Behind 'Almost Free' with FIDLAR

This feature was originally in Discovered Magazine’s issue #59.

fidlarnewalbum_main.jpg

Indulging in creative exploration and genre-bending experimentation, California punk band FILDAR have redefined themselves with the release of their third studio album, ‘Almost Free’. Throwing out their ‘party band’ persona, FIDLAR’s evolved sound represents a band not afraid to take risks while also refusing to identify with any specific genre.

“It’s nice to not feel like you’re stuck in a world or a scene or a sound or whatever. I think that’s something that we’ve always tried to do. We’re just making music we like, you know?”

Spending a total of four weeks recording ‘Almost Free’, FIDLAR spent two weeks in the studio with ‘Producer to the Stars’ Ricky Reed and two weeks at the legendary Sunset Sounds, the Californian recording studio that has been home to any artists since the 1960s including The Doors, Prince, The Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys. The influence that both Ricky Reed and Sunset Sounds had on FIDLAR during the recording process brought out a lot of different inspirations.

“We were influenced by a lot of the percussion stuff in War songs. ‘Can’t Be Seen’ is one of the songs off of the record that Ricky Reed was feeling the War vibe on, ‘Alcohol’ as well. Justing adding more percussion got it a little groovier than we’ve ever gotten before.”

Taking other elements of inspiration from bands like The Clash, Beastie Boys, Tom Waits and Funkadelic, FIDLAR approached ‘Almost Free’ in a way they never had before with an album, taking more time on its creation and experimenting in all ways possible.

“It’s definitely different to the last two records. We like to try a lot of new stuff, we took a little more time on it and just tried to experiment. Like on ‘Almost Free’, we’ve never had an instrumental song so it’s kind of cool that exists now. It’s like another thing we hadn’t done that [we] now have.”

With ‘Almost Free’, FIDLAR managed to find the perfect balance in their sound that pleases old fans who have listened since the band’s formation in 2009 while also allowing them to evolve, helping to gain new fans with this new set of songs.

In terms of the creative direction FIDLAR decided to take with ‘Almost Free’, it wasn’t something taken lightly, working to make sure that the different ideas each member brought to the table didn’t result in an unclear album with too many ideas weaved throughout.

“We are all into a load of different things so Ricky Reed kind of helped all of those ideas come together to make it cohesive in a way. It can be dangerous trying to do all of those different genres, it can come off kind of cheesy and contrived. It’s a matter of putting all of those things together and having it make sense and not be a total mess.”

Although FIDLAR admits that they don’t go too deep into looking at the reviews surrounding their albums, the risks, time and effort they put into ‘Almost Free’ have already proven to be well worth it. Since its release in January, they appeared on The Annie Mac Show, did a coveted Maida Vale session and played an intimate gig at London’s House of Vans to a couple hundred of their most passionate fans.

With tour dates already booked in the states as well as a slot at this summer’s Reading and Leeds Festival, FIDLAR’s continuing to ride the wave' ‘Almost Free’ has brought them, the California band looking forward to playing their new material for anyone within an ear’s reach.

“We’ve toured so much and played so many shows [so] it’s always nice to have new songs to bust out live. It’s nice to have a lot to choose from now that we have ‘Almost Free’.

DISCOVERED_FIDLAR.png

Meet the New (Emo) Kids on the Block: Hot Milk on Their Massive Debut with ‘Are You Feeling Alive?’

This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in May 2019.

Self-releasing their debut EP, Are You Feeling Alive?, this past week, UK-based emo powerpop outfit Hot Milk is on the verge of becoming the next big thing in music. With a tour slot secured alongside Foo Fighters and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes this summer, 2019 is just the beginning for the band from Manchester. Speaking with Jim Shaw (vocals/guitar) and Han Mee (vocals/guitar) earlier this month, the two of them opened up about the band’s history and how Are You Feeling Alive? came to be.

“There were four things that aligned the night Hot Milk was formed – rain, wine, Han and Jim.”

Hot Milk came to be following a bout of other musical projects ending for Jim and Han, the two of them deciding to use that period of change to channel their creativity into a different outlet.

“We were kind of hating where we were in life and both of our bands had kind of ended so we found ourselves in our living room on a cold January night with an acoustic guitar and, thus, “Take Your Jacket” was written and Hot Milk was born.”

Released as their second single off of the EP, “Take Your Jacket,” a powerhouse pop track about the aftermath of a breakup, has flooded radio stations around the UK, earning plays on BBC Radio 1’s Rock Show with Daniel P. Carter and Future Sounds with Annie Mac. The creation of the song ultimately set the tone for the project that would later be titled Hot Milk, Jim and Han quickly realising they had something worth pursuing.

“We just kept writing and writing and we got to a point where we thought either we do this properly or we don’t. We decided to take a leap of faith and just fucking do it. We had nothing to lose because we didn’t like where we were at anyway.”

Fast forward to this year and things look a lot different for Hot Milk. With Tom Paton (bass) and Harry Deller (drums) added into the mix to complete the band’s lineup, Hot Milk has already shared stages with acts like Enter Shikari, Deaf Havana and Papa Roach, all before their debut EP was even released.

Are You Feeling Alive?, a four-track EP that features well-written and unbelievably catchy powerpop tracks that float through your head all day long, is a strong debut from the Manchester quartet, showing their versatility as both songwriters and musicians.

Working with touring audio engineer Phil Gornell (Bring Me The Horizon, All Time Low) on the EP, the recording process for Hot Milk took only a few weeks, but quickly became a juggling act of schedules, as Han shared.

“The EP literally took around a few weeks to record, but there was about a year in between us writing these first four songs and actually recording which we did with Phil Gornell. We actually had to fit it around his touring too which meant recording some vocals in a shitty hotel in Birmingham [laughs].”

While brief in length, Hot Milk has managed to pack Are You Feeling Alive? with tracks listeners can both dance and sing along to and relate to in some way. Though masked with catchy pop breakdowns and powerful vocals, the EP’s title track has a much deeper meaning that might not be noticed at first glance, the subjects discussed ultimately leading to it being the EP’s title, as Jim shared.

“For us, this whole EP is almost like a diary entry. Each song signifies a step by step process about a realisation of our lives at the time it was written. We touch upon mental health, feeling both distant and present from reality, unkind people in positions of power and self-betterment. “Are You Feeling Alive?” is a modern frustration about being on the wrong path and realising your full potential. It’s a question of really looking at yourself and the path you’re taking and asking, ‘am I really happy?’”

“Wide Awake,” the EP’s opening track that Hot Milk debuted a music video for this week, is another song packed with meaning. Though very upbeat in terms of sound, it came from a completely different place of inspiration for Han.

“This song came from a bit of an angry place for me. This whole song revolves around realisation. I was in an environment where everyone was blindly following a hierarchy that I did not agree with. It felt like I was the only one questioning the norm as I felt like it was morally wrong, I didn’t want to be part of the herd mentality. For me, this is our protest song.”

Along with selecting four tracks that would collectively represent the sound and substance found in their work, self-releasing this EP was one of the most important factors for Hot Milk.

“We always wanted to self-release our first record as it’s a lot more intimate and personal. We also have a strong sense of how we want to grow our band. At this stage, we didn’t want labels getting involved and pushing their ethos on our music.”

With Are You Feeling Alive? finally out for the world to hear and enjoy, it is clear that things are only looking up for Hot Milk, taking their uniquely fresh sound and passion for this project and running as far as they can with it. Up next for the band is touring, Hot Milk already having a slew of dates planned for this spring and summer including Brighton’s The Great Escape Festival this week, Slam Dunk later this month and Download Festival in June. For the newly formed band, their live set is something they have been working to perfect over the past few months.

“We practice a lot, we want to make sure the set is tight and we don’t have to worry about a thing as soon as we step on that stage. We essentially want to feel the music and just have the best time. We all love a party so we want to make our set a place where people know they can come and get lost in the music [and also]where they know they can come and be themselves, unapologetically.”

While fans are catching the band this spring and summer on the road around the UK and Europe, they can anticipate that new material from Hot Milk is not far from the horizon despite the fact that Are You Feeling Alive? has only been out for a week. As both Han and Jim revealed, Are You Feeling Alive? is a strong and well-thought out release from Hot Milk, but barely scratches the surface of what they have in store for everyone, the band excited to reveal their next chapter of work sometime soon.

“We know exactly what we are releasing for the next twelve months and beyond and what we are writing now is what you’ll hear in the months to come. It’s like having a big secret up our sleeves.”

Overgrow on Finding Solace in His New EP, ‘The Name We Share'

This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in May 2019.

MG_0402.jpeg

Emerging onto the scene in 2018, Overgrow (Jake Ciccotelli) has cultivated a sound all his own that tackles a variety of real-life themes including self-criticism, love, loss, grief and more. The personal storytelling in each of his songs resonates with his listeners, granting them an outlet to release their built up emotions just as Ciccotelli himself is able to do each time he writes and performs.

His new EP, The Name We Share, debuts this Friday on Common Ground Records and features six beautifully written tracks that further enforce his reputation of writing raw and honest anecdotes about life experiences we can’t help but identify with. Ciccotelli recently opened up about the trials and tribulations that came along with creating The Name We Share and how he was able to find solace in his work following the sudden death of his father.

