appears for her wedding which he hopes is to him.
She knows it can’t be, and uses her voice and crown to ensure it.
She weds his rival, but never forgets the eyes that now refuse to meet her own.
Her husband kills him while his back is turned during a misplaced battle for a barren kingdom.
Years later, when she falls by the side of the road, he reaches his hand out to hers.
In a perfect world,
the perfect place is with you
the truth is the world is without love.
See also: The Palace of Illusions
I don’t know if you already know Shauna McLarnon at all. She’s the tireless singer/songwriter/PR person/mother who, together with husband/composer/co-frontperson Alexx Kretov make up Ukrainian stargazing duo Ummagma.
Not unlike Tears Run Rings, Shauna and I have been trying madly to get Ummagma on AE with a success rate hovering around zero. It could be due to sheer laziness, mutual distraction, my subliminal aversion to Pink Floyd, or, most likely, the simple absence of a musical moment to capitalise on.
Fear no more, dear readers, for that moment is now. AE, along with a couple dozen other blogs from around the world, has been selected to premiere Ummagma’s newest video – a trippy wander through time and down ‘The Road to Lees’
We feels speshul.
Far be it for us to simply thwack an embed code into a post and call it a completed entry – at AE, we’re all about analysis, critique, debate, and poking our nose into other people’s business. And how kind of Shauna to comply.
Coming up – “Why would you reference Pink Floyd, are you out to get me?”, “What’s a music video do, anyway?” and “So…. Ukraine, huh?”.
But first – ‘The Road to Lees’
It sounds innocuous enough – ‘where’s your name from?’. But I’m asking YOU specifically, because “Ummagma” sounds a lot like the first Pink Floyd album I heard. Ummagumma, the album, caused a dull, persistent cranial throb the instant I turned it on and from that day forth PF and I have been unable to make nice. So my question to you is – WHY? Why are you Ummagma?
That’s a good question – I’m not sure I ever heard an explanation of why Cocteau Twins decided to call themselves that, or even Pink Floyd for that matter – that name must have sounded pretty faggy at that time (now you’ve got me wondering about that) but I do recall hearing the story about Duran Duran being named after a comics character. I must admit, our story is likely just as silly as that.
There is indeed a link between the name Ummagma and Pink Floyd’s fourth studio album – the short version is that, yes, Ummagma is a shortened and much easier-to-pronounce version of Ummagumma. Go figure.
The long version goes like this: Once upon a time when Alexx was a boy, his dad was big time into Pink Floyd, slyly managing to obtain such recordings when many could not. He shared that love with Alexx, who, you might notice, was inspired by Pink Floyd more than most – you can hear that their effect on a lot of our music today. Pink Floyd were among the first groups to treat songs as if they were soundscapes worth exploring and they took the listener on that journey with them. Now Alexx was using this nickname on various photography and sound forums (it seems a bunch of those old messages will be on the net forever now) and we both considered this name for our duo, along with “Antigravity”. Ummagma won out and thus were born the name of the band, the self-titled album and the accompanying “other” debut release issued on the same day.
What is the story behind ‘The Road to Lees’? How come you chose to make a video for it?
‘The Road to Lees’ was composed a few years ago, when Alexx wasn’t sleeping well. At about 5 a.m. one morning, he was out having a cup of coffee on the balcony of our apartment when birds started to sing. He grabbed a recording device to capture the sound and that is what you hear at the beginning of this track. The rest of the song was inspired by a vision of a journey from there to a fantastical timeless place called Lees and the brilliant experience en route.
We thought about the ‘timeless’ element of the song in its audio form and we wanted, in making the video, to somehow translate that into something related to time and its meaning. We didn’t see this so much about the future as about the past and present and the connection between the two. We wanted nostalgia and the intangibility of time and past events to be part of the concept for this new video.
Unfortunately however, apart from that which was familial or community-based, what we knew as the “good old days” were based on a faulty foundation, which we’re only figuring out now. Just the same, this is still a happy place for many. It is this happy place, these memories, that help us to overcome all the crap we’ve experienced on the way, letting us move forward.
