From the depths of a bedroom in Rushden, Northamptonshire, George Hammond creates catchy, avant-garde art rap, influenced heavily by the likes of early 2000’s power electronics. We sat down with him not long after the release of his second EP Pain.
Who are you and what’s Nailbreaker’s deal?
I’m George, I’m a 21 year old musician. I’ve been making music under the name Nailbreaker since late 2018, mostly a mix of punk, rap, industrial and noise with some other influences thrown in. So far I’ve put out two EPs, a few singles and a megamix, done a few remixes and was gigging a lot until COVID happened. Since then I’ve been sat in my bedroom with a broken laptop trying to make disgusting noise rap.
Describe what it’s like living in Rushden/Northamptonshire in general.
Rushden isn’t that interesting. It’s a bit rough and got rougher during COVID. I live just off the high street and it’s been a bit run-down after the shopping centre by the lakes opened up. The lakes are nice and there are a few good parks but the town’s so small you get used to it quick. Other than that there’s not a lot going on other than crime and a couple of pubs. Northampton is a bigger town so there’s a lot more to it. It’s cleaner, little more upmarket, still generally working class. It’s got a good DIY music scene with a lot of great bands and rappers and the town centre has a lot more stuff to do than Rushden does. Rushden’s where I feel most comfortable though, I know it better than anywhere else.
What was the first ever concert you went to?
I think it was Jack White at O2 Academy Birmingham in 2012. Always been a really big White Stripes fan and Jack White was an early influence for how I approach music. It was a fucking sick gig and blew my mind as a 12 year old. The support act was this guy called Willy Moon and he was dogshit, but everything else was great.
How did you get involved in producing electronic music yourself?
I got into producing myself purely out of necessity. My old band Acolytes had gotten a bit inactive and a couple of the members were off to uni so I needed a way to still gig and make music without other people. Our bassist, Bewlay, had been making his own music under the name Dylon Dean and was making the beats for it on Garageband on his phone, so I took inspiration from what he was doing and figured out how to record my own stuff on Garageband myself. I had no experience of production or beat-making or mixing or anything before then which is why the first two NLBRKR singles sound so lo-fi, so you can hear me gradually figuring out how to produce if you go through my discography chronologically. I eventually started making beats on my laptop but still with a pretty minimal setup, and sometimes I do still make some of my beats on my phone. It doesn’t really matter to me how I make the tunes, as long as I have some way of making them.
You were recently featured on an Anthony Fantano live stream, what was going through your head as he listened to it & gave you advice?
It was a bit surreal, I’ve been watching Fantano’s reviews since 2015 and whether I always agree with him or not I respect his opinions because they’re generally quite well thought-out and nuanced. I knew as soon as it came up there would be a lot of “Bri’ish Death Grips” comments in the livestream. But it didn’t bother me considering Fantano’s fan we base will call anything from Show Me The Body to JPEGMAFIA “Death Grips”. I like Death Grips anyway so I don’t care. I was glad that Anthony seemed to like the track overall and he was very constructive in his feedback, and I had a lot of people reach out after to say they’d discovered my music through the stream and they really liked what I was doing. It’s always good when someone with that big a following gives small artists a platform and I’m happy that loads of people who would’ve never heard of me found out what I was doing because of Anthony giving it his thoughts.
Describe a typical Nailbreaker live show.
Very physical. Confrontational. Probably not very COVID-friendly. Personally I use playing live as a way to get out any negative emotions I’ve got that I otherwise don’t know how to express. It’s not really a performance “for” other people if that makes sense, it’s something I do for my own peace of mind. That’s why I play with the same level of intensity whether the venue is packed or completely empty. I can be quite violent with myself and tend to take up most of the room instead of playing just onstage but that’s not something I put any thought into, I just lose myself in the music and let my primal instincts take over. Not being able to play live admittedly hasn’t been great for me mentally because a lot of feelings I would purge in my gigs which I haven’t been able so when shows come back I’ll definitely be more at peace.
What are some of your favourite power electronics artists?
Deathpile, Prurient, Genocide Organ, Dreamcrusher, Pharmakon, Knifedoutofexistence, Whitehouse and Hunting Lodge. This is also the first time I’ve been asked about my taste in power electronics in an interview and I hope it’s not the last.
Often, artists from the P.E genre tend to tackle transgressive and taboo subjects, often far more to the extreme than say metal or punk sub genres. What inspires you to write about the themes in your songs?
I guess similar to my approach to live shows it’s really just purging the feelings I have that I don’t know how else to express. The reason the themes of depression, suicide, anti-capitalist politics or just taking the piss out of stuff come up is because those are whatever I’m feeling or thinking about at the time of writing. It’s not always doom n’ gloom, sometimes I’ll have lyrics that I write just to make myself laugh. Whatever I write though is always authentic to whatever I’m going through at the time.
When the pandemic becomes more manageable/comes to an end, what do you hope to achieve musically and personally?
Musically I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing pandemic or not. A lot of people say shit like “music’s the only thing I know how to do” and it always comes off cheesy but music is for real the only thing I know how to do. While I can’t gig right now, the pandemic isn’t stopping me from recording so I’ve got EP3 and a full-length mixtape on the go at the minute, as well as demoing new material for Sharkteeth Grinder (the mathcore band I play guitar in).
Personally, I’m trying to improve my health – physical and mental – and I’m gonna keep working on that. My knees are fucked from throwing myself around at gigs all 2019, the kneecaps float and pop out of place constantly, so I’ve been working on getting some strength and stability back and hopefully they’ll be in much better shape before gigs are back how they used to be.
Do you still believe that Nailbreaker was a mistake?
It depends. When it comes to my knees, head, hearing, back and bank account then yes, a terrible mistake. It gives me something to do though.
Tell us the story behind the closing track Nailbreaker Vs Nailbreaker.
I made the beat in late 2019 intending to use it for a different release which I never finished. I ended up coming to not like it as much so it got put on the shelf for a while. I listened to it again as I was recording Pain and I remembered what I liked about it in the first place so I decided to stick it on the EP. Lyrically, it’s about allowing self-destructive tendencies to get in the way of your own progression, how we sometimes use pain as a motivator and source of inspiration yet have to constantly navigate how we deal with pain so it doesn’t consume our existence. The vocal sample at the track comes from an Instagram story Lewis from the band BLOOD-VISIONS uploaded a couple of Halloweens ago where he was walking home drunk in corpse paint upset about how nobody in Northampton would accept him for what he truly is, a black metal guy in 2019. The video’s since become legendary and I’ve had the audio saved on my laptop for a while looking for an excuse to honour it, I’m glad I finally got to shoehorn it in. Lewis was happy to be included too.
What’s the response been like to Pain so far?
Actually better than I expected. I didn’t expect it to be universally hated obviously but I’ve had a lot of people tell me how much they love it and that it’s my best work yet so the support has been sick. I’m always surprised when BBC Introducing plays my shit anyway so it was cool to see them get behind it too. I am really grateful to everyone who’s given any of my music my time – as I’ve said I make music solely for myself so the fact that anyone else gets anything out of it is humbling. Because the music comes from a very dark place it seems like it’s resonated with a lot of people. Obviously we all had a shit 2020 and I think most peoples’ mental health had gone to shit by the end of the year, and I’ve had a number of people tell me the EP reflected the state of mind they were in or reflects what living in 2021 feels like or whatever. This music exists to help me cope, anyone else getting anything out of it is a bonus.
John Myrtle creates the kind of music that is infectiously catchy. Through home recordings he’s developed a style that both draws from the past whilst being simultaneously fresh, warm and welcoming. Upon the first listen of his music you soon realise that the melody is each songs core, and these melodies are sure to be swimming around your head for days. He released his debut EP Here’s John Myrtle in 2019 and now has returned with his latest singles “How Can You Tell If You Love Her?” and “Get Her Off My Mind”, both cuts from upcoming debut album Myrtle Soup. Exploring themes of longing and loneliness, the album is packaged like a tin of soup to bring some home comfort. We spoke to John to learn about the new album, his songwriting process and what he’s looking forward to in the days to come.
Over where and what time was this album written and recorded?
Part of it was written in London and the other part of it was written in Birmingham where i’m from originally. I feel like some of the songs which were written back at home are more reflective. I mean the ones in London are more just pop songs haha.
You used the album to document the last year or so within isolation. What were some of the themes you were trying to explore within that?
I think I wanted to have an album that would document it more so in the process and ways in which it didn’t talk about the pandemic. So there’s a song on there called “Spider On The Wall” in which I assume the identity of a spider. So I talk about being at home with this spider, seeing everything you do and the spiders just as repulsed by humans as humans are by spiders. So I guess it was more looking at observations from home in that way rather than just being sad about being locked in. Although there’s one called “Ballad Of The Rain” which is essentially about someone who’s isolated in their house and all they can do is look outside, and they think of a tune which the rain has created haha. There are a few instrumentals which have quite weird noises like bubble sounds which is supposed to be someone making a bowl of soup. It’s all home spun and the home spun nature of it has been amplified by the fact that everyone including myself has just been indoors.
Is that why you chose the name ‘Myrtle Soup’ for the album?
I guess so, I thought it fit quite nicely! And I thought it was quite funny to call it Myrtle Soup. It’s homely, everyone likes soup. I think.
What made you sing within these characters rather than have them be from a personal perspective?