For The Name We Share, Ciccotelli completely altered the way in which he has created music in the past. Beginning with instrumentals rather than lyrics first, the change in his approach, he found, gave him more time to focus on cultivating the six songs featured on the EP, breathing a new life into them that he wasn’t expecting.

“The writing and recording process for this EP was really different for me. We recorded as I wrote this time. I’ve only ever been in bands that recorded complete releases in a week or so. This time, whenever I had a new song ready to go, we’d book studio time and record what we had. I started writing and we started recording in June and ended in November. It was nice to be able to take our time on this one and I think it shows.”

Ciccotelli also used the extra time during the recording process to create a listening experience very different from what is presented on his debut EP, The House You Made. From start to finish, there are no breaks in the six songs on The Name We Share, giving listeners a seamless listen that continues from track to track.

“The biggest thing I wanted was that when you pressed play on the first song, there wouldn’t be silence until the record was over. I’m so proud of how this record flows from track to track, it almost feels like moments in one long song instead of six individual tracks. But, at the same time, I’m so proud of the fact that all of these songs stand alone as well.”

Following the release of his debut EP, The House You Made, an unfiltered collection of songs written following the sudden loss of Ciccotelli’s father in 2017, The Name We Share is a continuation of the themes and sounds heard on The House You Made. Although released a year apart from each other, Ciccotelli is continuing to offer listeners a look inside the thoughts in his head, ones that have been battling the pain and emotions that come along with the sudden loss of a loved one.

“A lot of this record lyrically picks up from where the previous EP left off. It’s all about grief and mourning the passing of my father, but I think this time there’s a bit more closure.”

While difficult at times, Ciccotelli was able to learn more about himself personally and also as a songwriter through the creation of The Name We Share. The period of catharsis he went through gave him more than he anticipated, finally granting him the space to grieve and personally grow.

“I really felt like my happiness wasn’t allowed for a long time, that I wouldn’t be honoring my father’s legacy to let myself be happy. In retrospect, this record is about getting out of that headspace and realizing he wouldn’t have wanted me to be miserable.”

Although about his own personal loss, the topics tackled in The Name We Share are universal, every listener being able to find something to relate to in their own personal life. Incredibly written and composed, The Name We Share is also another great piece of work from Overgrow that shows the musicianship and authenticity Ciccotelli is able to present in his work.

Above all, the personal struggles and moments of clarity Ciccotelli went through to create The Name We Share has given listeners a body of work they can go to whenever they need a sense of comfort or just a moment to release all they have built up inside. The heavy subject matter on The Name We Share, while difficult to fathom at times, all boils down to the main message Ciccotelli wants all who listen to take away from the EP, something that took him going through his own grieving to find.

“The overall message of The Name We Share is that healing is possible and that it’s a thing you should want to achieve.”

Introducing Bedroom Pop Royalty: Beauty Queen on Her Debut EP

This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in April 2019.

Screen-Shot-2019-03-12-at-2.53.38-PM-1.png

Bedroom pop artist Beauty Queen’s debut EP, Out of Touch, is out today. Featuring six tunes that are reminiscent of holidays spent on the West Coast, Beauty Queen’s music has been described as being best to listen to “while smoking at the back end of the parking lot, while skipping 2nd period AP trig.”

Hot on the heels of Out of Touch’s release, we caught up with Katie Iannitello, the mastermind behind Beauty Queen, to talk about the writing and recording process behind the EP and where she draws her inspiration for her tell-all tracks.

Set to the tune of dreamy bedroom pop melodies that help transcend the listener into a new wave of relaxed and chilled out feelings, Out of Touch features truthful, tell-all lyrics everyone can identify with in some way. Writing and recording the demos for Out of Touch in her bedroom, the personal workings behind the EP feel almost effortlessly put together, an aspect that compliments Iannitello’s songwriting process well.

“My songwriting process happens best when I walk, so I used to walk a lot and just hum stuff in my head and build on that. Sometimes the lyrics would come when I would mumble something and recognize that it was an actual phrase later!”

Teaming up with Henry Nowhere (Day Wave) to produce the EP, the collaboration between Nowhere and Iannitello could be seen as a match made in heaven, the two of them being able to work together to create an EP that presents a new sound in bedroom pop that is both refreshing and blissful.

“I wrote the songs and recorded demos in my bedroom and sent them over to Henry who produced the songs also in his bedroom. I was living in San Francisco at the time so I came down to LA one weekend and we recorded all the rest there together!”

Two stand out tracks on Out of Touch are “Sold You Out” and “Goner,” both featuring psychedelic sounds paired with spunky and playful lyrics we can all apply to aspects in our own lives. The songs, while sonically completely different from one another, both were written about similar feelings and experiences in Iannitello’s life.

“Both tracks are written about oppressive relationships (some romantic / some not) and learning how to find the strength within yourself to move past them. ‘Sold You Out’’s lyrics are a sassy and playful taunt to whoever’s trying to break you while ‘Goner’ is about learning from relationships and accepting yourself when it’s hard to let go of something you know is unhealthy and finding some humor in it.”

While it is always hard to choose one of your songs over the other, Iannitello’s favorite song on the release right now is the title track which she will be releasing a music video for next month. Inspired by her feelings of disconnect from her native town of Maui, “Out of Touch” was written as a way for Iannitello to work out her feelings and emotions of being far from home while living in California.

“It was an easy song to write because it sums me up. I’ve always felt a little out of touch being here on the mainland now, but being raised in Maui. I don’t get a lot of the pop culture references because, well, I guess it’s true, I was raised on a rock! But the song is an anthem just to be yourself and who cares if you’re awkward and different!”

As her debut release as Beauty Queen, Iannitello has managed to present a batch of six songs that are all distinctly different from each other while still standing together to create a cohesive EP. With a mixture of dreamy bedroom pop elements and real-life lyrics that will attract all who listen, Beauty Queen’s end goal for this EP was greatly accomplished, making for one of the best releases to come from the genre in a long time.

“I think being from Maui helped me write pop music that has more of a relaxed vibe. I want it to be easily listened to and fun!”

SHOW REVIEW: The Maine

This review was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in April 2019.

DSC_9212.jpg

Wherever in the world The Maine may be, there is always an army of fans behind them. A mere week following the release of their seventh studio album, You Are Ok, the Arizona-based band found themselves in London for their biggest UK headlining show to date. With a brand new album of material to play, a release that would go on to debut at number one on Billboard’s Independent Album chart, The Maine’s show in London was not only a celebration of their new album, but a celebration of the community the band has managed to form worldwide.

Opening up the night with “Numb Without You,” the first single to be released from You Are Ok, the sheer loudness of the crowd singing the words with vocalist John O’Callaghan made it seem like the song had been out for years. Clad in coordinated outfits that reflect the colours presented on You Are Ok, the moment they hit the stage, it was clear that The Maine was going to do everything in their power to make the show a night to remember.

To the surprise of many fans, The Maine incorporated a number of old songs into their set including “Don’t Come Down”, “Diet Soda Society” and “Right Girl,” all tracks that followed the opening song and all tracks that are from different albums. The well thought out set list of twenty songs spanned The Maine entire career, showcasing their evolution as a band in both sound and style.

Although it was released over a decade ago, each time The Maine performs “We All Roll Along,” the song seems to become more and more special to those that hear it. As soon as the second verse began, all music stopped and the band let the audience sing the lyrics “8123 means everything to me” back to them. As a number that was originally the address of where The Maine would hang out before they became an international touring band, 8123 now describes the community that surrounds them and the family of fans that have come along for the ride over the years. It’s a moment in their set that each of the five members never quite seem to get sick of, each of them smiling wide as the crowd screams those lyrics with as much power and emotion as they can muster up.

“Slip The Noose,” the opening track on You Are Ok, was a particularly memorable moment in the set and one that even surprised the band. Having only been released eight days prior to the show, fans overpowered the vocals of O’Callaghan as the opening lines of the song began, singing with so much passion and excitement that the band took a moment to look at each other in sheer amazement that so many people already knew all of the words to the brand new song.

“Am I Pretty?,” a groovy tune about self-love and acceptance that was released on 2015’s American Candy, brought one of the most emotional moments of the night. Calling on a fan from the audience at random and bringing him onstage, the fan took the microphone and stormed the stage, energetically singing and even coordinating a few dance moves that O’Callaghan followed in sync with. Once the song was done, however, the fan took a moment to express how he, and so many people around the world, feel about this emo band from Arizona, saying the following:

“You are one of the most important bands in the world. You guys have helped all of these fucking people. I had the shittiest day yesterday and I was reminded of coming here tonight and I just couldn’t finish smiling. You guys are fucking amazing and I owe you my life.”

It’s safe to say there wasn’t a single dry eye in the venue after that, the fan’s words hitting home to so many in the audience.

Before closing out the night with “Black Butterflies and Deja Vu” and “Another Night On Mars,” both fan favourites, O’Callaghan opened up candidly to the audience about the thoughts floating around in his head, expressing that he didn’t understand what they did as a band to earn the fans that they have or be as successful as they are, but “whatever it is we did, we must have done something right.”

Their show in London, as is the case for every show they play around the world, had an atmosphere that is almost hard to describe to those that weren’t there. It was excitement, happiness, joy and for some, it may have even felt like home. As friends that met because of The Maine stood next to each other in the crowd, singing as loud as their voices would let them, the sense of family and community that surrounds this band is powerful and unique in all of its own ways.