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: How is the situation in Ukraine affecting your music making or musical direction? Or, more broadly, what do you find the effect of politics on art to be?
Well, speaking for myself, my psyche has taken a real beating during this time. It’s really hard to be in the kind of mindset I need to be in for creating – that applies to melodies and lyrics both. Writer’s block, you know? Alexx has been prolific in making music, as he always is, but it takes forever to complete & perfect a song when you are not motivated to hang out in the recording studio very often. Protests, unrest, mobilization, Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea, mercenary clandestine activity, tons of violence, information overload, and now conscription. None of this has been very positive for our mindset or anybody else’s here in Ukraine. I’m sure you can imagine.
We’ve had to apply ourselves to living this dream however we can – basically whenever inspiration finds its way in. And for me, there has been a lot of networking, research and organizational stuff happening in the background when songwriting escapes me, which basically has been for the past four months. Once in a while, we manage to pull a song off – either just involving Alexx or us both. In all of this, we’ve tried our best to muster up strength to create something beautiful despite all the ugliness surrounding us. Isn’t the light supposed to ultimately win out?
Ukraine’s not the greatest place to be at the moment, so you can hardly fault Shauna and Alexx for their retreat into memories and nostalgia. You’ve already got my constant call to support music ringing in your ears. As it happens, a lot of Ummagma’s stuff you’ll find for free, but if you feel it’s worth it, buy it.
I have to apologise for being so slack. I wouldn’t normally, because it’s my blog and I can do what I want, but the thing is I have had what, in journalistic terms is called a SCOOP, for close to two months now and I have selfishly kept it all to myself.
Tears Run Rings are, as we speak, in the process of putting together their third album – In Surges
Ed, Dwayne, Laura and Matthew aka the very mysterious, very beautiful Tears Run Rings came out with their A Question and An Answer EP in 2007 – classic shoegaze: all Slowdive reverb and MBV percussion. They followed it rapidly enough with the Always, Sometimes, Seldom, Never full-length in 2008 on which you’ll find the unforgettable ‘Mind The Wires’. Their third album, Distance, is bags sweeter than these two and came out in 2010. You can read all about it here.
Before getting to the good stuff, I’d just like to give a shoutout to fellow TRR-fanatic Jim Payne who helped my staid little brain think outside the box and gave me the thoughtful, tailored questions that I would never have managed to think up myself.
I’d also like to thank Jeff Ware of Deep Space Recordings for getting me in touch with this ostensibly elusive group and starting this whole interview process… in 2012. No excuses, Ed and I were both super slack (see, we’re made for each other) but it’s all kismat, because the delay means that we’ve now got answers from the entire band, except to the most crucial question.
I tried, but we’ll never know the lyrics to ‘Mind The Wires’.
Mind The Wires was a track we originally wrote back in the late 90s, but never had a chance to record it. We only played it live a few times with our noisy Autocollants-side project, Diplomat Haircuts.
There are three cities between the four members of the band. On your website, Tears Run Rings are described as a long distance relationship. So how does it work? do each of you independently record your sections of the track and then email them over to the others? Where does the final product come out of?
We start by recording drums and bass as a “live band.” Then we usually record parts over that, sometimes independently and sometimes when we get together 3 or 4 times a year. We used to use CDs and mail them, but now we can share tracks over Dropbox. The final product is usually a result of a long weekend of all of us sitting around together and scrutinizing each song.
What does it take to bring a Tears Run Rings album together? Is it a long spell of recording and ‘oh, we have a dozen songs, we’re ready for an album’ kind of thing, or is it a ‘let’s make an album that sounds like [this]’ kind of thing?
We get together over a week or two and write as many songs as possible as a full band. We don’t try to sound like anything in particular. Then we take the next few years to shape the songs in the studio. It is not surprising that most of our songs get rewritten two or three times before we are happy with them and really love listening to them.
Are there tracks that have been recorded that have not yet made it onto Tears Run Rings albums and may see the light of day in the future?