Even the love songs are me assuming a character in a way. I try and be personal but I always end up imaging different situations. Writing as someone else or thinking of different situations which you might not have experienced yourself gives you creative freedom to do whatever you want. If you’re just writing from your own experiences then there comes a point where you go “Yeah but that didn’t happen to me” or “That place doesn’t really exist so I feel like a fraud, I can’t actually write this” so you stop. So pushing yourself out there to try different identities just helps you write songs.
A theme that appears in some of your songwriting, especially older tracks is love and feeling uncertain about it. Why is that something you tend to write about?
I love pop music, older pop music mainly. And I like love songs, I think that’s what i’ve always been drawn to the most because I like trying to relate my own experiences to those songs. But I always feel that songs that are so sure about love aren’t reflective of how people actually feel. Everyone likes to write their own film for themselves with their own feelings and their own story and I feel it’s good to question that or at least acknowledge that in some songs. There’s a song on the album actually on the album that talks about actors playing parts within love.
What were some of those songs that inspired this sound?
I like a lot of 80’s and 90’s indie bands. I really like The La’s, with “There She Goes”, but I guess they’re not normally like that focused on love. The Servants, Shack, I just like all that British rubbish. I like the Kinks and The Beatles. When I was just starting out to record my own music I went to do “How Can You Tell If You Love Her?” and I had the song and I thought “Well everyone goes into a studio right?”. So I booked to record at a studio and it just sounded awful and I just felt like theres a better way of doing it. So I realised that with Ween, a band I really like, a lot of their early albums are just recorded on tape and as stupid as it sounds I never really knew you could record things on tape on your own. So I started researching different recording methods you could do at home. So now i’m described as “a 60’s guy” but its just tape! Sometimes I do want to sound like 60’s people but not all the time.
Do you think discovering that ability to record at home unlocked more freedom within your songwriting?
Yeah with going to a studio there’s usually other people there, and I always behave differently with other people and I feel the way you interact with them is gonna have an impact on what you’re recording. Whether it’s your performance and you feel a bit self-conscious about singing. Whereas if you’re on your own you can just do stupid stuff. You can probably sound really bad to eventually get really good, just let your hair down. In the long run it’s also probably cheaper. I think as well everyone does record from home to a certain extent but it’s the use of tape that people are put off with. Especially some label people they just think it sounded so old. You either sound like a computer or you sound like tape. I’m just ranting now haha, but it’s like if you’re a painter and everyone’s saying “Everyone’s using MS Paint now, why are you using paintbrushes?”.
Another part of your sound is having a juxtaposition between the upbeat feel of a song and the downbeat mood of the lyrics. Do you sometimes try and hide the lyrics behind this sound?
Yeah usually I will get the tune first and the lyrics come next. I struggle to write lyrics so the tune and sound of a song will come first a lot of the time.
The video for “How Can You Tell If You Love Her?” has you singing back in your hometown, what was your reason for going back there to film it?
Lockdown haha! But also recently i’ve also embraced things other than boring London. It’s nice that i’m from a different place and I thought people haven’t seen Bourneville in a music video!
Without shows at the moment what’s it been like releasing this music not having them to back it up?
It’s sad. It’s a lot of just having plans for the future. Thinking “Maybe in a few months we’ll book a tour” but it until it actually happens it feels very much like pipe dreams. Which is the same as doing music anyway, having people listen to it is a bit of a pipe dream anyway so it’s just that amplified.
What do you think that first show back will be like?
I hope it sounds good! I think everyone’s gonna be going crazy, glasses thrown everywhere!
What’s something else you’re looking forward to doing once everything’s a bit freer?
There’s a pool club that I play pool in with my girlfriend and we’re obsessed with playing pool! I’m awful but this place is cheap and quite lowkey so we thought we’d get a members card, which just means you don’t pay for entry when you go in. It’s not some sort of exclusive club though haha. It’s really fun and i’ve really missed it. I’ve also really gotten into snooker during lockdown and there’s something comforting about having it on the screen with all the colours. So playing it will be next.
What are your hopes for the album and beyond?
Well I hope it puts smiles on faces! It’s only supposed to sooth and please. I just want to keep making good happy music with maybe a bit of sadness and a bit of weirdness thrown in. I just want to keep writing songs, I just enjoy the craft of songwriting and it’s really fun to learn more about it and to keep going and hopefully other people will come on the journey with me.
Myrtle Soup is released digitally on June 18th and on vinyl on September 17th via Sad Club Records, pre-order here.
JayWood is the musical project of Winnipeg, Canada based artist Jeremy Haywood-Smith that at its core is ultimately infectious in every moment. His styles range from bedroom-pop, funk, jazz, indie-rock, psychedelic pop and just about anything in between. But the true enticement of JayWood comes from diving deep into the soundscapes he creates, with embellishments and subtle flairs of genius striking up within every corner. He’s now taken his next step into musical glory after signing with New York indie powerhouse Captured Tracks, whose roster has included the likes of Mac DeMarco, Juan Wauters, Diiv and Becca Mancari. His new EP Some Days will be his first major label release which was originally written and recorded in 2015 as his first venture of recorded music. Revisiting the EP he’s added new flavours of funk and undying grooves to bring the songs in line with the modern JayWood sound. We spoke to Jeremy ahead of the release to learn about the EP and his evolution as an artist.
The EP was originally written and recorded in 2015, what made you come back to it all these years later?
With everything going in with the pandemic and everyone stuck at home I was just sitting in the present and thinking about the past and I thought “Well i don’t wanna be doing something that is uncertain, like new music for right now” and I was just very much feeling a lot of writers block at the same time as well. Two things to do in that situation were just record covers or just revamp old ideas. So I thought i’d rather just polish off the first JayWood ideas that were not really done that well the first time and just give them a new life. As well as honouring the past and just reconnecting with that time when I was just writing pretty much every single day and getting into that mindset. Funnily enough it really helped with working on new music after that. I just found myself sitting in the past a lot and that’s what really spurred the idea to re-record those old songs.
At the time of writing the EP you were going through a lot of transitions, was the EP a way of documenting those or was it more of an outlet?
Yeah I definitely think both as some of those things were happening as I was writing it and some of those things were past and were done but I hadn’t really vented them out or really made sense of them. It was really like a journal entry. There are lot more songs on the original version but on this version I thought that I didn’t really need all the excess crap that’s not really doing much. It was just a way to vent and just track my thoughts because everything just felt like I didn’t really feel like I had my footing in anything at the time so working on the EP was a nice way to stay grounded and see what I was thinking at that time. And also reflect and make sense of that time.
To initially record the EP was something that took you out of your comfort zone, did coming back to the EP take you out of your comfort zone as well?
I think going back to it, it felt not necessarily out of comfort but definitely felt like I was taken back. I was almost re-learning how to play songs so it almost felt like I was making new songs on top of things that already existed. So it was just a weird getting into that mindset as well, so what was I thinking when I was singing these lyrics, what was I going through, putting some emotion into that. I think as well at that time as well the music was a lot more vulnerable too. In a sense I was getting out of my comfort zone by getting into that mindset where I was just saying what I wanted to. After that EP started to hide what I was really trying to say by adding more effects or being as vague as possible. It was definitely more of form of discomfort in just speaking your truth and being honest. And what I took from that is that I should just honour that way more in newer writing and just being honest in what I want to say.
Going from the bedroom pop sounds of Time your last album to the new EP there’s a lot more elements of funk and jazz within, what made you move over to this style?
I think when I first started writing music I was just trying to write what was popular at the time. Back in early 2014/15 Mac DeMarco was huge, Real Estate, all those types of bands were really big. So I thought I should really try to make music like this because it’s the popular way to go. But it was never really natural for me and it felt like I was forcing it out of myself and I didn’t really like it. So when I stopped and assessed and thought “What do I want to write? What comes natural to me?” and what i’m currently doing now was kind of the first thing to happen. So I thought “Alright it’s like the path of the least resistance” and I didn’t want to fight that and I kind of just went with it and continued to experiment and continued to dive deeper into what i’m interested in making. I think there’s definitely elements of jazz and funk and psych and all these things I like. I just try and take little bits and pieces of all the music I like so that’s where my current style came from.
What inspirations did you draw from for this sound?
Definitely Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the time and Neon Indian’s third album Vega Intl. Night School was the most important album I was listening to in 2015. I also got really into Tame Impala early in 2015, just after Currents came out so that was the album of my summer. And my biggest inspiration always and forever is Gorillaz and that’s a project that’s constantly changing. I’ve always loved that idea but I never thought I could do that, then I thought “Oh wait, there aren’t any rules when you do music your own way and at your own pace”. You know I can do that and I can constantly be re-inventing and changing what I want to do and it doesn’t need to be this whole thing, it can just be part of my ethos. I was definitely still listening to the bands that were really popular at the time, but i was just trying to not make what they were making. Anything that was really capturing something for me.
That evolution of sound, is that something you look for when writing new material?
When I start a new project I got to the idea of “What haven’t I done yet that I want to try?” which is the big thing. I listened back to my old music a lot when I’m working on new music, so I can think “this is where i’ve been, where am I trying to go?”. I often just don’t listen to anything at that time when I’m writing, I don’t listen to any new music. And then after thinking what haven’t I done I become fully uncomfortable when working on new music. So i think “This sounds a lot like something I shouldn’t be doing” but then i’m like “Alright I’m just gonna go with it and hope for the best” haha.