What The Maine has been able to accomplish over the years as an unsigned band who got their start on MySpace – sold out headlining international tours and a number one debut on a Billboard chart – is almost hard to fathom and understand. For now, the words John spoke that night in London will have to be the best explanation for what has happened for them over this past decade – “whatever it is we did, we must have done something right.”

ALBUM REVIEW: Catfish and the Bottlemen – “The Balance”

This review was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in April 2019.

unnamed-2-1.jpg

After three years since the release of their sophomore album, The Ride, Catfish and the Bottlemen is back with The Balance, an eleven-track album that is sure to please those who have been waiting so long to hear new material from the Welsh rock band.

“Fluctuate,” the second track on the album that Catfish and the Bottlemen has included in their live sets over the past year, is a perfect example of the overall sound found on The Balance. With catchy verses filled with melodically personal lyrics, the choruses are BIG with heavy guitars and domineering drums. This pattern is found throughout most of the album, the majority of the songs’ main focus being the choruses.

“Sidetrack” is a tune reminiscent of something we could have heard on The Ride, featuring tongue-twisting lyrics that narrate the story of a struggling relationship that builds up into a big percussion heavy chorus. While this song would offer an energy-filled experience when watched live, it just overall seems to fall a bit flat. The lyrics are strong and are able to tell a detailed story in a short amount of time, but it’s missing a quality that would elevate it above being just another guitar rock song.

Stylistically, Catfish and the Bottlemen hasn’t strayed too far away from the formulas used on their past records, sticking to the guitar music they have gained a reputation for. In three years, however, they have shown a lot of growth in terms of their songwriting and the vocal capabilities of frontman Van McCann.

“Encore” greatly shows McCann’s vocal growth, presenting a crisper and more in control vocal than what we have heard in the past. Particularly in the chorus and bridge, the strength and control in his voice are evident, showing more range that elevates his performance, adding more dimension to the track. This song also presents memorable and relatable lyrics in the bridge that truly help tie the whole song together, “so tell me when your work is up, take over my whole week ‘cause I’m only here playing up so that I can come and fall at your feet.”

“Basically” is one of the strongest songs on The Balance. A gritty guitar riff is weaved throughout the track, adding an extra rock element while also offering a distinct moment on the whole album with a well-executed solo during the bridge. The lyrics are cleverly written, telling the personal moments within a relationship with infectious hooks and words that are bound to get stuck in the head of anyone who listens. It is also the song where the album title comes from, “I think we best just get the balance right because basically I do this all the time and lately we seem to have it right.”

A Catfish and the Bottlemen record wouldn’t be complete without a stripped down acoustic tune and that moment arrives on The Balance with “Intermission.” Driving the song are the staccato plucks of bass and guitar overlapped with the raw and casual vocals of McCann. With lyrics like “but nearly every other word that falls from your mouth keeps me hanging around,” it’s a short and sweet tune that helps break up the album, offering a refreshing moment that showcases their newfound growth as songwriters.

Sending the whole album off on a good note is “Overlap,” perhaps one of their grooviest songs to date. Featuring distinct guitar riffs that are reminiscent of what we hear on old The Kooks albums, “Overlap” starts out slow with McCann’s vocals at the forefront before slowly building up into a chaotic medley of electric guitars, drums and tambourines, McCann passionately singing relatable anecdotes about love before the whole thing ends on an abrupt note. It is very much comparative to “Outside” and “Tyrants,” the closing tracks of their previous albums, all three songs doing the job of closing out their records on disorderly energetic highs.

Overall, The Balance showcases Catfish and the Bottlemen’s growth as songwriters, presenting more complex lyrics about love and life than what we have heard in the past. With a few stand out moments both stylistically and vocally, it is clear that this is a Catfish and the Bottlemen album.

However, there hasn’t been anything incredibly innovative about this new batch of songs, the overall sound presenting nothing new from what we have heard before. In the end, it all comes down to what the listeners are looking for in this album – something experimentally new or something consistently familiar? Whatever the case may be, there’s no denying that this is a strong release from Catfish and the Bottlemen and as a band that has achieved the success they have with the music they have put out in the past, maybe the decision to stay in their lane and stick to what they know isn’t such a bad thing?

UNDER REVIEW: YOURS TRULY – AFTERGLOW

This review was originally posted on Discovered Magazine in April 2019.

lbYCKjKT5OWB7KbM7cUcwqMkesyP08D2VCXuNZFXSuY19JNbGrvqyjZQIZNOMt8QHsvNIMgVzz6jkoGxWBH4IPeLSb461N2Anlp1HZb6W4t-0ZNAm9hAiBGazv1RvILa55h6do57ws2jFBwLJ-CTQbncK1DphD6HrIs0-d-e1-ft.jpg

Working the Australian circuit over the past few years, Yours Truly has slowly begun to infiltrate the music scenes of the UK, the states and beyond. Making their UNFD label debut with ‘Afterglow’, the five-track pop-centric EP packs a punch with its catchy hooks, poetic lyrics and surprise collaboration from Between Me & You vocalist Jake Wilson.

Opening up the EP is ‘Circles’, a guitar-driven pop track that instantly introduces the listener to both Yours Truly’s sound and the incredibly powerful vocals of Mikaila Delgado. Musically, ‘Circles’ has the perfect balance of rock and pop influences with its infectious bass line and rock-orientated percussion and guitars weaved throughout. By the second verse, however, the song begins to fall flat with its repetitive lyrics that are not indicative of the writing capabilities the members of Yours Truly have. Overall, it is a good opening track as it introduces new listeners to the musical style of Yours Truly, but it is definitely not the strongest track presented on ‘Afterglow’.

‘High Hopes’ is the song on the EP that draws the most attention. The power of the track is in its vulnerably relatable lyrics listeners will be able to identify with immediately like ‘seasons still change but you’ll still be the same / you can’t take it back / with all I tried / all I know is that you can’t shape me’. As well, the guitar-heavy verses mixed with the catchy choruses that are bound to get stuck in your head all make for a song listeners will be itching to see Yours Truly play live at their shows.

We all love a good collaboration and for their song ‘Delusional Paradise’, Yours Truly teamed up with Between Me & You vocalist Jake Wilson. As two Australian-based bands that are making waves internationally this year with their respective projects, ‘Delusional Paradise’ is a well-thought-out collaboration that will help elevate both of these bands and introduce them to each other’s fanbases. Delgado and Wilson’s vocals compliment each other well, Wilson’s strong and raspy pop-punk influenced vocals being distinct enough from Delgado’s smooth and powerful pop-influenced voice that they blend together well without feeling like one is outshining the other.

Yours Truly has clearly honed in on their sound, presenting five tracks that will please both new listeners within the genre and fans who have been around since the release of their debut EP, 2017’s ‘Too Late for Apologies’. However, while ‘Afterglow’ is a strong representation of the vocal capabilities of Degaldo, who has possibly one of the strongest female vocals the scene has heard in years, ‘Afterglow’ is missing something that really separates Yours Truly from other artists in the scene.

Having very similar sound, song structure and lyrical content as other releases that have come out over the past few years, ‘Afterglow’ hasn’t really presented anything new or especially unique to the genre. It does, however, show a lot of Yours Truly’s potential as they prepare for their debut full-length album release in the next year or so. Their talent and skills are apparent, each member of Yours Truly contributing something to the EP that shows their ability to craft and write good pop-influenced rock songs. There is just an element or two that is missing from their music that would separate them from the pack and allow their music to not blend in with everything else being released right now.

For now, however, Yours Truly is a band with immense potential who will surely gain fans during this ‘Afterglow’ era while also catching the attention of many who will be watching to see what they do next.

Getting Emo with Unturned About Midwest Punk and Their New EP, ‘Sunk’

This featured was posted on Highlight Magazine in April 2019.

unturn promos096.jpg

As one of the bands spearheading the new age of emerging pop-punk acts, Minneapolis-based outfit Unturned is a band to keep your eye on. Reminiscent of the emo pop-punk we all grew up listening to, Unturned has managed to take old elements from the genre and combine them with their own interpretation, creating a fresh and new sound that features hints of grunge mixed with gritty pop-punk vocals and unfiltered emo lyrics.

Forming after Parker (vocals) and Sam (drums) decided to take the acoustic demos they recorded in Parker’s basement and do something more, Unturned has emerged from a music scene many are unaware of. Although it may be tucked away in the Midwestern United States, the city of Minneapolis has a underground music scene that has been home for a number of bands over the years including Molly’s Worst Enemy, Infinite Me and Household, all bands Unturned credit for influencing their sound.

“The Minneapolis and Midwest music scenes have influenced us in huge ways. We love the community and are very lucky to have such a strong music scene with the truly talented bands we have. There were a lot of bands that we saw when we first started going to shows who really influenced us and still do.”

While Unturned play regularly in Minneapolis and in the Midwest, they have managed to transform themselves from being a Midwest basement band to sharing stages with the likes of Hippo Campus, Tiny Moving Parts and Seaway.