We have a lot of unfinished tracks that we ended up not completing for all sorts of reasons. Every so often we’ll revisit them to see if they are salvageable or can morph into an entirely new idea. As far as a future release of bonus/unreleased tracks, doubt that will be happening any time soon. We are more focused on moving forward with new material.
What’s the scene with live shows? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a poster for a Tears Run Rings gig, but I could have missed it. Do you perform?
We did have the wonderful opportunity to tour with Secret Shine in 2008. It was an awesome experience and we love them! However, since then we all have such limited time that we spend together, it’s a challenge for us to actually practice as a band. We tend to focus our time more on creating and recording our music. We would love to play and someday we will. World Tour 2025 maybe?
Who are the bands that originally inspired the type of music played by Tears Run Rings? Are there any bands on the horizon that have just recently been discovered by yourself or other band members that really stand out?
We have a wide variety of inspirations. We obviously make music that we like to listen to ourselves, so clearly classic shoegaze bands are high on the list (for example, Pale Saints, Blind Mr. Jones, and maybe a little Slowdive - heh). However, each of us have totally different ideas that we bring to our music. As for newer bands, some of the groups that we have been collectively listening to are Flyying Colours, Chris Cohen, Lower Dens, Violens, and Frankie Rose.
Do you find inspiration from artists on an ongoing basis that finds itself being incorporated in any way into current recordings of your own, or do you purposefully make an effort to avoid using any sounds that you feel may sound too similar to others?
Sometimes when we write songs, it ends up sounding too familiar to us, so we try and change it up to be more reflective of our own sound. We try to sound like ourselves, not any other band so we just do what we want to do. We’re totally happy in our own little shell.
Did the band start with an idea to have a series of ‘Happiness’ songs or was that just something that occurred over time through natural inspiration? Do you foresee further ‘Happiness’ installments on future albums?
Yeah it happened over time. We liked how the songs framed the first album as intro and outros, so we continued the idea on our second and soon third album. We like bookends. There’s also a secret embedded within each Happiness track, but we’re not tellin’.
Do you ever gain inspiration from a song that is of a completely different genre/style, but that which speaks to you on an emotional level and then inspires a song in the musical style of Tears Run Rings?
Yep. For example, The Knife has inspired us in many ways, although we sound nothing like them. Also, a lot of our vocal harmonies are not inspired by shoegaze bands.
We can tell there’s a difference in style between Always, Sometimes… and Distance, but have there ever been times in which band members (or the band as a whole) have discussed incorporating different – unexpected, maybe – musical styles into a song or an album, kind of like what Slowdive did with Pygmalion?
We’ve been using a lot more electronic instrumentation lately, and experimenting with changing sound textures. The new album is probably more ethereal than the last two. However, we didn’t make a conscious decision to do it this way; it just evolved. We probably won’t make a change to our sound intentionally because we like the music we make and we are still enjoying the process.
Do you or any of the other band members listen to artists that others may be surprised to hear are in your own personal musical collections?
Matthew – I listen to a lot of obscure arcane pop, and classic country music. Louvin Brothers are one of my favorite bands.
Laura – I hate country. But I love 80’s music of almost any kind.
Dwayne – I’m big into Swedish dance music and Britpop. The new Suede record is excellent.
Ed- ‘Send the Pain Below’ by Chevelle, and I’m not afraid to admit it.
Have you identified a track that’s a fan favourite? What’s the band favourite?
The fan favorite seems to be ‘Mind the Wires.’ We like that one too. We also like ‘Weight of Love,’ ‘Waiting for the End,’ ‘Distance,’ and ‘Divided.’ There are some tracks on the new album that we’re all especially pleased with as well.
Are you big in Japan? The Japanese version of ‘Distance’ contained two additional exclusive tracks. Have you found those tracks to be remarked upon or requested by fans outside of Japan? Any backlash from the local fans?
We don’t really know! We love our fans wherever they are!
Do you have day-jobs, and if so can we ask what you do?
Ed – Yes, I work as a designer and I run Shelflife Records on the side. [Home to AE favourite Airiel – ed]
Matthew -Yes, I am a very successful inventor and also run Shelflife.
