Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Sufis - Interview and Exclusive Spotify Playlist


(This feature first appeared in issue #71 of Shindig! magazine. Click over the jump at the bottom to read the full unpublished interview. The Sufis have also very kindly put together an exclusive Spotify playlist for us featuring their favourite artists and inspirations. Do have a listen, it's highly enjoyable and an education in its own right.)

Late-night devotion.

Brooklyn-based duo The Sufis return with After Hours, a thrills-packed LP inspired by the misfits, scenarios and anything goes attitude of the Big Apple. Duncan Fletcher stays up after bedtime.



Calvin Laporte and Evan Smith have been collaborating as The Sufis since meeting at university. “We have very different approaches,” says Calvin, “Evan's formally trained and I mostly play by ear. We're kinda like Yin and Yang or Bert and Ernie haha! ... Neither of us has many strengths musically speaking, eventually we'd like to hire session musicians to just focus on writing and arranging.”

The Sufis' third and latest LP After Hours disputes this modesty with its scene-setting lyrics and infectious take on soul, disco and reggae rhythms. Such eclecticism is explained by an open-mindedness when consuming music. Says Calvin - “I get bored listening to the same band or album over and over again, so I'm always hopping between genres in search of something new. Nothing's off limits as long it's a good song with a genuine feeling behind it. My favourite albums are ones that have variety like Tusk or Sign 'O' The Times.”

The Sufis' previous albums were made in Nashville but a move to Brooklyn provided fresh inspiration. “There’s an energy in New York that's unlike anything I've experienced anywhere else” says Evan. “You have to go through so much just to play drums for example, so once you're at the studio you want to make sure you get something good. The record stores are amazing too so when we weren't playing or writing we were spoilt by all the great stuff to dig through.”

The move also enabled tuition from a left-field legend. “Before we started working on After Hours I spent half a year working and studying with La Monte Young at his loft in Tribeca. A lot of the songs are about those times” say Calvin. Despite such mentoring, After Hours is anything but avant-garde or minimalist, and draws inspiration from across the musical spectrum. “I was listening to a lot of jazz and soul,” says Calvin. “I always look up to writers like Smokey Robinson, Allen Toussaint and Wayne Shorter. We were really into Tin Pan Alley and Brill Building writers too. I remember putting on a lot of '80s and '90s Lou Reed after recording sessions haha!”

“I was heavily inspired by the session work of Aynsley Dunbar and the songs of Leiber and Stoller, as well as Hoagy Carmichael” adds Evan, “along with Burt Bacharach's arrangements and Linda McCartney's synth lines.”

After Hours is preceded by a single, 'All Knowing (71)'. Calvin explains the number's significance - “That's a reference to a chapter in the Tao Te Ching. I'm always trying to remind myself that I don’t know anything. I used to be a voracious reader, but lately I just read the Tao over and over. The instrumental section was inspired by Philip Glass and is meant to represent the paradox in the second part of the chapter.”

“While making the record we became fascinated with the Tao and read it constantly, we still do” says Evan. “I guess I'm always trying to destroy my ego even if I fail most of the time, and that's what the song is kinda about.”

After Hours is out now on Burger Records.
 
Check out The Sufis Favourites Spotify playlist below, and click over the jump to read the full interview.



(Click over the jump to read the full interview)


Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Innocents - Teardrop Kiss


Aussie powerpop legends back with a new LP!


We love a bit of powerpop round our house so it's not surprising that this new album from The Innocents has had some heavy rotation on our stereo of late. The band have been Tasmania's leading exponents of the genre for some 40 years, and their talent showing no signs of diminishing.

Originally formed as Beathoven in 1975, the band soon changed their name to The Innocents and released a string of powerpop gems that chimed with skinny tie era. The revitalised band gained a new lease of life in the early noughties when a compilation, The No Hit Wonders From Down Under (2002) quickly sold out of its limited run. Their new album Teardrop Kiss has all the hallmarks of their best work – punchy, melodic songs that straddle the emotional line between happy and sad, lyrics that somehow manage to be both specific and universal, all backed with guitar crunch, uptempo beats, three-part harmonies and iced with enough variety and flourishes to make listening in one sitting such a pleasurable breeze.