Most recently, their latest EP, Sunk, that was released last month on No Sleep Records has created a buzz throughout the scene, Unturned further integrating their unique and gritty sound into the world of pop-punk. Featuring five hard-hitting tracks that discuss real-life problems we all face each day, the songs on the EP represent a group of musicians maturing into their sound, none of them being afraid of throwing out their unfiltered thoughts for the world to hear. However, while the process behind Sunk was rewarding and helped Unturned evolve as a band, the months leading up to them entering the studio were anything but simple.

“The writing process was long. We had just added two members and released an EP to promote that and it took us a long time to figure out what kind of sound we were going for and creating songs we were happy with.”

Juggling the member change and the gruelling schedule that comes with touring, Unturned managed to confidently cultivate the direction they wanted to take their sound in for this third EP, the release ultimately pushing them in the studio while also allowing them to reflect on how the past few years have been.

Sunk is the culmination of two years worth of writing and touring. Through those two years came a lot of doubt and anxiety, but these five songs have kept us together and kept us pushing forward.”

The band travelled to Hopatcong, New Jersey this time last year and began working with producer Gary Cioni (Grayscale, Sorority Noise, Free Throw) at Barber Shop Studios. While Sunk is a reflection of a two-year period for the band, the recording process for the EP took about a week, Unturned pushing themselves creatively in the studio especially when it came to songwriting.

“We changed the way we worked as a band and how we wrote songs. Writing songs became something that made us all very anxious for a long time. Once we had written two of the songs, we had found a comfortable way to work with each other, crafting songs the way we wanted.”

As one of the five tracks that made it onto Sunk, “Comedown” was a particular song Unturned struggled with in the studio. Wanting a track that would end the EP on a high, Unturned used their new found way of writing to create one of the strongest songs on the whole release.

“We tried to make it unique and wanted it to have that heavy end. We really wanted it to hit hard as we kind of knew we wanted it to be the end of the EP. The process was mostly in the studio as we tried to make it sound massive and gross at the end.”

The end result of that week in the studio is a five-track EP that shows both progression and maturity. Each song features tell-all lyrics of thoughts and emotions we sometimes don’t like to admit to feeling, “Shake,” the EP’s third track that is about addressing one’s relationship with substance abuse, being a perfect example of the EP’s overall directionAbove all, the process of creating Sunk was therapeutic and helped Unturned accomplish the goal they had set out to achieve long before entering the studio.

“The meaning behind Sunk is how we felt while writing and can be a general idea of the songs as a whole. We wanted to make an EP that didn’t just sound like every other pop-punk release and we personally felt like that was accomplished in a way we were happy with.”

Since the release of Sunk last month, things have been on the incline, Unturned continuing to play gigs around the area they call home to the passionate and dedicated music listeners that come out of the Midwest. The EP has even received personal praise from fellow musicians in the alt-rock scene including Sleeping With Sirens vocalist Kellin Quinn who recently praised the EP and Unturned on his social media.

As Unturned continue on with this new chapter Sunk has brought them, the basement band from Minneapolis are looking forward to seeing where the future takes them, drummer Sam sharing that he is just fortunate of what they have managed to accomplish so far.

“Just playing shows and touring with my best friends and getting to create music with them is something I’ll always appreciate and be happy I got to do.”

"Releasing This Album Was Scary For Us": Going Behind-the-Scenes of Holding Absence’s Debut Album

This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in April 2019.

As one of the most promising acts to come out of alt-rock in recent years, Cardiff-based band Holding Absence has been on a wild ride this past month. Since releasing their debut S/T album in March, it has already racked up over a million streams on Spotify, all while they have been tearing up stages around Europe and the UK with no sign of slowing down.

What some may deem as an overnight success, the rapid growth in popularity Holding Absence has experienced in the months leading up to the album release has been anything but overnight. Dissecting the inspiration and thought that went into S/T , vocalist Lucas Woodland candidly opened up about how the self-titled album came to be, what the past month has been like for the band and what the future has in store.

All it takes is a quick scroll through Holding Absence’s social media to understand the close relationship they have with their fanbase. From exchanging memes that poke fun at the band members to simple replies thanking all who come out to their shows, the interactions may sometimes be brief, but still show the powerful connection between Holding Absence and their fans. So it was no surprise that when their debut self-titled album dropped last month, the members of Holding Absence were overwhelmed by the outpour of support.

“We were blessed from a very early stage in our career to have a supportive fanbase, so releasing this album was scary for us because we wanted it to propel us to greater things whilst also keeping everybody who already cared about us happy,” Woodland said. “It was a bit of a juggling act, but we’re really happy with how it’s all gone.”

With the pressure of creating a collection of songs that would elevate them to the next level in their career, Holding Absence pushed themselves while in the studio, the process ultimately taking them almost two years to complete. Showing cohesiveness and confidence in their sound with S/T the eleven songs on the album all compliment one another while narrating the personal story of the highs and lows that come with juggling love and real-life woes.

“We wanted this album to bleed emotion, first and foremost,” Woodland explained. “We wanted it to reach inside us and everyone who listened to it, too. Musically, we wanted the album to span as much genre as it did emotion, but without compromising fluidity.”

Taking inspiration from artists like My Chemical Romance, Bring Me The Horizon, My Bloody Valentine and even Bon Iver, Holding Absence managed to weave variously different concepts throughout the album, creating a complex soundscape that is easily translatable to anyone who takes a listen. With brutally honest lyrics that are all too applicable to our own lives, there is one particular track that has captivated the attention of many listeners. Simply recorded with a piano and the powerfully raw vocals of Woodland, piano ballad “Marigold” offers a refreshingly different moment on S/T standing out from the batch of heavy atmospheric rock tracks. Seemingly effortlessly put together with poetic lyrics and vulnerable undertones, “Marigold” was one of the biggest challenges Holding Absence faced while in the studio.

“We’ve always wanted to push this band as much as possible, the easy option has never been good enough for us,” Woodland revealed. “We felt like putting this track on the album was a confident way of opening the door for future progression, it also helped divide the album up a little, too. It was a risk, but we feel like it paid off.”

Hailing from Cardiff, Holding Absence is just one of many alt-rock acts to emerge out of the UK underground music scene, paving the way for a new generation of music listeners who are just discovering the genre for the first time. While the Welsh music scene may often be overshadowed by its friend to the east – England – Wales has a rich history with alternative music, Bullet For My Valentine, Funeral For a Friend and Kids in Glass Houses being just a few acts to emerge from Wales in recent years. Holding Absence attributes being part of this thriving local music scene for influencing the music they make today.

“Growing up, we got into music during the ‘golden years’ of the Welsh scene so we were totally surrounded by great music,” Woodland shared. “As we became musicians ourselves, the Cardiff scene was constantly thriving and, as musicians, we got the chance to play shows weekly. Being Welsh musicians and coming from the Cardiff scene has hardened us as musicians for sure.”

Surfacing during a time where the UK music industry is becoming increasingly competitive, Holding Absence has managed to make a name for themselves through their reputation for putting on captivating, and sometimes chaotic, live performances and producing music distinctly their own. While some believe the scene is alive and thriving more than ever before, Woodland believes Holding Absence is able to fill a gap in alt-rock that has been missing.

“I know that Holding Absence can provide epic rock music for the masses with an inclusive live show and a passionate, personal message,” Woodland explained. “I think there’s a huge gap in the market for music that makes you feel, on a wide scale and I believe we can be that band.”

Proving that art can never be rushed, Holding Absence has been able to slowly build their career since forming in 2016, the release of their self-titled album being a massive step towards solidifying their name in alt-rock music worldwide. As they continue to wreak havoc in venues around the world, the future and where it will take them is constantly in the back of their minds.

“We’re just excited to keep seeing this album grow and speak to people,” Woodland said. “As a band, we’re hoping to travel the world with this music, but on a personal level, we’re just itching to get started on album number two.”

UNDER REVIEW: SLEEP IN. – THE STARS ON YOUR CEILING

This review was originally posted on Discovered Magazine in March 2019.

a0647549694_10.jpg

New Jersey alternative band Sleep In. are back with their sophomore LP, ‘The Stars On Your Ceiling’, their first release with Know Hope Records. Letting the music dictate the overall album direction, the band not needing to spend a great amount of time on the labouring of songwriting and arrangements, ‘The Stars on Your Ceiling’ offers hints of nostalgic influences from past genre releases while also presenting incredibly crafted songwriting we haven’t heard in a long time.

Turning it down a notch for this release, Sleep In. transitioned comfortably into a more pop-centric sound, something listeners may not be used to hearing from the band. Sleep In. also aimed to have the songwriting be at the forefront of this release, each track’s ear-catching lyrics sharing a real-life narrative inspired from events in the band’s lives while also offering life lessons and the opportunity for listeners to reflect on memories of their own.

“OFFERS HINTS OF NOSTALGIC INFLUENCES FROM PAST GENRE RELEASES WHILE ALSO PRESENTING INCREDIBLY CRAFTED SONGWRITING WE HAVEN’T HEARD IN A LONG TIME”

‘Honest Eyes’ is one that really encapsulates the album’s overall sound with strong guitar hooks, foot-tapping percussion and powerful storytelling lyrics listeners will easily be able to identify with like ‘can’t say that I’m surprised it ended this way honest eyes /I see right past your level of lies’. The track is also reminiscent of releases from decades ago, showcasing mid-tempo beats and simple song structure similar to what we heard during the early days of bands like Fireworks and even The Wonder Years.

