JOVM celebrates Richard Ashcroft’s 50th birthday.
Over the better part of the past decade, Paris-born Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, bassist, producer and JOVM mainstay Adeline has developed and honed a reputation for being one of the city’s most hardworking and prolific artists and performers: Initially making a name for herself as the frontwoman of acclaimed New York-based nu-disco/dance act Escort, the Paris-born, Brooklyn-based has received praise from Vogue, NPR, Refinery 29, Rolling Stone, The Fader, Bass Player, Blackbook and countless others.
Adeleine has played countless shows across the New York Metropolitan area –both a a member of Escort and as a solo artist. She has also opened for an eclectic and growing list of artists including Anderson .Paak, Lee Fields, Chromeo, Big Freedia and Natalie Prass and others. Adding to a growing profile, the JOVM mainstay has also made the rounds of the national festival circuit, with stops including Afropunk, Funk on the Rocks and Winter Jazzfest. But interestingly enough, last year may have been the busiest year of her career:
- She released 21 songs, including 2 EPs.
- She collaborated with Midnight Magic‘s and Hercules and Love Affair‘s Morgan Wiley as Nightshade, producing and appearing on KAMAUU’s “Mango.” The video is a viral hit, amassing over six million views since its release.
- She guested on songs by the likes of Pastel, Kraak & Smack, Blue Lab Beats, Jonathan Singletary and rising French emcee Likso.
Adeline continues a remarkably prolific run with her latest effort, the recently released ADI OASIS EP. The seven-song EP features a handful of previously shared, fan-favorite singles and three new tracks. Interestingly, the EP’s title is derived from the boldly unapologetic, fearless yet vulnerable persona that she embodies on stage and in the studio. “Creating this EP during one of the weirdest times in our modern history — not just the pandemic, but also living through these difficult political times, global warming, struggle against racism, etc. — has brought to light a deeper meaning for what music is to me,” the JOVM mainstay says. “Music is my oasis, the stage is my oasis, the studio is my oasis.”
“Stages,” ADI OASIS EP‘s latest single continues the JOVM mainstay’s ongoing collaboration with KAAMAUU. Featuring a neo-soul arrangement featuring squiggling guitars, stuttering jazz-like drumming and Adeline’s sumptuous bass line, the slow-burning and self-assured strut is roomy enough for the JOVM mainstay’s old school, power house soul vocals and a lovingly pro-women verse from KAMAUU.
“Stages” is about my journey in the music business as a young black woman, but it’s relevant to indie artists in general, and everyone who’s hustling to reach their goals,” Adeline explains. ” I’ve had many experiences of not being taken seriously, of people making me feel like I’m not good enough, and of being hit on by fake aspiring collaborators who turned out to have ulterior motives. ‘Stages’ is my self-affirming chant reminding me that ‘I’m not going to take sh*t from anybody anymore. I got this. I trust myself’. Having KAMAUU on the song felt perfect because not only is he talented beyond words, but he’s also been a great advocate for me as a female producer.
“Stages is also a reminder to myself that no matter where I am in my musical journey, I’m right where I’m supposed to be. When people discover a ‘new artist,’ they often don’t realize they’re actually seeing the result of years and years of hard work. And while it’s tempting as an artist to compare ourselves to other artists who might seem to be having more success, every stage is a win — a necessary step towards the next one. There are so many different ways of measuring success, and every artist’s journey is unique. I get to create this story in the way that works for me.”
Directed by Adeline and KAMAUU, the recently released video for “Stages” features the pair of rising (and incredibly fashionable) artists artists in the studio and in various places around town — most notably The High Line and Bed Stuy.