I often have ideas that aren’t necessarily songs or sound ideas, just like concepts where I think “I want a really jammy song” or “I want a song thats only four chords all the way through or just stuff like that. And I think just having little challenges for myself just keeps me connected to what i’m making at the time.
I can definitely here that on the EP, with “Some Days” being jazz and funk infused, then going into “Dreams” with the tender sweeping string section.
Yeah for the EP I just really liked the contrast of going from one thing to another thing, then back to another and another. I think “Some Days” and “What You Do To Me” have a similar vibe to them, but everything in the middle has something different so it just feels like a nice full package.
Going into the EP you were writing the first thing that came to your mind, is that an ethos you still keep today?
At that time music was just pouring out of me and I was constantly creative and it was so easy. Now my old mind is just working against me to some degree. I feel like it takes a little longer to get an idea fully formed, but as soon as I have one part the rest will come a lot easier. Music kind of happens away from instruments for me, like i’ll be going about my day and I’ll hear a melody in my head and then think “Okay now i just have to find that sound” and then I have to build around that sound and then I can see a song forming. I try to use that first idea and try it out and incorporate new ideas and then rework it if it doesn’t work with the new ideas.
What’s it like now having signed to Captured Tracks and releasing your music alongside a fantastic roster of artists?
It’s still very much surreal to me. Obviously a lot of the artists at the time of originally writing were the biggest influences for me and to put it out years later on the label feels just like a complete full circle moment, just like “Holy shit that’s so cool” haha. It’s been really really great, everyone at the label has been amazing and I just feel very much part of a team and i’m incredibly grateful to be a part of Captured Tracks and i’m just super excited now. Obviously with releasing old music, it’s old to me but it’s new to everyone else and my mindset when it was done was thinking “I wonder if people will even respond to it well” but getting the response from everyone at the label and people listening to it for the first time is just very affirming to be like “I need to get on my own way a bit”. It’s been really great to have everyone hype you up and be your biggest support and just think “nice this is a cool moment in time for sure”.
Do you think it’s helped having the first release on the label something older to give people a taste of your sound?
100%. I was really nervous at the prospect of putting out a first album as being a new artist, but putting out an EP of old music is like “Okay i’ve got my footing, got myself a win” and it’s a great introduction. It starts people at the very beginning of this project so now I can work my way up to be current with everything. And now i’m super excited for the next project to come after this one because that confidence boost was everything. It just gave me time to really tinker and tweak on some new ideas and really feel good about everything.
I looked back at your soundcoloud and saw some old Mac DeMarco covers on there, what does his music mean to you?
I think with Mac it was the fact that he’s Canadian and i’m Canadian because for music you don’t see a lot of Canadians doing the cool big things that Americans can do. Like playing festivals to people or just touring around the world. That was the biggest thing seeing a Canadian artist that’s well renowned both in Canada and America. It’s a do it yourself approach. He just seems like a very approachable human being doing music. The music was just something that I didn’t think I would normally like, it just kind of happened that I really enjoy this for some reason and that’s really special where on paper I shouldn’t like this music but I love it. And I thought that I had to really honour whatever this is doing for me. His approach to music just seemed really effortless, but he also seemed like he was really hard working so I thought if I applied myself then i could do something like that. I think his evolution over time has been really inspiring to see, just see him come to form where it’s like “I can do the fun stuff and I can still be myself” within that without having to be the crazy character that everyone thinks.
Do you have a favourite release of his?
Salad Days was the one that really did it for me. But I think Another One was a really special one as it came out in 2015, which was really when I thought I was gonna commit to JayWood. The timing of it as well, I was having a great time and it was on the other end of Some Days where things were getting better and it was just really refreshing. It felt like a release that felt comfortable for him. I think at that point he was touring for 2 years for Salad Days and he was just like “here’s some new music”. So I was just like “Oh perfect thank you”. So that ones sentimental to me, it has a very nice by the water feel.
The reason I ask is because there’s a guitar solo at the end of your song “What You Do To Me” that sounds very familiar.
Ode To Viceroy! Yeah that’s exactly what it was haha! It was definitely a nod and that was exactly where my headspace was at and I didn’t want to shy away from it either. That whole ending part was me just saying “I want to do my own version of Ode To Viceroy”. Doing and ode to Ode To Viceroy in a song, making it a very meta moment and I had a lot of fun with it and I hope I don’t get shit on by people haha. It’s meant be very meta.
It’s a really fun addition just hearing that littler easter egg within it!
It’s so cool you caught that!
On the cover of the EP aswell as your last album you’re with an owl character, does that represent anything?
I never liked the idea of it just being myself on the cover, that’s just not me. I just don’t like being the biggest centre of attention. So creating a character that’s just an extension of myself just helps break the attention. Kind of like what Gorillaz is essentially where it’s a cartoon band and then music behind it. So it’s like i’m the music and this character is something within the project as well. As well as making stories and bridging parallels with this character has been really fun. I named them Walter to give them more life as well. It’s been really fun to figure out what to do with them, putting them into different mediums. My goal in the future is to have them appear in a cartoon or a comic strip and just extend on whatever this JayWood project becomes, it’s just having something alongside it to alleviate attention, just make it fun and keep it artsy in a way. So it’s a person but it’s also a very creative project and i’m excited to see what becomes more of Walter.
Do you think having Walter just gives you more freedom to say “Oh no hits them doing the music”.
Exactly! It distracts a bit and it moves me out of the full formed spotlight. Having them alongside me is just a cool juxtaposition I think, it’s strange but also something humanising.
What’s it like releasing this music at the moment without having live shows to back it up?
I think for this release in particular it’s been kinda nice as the whole label announcement, the music, the music video, all this stuff would have been very overwhelming for me if i’d have to go on tour as well. So to have a nice soft release where it’s just having some music and some video content, getting to know me. I’m settling into the label a lot more and by the time the next release happens and hopefully things are a lot more open and safe i’ll be really ready to go on the road.
After just performing nonstop it for a while just felt like I was losing the attachment and losing the excitement from it, so getting that back now and getting that confidence and excitement to perform again, especially with the support behind now is perfect. I want to build that up as much as possible so when it’s time to perform again then every shows gonna be better than the last and everyone’s equally excited as I am.
What will it be like having that first show back?
I don’t even know, it’s just hard to picture! Especially with capacity, you know every artist always hopes you get a full show, but a full show now is half of what it should be. That’s just such a weird thing to happen. I’m more than happy to wait for everything to be completely or at least 70/80 % safe so that shows can happen at a more familiar capacity. I would hate to see that divide in people, just having little pods of people. I’m happy to wait though as it gives me more time to do more video stuff which I’ve been having a lot of fun with lately. But at the same time I’m more than happy to perform when it’s totally okay. Even if that is just to the pods of people. I just want to be able to dance! I think that would be so disheartening if people wanted to moved but they’re not allowed to, maybe i’ll wait until people are allowed to dance and the footlose ban is up.
Tel Aviv native iogi aka Yogev Glusman is a craftsman of sound, a multi instrumentalist and producer who fuses together jazz, psychedelic pop, funk, folk and yacht rock to make soundscapes that are constantly shifting, swirling and swaying in their diverse and enticing movements. Being likened to the likes of Benny Sings and Jerry Paper, iogi has been making a name for himself for the past few years and now it feels like it’s his time to truly shine.
As a bassist, guitarist, violinist, and drummer, iogi has performed with several of Israeli’s biggest exports including Idan Raichel, the hip hop-leaning Yemenite sister trio A-WA, and Efraim Shamir and Yoni Rechter, both members of the legendary ‘70s Israeli prog-rock band Kaveret.
And now today he has returned with new album everything’s worth it, released via Raw Tapes, following on from his 2018 debut the ceiling. On his new album iogi is celebrating the joyous moments of life, backed by a swirling sonic landscape of psychedelic and jazz infused movements that are washed in an irresistible cool. We caught up with iogi to learn about the influences and ideas behind the new album.
What’s your musical story? How did you get into it?
I started as a classical violin player, and I played the violin from the age of 7 until I was 18 years old. At the age of 13, I got a classical guitar for my bar mitzvah from my brother & sister, which then led to the discovery of plenty of new music and genres that I was not aware of until that age, and that changed everything. When I was 17 I started playing the bass, and for many years it was my main instrument. Later in life, I got to play bass and guitar for many Israeli artists, and also tour with them worldwide. After almost 10 years of being a side musician, I had the urge to record my own music, which I did. From that point on, i started seeing myself not only as a musician and a player, but as an artist with his own taste. Since the first album came out, I have been more involved in studio work as a producer- for my music and for other people’s music.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound is a mixture of sounds and tastes that i acquired during my years as a music listener, but also as a musician and producer. Generally, I would say that it is indie-pop, with influences from 70’s folk and psychedelic music.
What’s the creative process behind a song?
All my songs begin with me sitting in front of the computer, with Ableton open. Usually I start by finding a beat or a groove that I like, and then I play guitar or synth over it. I have to finish the whole song structure in the same session I started the song, because if not – i will never be able to get back to it and finish it. Usually, I will finish the session once I have even a gibberish version of the melody. The next day, I will come to the studio, and probably write all the lyrics and finish the production of the song. If I love a song I am working on, I can finish it within two days.
Over what time and where was the new album created?
I started recording the album in my bedroom studio that i made in Jaffa, right after i finished recording and mixing my first solo album, the ceiling. It was a time in which i didn’t know what to do with my first album and how to release it, and if so – how will it be accepted. In this state i was, i started recording some of the songs for the album. I guess i just needed to move forward.