With a distinct guitar riff weaved throughout the track, ‘This Old House’ is one of the more unique songs on the release. Sharing anecdotes of party nights that have come and gone with lyrics like ‘this house was built to stand the test of time/ kitchen talks and bedroom jams/carpet stains from spilling cans’, the song brings every listener back to moments in their lives that included house parties and being around good company.

“TAKING THEIR OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES AND TRANSFORMING THEM INTO BEAUTIFULLY COMPOSED LYRICS”

Inspired by vocalist Tom Fowler’s childhood days of travelling and making his core group of friends, ‘Day Dream’ is a standout moment on ‘The Stars On Your Ceiling’. Offering a nostalgic dialogue of the trials and tribulations that happen while growing up, ‘Day Dream’ discusses the drawbacks of making and losing friends before closing out the song with the repetition of the lyrics ‘it’s alright’, allowing the listener to realize that going through these moments is part of growing up, but help make us stronger in the end.

Overall, ‘The Stars On Your Ceiling’ doesn’t offer anything new musically, the instrumental production of mid-tempo beats, punchy guitar riffs and rather simple percussion elements all being very similar to what we have heard within the genre already. However, the lyrical content of each track is something to praise immensely. Taking their own personal experiences and transforming them into beautifully composed lyrics, listeners are able to relate personally to what is presented on this album, relating the stories back to moments in their own lives. So while the musical production is not something to jump for joy over, it does allow the songwriting on ‘The Stars On Your Ceiling’ to take the spotlight, creating a listening experience that is enjoyable without being overwhelming, offering the opportunity for listeners to travel back in time to moments that have long since passed.

Meet GRIEF: The Emerging Band That’s Making Alt-Rock A Lot More Interesting

This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in March 2019.

Hailing from Manchester, the English city with a deeply rich musical history, is the new post-hardcore group worth paying attention to – GRIEF. Debuting their first single “Dormant” just last week, the track has been received warmly by listeners and critics alike, earning over 30k views on YouTube in the mere seven days it has been live.

Showing promise with their original style and sound, we caught up with GRIEF to talk about the band’s beginnings, their upcoming music and how they feel about being part of the UK music scene today.

“GRIEF came together through everyone’s appreciation and passion of post-hardcore music.”

After various musical projects began and ended, the members of GRIEF – Matt Kirkham (bass), Andy Norton and Ryan Williams (guitar), Chloe Griffiths (drums) and Reece Banks (vocals) – eventually all came together through their love for post-hardcore music. Once they started creatively collaborating together, it was clear that their love for post-hardcore had infiltrated GRIEF’s music, making it very clear which direction they wanted to take the project in.

With music being part of their lives from an early age, each member gravitating towards playing instruments and attending gigs of all genres since they were young, GRIEF attribute much of their inspiration for the music they create from witnessing numerous live performances over the years. It is also acts like Being As An Ocean that have been a huge influence on their sound and goals as a band.

“We feel that their [Being As An Ocean] melodic choruses followed by unclean verses have influenced our music as a whole. The band has grown to be unique in their own way which is definitely something we will eventually aim to achieve.”

Coming from Manchester, GRIEF’s another act to emerge from the musically rich city. Although Manchester’s musical history covers virtually every genre, the city’s alt-rock scene has been making a lot of noises recently, Parting Gift, PLEIADES and Leeched being just a few of the acts to emerge from the city’s underground scene in recent years. While some believe Manchester is far too oversaturated with artists trying to make it, GRIEF take where they are from and use it to positively impact them in every way possible.

“The UK alt-rock scene is unbelievable at the moment with so many bands breaking out and releasing their best work. This inspires and encourages us on a daily basis to push our own boundaries and limits within music.”

With their debut single “Dormant,” GRIEF has set the bar high in terms of what to expect from emerging alt-rock artists, the single showing the band’s distinct sound that is uniquely their own and also well above the quality we often hear from emerging artists. As an impressive introduction with a clear vision, “Dormant” is pushing boundaries in both the scene and within the band.

“The majority of “Dormant” was written in Chloe’s front room as that’s where we found that we were the most relaxed and productive. We would turn up between work shifts and stay for days at a time chipping away and building the track part by part. When it came time to record in the studio, we pushed our boundaries to another level so we were able to bring out the best in the track.”

Following the release of “Dormant,” listeners can expect to hear a brand new song from GRIEF in the next coming weeks called “Burial.” Showcasing a completely different side to what was presented with “Dormant,” the new track is shaping up to show GRIEF’s versatility in both sound and songwriting.

“‘Burial” exhales pain and resentment as atmospheric elements collide with haunting shouts that carry the track. It is very different from “Dormant,” however, it still delivers heaps of raw emotion and melodies.”

For many emerging acts, picking the first songs the world’s going to hear can be daunting and difficult, wanting to make sure that the first releases are the best representation of what listeners can expect to hear from the band going forward. For GRIEF, both “Dormant” and “Burial” are just the beginning for them and will eventually lead to us all hearing a progression in their sound.

“We feel that these tracks are just a starting point for us and that, even though our music will consistently carry heavy and emotional weight, as it progresses, it will cultivate and reveal more of our dark side.”

As GRIEF continues to release music this year, they will also be hitting stages around the UK, starting with a slot supporting Dream State and Parting Gift for their sold-out gig in Manchester on April 7th.

With “Dormant” being one of the most impressive debuts the scene has seen in a long time, it is inevitably clear that this is all just the beginning for the band from Manchester, GRIEF fully capable of becoming the next hardcore band we simply cannot get enough of.

“YC is taking over!” Young Culture on their biggest year yet with ‘(This Is) Heaven’

This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in March 2019.

40374423_2155859538004701_7988012453227134976_n.jpg

New York natives Young Culture has been gaining praise and attention in the alt-pop/rock scene over the past few years for both their quality songwriting and high-energy live performance. With the release of their latest EP, (This Is) Heaven, this past January and a tour spot on Seaway’s upcoming headlining tour this spring, 2019 is set to be the biggest year yet for Young Culture. We recently chatted with Alex Magnan and Gabe Pietrafesa about the band’s history, the writing and recording process behind (This Is) Heaven and their upcoming tour plans.

After meeting in middle school and playing in bands together, Alex Magnan (vocals) and Gabe Pietrafesa (guitar) eventually decided that they wanted to do something more serious in music, creating a project that was originally called “routine.”

“I [Gabe] never played music until I met Alex, he taught me some chords and we’d do some acoustic open-mic stuff as kids. With [our]old bands, we got pretty involved in the local scene in Albany, but once high school rolled around, we took everything pretty serious.”

As time went on, their musical project snowballed, leading to both a name change and Alex and Gabe working with producer Sam Pura (The Story So Far, Basement). The end product was Young Culture’s debut EP, You, that was released in 2016. Following the release, Nick Cavin (drums) and Troy Burchett (guitar) joined the project, completing Young Culture as we know it today.

Since the release of You, and 2017’s EP Blue, things have anything but slowed down for the quartet. Touring religiously over the years with the likes of Like Pacific, Belmont and State Champs, Young Culture have grown up on the road, gaining a dedicated fanbase along with the way with their infectious pop hooks, gritty guitar riffs and, yes, even their witty stage banter and hilariously relatable tweets.

This past January, we saw the band’s third EP, (This Is) Heaven, that was both received warmly by critics and was on heavy rotation for alt-pop/rock fans. However, as their newest release in nearly two years, the band had to tackle the challenge of putting out a more mature collection of songs that would still resonate with fans while also attracting new listeners. For Alex, (This Is) Heaven brought along new ways in which the band write and record, far different from what they experienced during their high school days with You.

“This was the first time that Nick and Troy were involved in the songwriting process and it made all of the difference. Usually, I’ll start a song on an acoustic guitar and vocals, pretty bare-boned, and then I’ll bring it to the guys and we will take it from there.”

Working with producer Sam Guaiana (Silverstein, Like Pacific) in Toronto, Young Culture found time in their busy schedule to write and record, spending time in the studio for what collectively ended up being 12 days. In the end, the finished product is something that Gabe believes “really helps establish Young Culture’s sound.”

(This Is) Heaven went on to debut at #22 on Billboard’s New Artist chart and at #55 on Billboard’s Indie chart, an accomplishment that Gabe shared Young Culture had set out to achieve while they were in the studio.

“Charting was a big goal and I told the label right when we finished recording that this EP would chart. And it did!”

As we venture into springtime, it’s hard to believe all of the things Young Culture have already accomplished and the year has barely started. Next month, they will be hitting the road with Seaway in North America alongside Free Throw and Heart Attack Man, a stacked tour that will bring in hundreds of fans in each city. As their biggest tour spot yet, Young Culture are excited for what the next two months will bring, Gabe promising that fans will get anything but a normal set from the New Yorkers.

“[You’ll see] high fives, catchy tunes and if I’m drunk enough, I might even crowd surf!”

Along with the new material off of (This Is) Heaven and their upcoming tour with Seaway, Gabe and Alex teased even more things to come from Young Culture in 2019, including beginning the early stages of their first full-length release, setting the tone for the band that seemingly came out of nowhere just under three years ago.

“[We’ve] got new music, new merch, more shows, everything under the sun, baby! YC is taking over!”