The old adage about not judging a book by its cover doesn't apply in this case. The album's cover is reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein's comic book style art - eye-catching, bright, immediate, seemingly simple yet with true depth. All qualities shared by the music.

Another reason for The Innocents' new lease of life came via their inclusion on the bills at David Bash's small but perfectly formed International Pop Overthrow festivals. For those unfamiliar with the IPOs, they take place yearly at various (mainly US) cities with a strong musical heritage, as well as ventures over to Europe recently even such unlikely places as Tel Aviv. I've been to a couple of these when they've taken place at Liverpool's Cavern Club. If you can make it along to any I highly recommend you do. Even more so if The Innocents are playing. And if you can't get along to one, do try and track down this CD


The Innocents are -

Rob Smith – Vocals / Guitar
Greg Cracknall – Vocals / Bass
Charles Touber – Vocals / Rhythm Guitar


Click here for The Innocents' website.
Click here for The Innocents on Facebook.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Fruits de Mer - 10th Birthday Glastonbury All-Dayer (May 12th)


A special day of music, beer, fun and new records!

The Fruits de Mer 10th birthday all-dayer at Glastonbury's King Arthur pub on May 12th will no doubt be a fantastic day for those lucky enough to attend. It's already sold-out but you may be able to get a ticket from Ebay. Along with the live music there'll be the opportunity to purchase new and limited items from the increasingly collectable label. Completists will be hoping they don't sell out there and then so keep an eye on the FdM website for any left-over stock. Here's a round-up of the new vinyl that will be on sale in the vale...

Tir na nOg – Hall Of Mirrors - lathe-cut 7” (90 copies only)


Could there be a more fitting act to be playing on the mystic Vale of Avalon on a beautiful spring day? Answer – no. Tir na nOg will have this delightful 7” available on the day. It features two tracks – 'Columbine' has lyrics taken from a 1920s fantasy novel Lud-in-the-Mist, and tells the tale of what happens when you eat mind-altering fruit. The other side is a cover of 'Hall Of Mirrors' by Sweeney's Men.

Moonweevil – Vertical Tide - LP + CD (160 copies)


Rob Appleton is the keyboard player in progressive rockers Cranium Pie. Having recently moved to Austria, he's been creating instrumental library music. This thoroughly captivating LP is an extension of that work. Though more “out there” and experimental. A hot one folks! Grab a copy if you can before the price goes through the roof on Discogs.

The Honey Pot / Icarus Peel's Acid Reign – Silver Diamonds/Half Space - lathe-cut 5” single (80 copies)



Both bands playing on the day, and here taking a side each of a split 5” single. The Honey Pot's contribution was specially written for the gig/single and is even more meta in that it celebrates previous FdM events. 'Half Space', the track from Icarus Peel's Acid Reign, is described by Peel as “a bongo freak-out with the potential to be lengthened at some point”. Until then this 5” version will do nicely. It comes housed is a special tin. Perfect for damage limitation at an all-dayer! Floppy hats off to Fruits de Mer once again!

Click here for the Fruits de Mer website
Click here for Tir na nOg
Click here for Moonweevil
Click here for The Honey Pot/Icarus Peel's Acid Reign

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Black Delta Movement - Preservation


Debut long-player from Hull's textural noiseniks! Exporative guitar-driven dark-rock


Avoiding the unsavoury heavy metal route, there's a lineage of guitar-wielding bands that understand the attraction of loud guitar music but also have a concept of taste. They also tend to favour leather jackets and sunglasses over big hair and spandex, feedback-friendly semi-acoustics over pointy headstocked shredding. I guess it all begins with the mighty Velvet Underground, the baton passed at various times to the Stooges, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Thee Hypnotics, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Black Lips, The Jim Jones Revue... you can probably think of a few names of your own to add to the list. Rooted in '60s arty indifference but with a sheer sonic attack that would easily take your head off at the switch of an effects pedal.