Dwayne – Yes, I am a teacher and a father.
Laura – Yes, I work an office job.
What do each of you like to listen to that we wouldn’t expect you to listen to?
Matthew – Abba, Andy Gibb, Perry and Kingsley, Herb Alpert, Hall and Oates, Ministry, Lee Hazelwood, Everly Brothers
Ed – Claudio Rocchi, J. C. Pierric, Belbury Poly, Alan Parsons Project, UTFO
Dwayne – Erasure, Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, Man Without Country, Hood
Laura – The Sea and Cake, Benoit Pioulard, Royksopp, Robyn, The Knife
If not shoegaze, Tears Run Rings would be a _____ band.
Matthew – Pop
Ed – Rubber
D – Spacerock [cheater – ed]
L – Electronica
Finally – Who do I have to bribe to get the lyrics to Mind The Wires?
How about you tell us what you think the they are and then we’ll make them the official lyrics. I’m sure they’ll be better than ours.
Here we go – ‘Mind The Wires’ as interpreted by AE
Mind the wires,
Let your love come.
Slow down, slow down,
A million stars,
Meet your devilled cake.
But these words, these words,
Looks like rain, dear.
Am I right, or what?
‘I’m in the best fucking band in London.’
Alex Keevill and I have known each other as physical beings for all of five minutes. We’re at King’s Cross Station where I’ve just come in on a train from Brussels for the last leg of my holiday. When my original plans for accommodation fell through, Alex offered me a roof, bed and kettle for my week in London.
He’s not being ironic when he makes the announcement. Alex genuinely believes that the Microdance are the best fucking band in London. Me, I refuse to give him the satisfaction of acknowledging anyone in this strange new town knows the Microdance at all.
We’ve ditched my stuff at the flat and found ourselves in a bar in Dalston on my first afternoon in the city. The girl behind the counter appears to be mildly hysterical and I can’t understand why. She bursts into giggles every time she looks at Alex.
It all started when she asked him: ‘Aren’t you…?’
‘Aren’t I what…?’ he asked back.
I didn’t hear her speak after that. All I saw were smiles and uncontrollable giggling.
‘What’s all that about?’ I ask him.
‘She knows me from the Microdance.’
‘So I’m Alex Keevill of the fucking Microdance!’
‘So I bet she’ll give me a blowjob.’
‘I’ll go wait by the door.’
TMD’s fifth EP – Yo Yo @ 26 – released this May to a daft amount of online publicity. It could be something to do with In At The Eye Records (their label – always useful to have one of those), or it could be something to do with how music blogs the world over seem to have the mad hots for them; this one wants to be them.
‘Yo Yo @ 26′ – the A-side – is a brazenly good track that, for its obvious brilliance, I very, very reluctantly love. Less song and more sonic tasting platter, it positively bursts with (a selection of…) disarming hooks. Good luck choosing a favourite moment.
My heart, however, is set on the B-side – ‘Devour’ is the warmest, fuzziest, breathiest, and possibly darkest, track they have. All introspection, acceptance, angst, and a little bit of sadness – I probably find myself in it.
‘What you hear of us online is not wholly representative of the power of this band. Of course there’s enough there to get a feel for us but the recordings are all compromised for a variety of reasons. But I think time is the biggest one. We’re recording seven minute songs with dual guitars (and the rest!), synths and vocal harmonies in six hours! I’m by no means a natural singer; kind of like Deftones’ Chino isn’t. The difference being that he gets a month to do his vocals, I get an hour! That is also indicative of how the industry is changing. We’ll get there though’
A couple of days later I’m sat on the floor surrounded by five pairs of legs at the Microdance’s rehearsal space on the north end of Brick Lane. Alex doesn’t allow me to melt into the wall, so I take a spot by Gavin’s feet, mesmerised by his pedal board. They do two run-throughs of the set they’ll be playing at the end of the week, cutting off ‘Devour’s feet so it can segue into ‘Goodbye Lily Laser’. The two blend flawlessly, but I’m not too happy about my pet being mistreated. Lily Laser then morphs into the noise fest that will close the set – a nameless monster affectionately called ‘Death Jam’.