What’s the story you’re trying to tell on the new album?
I feel like this album is a natural continuation of my first album. It deals eventually with the same issues I dealt with 3 years ago, but from a more sober minded point of view.
What was the best part of recording the new album? And what was the most challenging?
The best part of recording the album was doing it all by myself. The first album was produced alongside a good friend, Nomok, who helped me a lot during that process, but I think that for the new album I needed full independence. It was a good experience letting him listen to the songs once they were almost finished, rather than working together from scratch. The most challenging part was also doing it all by myself. I had to trust myself completely, and that was hard. Constantly believing that what i’m doing is good, without getting immediate feedback – was super challenging.
Being a multi-instrumentalist what is your preferred instrument? And is there one you’d like to improve on?
Most definitely – drums. Drums are the most important instrument for me, and the one i love to play the most. Everything sits on top of it, and the song doesn’t lift off without it. Every song that i have in my heart and my brain – I know the drum part on it. I would love to improve my piano playing, i feel pretty stuck every time I sit in front of it.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
It evolves from Paul McCartney’s first solo albums, through Mac DeMarco and Real Estate, Super Furry Animals, Tame Impala – and back to Beach Boys.
Favourite show you’ve played?
One of the favorite shows i played with my band was 2 years ago, at Teder Tel Aviv. The place was packed, and that’s the moment that i felt that something new and special is starting to happen for me.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again? (Concerts aren’t currently allowed in the UK)
Actually, in Israel shows are allowed already. Things are still pretty weird, because the crowd is standing with their masks on and it is hard to know what they really feel, but it is great to feel the warmth of people and hear them sing with you.
Joy Guerilla is the musical brainchild of LA based duo Adam Grab and Magna Daniec. They released their sophomore album The Park Is Closed last Friday, an album that takes simple melodies and phrases and turns them into sonic landscapes that are bursting with life. It’s the follow up and almost sister album to 2018’s Skyline and takes a look at the darker side of the West Coast of America that they mapped out on their debut in both tone and inspiration. One of the immediate reactions you get to listening to their music, beside the instinctive feeling to groove to it, is just how tightly composed and structured every moment is without losing that free-flowing nature that makes jazz so beautiful. We caught up with the duo to learn a bit more about their process, inspirations and what makes their sound so vibrant.
How did the group form? What’s your story?
We met up in the Bay Area of CA. Mags was actually Adam’s piano teacher for a short time, but we soon realised that we had a lot of musical interests and goals in common, especially 70’s fusion, Euro prog rock, and vintage analog keyboards. We soon started playing music and writing together, and it’s been constant since then.
How would you describe your sound?
We’re sure we could come up with something esoteric and lofty here, but at heart we both know it could best be described as jazz fusion, with influences from anything that grooves, really. One of our fans from Japan describes it as “a blend of the city and the country,” and we suppose we’re happy with that.
What do you draw inspiration from for the sound and movements within the songs?
The music we most admire (both stylistically and recording-quality-wise) would be the “high-fi” era of the mid/late-70s, when analog recording was really at its peak. As such, a lot of our sound choices most often come from that era, plus the collection of analog instruments we’ve slowly acquired over the years. In terms of direct sonic influences – probably Dexter Wansel and Larry Carlton for arrangement sensibility; Michael Boddicker, George Duke, and Cecil & Margouleff for synth sound design; Herbie for phrasing and tone. The movements within our songs are ultimately because we fully understand the limitations of instrumental music, especially in the current rapid consumption streaming environment. We personally are not fans of indulgent, overly “jammy” music, and instrumental music with solos can trend in that direction at times. We like tight arrangements and transitions that keep you engaged in the musical narrative. It keeps us interested in creating it, and hopefully the listener in listening.
What was the story that you are trying to tell within the album?
When we were writing and recording our last album “Skyline,” we were trying to put together an album that portrayed life on the West coast as best we could. We ended up, more so by happenstance, deciding on a tracklist with a brighter, more “daylight” feel. However, we still had a body of songs we knew had potential, yet tonally just didn’t fit. Inadvertently we had essentially left out the songs that evoked the darker side of the picture, both literally and emotionally. We knew that we couldn’t leave that half of the story unaccounted for, and decided this time to focus on that.
We always have a picture of the songs development and sequencing, so we start with recording the bass and drums directly to tape. This helps them sound really locked-in, and also makes sure that it still retains the human feel of being played live in as few takes as possible. We then do a lot of tinkering with the guitar, percussion and keyboard overdubbing, and we’ve learned to be okay with simply losing stuff that doesn’t fit. Since we use a lot of analog synths, we sometimes spend hours tweaking patches until we feel it fits the song. Overall, the process is somewhat pre-determined, but it also will evolve and take form as elements are added. It may not be the most time-efficient method, but we’ve gotten our work-flow pretty dialled in now.
Over what time period was this album created?
As mentioned above, many of these songs were started at the same time as “Skyline” was being written and recorded, and others were much more recent (“Sowa” and “The Park Is Closed” specifically). It would be safe to say that between writing, recording, overdubbing, editing and mixing, it took us about 2 years to really get it to where we felt it could be called finished.
You worked with a lot of musicians to bring this album together. What did they all bring to the project?
Tim Aristil on drums and Elijah Zhang on guitar have been invaluable and they are in no small part responsible for the sound of the group. They are willing to listen to our suggestions but aren’t afraid to assert their own musical tastes to the songs. They both think like producers and musicians, which is really the best kind of person to work with. Les Lovitt, John Grab (Adam’s dad), and Doug Webb have been doing session work in Los Angeles since the 70’s, and it’s hard to replicate the sound of a horn section that has really grown together and knows how to self-balance. Doug Webb’s sax solos truly blew us away when we were recording, and he had nearly no heads up on the song or the changes. We were really excited to have Mike Maher from Snarky Puppy on “Earthsuit,” and his melodic ear and placement really helped bring the middle section of the song to life. We also owe a lot to our compatriot Julian Nicholson, who not only helped us mix this, but brought his own creative ear to the sound design and balance of the songs. A multi-talented technician.
Who are some of your biggest influences for the sound of this album?
Herbie for the sound of this album and really all the music we do. Roger Nichols sense of space and clarity not only with the mixing but also the arrangement and instrumentation itself. It’s hard to top the staying power of P-Funk horn lines, they always fit so perfectly and stick in your head. We always use that as our high-water mark when writing melodies.
If you could be a support act for any artist who would it be and why?
Probably Drake or Taylor Swift or something, just to see how the audience would react. Sounds like fun.
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
When we lived in Brooklyn, we managed to see D’Angelo twice in one year, right after Black Messiah came out. Possibly the tightest band ever. It’s a sobering experience when a concert is insanely good yet also slaps you in the face by showing you how much work you have to do.
Favourite show you’ve played?
We actually own an old short bus that we outfitted with solar panels, which charge batteries and allow us to power a full band set-up anywhere we can set up and park. The idea was to have a mobile busking machine, since when we started we did a lot of busking and have always had a love for it. In 2016 we went on a little DIY tour out to TX during SXSW, and we would use the bus busking to fund our gas and food expenses along the way. One night, we were out in Austin and were set up on the sidewalk, busking from the bus power, when a group of cops started flashing their sirens and pulling up to shut us down (something we had become pretty used to). All of the sudden, seemingly if sent by some birthday-party-guardian-angel, a procession of 10 or so costumed characters marched up and started vigorously dancing to our music. Sonic the Hedgehog, Ninja Turtles, Sponge Bob, Super Mario, Bugs Bunny – the whole gang was there. Fairly certain Sponge Bob even did the worm, a difficult feat with that boxy frame. Not only was this hilarious, but it did buy us another 10 minutes of playing time, as the cops seemed unwilling to break up this dance party of cultural heroes. Don’t think that will be topped for awhile.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
Holy shit. That’s your initial reaction to hearing Grandma’s House for the first time. And every time after that. The Bristol based, surf-wave infused queer punk outfit have some of the hottest riffs coming out of the South West right now.
Made up of Yasmin Berndt (vocals, guitar), Poppy Dodgson (vocals, drums) and Zoë Zinsmeister (bass) this three piece delivers punchy, chaotic and unforgiving tracks that are as ferocious as they are introspective. Having played most of Bristols renowned venues such as The Louisiana, Rough Trade, Exchange, The Old England and appearing alongside big names like Stef Chura, Frankie Cosmos and Rita Lynch, they have secured themselves as a force to be reckoned with already. Yesterday they released “Small Talk”, a furiously raucous track that relishes the small talk of entitled men at the bar (Available to buy as a 2-track cassette here). We caught up with the band to get to know the people behind this new powerhouse of punk.
How did the group form?
We all met at uni, and Poppy persuaded Yas and Zoe to move to Bristol. We started playing all together and then finally braved our first gig and the rest is HISTORY.
Is there a story behind the name “Grandmas House” ?
We spent so long trying to think of a name – to the point where we were just shouting random things we could see like”lamppost” or “foot”, and our old bassist has a tattoo of her grandmas house on her arm! As soon as we said it out loud we knew it was the one, it encapsulates the homely vibe that we want people to feel with us perfectly.
How would you describe your sound?
We would describe our sound as loud, sweaty, fast and punky!
What was the inspiration behind “Always Happy” ? ‘
Always Happy’ is a song we wrote about the social anxiety we all experience in some way or another particularly concerning social media. It’s a kind of sarcastic take on how you can easily convey a certain vibe that might not necessarily be the truth.