“Why the F*** am I Holding Anything Back?” Anti-Pop Powerhouse tiLLie on Her Transformative Years that Led to ‘Loud Mouth’

This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in March 2019.

Unscripted, unapologetic and distinctly original, tiLLie is a force to be reckoned with in pop music. Getting her start years ago and eventually posting cover videos on social media, her 2016 cover of “Peach” by The Front Bottoms being the first time I discovered her, 2019 is set to be a monumental year for tiLLie, the anti-pop powerhouse with a lot of things to say.

For those unfamiliar, “anti-pop” is a subgenre that does not conform to what is often presented in mainstream pop music. While “anti-pop” is open to an artist’s interpretation, independent artist tiLLie chooses to use the subgenre as a way of defining the DIY way in which she creates her music.

“A lot of people would describe my sound as pop, but the ethics, the heart, and what goes on behind the scenes is the opposite of what everyone thinks of when they think of that genre. I write, play multiple instruments, co-produce the songs, design the artwork, direct the videos, pretty much anything that’s gotta be done, I’ll just fucking do it.”

tiLLie’s new EP, Loud Mouth, is the perfect representation of the passionate DIY artist she is. Made up of 4 incredibly strong pop anthems, Loud Mouth not only shows her versatility in style, but also her willingness to experiment with her sound. However, while on the surface Loud Mouth may be a collection of songs filled with infectious pop hooks and 90s dream-like aesthetics, it is also a snapshot into what tiLLie’s past few years have been like.

Unreserved and candid, we recently caught up with tiLLie to talk about the meaning behind Loud Mouth and how she managed to transform her recent difficult years into one of the best pop releases of 2019.

“I started writing music as a way of coping with my parents’ divorce when I was an early teen so a lot of times, my songs sound like the way they start, like a page out of my journal.”

tiLLie has never been afraid of oversharing when it comes to her songwriting, finding the whole process of picking thoughts from personal experiences and forming a song therapeutic. At its core, the unfiltered, no bullshit storytelling in her music are qualities that separate her from other up-and-coming pop artists.

“I believe the job of artists is to say the things that other people feel, but may be too afraid to say out loud. Sometimes, the only way to do that without sounding preachy as hell is by putting your personal experiences out on display.”

While the songs featured on Loud Mouth were all conceived by the end of 2017, parts of them being rewritten and reimagined for the EP, this past year alone has been one of the most transformative for tiLLie, leading to a shift in the way she sees herself and the world around her.

“In the midst of my individual struggles, I lost my big brother and it completely changed me. He was unapologetic and larger than life and losing him drew out more of those qualities in me. When you experience a loss like that, it almost makes you stop and say, ‘why the fuck am I holding anything back?’ I try to honor his life the best I can by living my life as authentically and unapologetically as possible. There’s no holding back and I think you can hear that in my music.”

The “no holding back” mentality that tiLLie has adopted is inevitably clear on Loud Mouth, each song being representative of the trials and tribulations she has gone through over the years while also being so open and honest, it feels like you are reading from the personal pages of her journals.

The EP’s lead single “Faith” presents itself as a quintessential pop anthem, featuring a punchy chorus that gets stuck in your head and a dreamy pink-hued retro-inspired music video to go along with it. However, tiLLie’s inspiration for the song goes much deeper than what is presented at first glance, opening up the whole EP with her personal story that is far from the upbeat bubblegum sound presented.

“I wrote “Faith” as a way of making peace with an incredibly frustrating situation. After I broke up with my abusive ex, he started telling people I was ‘crazy’ and ‘making up the abuse’ before he went on to release a song I helped him write without giving me writing credit.”

tiLLie went on to file a police report for the assault and also hired an attorney to help with the legal implications following the “song-snatching”. Choosing to not devote any more of her energy to the situation at hand, she put all of her feelings and emotions into her songwriting, “Faith” being the end product of the ordeal.

“”Faith” was my way of saying, ‘I don’t need to consume myself with your demise because you will do a better job than I ever could.’”

A few days following her writing the song, the allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein emerged, launching the Me Too Movement we are all familiar with. The headlines that followed in the coming days and the personal anecdotes that emerged from the survivors gave the inspiration behind “Faith” another meaning for tiLLie.

“The story broke a week after I wrote it, and I was like, ‘holy shit.’ This song is for all of us.”

Written shortly after “Faith,” “Loud Mouth” was inspired by the comments and criticism she received following her decision to take legal action against her ex-boyfriend. Growing up as an “opinionated, strong-willed woman,” “Loud Mouth” is also tiLLie’s response to those stereotypical comments often directed towards women like herself who freely speak their minds.

“As women, we are often told that holding our tongue is a way of taking the ‘high road’ or ‘being the bigger person’ or that somehow being quiet about our feelings garners us more respect as if our emotions are something to be ashamed of. “Loud Mouth” is my response to that, my declaration of being who I am unapologetically and reclaiming those words that have been used against me and painting them in the way I see them, as some of my greatest strengths.”

Collaborating on the track with Kyle Moorman and Nick Bailey, the song was transformed for the EP, taking inspiration from some of tiLLie’s biggest influences to create the edgiest and most unique song on the new release.

“As soon as the chorus popped into my head, I just heard these really dramatic Queen/Bowie-esque vocals. The lyrics also reference another one of my biggest influences, Talking Heads, so I wanted the production to be big and dramatic while paying homage to some of my biggest musical inspirations.”

Incredibly strong with just four tracks on it, Loud Mouth is one of the best pop releases of 2019. Not only does it hit hard in terms of original sound and distinct style, but it also conveys real life and personal experiences within songs you can still dance and sing along to.

What comes as no surprise is the fact that Loud Mouth barely scratches the surfaces in terms of the material tiLLie has up her sleeve, leaving us to wonder when we will hear more of her tell-all tunes next. For now, Loud Mouth’s release could not have come at a better time, the EP feeling more representative of tiLLie’s life than ever before.

“I’m sitting on more than an album’s worth of songs, but these four represented a very important personal growth for me. [The songs] seem to become more and more relevant with each passing day. It felt like the time was right to finally share them.”

The Mancunian Band to Watch: Larkins on Their History and the Politics Behind New Single, “TV Dream”

This feature was originally posted on Highlight Magazine in March 2019.

52638719_1196155817228910_1973221719401299968_o.jpg

As one of the most buzzed about acts to come out of the Manchester music scene, indie rock band Larkins have already stolen the hearts of thousands, playing their biggest show to date at Manchester’s renowned Albert Hall just last week. They have over 70,000 monthly Spotify listeners, their latest single “TV Dream” racking up almost 120,000 streams in less than a month, have headlined tours around the UK and, best yet, they haven’t even released an album.

With their unique take on rock meets pop, fusing together infectious pop beats with cleverly written lyrics, Larkins are fresh, new and may just be the thing rock music needs. We recently caught up with vocalist and guitarist Josh Noble to talk about Larkins’ history, their newly released single “TV Dream” and their massive plans for 2019.

Forming together while at school, Noble and guitarist Dom Want met when they were just twelve and thirteen and began meeting in the school’s music department while their classmates were outside kicking around a football. As Noble describes, it was both their similar music taste and upbringing around music that brought the two of them together.

“We’d listen to music we loved, usually inspired by our parents’ record collections and then play at charity events and practice in his family’s converted garage after school.”

After years of garage practices and charity event gigs, Noble and Want tossed around the idea of forming a band together one day in their college English class, an environment that also inspired the band’s name, taken from famous poet and fiction writer Philip Larkin. From there, Noble and Want connected with Henry Beach (bass) and Joe Stott (drums) to form Larkins.

Although it often lurks in London’s shadow, Manchester has been a music mecca for decades, helping to produce bands such as The Smiths, Oasis, The Stone Roses and, most recently, The 1975. It is both the city’s impressive music history and ability to uplift so many acts in recent years that the members of Larkins find comforting.

“I guess being based in Manchester, we couldn’t have felt more at home trying to break onto the circuit. We love the city and music is engrained in the ethos of everyone here. The amount of artists that have grown out of the Manchester scene is extraordinary. It must be in the water.”

Coming from a city with so much music history could be daunting for some, but Larkins seem to be taking everything in stride, growing rapidly in popularity since they released their first song “Hit and Run” back in 2015, slowly releasing singles every year since while headlining tours around the UK.

Their rapid growth over the years is something they attribute partly to social media, an aspect of working in music Larkins have managed to do so in a creative and authentic way. Between sharing behind-the-scenes videos and images that represent each member’s funny, and even lovable, personality well, their social media platforms have also helped form a community of core fans and listeners.

“We’ve managed to create a community of fans and listeners that engage with us and I think it’s helped us relate and connect with audiences. I love speaking to people who like the music we release, it’s super surreal and humbling.”

Projected to be their biggest year yet, Larkins started off 2019 with the release of “TV Dream”, a massive pop-rock tune that has been warmly received since it was released just last month, already accumulating over 120,000 Spotify streams and 150,000 views on YouTube. Originally taking inspiration for “TV Dream” from his grandparents after observing their “ability to innocently talk about romance without any hidden agendas”, Noble soon found his writing inspiration changing entirely.

“I found myself writing about what I heard and saw on the TV, whether it be rape culture on the news or the way in which excuses are made by men in attempt to excuse appalling behaviour, especially towards women. I know the song sounds like a happy pop song, but hopefully the meaning behind it hits hard in that romance and poetry aren’t dead yet, but the attitude of some people in our society needs to change.”