I play them a video recording of their ‘performance’. Gavin says something about not realising they were that loud. It’s nonsense. Nothing’s loud to willing ears.
‘I never played you my old bedroom recordings.’
We’re back home and Alex is mucking about with his laptop. He plays a track studded with the natural fuzz of isolation and echoes. It’s layered and textured and lonesome, with a burst of stark guitar. Before I can get a word out:
‘How great is that, eh? I wrote that when I was 22.’
‘It’s great.’ I parrot.
‘It’s that guitar, right? I mean just listen to it!’
He replays the solo. Then he tempers his statement.
‘I don’t play guitar as well as I used to, though. I haven’t played the guitar well for years now.’
Self-deprecation isn’t any more credible than self-aggrandisation. At the rehearsal I’d sat bewitched by song after seamless song punctuated by Alex calling himself and everyone else out on inaudible errors. Right now, he appears to be nothing but entirely honest and all I can do is wonder what ‘well’ sounds like.
There are more demos – demos that have been lying in wait for years. Demos that were recorded yesterday. ‘I wrote a new song!’ he declares every other day, and he plays it on the electric with elation so palpable it makes the room a little bit warmer. It’s always exceptional and it’s always frustrating because he already knows.
‘It changed my life,’ he’s explaining the story behind his side project. ‘my own ideas of self-worth. Before it happened, I thought I was god. After, it was endless days of anxiety, self-doubt and fear.
‘Affirmative meditation has really helped me out. It’s basically just me reminding myself what an awesome bastard I am.’
‘That’s better than having drugs do it for you,’ I concede, understanding the philosophy behind the mantra.
‘It’s the reason I created Captain Keevill and his Darkest Horses. The songs that came out of it were too dark for the Microdance.’
It’s true. While The Microdance aren’t quite the shimmery twee-pop the name might lead you to expect, their songs are extroverted, audacious and sticky – the life of any party. CK + HDH would falter in a crowd but radiate eloquence when left alone. They’re not too keen on being at the party.
London is really tough on a band like us. On our day we give people no chance but to succumb, we overwhelm them and thankfully that is more regular now! But if we’re 20% off our game or the sound in the venue is not up to it, trying to convey this art, which is perhaps a little more complex and profound than what people are used to, can be very difficult – it gets lost on a lot of people. It’s not easy being in a band whose music is about flourishes of spirit and unexpected turns when the appreciation of music these days is largely based on expectation.
We’re at the King’s Head Theatre where Adam Spreadbury-Maher has put together a spectacular production of A Tale of Two Cities. ‘Yo Yo @ 26′ and ‘We Are Made of Evil Things’ fill the room at curtain call. Alex introduces me to Carla – his friend and cousin – who asks me how I’m finding London.
‘It’s like any other city…’ I begin, tactlessly.
She’s not having it. She tells me there’s no other place like it in the world. She explains its culture and personality. She tells me London is beautiful.
Cities are never beautiful, but I don’t say that out loud. Cities are, by their very nature, ugly – loaded with crime, deceit, addiction, xenophobia and violence. Some cities are just better at putting up a front than others. London, I have no doubt, is as ugly as any other city in the world.
But I remedy my mistake and truthfully say I’ve loved everyone I’ve met.
It’s my last evening in London. Bridget‘s come over with her pup, Eugene. Bridget is ex-Microdance and currently the other half of Captain Keevill and his Darkest Horses. We turn the lights down and they start to play. Eugene has sprawled himself across my lap, his head buried between my legs. I like to believe he senses my melancholy, though it’s more likely he’s found a willing slave to scratch his head. Bridget blows him kisses mid-song. The moon is full, and the sky uncharacteristically cloudless.
I think about what Carla said the night before and I find myself believing it.
In this moment – in tremolo evenings and lamplight – London is beautiful.
I think about what Alex said on my very first day, and, incredibly, I can believe that too.
The Microdance are the best fucking band in London.
No really, BUY MORE MUSIC