What’s the creative process behind a song?
A lot of the time we just jam and an entire song flows out of us, lyrics and all! Other times we will have lyrics that we know we want to use, or a lil instrumental that we wanna incorporate and it just goes from there.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Some of our biggest influences are The Slits, Sleater Kinney, L7 and X-Ray Spex. We also LOVE Courtney Barnett, Nova Twins and Idles at the moment. I think we constantly get influenced by all kinds of genres though, which inspires our music a lot.
If you could be a support act for any artists who would it be and why?
Miley Cyrus!! She’s been going for a more rock n roll and punky vibe and we love it – think we’d be an amazing match tbh
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
We saw Shame and Fontaines DC at SWX a while ago and it was amazing!! Real sweaty and frantic, just how we like it.
Favourite show you’ve played?
One of our favourite ever shows so far was at The Lanes in Bristol, and was actually a socially distanced seated gig! It was our first headline show and the energy in the room was electric – everyone was proper jumping in their seats.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
Incredible. Life-changing. Unforgettable. We’re going to be absolutely buzzing to be back on stage and I think people coming to see us will feel the same. Everyone’s just gonna go MAD.
Any future musical plans after the new single?
Yesss we’re working on an EP at the moment so that’s very exciting indeed. We’re going to make lots of visuals for it too so lots of fun things to look forward to.
Where would you like to be in a years time musically?
I think our sound is constantly developing so we’re just excited to keep working on new stuff and just see what happens innit! We love all genres of music so we love bringing in various aspect of each genre into our own music.
What’s a cool fact about you that people might not know?
We adopted two guinea pigs during the first lockdown and we are absolutely OBSESSED with them. They’re called Joan (Jett) and Bean and they are the cutest little ladies in town.
Reave are the new synth-pop trio you need on your radar. With influences ranging from some of the contemporary greats to classic artists, they hone in their sound with familiarity whilst simultaneously being immediately captivating. Made up of Brandon Darby, Rory Ward & Enya Philips, based in Manchester and London, together they join to make the type of music that just makes you want to get up and boogie as soon as it comes on, whilst concurrently being heartbreaking at their core. Backed by glistening beats and swaying synths, lead singer Enya’s dreamy vocals wash through and shine out of every mix, evoking similar stylings to that of Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser. They released “One More Night” back in January, the band’s fifth single and are already planning for what’s next. We spoke to the band to get the lowdown on what they’re all about.
What drew each you to music and how did you get into it?
Brandon – I grew up in a very music loving family, my parents had been going to gigs all their lives and were also into the early 90s house/rave scene, going to the hacienda etc. So I think that has had probably brought me towards music. Apart from that it’s just a type of creating that attracted me.
Rory – I listened to the Smiths a lot when I was younger and I was fascinated by the melodies of Johnny Marr, since then I had to learn every Smiths song.
Enya – I grew up in a very musical family, I watched all my siblings perform and make music growing up. They taught me everything I know and I’ve got them to thank for being able to do anything music related. My parents were in a band together and threw us into pretty much every musical class when we were younger! So I think the familiarity drew me into it, it’s all I’ve ever known and is kind of a safe space for me.
How did the band form?
It started out as a project to create synth music and we eventually saw the potential of having a female vocalist over the music. Once we met Enya and we tried a few ideas, REAVE was formed.
How would you describe your sound?
We try invoke a certain danceable and evocative energy into our music and nostalgic sounds, if that’s even possible. Electric but soft and moody. A Concoction of multiple influences but rooted in the synth-pop music and soundtracks of the 1980’s (without being too cliche 80’s) but with quirky and modern sounding lyrics/vocals. Make of that what you will, haha.
What’s the creative process behind a song?
When we’ve developed an instrumental, Enya has a go at the melody and lyrics from the feelings/vibe she gets from the track. When we’ve decided on something, the vocals are recorded and anything else that fits the track with the new vocal (like new guitar parts) are added before mixing. We spend a lot of time perfecting the sounds but the idea for the track can come really quickly and after that it’s sort of a blur how each song comes to fruition.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Enya – There are way too many to list but to name a few: Tame impala, Euthrymics, Grimes, Talking Heads, Happy Monday, The human league, New order, Yazoo, Modern talking, GL, Sylvan Esso, Methyl ethyl, Porches, Harvey Causon, Robyn, Jack Garratt, James Blake, Franc Moody, Duo Mundi
Rory – The Smiths, Gorillaz, Pixies
Brandon – Its ever changing and there’s always new ones im picking up on but to name a few: Bowie, Beach House, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, Johnny Jewel, Vangelis, Julee Cruise, Pure X, Michel Berger, Sharon Van Etten, Pink Floyd, Future Islands, Austra, Brian Wilson, Arthur Russell, P. Cowley, John Maus, Moroder, MBV, Ride, Erik Satie, Tamaryn, Wire, Black Marble etc. Mostly dark, melancholic music with gothic undertones
If you could be support act for any artists who would it be and why?
Brandon – Beach House would be insane because I feel like the vibes could compliment each other nicely, even though we are different. The lights and effects at their gigs are so cool too, would love to play while being engulfed in blue mist.
Rory – MGMT because it’ll be a good show.
Enya – Tame impala because they are such an inspiration. Almost wouldn’t feel worthy to support them hahaha.
Favourite concert you’ve been to?
Brandon – Hard to choose one – my top three are Beach House, John Maus & Tamaryn
Rory – The Cure
Enya – James Blake but Jack Garratt / Franc moody are a close second.
Favourite show you’ve played?
We unfortunately haven’t had the privilege yet, although individually we have all played live as solo or with bands before.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?
Well it’ll be our first gig as REAVE so it’ll be a great experience we reckon.
Any future musical plans after the new single?
Release more singles, an album & play shows eventually. We can’t wait to get together and have a jam in person.
Where would you like to be in a years time musically?
Brandon – Be in the middle of nowhere in a studio recording new tracks
Rory – I would like to own a grand piano!
Enya – Playing and making music together!! In the flesh!!
If people want to find out more about you where should they go?
Duke Keats aka Connor Blundell makes the kind of music that hooks you in on the first listen. The Coventry based singer-songwriter/ producer creates dreamy psychedelia infused soundscapes that not only take influence from the world around him, but are used to create worlds of his own, through characters and musical movements. He released his Black Cat Mixtape last October , a collection of songs that draw influence from many of indie’s great, becoming instantly welcoming yet concurrently fresh and free flowing. We spoke to Connor about how he creates these transportive soundscapes, his journey as a musician so far and what’s next in store for Duke Keats.
What drew you to music and how did you get into it? My family are big music fans. I’m sure my brother and dad influenced me the most, my brother would let me listen to his MP3 player or CD player and I’d listen to Kings Of Leon, Jeff Buckley, Bowie and he’d have Danny Elfman’s and others soundtracks on there. My dad is a huge classical music fan, he practically has an encyclopaedic knowledge of composers and would always play and describe the complexities of music. I used to make comics and films as a kid and messed with Plasticine models. I was always creating. Once I knew guitarists and rock music existed, I wanted to be a rock star. Seeing slash, Tom Morello, Jimi Hendrix, Lenny Kravitz, Chuck Berry on all of my brothers CD’s and books. All these guys that looked like me. That was another thing that drew me in. The possibility that I could make music like my heroes.
How would you describe your sound? I definitely consider my music art pop. I’m all about patterns and rhythms and layering, I like to think my sound is quite cinematic too. I like to use a lot of instruments, VST’s and organic sounds recorded through my phone. Most of the time I use them metaphorically or symbolically, I like to make the instrument become a personality or character in the songs. I remember reading a quote from Prince. If I’m right he said “record as if you’re the whole band playing live”. I try to be each person of a hypothetical band when I make music, I become different types of players. I listen to a lot of soundtracks, films scores etc. I love the idea of being able to hear multiple beats and multiple tempos within a song. I think my work is extremely layered in a maximalist way. Bigger and brighter.
Your music really does have a very layered, mysterious and tightly locked feel to it. What’s your process when it comes to producing these songs? With Black Cat I was really interested in not planning or thinking about what I wrote too much because I think spontaneity is where the real creative and exciting ideas appear. I’m glad you guys picked up on that, it was super intentional. I tend to use a lot of stacks, and record experimentally with layers. Ableton is my chosen DAW, I think it’s great! I like Sonic Youth and the noise rock elements. That fragmented sound, Prince, Sly and the Family Stone and electric funk sounds and the attitude, and then on the other hand, I listen to a lot of Doo Wop and soul/ jazz music with vocal harmonies and arrangements intertwined and improvisation, I always want to try and get to those levels of production especially for the sound I was trying to convey on Black Cat. I live for unconventional recording techniques and love producing in my space. I think my music matches the world I’m trying to picture for the listener musically. I’m still learning so much from self producing, so I think naturally I have a very static fragmented way of producing. It’s so exciting to make music when you haven’t been trained classically.
Where do you look for influence when creating the psychedelic soundscapes that populate your music? Movies a lot of the time. I always want to picture a world or story within a song and use instruments to tell the story, whether it be the wind as a synth or a guitar to sound like a voice. Composers like Vangelis or Ennio Morricone who add voices, creaks, odd noises, and drones. I’m trying to tell a story and with Black Cat it felt very potent, I could feel the world and see the streets and everything and the characters. I think listening to a lot of King Crimson, Camel and Pink Floyd have really got me into the mindset that you can combine literature or written ideas to paint the sound of the music you wanna make, (like Dark Side Of The Moon for example) and also have them be unexplained to the listener for added mystery which reinforces the concept. Also, to be random and messy, but be controlled in that too. I love Sci-fi novels and films and I know for me that’s a genre that can be easily translated to music, but merging that with pop or rock or funk sensibilities is where it gets really fun.