Interestingly two of the bands listed above have the word “Black” in their name. Well now there's some new kids on the block who can take their place among them and they too have the darkest of all colours in their name. The Black Delta Movement hail from Hull on the northside of the Humber (hence “delta” – geddit?), their debut LP Preservation is set for release any day now. Centred around the twin guitar attack generated by Matt Burr and Dom Abbott, (Hull's answer to Lou and Sterling), the band have been honing their sound for the best part of a decade. All the hard work and gigs have paid off as you can hear on Preservation. It explores drone, drive, attack, shimmer, melody and that all-important inner headspace.

You wouldn't call this music shoegaze, psychedelia or garage-rock though it does contains elements of all those genres. Add a rhythm section that can shift between baggy funk, motorik, and all out punkish drive and you have something pretty interesting going on. While they undoubtedly have influences (see list in the first paragraph), they also take it it new places, stretch out and see what's possible (hence “movement” – you taking this in?) Take a listen to the track 'King Mosquito' below and you'll get the idea. Exporative guitar-driven dark-rock. Turn up, tune in and feel the noise!


(Slash & Axl? Sterling & Lou? No it's Dom Abbott & Matt Burr.)

Click here for The Black Delta Movement's website.
Click here for Black Delta Movement on Twitter.
Click here for Black Delta Movement on Facebook.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Magic City Trio – Amerikana Arkana


Lee Hazlewood meets Ennio Morricone in a South London boozer! Debut LP of cosmic country noir + special album launch show!


It's nearly three years since The Magic City Trio released their first EP - A Funnel Cloud In Albuquerque, but now the band are set to release a full length LP. Amerikana Arkana sees the band flesh out their old-timey ballads with lush widescreen orchestration, giving a more contemporary cosmic cowboy feel. It draws on the work of both Ennio Morricone and Lee Hazlewood, with lyrical inspiration coming from contemporary news stories, the modern hillbilly noir of author Daniel Woodrell, as well as from the shadowy recesses of their own imaginations.

Now technically a quartet due to the addition of drummer Charlotte Burke, The Magic City Trio's sound is fully realised, having gelled as a band over the three intervening years via regular gigging, while at the same time stockpiling the songs that make this debut long-player such a richly rewarding collection. The sonic inspiration may come from across the Atlantic and across the decades but Amerikana Arkana is realised with a definite contemporary metropolitan filter. The music may conjure up images of prairies and parched dustbowls but they're dowsed with fat splodges of London rain.

With songs of tornadoes, murder, depression (both personal and economic), Amerikana Arkana heads into dark territory yet is paradoxically more playful, the murky subject matter offset by delightful musical touches throughout. With the addition of the afore-mentioned spaghetti western strings, tasteful 'n' twangy fuzz guitar, some sumptuous pedal steel and a touch of mariachi brass and the result is a welcome and accomplished example of London's growing cosmic country scene.

The album will be available as a CD and also as a deluxe vinyl LP which comes with an accompanying CD and book.

** ALBUM LAUNCH SHOW - 24TH MARCH - AN EXPANDED TEN-PIECE BAND WILL PERFORM AT THE DUKE PUB, 125 CREEK ROAD, DEPTFORD, LONDON SE8 3BU. SEE THE BAND'S FACEBOOK PAGE FOR MORE DETAILS**
 
 

The Magic City Trio are -
Frank Sweeney (guitar, vocals, violin)
Annie Holder (guitar, vocal, autoharp)
Adi Staempfli (bass, vocals)
Charlotte Burke (drums, percussion)

Guest musicians include -
Johnny Butten (banjo)
Eddy Dunlap (pedal steel)

Click here for the band's website.
Click here for The Magic City Trio on Facebook.
Click here for The Magic City Trio on Twitter.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Jack Hayter – Abbey Wood


Intimate, poetical hinterland folk.


Gare du Nord Records seem to be developing a niche for albums that speak quietly and intimately about real places, people and history. And about change. The label released the debut LP by The Cold Spells earlier this year, (a fabulous record by my reckoning), and are set to release another top-notch album of South East English folk, this time by Jack Hayter (Ex-Hefner, Dollboy).

Half sung, half spoken and backed by small acoustic ensembles, it's his first solo album in 15 years so perhaps no surprise I'd not stumbled across his music before. That said he's been active musically as a member of Papernut Cambridge, as well as performing and recording with former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman. Like flowers blossoming in a forgotten railway siding this twelve song collection highlights the hinterlands and examines small moments and marginalised lives (both geographically and socially). Yet all the time bursts with heartening empathy.