Larkins’ ability to create these incredibly infectious pop songs with underlying meanings that are not obvious after the first, or even first few, listens is a quality that helps Larkins stand out from other bands within the genre that may have a similar sound, but falter when it comes to the quality of their written material.

With just one new song out so far this year and so much momentum behind them already, where Larkins will take their sound in 2019 as they prepare to release more new material is constantly in the back of their minds.

“We want our music to be loud and definitely bass driven. It’s hard not to turn the bass up when you have someone as talented as Henry in the band. I’d like to think we can still achieve some beautiful moments in our music as well, we love to rise and fall throughout playing live as I think it gives a more enjoyable experience rather than just going through the motions of songs. All of my favourite artists and albums have done that [so]hopefully our album will be similar. That’s how it sounds in my head anyway.”

Along with the potential to release new music this year, Larkins will also be doing the UK festival circuit this spring and summer, having recently announced their slots at Live at Leeds and Y Not Festival alongside acts including Sundara Karma, Tom Grennan, The Libertines and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Larkins will also be heading to SXSW in Texas for the first time, a music and industry festival known for putting up-and-coming acts on the map. 

Very rarely does rock music ever see such buzz and hype around an act that has only a handful of released songs to go off of. With hundreds of thousands of streams and thousands of tickets sold around the UK, Larkins have the numbers to back them up. Above all, however, their unique take on the genre and ability to craft beautifully written songs, as shown with “TV Dream”, help elevate them above all other artists rapidly coming out of Manchester these days.

To put it simply, Larkins are the Mancunian band worth paying attention to.

UNDER REVIEW: CRYSTAL LAKE – HELIX

This review was originally posted on Discovered Magazine in February 2019.

Hailing from Tokyo,Crystal Lake have managed to continuously bring something fresh and new to the metalcore scene since the release of their debut EP ‘Cubes’ in 2014. Following up their 2016 full-length, ‘True North’, Crystal Lake have presented, once again, a well thought out collection of songs that are both original and powerful with ‘Helix’.

The most noticeable strengths with ‘Helix’ are both the songwriting and production approach, the members of Crystal Lake experimenting with both the lyrics and traditional blueprint metalcore bands often follow when it comes to structure and production. Incorporating both old and nu-metal influences, ‘Helix’ pays homage to the bands that have come before Crystal Lake while also experimenting with something new.

‘Aeon’ is one of the strongest songs on the entire record. Featuring guest vocals from Issues’ AJ Rebello, the fusion of deathcore vocals and signature heavy metal guitars and percussion collide together, producing a well-executed metal track that fans will continue to go back to.

“INCORPORATING BOTH OLD AND NU-METAL INFLUENCES, ‘HELIX’ PAYS HOMAGE TO THE BANDS THAT HAVE COME BEFORE CRYSTAL LAKE WHILE ALSO EXPERIMENTING WITH SOMETHING NEW..”

‘+81’ is where Crystal Lake take a different approach to metalcore, making for one of the most exciting and fresh moments on ‘Helix’. Incorporating groovy guitar riffs that are weaved throughout the track, vocalist Ryo Kinoshita’s mix of rap verses and clean vocals in the chorus and bridge all help to create a nu-metal moment that both old metalcore fans and new listeners will enjoy.

‘Outgrow’ is another standout moment on ‘Helix’. With beautifully written, brutally honest lyrics like ‘dying to see how you beg for me/outspoke like before, empty and heretofore/in spite what we were/I’ll outgrow what you think you are’, Crystal Lake toned down the production on the verses and bridge to allow the lyrics and meaning to speak for themselves. Featuring a classic and well-crafted metalcore guitar solo from rhythm guitarist Shinya Hori and soft notes of a piano, the medley of both clean and metal vocals as the lyrics are sung evoke emotion that is not felt elsewhere on ‘Helix’, making for one of the most distinct moments on the whole record.

“CRYSTAL LAKE PROVED ONCE AGAIN THAT THEY ARE A BAND TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.”

One area where ‘Helix’ seems to fall off a bit is the futuristic influence that is attempted to be weaved throughout. With the album opening up with a twelve-second intro featuring a futuristic and robotic sounding speech, it is assumed that this futurism element is going to be one of the main influences found ‘Helix’. While the overall sound of the intro connects with the intro and outro of ‘Agony’, it is not an element heard widely throughout, sparking the question on if the album intro was an afterthought, an element that compromises and confuses the overall influence the record is trying to convey.

Overall, Crystal Lake presented a solid metalcore album that will please listeners, no matter where on the metalcore spectrum they may fall. Introducing well-executed nu-metal moments on tracks like ‘+81’ and ‘Just Confusion’ and classic metalcore sounds on ‘Aeon’ and ‘Hail to the Fire’, ‘Helix’ is another incredibly strong record Crystal Lake can add to their evergrowing discography. While many in metalcore did not take them seriously when they first emerged out of the Tokyo music scene, Crystal Lake proved once again that they are a band to be taken seriously and that they have the ability to craft a collection of songs that will appeal to listeners of all kinds.

UNDER REVIEW: BRING ME THE HORIZON – AMO

This review was originally posted on Discovered Magazine in January 2019.

600x600bf.png

We asked and they delivered. If it wasn’t clear enough already, old Bring Me The Horizon has been buried for a long time, ‘amo’ being the last and final nail in the coffin of the band we were introduced to in 2004. Bridging the gap between hardcore and mainstream pop, ‘amo’ is more or less the album that Bring Me The Horizon have been setting out to make since 2013’s ‘Sempiternal’. In thirteen songs, ‘amo’ presents listeners with a new sound we’ve yet to hear from the band. While, at some points, the ideas executed seem to clash in over-produced climaxes, Bring Me The Horizon managed to find a happy medium many old fans will enjoy while also enticing prospective listeners just hopping on board.

The opening track ‘i apologize if you feel something’ immediately introduces listeners to a sound that greatly encompasses what is presented on the overall album. With an electro-pop synth and echoing vocals weaved throughout, the effects and production on this opening track allow for the perfect preview into what listeners are in for while listening to ‘amo’. ‘MANTRA,’ the album’s lead single, fully opens up ‘amo’ and allows for old school Bring Me The Horizon fans to get that grittier sound fix they may be searching for in the band’s new music. While well-written, incredibly catchy and probably one of Bring Me The Horizon’s strongest tracks to date, it is one of the few outliers found in ‘amo’. Featuring a more heavy rock influence with a very different production from the majority of the songs presented on ‘amo,’ ‘MANTRA’ almost works more as a standalone single than a song on a cohesive album, ‘wonderful life’ having the same identity issue.

“BRING ME THE HORIZON MANAGED TO FIND A HAPPY MEDIUM MANY OLD FANS WILL ENJOY WHILE ALSO ENTICING PROSPECTIVE LISTENERS JUST HOPPING ON BOARD.”

‘nihilist blues,’ the track Oli Skyes said he listens to the most when talking this week with BBC’s Annie Mac, is definitely a track that could divide fans. As one of the most different songs to be put out by Bring Me The Horizon, having a heavy electro-pop influence with no sign of any elements that used to define Bring Me The Horizon’s sound, new fans may embrace this track with open arms while old may hit the next button. Featuring Canadian artist Grimes, the near five and a half minute song is an experience, offering clean electronic breakdowns and catchy lyrics on a repetitive loop that are bound to get stuck in your head. It’s new, it’s different and is definitely a moment on ‘amo’ that will cause listeners to decide if they want to listen on or not.

With a loop that could be played on pop radio right now, ‘in the dark’ is a good middle track that perfectly blends together these new and old influences that are constantly battling it out on ‘amo’. With heavy guitars and an incredibly pop-influenced chorus and bridge, ‘in the dark’ does not hit you in the face the second you hit play, it by no means being a standout moment on the album. However, amongst all of the different influences found on ‘amo’, ‘in the dark’ is that laidback chill moment the album really needed to break up all of the massive concepts weaved throughout the record.

Running just under two minutes, ‘ouch’ is an interlude track that truly stands out on ‘amo’. With brutally honest lyrics about betrayal and heartache, two of the main themes found on the record, the track also references lyrics found on their 2015 single ‘Follow You.’ It may be a brief moment within the thirteen song tracklisting, but it is brilliantly executed production wise and lyrically and is not a track to be overlooked.

As already one of the most talked about songs on the album from both fans and critics, ‘sugar honey ice & tea’ will most likely be a future single. Again, it’s another track that weaves together those battling rock and electro-pop elements, using the vocals to merge these influences together. Heavy percussion and distinct guitar riffs carry the entire song and Oli’s signature raw vocals are displayed in the bridge and verses, but the choruses bring in that electro-pop element, delivering an infectious moment on ‘Amo’ that makes it impossible to not bop your head to.

Amongst the battling influences, Bring Me The Horizon threw in a rather wild card of a song with ‘why you gotta kick me when i’m down’ that presents a rap influence that is not seen anywhere else on ‘amo’. With Oli Sykes rapping on the verses, shouting on the bridge and singing on the choruses, all while a strong electro-pop beat is weaved in the background, the song is the melting pot moment on ‘amo’ where Bring Me The Horizon took three completely different elements – rap, electro-pop and heavy rock – and emerged with this song in the end.