It also reminds me a lot of Unknown Mortal Orchestra if you’ve ever heard of them? 100 PERCENT. Hunnybee! That song’s been on repeat a lot lately, I really love their sound, and creative process of so many different techniques and effects. The way Ruban changes his vocal intonations on a lot of tracks.. I love Rubens voice, damn thank you so much!
Who are some of your biggest influences? I’d have to say Kate Bush, Portishead, Bjork, Prince, M.I.A., Vangelis, Mary Ford and Les Paul, Beach House & The Fleetwoods are probably my biggest influences.
If you could support act for any artists who would it be and why? Portishead if they ever do return for a 4th album, one of my favourite bands of all time. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, production and sound have really pushed my thinking with my music, they’ve always been with me on good and bad times, playing with them would be a dream. Or MGMT honestly their latest album Little Dark Age, I think I could play a mean jam with Andrew and Ben!
Favourite concert you’ve been to? I saw Warpaint at HMV Birmingham Institute supported by The Garden, it was insane. The difference in energies was what made the gig so cool, like The Garden had everyone pumped with like 30 second speed Punk tracks and then warpaint just soothed and relaxed everyone. Also, got to meet both bands!
Favourite show you’ve played?
Central Saint Martins.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again? It’s gonna be a little emotional, a little nerve wracking but its gonna be so good. I honestly can’t wait to be back on stage, my band and I had been practicing for a while before the pandemic hit so we were already on the edge of seats waiting. Just such a shame whats happened globally to the music industry and a lot of people, things are changing but I’m hoping everything bounces back. Stay safe!
Any future musical plans after the new mix tape? I’m working on my next mix tape ‘Arcadia’ . Exploring film, animation, story telling, different styles and sounds and continuing to self produce and craft my world of characters I’ve been trying to outline for years. I’m working on another project too, a short film. Which I’m splitting in to parts. I’m hoping to release that and the King Crimson inspired soundtrack this year as well.
Where would you like to be in a years time? In a years time I wish to have recognition for my work. Thanks for the interview guys !
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Gutter Girls aren’t your average punk outfit. In their own words they’re a “coupla gals playing songs about hot chips n heartbreak coming to a bar near u”. But behind this laid back ethos is music that is as enticing as it is raw. Smoking riffs, groovy beats and knock you down vocals that’ll be bouncing about your head all day long. Releasing their latest single “Skin 2 Skin” in November, Gutter Girls have continued in their streak of fully charged bangers, we spoke to the group to learn about their collective love of Joan Jett, recording in isolation and where to get the best chips in Melbourne.
What drew each of you to music and how did you get into it?
I grew up surrounded by music but always assumed I’d just be a fan as I lacked any musical talent. I gave up piano after briefly learning as a kid and by the time I was really into seeing live music, I figured I had missed the boat to learn an instrument. It is never too late!!!
How did the group form and where did you meet?
In 2018 we all met through the local Melbourne music scene but didn’t know each other too well before deciding to join forces and start a band. None of us played any instruments beforehand except Amada, who only didn’t play drums. So naturally we got Amada on the drums and Alicia on synth, Bec on bass and myself on guitar and roughly learnt a few Joan Jett covers to get us going. We’d only been practicing (to learn our instruments) for a few months before we agreed to our first gig and quickly got a few tunes together in time.
How would you describe your sound?
Hot chips left out in the sun too long.
What was it like recording the new single whilst separated from each other?
It was challenging recording separately in lockdown as we would normally record live together. It felt a bit more serious when you’re alone to critique yourself. Recording separately meant that I had to record vocals with my housemates stuck at home to suffer through the takes, so to take the pressure off myself I made them drink whisky with me and sing along which turned out to be a very fun afternoon.
What was the inspiration behind “Skin 2 Skin” ?
GG songs never have much meaning or strategy behind them, I usually just have a silly thought and try to expand on it enough to call it a song. The lyrics rarely make any sense, but the great thing is that they don’t have to. You can definitely leave it up to the listener to interpret however they like. So the inspo for this track was just to have a new song for the collection really haha.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
All of our friends who play in rockin bands and inspired us to rawk with them.
Favourite gig you’ve been to?
There have been so many, but just before the first lockdown in Australia we luckily had the Golden Plains music festival. Screaming along to the Pixies with my BFFs will forever be burned into my brain.
Who would you love to be a support act for?
The Runaways Japan tour in 1977 please
Favourite show you’ve played?
There’s been so many favourites, but just before lockdown we got in a gig with Constant Mongrel at Cherry Bar. We are all big fans and it would have been a gig we’d attend anyway, so getting to play with them (and then dance afterwards to Springsteen with them) was a huge highlight.
What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again? (Here in the UK shows aren’t happening currently)
It’ll definitely be a little strange until it’s back to normal capacity shows. In Melbourne, shows have returned to a seated, limited audience but with restrictions easing it looks like we will be able to stand and hopefully dance in near-future shows. We might be lucky and hopefully life will be semi-normal by the time we play our first gig back.
Any future musical plans after the new single?
Excited to get back under the same roof to start working on new songs and hopefully release something physical in the next year.
What are your favourite type of chips?
Hot ones, super soggy and covered in sauce. Shoutout to Tramway Hotel in Melb that has ripper ones!!
GIVEUP is the solo project of Ashwin Bhandari, a prominent figure in most modern indie/ alternative/ punk/ emo/ metal/ any other genre, you’ve more than likely seen them crowd surfing at a hardcore show at some point in the last 10 years or so, or calling out some narrow minded commentator in the NME comments section. Based up and down the country, London, Brighton, Oxford, depending on where they happen to be that day. If you know Ashwin you may consider them outspoken, but dive into their music and the intimate stories strung in between chugging chords tell a different story. Speaking on many issues of mental health, self acceptance and trying to find a place in this world, their music is raw, and yet full of vibrancy. They’ve returned now with the latest project under the GIVEUP name, moving into the realms of noise rock and experimental electronic music. It’s an EP full of candid recordings that allows the music within to shift and change, leading you into new and ever expanding sonic landscapes with each turn. We sat down with Ashwin to learn about how their new sound came to life, what this means for the future of GIVEUP and why Oasis aren’t Shoegaze and will always be shit.
So this EP was created over the last 8 months or so over various lockdowns, has this time allowed you to get back into writing music?
So with both my bands, Night Swimming and Red Terror, we were supposed to be doing stuff this year and they both subsequently got cancelled because of Covid. One of which we were supposed to play a show with our friends in NEWMOON, who are a Belgian shoegaze band and then the first lockdown got announced about 2 days before then and there was just no way of fitting it in before lockdown came into effect. So I went back to my parents for a bit with my brother, and he has a Fender Jazzmaster that he just straight up doesn’t really use, and an amplifier with loads of effects pedals. And in April people were doing more improvised livestreams than they perhaps are now. So I just did this noise rock set in a balaclava for about 25 – 30 minutes and uploaded it Youtube and then took the best parts of that improved set and turned it into separate tracks. I then moved back to London with my partner and I was struggling to write music on my own because of trying to keep within the noise restrictions around here, it’s a bit harder to record stuff. But basically Ruminations is just that noise rock set cut into different tracks. And then a Slowdive cover that I did ages ago, which I decided to just whack on there for the sake of keeping it a bit longer. I’ve always been quite influence by Jesu, Have A Nice Life, Planning For Burial and Sunn O))), all those kind of drone goth type of bands. And I always imagined if I was going to do noise rock sets then i’d rather use the balaclava with that over my sad acoustic songs because theres something about wearing that, that has empowered me in a weird way. I know that people don’t really take me seriously and I do a lot of stupid shit. But having that and amplifying having that presence of feeling cooler than I actually am is nice. I am really self conscious about self promoting, but this time I decided that because it’s a noise rock EP and does go into bits of different genres i’ve just been spamming various different subreddits and it’s actually worked! Everyday i’ve been checking the Bandcamp stats and they’ve very slowly gone up, which has never really happened before because usually i’d slap music on there, maybe some friends might listen to it and then that’s it. But this i’ve tried to make a conscious effort to be like “No, you’re in lockdown, you’re not going anywhere, you can listen to my EP whether you like it or not” haha.
I’m really excited about what we’ve got coming with my bands, the next Red Terror release is just going to be a two track, which is also the first material i’ve recorded with that band. There’s some vocals that still need to be re-done, so those songs are essentially in limbo. They are basically fully recorded but I think we’ll wait until next year. And with Night Swimming we have a full song recorded but it’s a case of when we should put it out. Because it’s a really good song, but we worried that if it’s released now then no-one will give a shit and it’ll just get lost because we don’t have anything to follow it up with.