With the release of 2018’s full-length debut Aurora, Belgian shoegazers Slow Crush — currently Isa Holliday (vocals, bass), Jelle Harde Ronsmans (guitar), Jeroen Jullet (guitar) and Frederik Meeuwis (drums) — exploded into the international shoegaze scene. And between 2018 and early 2020, the Belgian outfit supported their debut with relentless touring across the world with acts like Pelican, Torche, Soft Kill, and Gouge Away — and with festival stops at Roadburn, ArcTanGent, 2000Trees and Groezrock.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Slow Crush was forced to cancel two European tours and a Stateside tour at the last minute. Interestingly, for Slow Crush, the pandemic was a bit of a blessing and a curse: The time off from touring allowed the and to re-think and re-group. Aurora‘s unexpected success and the demands of heavy touring had taken a toll on everyone’s personal lives. And it was intensified with a massive lineup change that resulted in two members leavingHolliday and Ronsmans eventually recruited the band’s newest members Jullet and Meeuwis to complete the band’s newest lineup. Shortly after the band’s newest lineup was settled, their label Holy Roar Records collapsed, leaving the band without a home.
Hush, Slow Crush’s sophomore album is slated for an October 22, 2021 release through Quiet Panic. Written in between tours and the unexpected downtime during pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, the album’s material is heavily influenced by turbulent times — both personal and global. While further cementing their sound, featuring abrasive and whirling layers of guitars, thunderous drumming paired with Holliday’s ethereal vocals, Hush reportedly finds the band growing as musicians and songwriters. Although the album was informed by and inspired by the dark and heavy times, the material isn’t all bleak; in fact, it’s filled with the hope for a bright, new day.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the brooding album title track “Hush.” Centered around an expansive song structure with alternating dreamy and stormy sections featuring towering layers of feedback and fuzz pedaled guitars, thunderous drumming and Holiday’s sensual yet ethereal cooing, “Hush” expresses an aching and unreciprocated longing.
“Swoon,” Hush‘s latest single is a breakneck ripper centered around fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming, mosh pit friendly hooks. And while the song’s arrangement brings Finelines era My Vitriol and Lightfoils to mind, Isa Holiday’s ethereal vocals sing introspective and impressionistic lyrics. The song can be read in a number of different ways: it could be read as touching upon the loneliness, uncertainty and longing that comes about as a result of a seemingly bitter breakup. But it can also be read as a desire to escape a bleak world through connecting with someone equally as lonely as you are.
Directed by Jeroen Jullet, the recently released video for “Swoon” follows young doppelgängers for Slow Crush as they hit the road for their next show in a van paired with footage of the band’s Holiday walking through the woods in a frenetically edited, 120 Minutes MTV-like visual.
Founded back in 1993, the acclaimed Duluth-based indie act and JOVM mainstays Low — married couple Alan Sparhawk (guitar, vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums) — are considered pioneers of slowcore, an indie rock sub-genre featuring slowed down tempos and minimalist-leaning arrangements. During their nearly 20 year run, the band has gone through a number of lineup changes; but one thing has been consistent — they’ve disapproved of the term slowcore. And gradually, the band has managed to shrug off the sub-genre’s strictures altogether.
2015’s B.J. Burton-produced Ones and Sixes began an ongoing series of uncompromising and challenging material. With the critical success of Ones and Sixes, the members of Low wanted to go further with Burton and his aesthetic, to see what someone, who as Sparhawk has described as a “hip-hop guy” could do to push their music in radically new directions. Working with Burton has resulted in a completely different creative process: Instead of obsessively writing, revising and rehearsing in Duluth, before heading to the studio, the band went to Eau Claire, WI with rough ideas and sketches for one of the most collaborative writing sessions they’ve ever had with a producer.
During the Double Negative sessions, they’d build pieces up, break them down and build them up again until each individual song found its purpose and force. Over the two year writing and recording sessions, the outside world slid deeper into madness and instability — and in some fashion Double Negative may be seen as a document of our peculiar moment: the material is at times loud, contentious, chaotic and jarring. Sparhawk’s and Parker’s gorgeous harmonies sometimes seem to be desperately fighting against the noise and chaos, other times hidden with it.