Abbey Wood is an area of South East London currently experiencing the mixed blessing of improved transport links and ensuing gentrification. A Crossrail link will will soon mean it's only 11 minutes away from Canary Wharf. But it's not this shiny, steel and glass version which Hayter eulogises. His poetical songs speak of an older, semi-forgotten Abbey Wood. Having spent time living in an abandoned children's home in the area he's witnessed changes that sweep aside history and its impeding emotional associations. Hayter's eye for detail and sharp turn of phrase helps make the album a lyrically rich portrait of a specific place, sepia tinted yet poetically alive. Take 'Fanny On The Hill' for example, an ode to selling knock-off meat in a now-closed Bexley pub. With each listen a different sentence catches the ear. Like the best literature, it's a slow reveal but worth the investment.

Aside from the songs centred on Abbey Wood there are wider historical and war-torn stories illuminated from personal perspectives, such as 'Bendigo' and 'Arandora Star' where the stories of both Australian WWI conscripts and the sunk British warship are rescued from cold factual history and retold with a more human and ultimately more resonant perspective. The album closes with a second version of 'Arandora Star' read in Italian by Hayter's friend Sylvia De.

Rooted as most of the songs and stories are in one postcode, there's a wider emotional resonance at play here. With our cities changing at a seemingly ever faster and sometimes alarming pace, simple remembrance is more precious and important than ever before. We should be thankful that an artist as skillful as Jack Hayter can help us in this much needed act.


Click here for more on Jack Hayter.
Click here for Jack Hayter on Twitter.
Click here for Gare du Nord Records.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Davey Lane - I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright


Melodic Melbournian's second solo LP. Bold 'n' brash synth pop with BIG choruses!


Remember when musicians wrote songs with memorable tunes, hooks and BIG choruses? It may seem like a long time ago but it really did used to happen kids! And occasionally it still does. Davey Lane has been guitarist in acclaimed Australian alt-rockers You Am I since 1999, proving himself adept at guitar-driven rock that both celebrates rock's rich heritage and adds an all-important edge.

His debut solo album, Atonally Young, came out in 2014, and he's just followed it up with a new album out this week. I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright contains echoes and influences from disparate sources such as ELO, OMD, REM and EMF. Lane's main instrument may be guitar but this new LP leans heavy on the synths with Lane also playing much of the bass and drums. So much for the sonics, but what really hits home on this record is the melodies. With tunes that would be worthy of McCartney, Jeff Lynne or Andy Partridge, I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright is the sort of hook-laden record not often heard these days.

My favourite track on the album is 'Bound To Break Me', a gorgeously soaring melody with a happy/sad feel, where Lane's vocal shifts in and out of his falsetto range. This is how pop music should be made - melodically memorable and full of emotion.

Melbourne music is in a pretty healthy state right now. Australian punk is hot with Amyl And The Sniffers on a meteoric rise. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard's quest for world domination continues to gathering. Their guitarist Stu Mackenzie guests on I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright, as does singer-songwriter Laura Jean. For my mind though this is the hottest thing out of Melbourne right now. If like me you can't afford the time or air fare to check out the Melbourne scene, then check out this record instead, it'll warm your heart like a ray of Australian sunshine.


Click here for more on Davey Lane.
Click here for Davey Lane on Instagram.
Click here for Davey Lane on Twitter.
Click here for Davey Lane on Facebook.


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Grandpa Egg - Underneath The Willow Tree


Second storybook song suite from Ohio psych-folkers. A dark and heartbreaking odyssey. OUT NOW!


Clocking in at over 80 minutes, Underneath The Willow Tree comes in a neatly packaged 2CD set. Despite the gloriously quirky cover art, rendered in bright orange and yellows, it's an at times unsettling tale of loneliness, bullying, and pain with redemption coming via fledgling friendships. Described by its authors “mostly fictional”, UTWT is the sort of album that will appeal to those who feel themselves to be outsiders, on the margins. It's an album for anyone who identifies as an underdog, and for those for whom redemption and revenge comes via writing rather than fighting.