So doing stuff with this project is a nice way of keeping myself actively doing stuff. And seeing friends do it is really nice as well. It’s also a case of trying to keep your work consistent. In January of this year Night Swimming got offered to play a set with this fairly big American post-hardcore band, but the other band members couldn’t do it. So I decided to do a GIVEUP solo set and it was really odd because it was a free show but it was a packed out room. And with almost putting no effort in i’d played to the biggest crowd i had so far. Which was frustrating to realise how easy this is if you stop worrying about it. But it did also give me false hope for the rest of the year, being like “Oh if i can just play to complete strangers and then people come up afterwards and say that was good” then maybe I can give this more of an effort. I just assume no one gives a shit about the solo stuff, no matter how many times I try to push it. But I’ve been doing that for 4 or 5 years now and I just wanna make sure that i’m not just playing the same three or four chords over and over again. There’s a lot of songs on there that I wrote when I was nineteen or twenty which I cringe back on now, but I still play them live because I don’t have a massive repertoire of stuff.
As you said the EP has a more noise rock feel to it, moving away from the more acoustic side of your previous work. The element that keeps them consistent though is the lo-fi recording quality of them, why do you gravitate towards that style of recording?
It’s just more interesting. Not to sound like a complete pretentious asshole, but I am really into noise music, field recordings and ambient music, there’s something almost charming with lo-fi and I don’t feel with the sort of music I want to do i’d ever want something to be overly produced. At least with this project, with Night Swimming we’ve actively gone out of our way to up the production values and make everything more pristine. When the first Night Swimming EP came out people where calling it lo-fi and I was a bit upset by that because I was like “No, we’ve paid for recording studio time, this isn’t demo quality”. It was recorded originally with this producer who mainly does math-rock and post-rock recording, so doing a shoegaze band was already a bit of a weird thing for him. We’d paid about £150 for it and to also do mastering as well, but he came back to us saying “I’m going to be honest with you guys, this is demo quality, can you not put my name on the credits?”. So we had to pay someone else to mix and master it, which when we released sounded really good, but unfortunately it got tarnished with the lo-fi tag and I really didn’t want that haha.
In my other projects I actively go out of my way to not have the lo-fi sound, but I like the accessibility of just being able to record stuff on you iPhone and then bang it into Gargeband and just mess around with the EQ settings. I would like to learn how to use Ableton one day, I’d like to not just use a Focusrite, i’m aware i’m every single cliché when it comes to lo-fi recordings. I’ve recorded in bathrooms or under bridges in public, all sorts of different places to capture the atmosphere that I want for whatever I’m doing. I like doing that because there’s only so many presets, there’s only so many times you can use the telephone voice. But i’ve never tried to do the same thing over and over again, i’ve like having concistency in some ways, but i’ll always try and add something new. Ruminations was basically a bunch of songs that had been sitting on my laptop for a while that I didn’t really know how to put down in a cohesive way. I was originally thinking that I could just put the entire noise rock set as one really long track but then suddenly realised that no-one is going to listen to that. So i might as well keep it as individual tracks, which means even if people just click on the Slowdive cover that’s fine by me. One day I would like to be able to record with an actual tape recorder or an 8 track. So essentially I want to get even more lo-fi if I can but I need to get the right equipment for it, there’s only so many times you can record on your iPhone and make it sound lo-fi. If you get a newer model, the microphone will be slightly higher quality each time, so you’re actually losing that lo-fi level. Which is why I used to intentionally do it on an iPhone 4, the shittier the mircophone the better the lo-fi for me anyway.
So after splitting the set up into the different tracks, did you then find songs that fit a specific meaning that you were trying to put behind them? Or was it just more of a — approach?
I gave the illusion that it was more technical than it actually was. The first two tracks are the same riff slowed down and then sped up, and then messing around with whatever was in tune with each sound. But that riff is something I wrote about three or four years ago and I could never make it work into anything for the other projects, mainly because I don’t write guitar parts for those bands which is fair enough really. Then I thought it would make a good set opener, which is where I used it. Then “Ruminations” and “La Petit Mois” were just a case of moving the capo slightly further up the guitar and hoping that I didn’t play a bum note when I was doing the finger picking. Funnily enough I had someone say to me the other day that those actually sound like they have structure, but in reality I had no clue what I was doing. Hopefully it sounded consistent enough to boil down into two tracks. The idea was to have really slow atmospheric pads that would build up into this giant wall of noise. The use of the whammy bar came into it as much as possible because I don’t get to use that very much in Night Swimming as, understandably, our guitarist isn’t really a fan of it. Essentially just detuning your guitar when you could get that effect from various pedals. But because it’s the sound I was going for I tried to incorporate it as much as I could whilst keeping in time.
So after extracting the sound into Garageband I just split it all into different projects. The full track idea was there for while but it does change a fair bit so unless I had some cool interlude parts to fit in between, which as it stood was just me changing the position of the capo. Being a noise rock set on a livestream I just assumed people would duck in and out for 10 seconds and just be like “Ah, Ashwin’s got a balaclava on their head, cool”. So it’s a weird experiment and i’m really happy with how it turned out. As you will probably notice there’s only drums on two of the tracks because I just couldn’t get it to work for other tracks. For “…” I didn’t feel it was heavy enough without drums so I just used the keyboard tapping for that one, which can be a bit of a pain because you only have so many drums sounds to work with. I have a mate who helps with the production of this project sometimes and I spoke to him asking if he thought that the guitars worked well enough on their own and he was quite adamant that they worked like that. A lot of drone music is just guitar anyway so I thought it would be a bit more interesting than just playing the same two notes for a few minutes. I feel those two songs, “…” and “Fucking Knackered” almost take you on a journey of some sort because you’re following along with it.
Yeah I definitely got that when listening as those two go into a bit more electronic sounds
I would one day like to just do a straight up power electronics project, which is where the balaclava comes from. I’ve seen a lot of noise artists who use something like that to create that sense of anonymity on stage, even if you know who they are. I have two Korg Micro devices, a duel and a reverb, small almost Fisher Price level instruments. And they’re cool but i’m not sure how i’d do an entire set with those if it wasn’t just completely improvised. But i’d like to be able to have it one day where I can have parts programmed so that there are consistent songs compared to “lets watch the little freak in a balaclava play around with a stylus for half an hour whilst vaguely shouting things”.
So going from this EP do you think you’d want to move into more “sonically diverse” territory”?
I’m quite happy with the sound I have now, with it only just coming out and being quite fresh, I haven’t really thought too much ahead about what i’m now in the future. There was a band I went to go see at the Windmill in Brixton and unannounced was this guy who had a candelabra at the back and his back to the audience whilst playing guitar. And I was just like “that is exactly what I want to do with GIVEUP” but I want people to actually come to see me. However I felt that was a really effective way of showcasing the music to an audience that wouldn’t have usually listened. To have a consistent live show and create an atmosphere that isn’t just sat in your room listening to this outsider depressing music would be nice. I think i’d just like to expand on what I’m already doing with that and maybe add in some harsh noise, some programmed drums. I haven’t really thought that far ahead though to be honest.
So far this is the most amount of reception i’ve had from people. I find it incredibly hard self promoting and I need to get over that hurdle. With a band all your members are doing it so it’s a shared effort of embarrassment. There was a meme that came out a few days after I posted my EP that described my situation almost word for word and I really don’t know if someone made this about me or not. But then I realised that this is pretty common for lockdown music. I know other people self promote but they seem to naturally get other people to listen to whatever they and I get that sense of jealousy. I will say this though for people self promoting, the least likely way for someone to listen to your music is if you add someone on Facebook for the sole purpose of sending them a link or the worst one i’ve seen was this band who once made this group chat on Instagram of about 80 people to get people to listen to them and watch their video which immediately turned me away from them. I don’t want to say however that sponsored posts are the devil, because I have actually gotten into some good music through that whether or not that’s intentional. But there is definitely a trend of 4 white guys saying “Hey we’re a pop-punk band and this our new single about quarantine!”. Then again it’s almost a new way of advertising music because you have bands like Cigarettes After Sex that almost accidentally got big because of Youtube algorithms. So there’s a certain mystique behind wondering if you did sponsored music and it did somehow go viral. It’s that what if that makes you feel a bit less embarrassed about self promoting. I think if I knew that everyone felt the same way about it then I would feel less conscious about it, but what I struggle with is seeing other people naturally getting people to listen to their music or sharing. But from that I don’t know whether they are plugging people left right and centre with a link. There’s also no guarantee with that either that they will actually listen to your track, so you just have to take their word for it. This Arthur meme comes to mind. I’m completely guilty of doing the same though, and it’s not that I don’t want to support my friends but it’s usually just at a bad time that somebody’s sent me something.
Nowadays i’m trying to go out of my way and give feedback. Then it’s a back and forth of you’re promoting your art to me so you can listen to mine and give each other feedback. What was the original question haha? But yeah that sound I do want to expand on, I might even get my friend Matt to do some drumming for me because he’s done a lot of programming and production, helping a lot with that side of things.
Would you ever turn the project into more than just you then? Or do you like the idea that it’s just your music?
I like the idea that I can just turn up anywhere and just annoy the fuck out of people for 20 minutes with a guitar. I think it would take a lot more planning, but also I would not want to become a band dictator in some way. If I was to incorporate more people then i’d let them take their own takes on things as long as it was in time or in tune. I don’t know how i’d feel about a full band as I wouldn’t want to turn into Car Seat Headrest where it’s technically a band but it’s Will Toledo that kinda thing, where the front-person is the centre of that. I feel a bit odd about those kinds of things as other people are contributing just as hard, with going on tour and sacrificing as much so they should get as much credit as they’re due. But I think I need to write a lot more material to warrant having a full band. I’m quite good friends with James Clayton who’s in Crywank and they had a period 4 or 5 years ago where they tried turn their 2 piece into a full sounding, plugged in electric band. Some people really liked it but they said they hated it which is understandable as their music is purely based around trying to push the limits of an acoustic guitar. So just because you have a full band doesn’t necessarily mean you create a fuller sound. I missed the tour but some friends told me that when Elvis Depressedly played the UK about 3 or 4 years ago they had a full band and the songs didn’t sound anywhere near as decent quality as the recordings which was almost hampered by having a full band. Which is a shame because those songs feel they should be great with a full band, but maybe I shouldn’t judge everything off of that.