The acclaimed Duluth-based JOVM mainstay’s 13th album HEY WHAT is out right now. Continuing their ongoing collaboration with B.J. Burton, the album finds Sparhawk and Parker focusing on their craft, staying out of the fray and holding fast to their faith to find new ways to express the discord and delight of being a living human being, to the turn the duality of existence into modern day hymns we can share. The album’s 10 songs are individually built by their own undeniable hooks — but they’re turbocharged by the vivid textures surrounding them.
Over the past few months, I’ve written about three of the album’s previously released singles:
- “Days Like These,” a disorientating track featuring hushed passages with strummed guitar fighting for space between dense layers of noise and distortion that accrete and then fall apart. The entire affair is held together by Sparkhawk and Parker’s gorgeous and slightly Autotuned harmonies, serving as a lifeline from the shore, thrown out to the poor soul just about to drown in the breakers. At its core, “Days Like These” is a yearning plea for meaning and peace in a world that’s completely mad and doesn’t make much sense.
- “Disappearing,” a meditative slow-burn centered around ebbing and waning feedback and distortion. Sparhawk’s and Parker’s yearning harmonies ride the uneasy crests and valleys of the song’s oceanic-like production. The song is an an aching meditation of loneliness, isolation and the unknown beyond all of this.
- “More,” a disorientating track featuring heavily distorted and scorching power chords paired with Parker’s gorgeous lead vocal turn, singing lyrics expressing frustration while yearning — and demanding — more in a world that’s grossly unfair and inequitable.
HEY WHAT‘s fourth and latest single, album opener “White Horses” continues a remarkable run of material that’s purposefully challenging, abrasive and uneasy yet breathtakingly gorgeous. With “White Hoses” Sparhawk’s and Parker’s gorgeous harmonies floating over scorching synth fuzz and feedback with bursts of shimmering strings peeking out. The song ends with pulsating and undulating synth tones — that may remind those children of the 80s and older of a busy tone on a dial-tone phone. (Sorry sir, the line is busy; it’s the end of the world, after all!)
Directed by Shane Donahue, the recently released video for “White Horses” features grainy tape-hiss fueled footage of wild horses on the plains.
A couple of years ago, the acclaimed Belgian indie rock act and JOVM mainstays Balthazar –songwriting duo Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez, along with Simon Casier, Michiel Balcaen and Tijs Delbeke — went on a hiatus that allowed the band’s songwriting duo to pursue their own critically applauded, solo projects: Devoldere’s brooding and hyper literature Warhaus and Deprez’s old school R&B-inspired J. Bernardt. While Devoldere and Deprez found the ability to pursue their own individual whims and muses liberating, they found the time apart from each other and the band sparking an undeniable urge to work together, propelled by a greater mutual respect for each other’s individual work — and a desire for a much broader artistic vision for the band.
When Balthazar reconvened to work on 2019’s Fever, they did so without any particular plan. But they had hoped that would improve upon their previously released work, show deeper artistic growth and further the band’s story. As they started to work, Devoldere and Deprez also mutually agreed that the album’s material should have a less serious, less melancholy tone. The end result is what may arguably be some of the loosest and most playful material of their career.
Balthazar supported Fever with a relentless touring schedule that included a stop at Baby’s All Right. Feeling invigorated from playing Fever on tour, Devoldere and Deprez started working on new material, which eventually became their fifth and latest album, Sand. Released earlier this year, the album finds the acclaimed JOVM mainstays fully embracing a soulful alt pop and R&B leaning sound while being what they believe may be the most cohesive effort of their growing catalog to date. “There’s a theme running through these tracks, waiting, restlessness, not being able to live in the moment or putting your trust into the future,” Balthazar’s Deprez and Devoldere explain in press notes. “We’re at a point in our lives when we have to consider these aspects of life, that’s why the album is called Sand – after the sand in an hourglass.”