So who are Grandpa Egg? A little history – They began back in 2010 when singer/songwriter Jeb Morris formed a musical partnership with musician/producer Bart Morris in Kent, Ohio, USA. In 2011 they released a debut LP Songs for My Cat. The following year they grew into a four-piece with Inga Kristaponyte joining on bass/keyboards and Jordin Goff joining on drums. The first storybook album Praying Mantis came out in 2014, with Underneath The Willow Tree following late last year.

Their sound owes much to the British psych-folk of Comus and Heron but also has something of Syd Barrett's nursery rhyme melody approach. Simple child-like melodies they may have but that's just a sweetener to make the bitter pill of the dark stories easier to take. And the parallel stories on Underneath The Willow Tree are dark ones. Centred around a socially awkward youth called Nicholas (hey we can all identify there right!). Nicholas finds a mysterious box of letters hidden in his bedroom wall, as he reads through them a tragic tale unfolds. Along the way there is bullying, loneliness, and a glimpse of light as Nicholas befriends a shy Korean girl (Holly Yeong) who moves in next-door. I'm not going to give too much of the plot away so no spoiler alerts. But do check it out, it's a unique and compelling listen.

With an instrumental pallette that includes mandolin, banjo, toy pianos and dulcimer along with guitars and keyboards, it is at times quirky and twee, then switches to sections of violent and dark dialogue. They've not opted for a polished overly thought out sound but opted instead for an in-the-moment, homespun approach. It works. The performances are more human, intimate even, encouraging empathy. I read recently in a book that to be a good writer what is required above all is limbic resonance. It's something Grandpa Egg seem to understand.


Click here for more on Grandpa Egg.
Click here for Grandpa Egg on Twitter.
Click here for Grandpa Egg on Facebook.

Life Pass Filter - Joseph EP


When a child is born, give the gift of music.


A recent release on the increasingly happening Gare du Nord label is this five song EP from Lille-based duo Life Pass Filter. A collaboration between composer/sound designer Antoine Boucherikha and graphic designer Anne Hélou. Their usual work is making music and sounds for video games but here they've created a suite of songs with a homespun lo-fi indie sound to mark the birth of Joseph Chevalier Poher, the first-born child among their circle of friends.

This back story is key to unlocking the songs which are imbued with heart , soul and meaning. 'Hello Little Man' opens the EP. Over a simple acoustic guitar motif the vocals are half whispered as young Joseph is welcomed into the world and offered small pieces of guidance and advice. As the EP progresses the music slowly adds sophistication and interest, in much the same way as a child finding his or her feet, gradually growing in confidence. By the time the EP reaches its closing track 'Lullaby' the sound has grown to a full band sound complete with drums while still retaining some continuity of sound. From nursery to indie disco!

The Joseph EP is a unique gift to a newborn child and one that will no doubt be treasured throughout a life not yet known and full of possibility. Heartfelt is a word much over-used when writing about music but here I can think of no better description.


Click here for more on Life Pass Filter.
Click here for Life Pass Filter on Twitter.
Click here for Life Pass Filter on Facebook.
Click here for Gare du Nord Records.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Various - Looking Forward: The Roots Of Big Star


(This review first appeared in issue #71 of Shindig! magazine.)

Omnivore CD

In any artistic medium there's a risk of embarrassment when juvenilia is available for public consumption. Not so here. This collection, culled from Ardent Studio's 1969-1971 tapes and centred on the early works of Chris Bell, Jody Stephens and an ever-rotating group of East Memphis musicians (most notably Tom Eubanks and Terry Manning) is, if anything, an embarrassment of riches. Early versions of 'My Life Is Right', 'Oh My Soul' and 'Try Again' are included along with several previously unreleased tracks.

Pre-Big Star groups Icewater and Rock City are well represented, and there's three tracks credited to The Wallabys, (albeit aided by Bell and musical compatriot Steve Rhea). It's clear the studio downtime at Ardent, primarily awarded to Bell to sharpen his skills for the nascent Big Star, was not wasted. Clever production touches and skilful arrangements abound, as does a shared sense of fun and discovery. A true joy!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Mat Treiber - Go All Around The World (7")


(This review first appeared in issue #71 of Shindig! magazine.)