“THE SONGS PRESENTED ARE NEW, DIFFERENT AND BRILLIANTLY PRODUCED..”


‘fresh bruises’ is where ‘amo’ starts to fall off a bit. As a three-minute instrumental electro-pop song with the same echoed lyrics repeating throughout, it is not a track that is strong enough to stand on its own and frankly, does nothing for the cohesiveness of the album. More likely than not, it is the one song on ‘amo’ most listeners will probably skip over.

Another already widely talked about song is ‘heavy metal,’ the song that basically gives the finger to all those emo hardcore fans out there annoyed with the way Bring Me The Horizon have evolved their sound over the years. With lyrics like ‘and I keep picking petals / I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore / cause a kid on the ‘gram in a black dahlia tank / says it ain’t heavy metal,’ the message the band is sending is very clear. Featuring American beatboxer and rapper Rahzel, ‘heavy metal’ is definitely one of the more cleverly-written songs on ‘amo’ and will most likely be a song fans talk about for a long time to come.

The album’s closing song ‘i don’t know what to say’ is a surprising and unexpected moment to say the least. With a beautiful arrangement of an acoustic guitar and orchestra strings, it is the most well-written song on the whole record. Written about Skyes’ childhood friend Adam who passed away from cancer, it is a stripped back and raw moment on ‘amo’ many weren’t expecting to hear in the best way possible. At its core, it’s a song about losing someone you love, but from a broader perspective, it’s another example of the band’s brilliant genre-bending ability that has allowed them to evolve over the years.

Some may love it, some may hate it, but it can be agreed that Bring Me The Horizon took their ideas for this next chapter and ran as far as they could with them. Yes, ‘amo’ will divide some fans, but it cannot be argued that the songs presented are new, different and brilliantly produced. While there were a few moments that compromised the album’s overall cohesiveness, Bring Me The Horizon managed to melt together so many different influences and genres, taking their vision and making it completely their own. ‘amo’ may not be ‘Suicide Season’ or even ‘Sempiternal’, but that might not be such a bad thing in the end.

UNDER REVIEW: FREE MONEY – FREE MONEY EP

This review was originally posted on Discovered Magazine in October 2018.

download.jpeg

Crafting their sound within London’s underground indie circuit, Free Money’s self-titled EP infuses a variety of genre influences and elements, offering a breath of fresh air within the oversaturated indie music scene.

Subverting the lust for materialism, Free Money have adapted alter-egos for this release, using banker personas to give them the freedom to play around with the ideas of modernity and power. With potential for mainstream success, Free Money proved in just five songs why they are becoming one of the most buzzed about acts in the genre right now, with ‘Free Money EP’ offering far more than just generic lyrics and mid-tempo beats.

‘U Got Me,’ the EP’s opening track, blends together both 80s pop and classic rock elements, creating a hook and tempo that you can’t help but nod your head along with. This song, as well as all of the others on the EP, showcases the strong lyrical abilities of the band, something that greatly helps to separate them from other acts in the genre that have that catchy music hook, but haven’t necessarily full grasped the skill of writing both relatable and infectious lyrics.

“A BREATH OF FRESH AIR WITHIN THE OVERSATURATED INDIE MUSIC SCENE..”

‘Up In The Sky’ is notably the biggest stand out tune on the EP and captivates Free Money’s true sound the best. With a contagious pre-chorus of both tongue-twisting lyrics and powerful vocals reminiscent of The Darkness, the medley of distinct percussion and dreamy guitar riffs elevates ‘Up In The Sky’ to a whole new level over the other EP tracks. Packing just enough punch to grab a listener’s attention, this is the track on ‘Free Money’ people will be playing over and over again.

The most recent single to come from Free Money, ‘I Got U,’ is the radio worthy track this EP needed. With a nostalgic guitar sound weaved throughout the song and lyrics that cause us to reminisce about the feeling of first falling in love, it is the bridge’s saxophone solo and the catchy, carefree chorus that keeps this song from being just another pop tune. Incorporating a number of different influences into it, ‘I Got U’ is fun, unique and offers something different to pop radio.

“FOR THOSE OF YOU OUT THERE THAT ARE TIRED OF MISSING ALL OF THE UP-AND-COMING ACTS BEFORE THEY MAKE IT BIG, CONSIDER THIS A WARNING TO GET ON THE FREE MONEY TRAIN NOW”

With four very in your face, upbeat pop tracks, Free Money, surprisingly, close out the ‘Free Money EP’ on a completely different note. ‘Everything’s Fine’ is a ballad that shows the band’s versatility and ability to be stripped down and still get their sound and style across to all who listen. With the strongest vocals on the whole EP, ‘Everything’s Fine’ showcases Free Money’s writing ability, the echoing of the lyrics ‘yeah you are enough / everything’s fine’ sending a powerful and relatable message to their listeners. Incorporating soft percussions and the ringing of piano keys, ‘Everything’s Fine’ is such a different change of pace to the other songs on the EP that you can’t help but ache to hear more as it all comes to a close, wondering if there are more stripped down ballads in Free Money’s repertoire for us to hear in the future.

For those of you out there that are tired of missing all of the up-and-coming acts before they make it big, consider this a warning to get on the Free Money train now. As one of the latest acts to come from London’s underground indie circuit, if the Free Money EP is what they are able to bring to the table so early in the game, the mainstream world is a lot closer than we think.

UNDER REVIEW: RISE OF THE NORTHSTAR – THE LEGACY OF SHI

This review was originally posted on Discovered Magazine in October 2018.

1000x1000.jpg

If there is one word to describe the sound Rise of The Northstar has unleashed with their new album, ‘The Legacy of Shi’, it is BIG, and once again, it’s allowed for the Parisian crossover band to present a unique, genre-bending sound the scene has never heard before.

Drawing all sorts of inspiration from Japanese pop culture – arcade games and characters found within 80s Manga included – and what they have seen over the years in America with the rise of hip-hop, Rise of the Northstar have taken those elements and blended them together, creating the powerful hardcore sound found on ‘The Legacy of Shi’.

‘The Awakening’ opens up the album with someone speaking Japanese, drums echoing in the background, transporting listeners to Rise of The Northstar’s post apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo universe they have created. Listeners are following the journey of central character Shi, from his awakening to his evolution as a spirit who takes possession of a human host, bringing up the battle of how we win the fight within ourselves while also trying to overcome our limits to reach our full potential.

“…YES, THEY ARE A GENRE-BENDING BAND AND THEY AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE ANY TIME SOON. “

Now, on paper, there are a lot of different elements to consider when listening to ‘The Legacy of Shi’ and, well, Rise of the Northstar in general. You have a band that has lyrics in both English and French, vocalist Vithia’s native tongue, who also use both hardcore and hip-hop influences to deliver a concept album based around this Neo-Tokyo universe and fictional character. Out loud, it just seems like there is a whole lot going on without a ton of connection, but somehow through everything, Rise of the Northstar have created an album that, in the end, makes sense.

‘Here Comes The Boom’ is the quintessential hardcore groves with hip-hop influence track the album really needed to help keep Rise of the Northstar’s distinct sound clear amongst all of the different ideas that were put into the album. It was smart for this song to come second, because it reestablishes the main sound Rise of the Northstar’s fans are used to before transitioning into more of the heavy conceptual tracks.

A song that really helps bridge the gap between Rise of the Northstar’s message as a band and the post apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo universe they have created is ‘This Is Crossover.’ As if the title wasn’t a give away, the chorus lyrics are “this is cross over, North Star forever,” the band using this song as a way to let onlookers know that, yes, they are a genre-bending band and they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

At the same time, ‘This Is Crossover’ makes references to Japanese pop culture, including “I wanna rule the game like my boy Sakuragi” which refers to an animated television character on the show Slam Dunk. In time, Sakuragi rises in strength and confidence through playing basketball, relating back to central character Shi who is figuring out how to get over limitations of his own.

“RISE OF THE NORTHSTAR MANAGED TO PRESENT ANOTHER STRONG CONCEPT ALBUM THAT DIDN’T COMPROMISE THEIR SOUND OR THEIR CORE MESSAGE AS A BAND.”

Referencing Paris, where the band is from, Brooklyn, where the album was recorded, and Fukushima, a city in Japan, ‘Furyo’s Day,’ furyo meaning prisoner of war, brings all of Rise of the Northstar’s concepts together once more. As one of the last songs on the album, it rounds everything up, referencing, again, a lot of Japanese pop culture like Kenshiro, a character from the First of the North Star manga series, that is known as one of the strongest Manga characters of all time. This ties back to the album’s central character Shi as he finally is able to reach his full potential at the end of his journey. ‘Furyo’s Day’ also pays homage, again, to the band’s overall message, the lyrics closing out the song being “this is the furyo’s day, deal with my french accent,” an obvious message being presented about how the band has been criticized in the past.

At the end of listening to ‘The Legacy of Shi’, your brain can kind of be in a scramble as you try to pick out all of the different references and ideas that are weaved throughout each song. Some people will love it, others not so much, but, in the end, Rise of the Northstar managed to present another strong concept album that didn’t compromise their sound or their core message as a band.

While there may be one too many elements involved, there is no denying that what Rise of the Northstar continue to present to the hardcore genre is unique, different and hard to ignore.