So being on your own gives you more freedom to just be like “I’m doing this style now and that’s it”
Yeah I like just going places and being like “I’ve got a bag of tricks up my sleeve” haha.
With you adding the Slowdive cover to the end of the EP I wanted to ask, what does Slowdive mean to you?
Big big humongous question. So I got into Slowdive kind of late, but my friendship with the bassist in Night Swimming, Aiden started at uni and mainly revolved around us getting really high and listening to Slowdive. I had an introduction to shoegaze around 2013 from the emo and punk bands that all crossed over into that a bit, and then I got into the “real” shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Swervedriver. I do think though that now there are more shoegaze bands doing more interesting stuff and I tend to veer towards punk bands doing shoegaze because I feel there’s a level of intensity you get rather than just being a MBV ripoff. Before I even saw Slowdive live I saw Minor Victories which is the Supergroup of Rachel Goswell, one of the members of Editors, somebody from Mogwai which was incredible. Then I saw Slowdive play this really really small venue in Glasgow called The Art School, which has burnt down like twice now unfortunately. And then in Oxford and Field Day basically the day after, and then in Brighton and they are always incredible live. They bring quite a mixed generation of people to their shows which is really cool as people who saw them in the 90’s can still appreciate their music. That self-titled album they did three years ago is incredible. And I think now they’re weirdly getting the recognition they should have had in the 90’s, because they got completely overshadowed and shafted by Brit-pop. If you haven’t seen it already there’s a Souvlaki documentary that Pitchfork did on Youtube.
Yeah i’ve been meaning to watch that!
Really really good. I’m not sure about whats going on with them lately. I think as well they’re really in touch with modern shoegaze and who they get as support. Some older bands you see are almost just living off their legacy and any reunion albums they do are just bonus. I don’t wanna say too much and i’m sure they’re sweethearts but MBV and Jesus and The Mary Chain seem like they’re making the main amount of their income being able to do live shows off of the legacy they had 20 – 30 years ago, but I don’t feel like Slowdive are doing that at all. It seems like they’re evolving, even if it’s not the biggest shift ever, it’s more expansive and i’m genuinely really interested to see what they do next. Whereas other bands in that scene I might go see live, but i’m not hankering for a new record.
I saw on Instagram they’re supposed to be recording a new album.
Yeah they’re demoing stuff out which is cool. Another thing I will say about Slowdive is that there’s a level of innocence and angst to their music because they were teenagers when they wrote their first two records. And now as parents and people in their 40’s/ 50’s they still retain this sense of melancholy and despair but it’s done from the perspective of age, they’re not still pretending to be teenagers. Even the music they wrote as young adults, it never comes across as cringy, it’s very timeless and still translates very well. With Souvlaki being written about Neil and Rachel breaking up, it’s amazing how they were able to still be in a band and 30 years later they’re still able to sing those songs and there’s no awkwardness, which I think is really charming in a way.
To put it as the kids say, they’ve “kept it real” as such. And it’s probably helped that there’s this huge nostalgia trip that everybody’s on at the moment to get back into the 90’s culture.
Yeah definitely and they have that level of accessibility as well. I bought my dad a copy of Loveless by MBV for Christmas one year and I think he listened to it once and never played it again. And I was like “But you like U2 and the edge was inspired by them?” but he just said “Nah, it’s too heavy”. Definitely should have just gone with a Slowdive record instead. There’s also a nice thing about having their music as background music, or for intense long journeys. If you’re looking to introduce someone to shoegaze but don’t really know where to start then Slowdive is a nice as it almost transcends different genres. Some people try and call them Dream-pop but I think there’s a very clear difference between the two, Beach House do not sound the same as Nothing.
You can’t really compare the two, like dream-pop is more in the mainstream with people like Lana Del Rey and M83 and there’s a lot of crossover stuff with that. Whereas I feel with shoegaze there’s still a level of undergroundness with it, even if bands like The 1975 or Pale Waves have shoegaze songs it doesn’t mean that they’re a shoegaze band. But it’s still cool as it brings people into that atmosphere as it’s the scene that celebrates itself.
What’s interesting to me is that the name ‘shoegaze’ was meant to be an insult, when someone was reviewing Slowdive they said “they were just looking at their shoes and pedals the whole time”. But they accidentally made a whole genre. I think that type of music will live on as it’s still being churned out in a way that’s interesting and people take influence from that. Whereas Oasis, Blur and Pulp and all the Britpop era are all nostalgia in a way, but there aren’t really bands now doing that sound. And I think it should be left, from the people that have this fixation with the 90’s and not being able to move past it is just mutually unhelpful and the people from that era are getting older now, there’s only so much of a time capsule that you can have from that. Weirdly enough I don’t have a problem enough with people doing that from the 80’s as that’s aged enough to the point that things that sounded new then now do sound vintage. Whereas stuff from the 90’s still sounds shit and it sounded shit then. I don’t have a problem with 90’s nostalgia as long as people who review aren’t basing their whole opinion on whether it sounds like those bands from the 90’s. It’s like when every guitar rock band gets compared to Nirvana, it’s just quite lazy. So many press releases will say “90’s revival or takes cues from the 90’s” which is almost feeling like if you say 90’s enough it will stick and people won’t listen to the music at all. Just going off the nostalgia and trying to recreate that feeling you had of “oh when I listened to this life was good” but you have to address things critically, rather than just pigeon holing stuff because it sounds similar to whatever your dad listened to when he grew up.
Yeah the amount of people that are trying to live off of Liam Gallagher’s continuing legacy is crazy
I will say this though, I watched that Supersonic Highway documentary as it was on last Christmas and it is a really well made documentary if you want to understand how big of a cultural phenomenon Oasis were. Purely based on that fact I would recommend people watch that, anything else with Oasis can get in the bin. No matter how many times people force it on me or tell me “But their early stuff sounds a bit shoegazy”.
I’ve seen that and as well with Nirvana, I’ve heard people reference them as Shoegaze but with it’s just like, well where do you draw the line?
It seems to be if vaguely someone uses a reverb or a flanger or anything with layers to it then it gets put under the label. But there’s more to it than that. I’m one of these people whose says that Shoegaze is a very specific thing and you can’t just liberally slap it on there, because it’s not consistent otherwise. You can’t just have one or two tracks, you need to go the whole mile with it.
Have you thought about any more livestreams or when shows eventually return, what are your plans for that sort of thing?
Right now I haven’t got any plans for livestreams but that could change depending on what I feel like at the time. What I’m trying to focus on is getting that Red Terror and Night Swimming music out in some capacity and then try and figure out what we do next, if and when shows go back. By which we mean when there’s a vaccine, rather than the socially distant shows. I understand why venues and bands are doing it, but especially as I’m shielding it’s just not something I can do. And it’s not viable for some people, I think it would be just better to wait. You know we’ve come a long way with the vaccine and it does feel like things might go back to a semblance of normality in a few months time, I can’t tell really. I’m doing a few social media and planning bits for Washed Out Festival in Brighton for next year and we don’t even know whether that’s going to happen or not. It’s in September so fingers crossed. I’m really excited about what we’ve got coming, the next Red Terror release is just going to be a two track, which is also the first material i’ve recorded with that band. There’s some vocals that still need to be re-done, so those songs are essentially in limbo. They are basically fully recorded but I think we’ll wait until next year.
We want also to expand both bands audiences, mostly so far it’s been just in the south so i’m hoping we’ll get some decent turnouts once we can get back. I’m not pretending that we’re not going to have shows where we have 5 – 10 people attending again. But i’m fine with that and for me it’s just as long as you’re doing something creative then it doesn’t really matter how many people listen or if you can make money from it. It’s the fact that you’re putting something out there. I still have to keep telling myself that though and I still check the views and streams on my music each day and if they haven’t gone up I overthink it a lot. And I need to stop asking for validation from people for that, I need to find it in myself to be like “I’ve recorded this, it sounds cool, if people like it or not then that’s up to them”.
Livestreams could be cool as I could always do the same as the new EP again and chop it up again, but that mainly worked by chance. But if there is another then i’d put a lot more thought into it and have a proper set up. Having more vocal samples in it or something like that. My favourite part about that is trying to find something from the most obscure bits of media and then get people to go out of their way to try and find that, that journey of discovery is really interesting to me. I saw this harsh noise project in Brighton and I took loads of drugs before and the guy had all these visuals from various different horror films. But because I was fucked I couldn’t tell whether they were snuff films he’d got from the internet or real films, and the fact it was that convincing made me go out of my way to try and find it. Which I eventually did and it turns out they’re from Martyrs and Irréversible which got me into all the pretentious horrible French cinema films, which then lead me down a rabbit hole that you can’t escape because if you’ve watched one you want to watch them all. Because of those samples and the visuals it made me go and find that art which i’m really grateful for now because i’m really into it now. So i’d like to have something like that in my set, which is a cool way of expanding your art into more avenues.
Ruminations is out now and available to stream and purchase here.