Etoile 7”

Montreal-born singer guitarist Mat Treiber makes old-school rock 'n' roll using the broad strokes of rock's primary colours. Blues-based three chord tricks, hooks, catchy choruses with neat guitar solos somewhere in the middle. “So what?” you cry “we done heard it all before!” Well, yes but for one thing it still works. Added to that is Treiber's extremely likable nasal drawl and killer ways with a slide guitar solo.

Both sides of this 7” were recorded live at what sounds like a lively evening at LA's Mint Club. 'Go All Around The World' is a prime slice of punchy Transatlantic rock, kind of like Tom Petty fronting The Who, though it's the flip-side 'It's OK Today' that has more catchy melody. Brits will have a better chance of experiencing Treiber's music in a live setting as he's recently relocated from Los Angeles to the English countryside. See you down the front!

Monday, 19 February 2018

The Corridors - The Corridors


(This review first appeared in issue #70 of Shindig! magazine.)

Viziarmonic CD

Jason Wagers makes music as The Corridors out of his apartment in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. More of a studio-based project than a band, The Corridors came about after Wagers became jaded with the under-paid, under-attended gig circuit. His re-focusing of energies is to our benefit. Stylistically loose and varied, this seven song album is difficult to pin down genre-wise but therein lies its strength.

Each song is a mini-cinematic adventure. Whether it's the domestic drug troubles documented in 'Ghoul', the Barrett-esque melody of 'Elixir Divine' or the magnificently titled 'Granny, Put Down The Gamma Ray' complete with vocoder vocals and sci-fi feel, it all holds together.

I'd wager that Wagers is something of an Anglophile, a neat guitar player in the John Squire indie-funk mould, and a singer from the Ray Davies school of vocals. True or not he's made a record that puts bigger names and established studios in the shade.


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Stag - Midtown Sizzler


(This review first appeared in issue #70 of Shindig! magazine.)

Self-release CD

Crunch, hook and swagger are the key words that summarise this Seattle-based quintet's latest release. Their collective listening pile may lean heavily towards the glam rock of the early to mid '70s (think Sweet, Slade & T Rex), but the gutsy rock/pop they make has been given a contemporary speaker-pushing sheen. It's an in-yer-face guitar wall of sound topped with catchy melodies.

'Come On' channels Rod and The Faces, all bluesy bar-room boogie whereas 'The Bedazzler' passes itself off as a lost Chinnichap production, a feelgood glam stomper up there with anything Giuda and Faz Waltz have made.

Vocalist Steve Mack, best known from his days with That Petrol Emotion, is in fine voice, just the right side of raspy, and is backed by a band whose joy in playing is palpable. It's the sound of a band not trying to change the world but having fun playing music they love. Ain't nothing wrong with that!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Jack Cooper


(This first appeared in issue #71 of Shindig! magazine.)

Blackpool Tower of song. Ultimate Painting's Jack Cooper explores the emotional pull and push of home on his debut solo album. Duncan Fletcher listens in.


Jack Cooper's debut solo album Sandgrown is named in reference to a “Sand Grown 'Un”, the local term for someone from Blackpool. It explores the emotional pull and push of a place that ties and binds but that can also feel small and stifling. The album also has wistful, elegiac affection for a North that's been in managed decline since the 1980's, and a speaking up for marginalised and maligned communities. Key track 'Gynn Square', captures this perfectly.

“As a teenager I worked the deckchairs on Blackpool front,” says a jet-lagged Cooper, home after a short US tour with Ultimate Painting. “There were about 30 of us, all kids. We'd get taken out in a van each morning. Gynn Square was the furthest away and you'd have to get there on your own... It was kind of below the sea wall, a weird place... Sometimes people think of the north of England as backward but Blackpool was an incredibly liberal place – a lot of gay people, immigrants because it's a port town. I went to school with black people, Muslims, Hindus, it was a really multicultural place. I remember some drag queens from Funny Girls coming down, one just sat with me all day chatting, giving an insight into their world. But Blackpool also had a high proportion of heroin addicts. There'd be needles lying around and people shooting up behind the deckchair stack. You'd meet strange people and see things you didn't want to see. Scary people would talk to you and you'd feel out of your depth. Some places just have a sense of dread about them.”

The narrative is broken up by two instrumentals, 'Sandgrown Part One' and 'Part.Two', showcasing Cooper's sparse, but layered guitar work, something like Curtis Mayfield meets The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir. “That's exactly what I was going for along with the tremolo sound! I wanted it to be quite simple... I'm not fast enough to be a really good lead guitarist so I've tried to figure out my own style, kind of rhythm guitar with bits in.” The album was recorded on a Tascam 144, famously used by Bruce Springsteen on his Nebraska LP. “I'm no Springsteen fan but I've always liked the way Nebraska sounds. Wu-Tang Clan used a Tascam for 36 Chambers. That album sounds amazing! It has a kind of hazy fuzz to it. That's actually more of an inspiration sonically than Nebraska.”

For someone who has always worked collaboratively in bands, the question is why a solo record now? “I've always wanted to do, not like a song-cycle but a cohesive thing and I've always written about Blackpool, from that point of view. It would be odd to have done it within the band context just because it's so personal to me. With bands and collaborations sometimes things improve and sometimes things get diluted. This I wanted to be more of a singular vision... It's a solo album but because it has this overarching theme it's like one foot in the water of being a solo artist. It's not like 'these are my songs and these are my feelings on life'. This is just my feelings on one particular thing.”

Sandgrown is out now on Trouble In Mind.

Skeleton Key Records


(This review first appeared in issue #70 of Shindig! magazine.)

Duncan Fletcher talks with Neville Skelly whose label is spearheading the latest North-West musical renaissance.


Chess, Stax, Motown. All labels built on strong regional representation and deep family ties. Decades on since the inception of those powerhouse American labels, a small but dedicated team of music lovers on Merseyside are intent on building their own visionary dynasty. Skeleton Key Records is owned and run by velvet-voiced song-smith Neville Skelly and Coral main-man James Skelly. The Liverpool-based label's first release was a vinyl version of James' solo LP Love Undercover in 2013 made during Coral downtime.

“We both admired Labels like Elektra and A&M where the roster was eclectic and thought wouldn't it be great to do something like that where it's simply all about the music. We felt that at certain majors the accountants were running things so we thought we're the ones who eat, sleep and breathe music, we can either sit around moaning about how shit it is or do something about it, so we did!” says Neville when asked how the label came into being. “We run it between us and jointly decide what artists we want to sign. James produces the bands and I deal with everything connected to the releases along with bringing in the team to help promote the records.”

The family ties and talent are also evident in much of the accompanying artwork. Neville explains - “A lot of the artwork is done by Ian Skelly and his partner Anna Benson. They're so talented! Ian's done all the cover artwork for The Coral albums. So it was an easy call to make. We also encourage some of the bands to get involved with designing their own covers if they can.”

Skeleton Key's prolific string of releases include the street poetry/indie-pop mash-up of She Drew The Gun, the mixture of melody and metallic riffs made by Birmingham's Cut Glass Kings and the soulful fragile folk of Marvin Powell. Coral fans can't fail to have missed the mid-noughties “lost album” The Curse Of Love surfacing in 2014, it too bears the hallmark of quality that is the Skeleton Key logo.

Although Neville admits running a label has been a steep learning curve, 2017 has already borne two critically acclaimed LPs - Edgar Jones' The Song Of Day And Night and The Sundowners' Cut The Master. The label ethos of nurturing the artist and letting creativity find its course has certainly reaped rewards. Says Neville - “One of the reasons we set up the label is we felt bands weren't getting the opportunity to grow and develop so it's great to see Sundowners just getting better and better with each release. They are one of the best live bands in the country and it will be great to see them smashing it at Glastonbury and loads of other festivals this year.

With new music due soon from Serpent Power, Marvin Powell and all being well a new Neville Skelly LP for 2018, you get the feeling this is only the beginning. Oh and hopefully the ink will soon dry on a contract with hotly-tipped psych-folksters The Fernweh. That's one hell of a stable!