“The idea was always to drop another album as soon as possible after Fever. It was fun and we wanted to build on that,” Jinte Deprez says in press notes. “We did a lot of things that we haven’t done previously – we’ve never used as many drum samples or used bass synths before. So that was an exciting step for us. It was a very modern way of making an album, due to the constraints of the pandemic and we had to work remotely and converse electronically rather than in a studio.” “I can’t wait to play this album live because on the Fever tour we pushed the groove element further,” Maarten Devoldere adds.
In the lead up to the album’s release, I’ve written about four of Sand‘s singles:
- “Halfway,” a shimmering, blue-eyed soul-like take on the Quiet Storm sound.
- Losers,” a slinky, disco-like song centered around Devoldere’s sultry baritone, shimmering synth arpeggios and an infectious hook. But at its core, the song captures and evokes the anxious uncertainty of our lives over the past 15-19 months or so.
- “You Won’t Come Around,” a slow-burning and cinematic, bit of 70s inspired R&B featuring shimmering strings, strummed acoustic guitar, skittering beats. And over that gorgeous arraignment, Devoldore expresses a confusing yet familiar series of emotions: regret and heartache that a romantic relationship has ended, relief that the relationship has ended and guilt that maybe they’ve moved on a bit too quickly; or in other words, the gnawing sense that you might be a selfish, uncaring asshole.
- “On A Roll,” a strutting yet seamless synthesis of their pre-Fever sound with their recent R&B-influenced material centered around Deprez’s crooning falsetto.
After pandemic-related lockdowns, the members of the JOVM mainstay act got together for the first time in close to a year for the Heleen Declerq-directed and filmed documentary and concert film Sand Castle Tapes. Co-produced with HolyShit Sessions, the film captures the band staying at a beautiful old castle near Brussels as they got together to interpret and play Sand‘s material for the first time together. Declerq manages to capture the atmosphere of the castle and the music while giving an intimate look at the band. “You get to fully understand an album when you start playing it together, the relaxed circumstances lead to a whole other way of interpreting the songs,” the band says of Sand Castle Tapes.
In the lead up to Sand Castle Tapes EP‘s release, I’ve managed to write about two of its singles:
- A loose and jammy rendition of “Moment,” that found the band joyously expanding upon the song’s groove. Throughout the intimate and gorgeously shot footage, it’s made obvious that the band and their collaborators are just thrilled to be together and playing music together.
- A stripped down and intimate version of “On a Roll” centered around piano and mournful horns by Rob Banken, Peter Delannoye and Thomas Mayade. And over that slow-burning and gorgeous arrangement, Deprez takes up lead vocal duties while backed by Devoldere and some backing vocals by Judith Okon, Stefy Rika and Sarah Devos. The live rendition pulls out the confusion, heartache and longing of the original in a new direction.
The EP’s third and latest single is fairly straightforward rendition of “I Want You” with a subtle re-arranging for a live setting that replaces synths with piano while retaining the sultry, late night yearning at the core of the song. The live footage features the band playing in a gorgeous, old hotel room with a strobe light, meant to mimic a brewing storm outside.
Sand is out now. But the band will be releasing The Sand Castle Tapes EP digitally through Play It Again Sam on September 24, 2021. The EP will feature 10 songs from the Sand Castle Tapes film — 8 reworked songs off Sand and two jams. You can pre-order the EP here.
Born Neal Francis O’Hara, the Livingston, NJ-born, Chicago-based singer/songwriter and pianist known as Neal Francis can trace the origins of his sound and approach to his childhood: he was obsessed with boogie woogie piano and his father gifted him a dusty Dr. John album. O’Hara quickly became a piano prodigy, touring Europe with Muddy Waters‘ son and with other prominent bluesmen across the States when he was just 18.
In 2012, Neal Francis joined the popular instrumental funk band The Heard. With the Livingston-born, Chicago-based singer/songwriter and pianist at the creative helm, The Heard quickly became a national touring act, making stops at New Orleans Jazz Fest and Bear Creek, and touring with The New Mastersounds and The Revivalists. As The Heard’s profile rose, Francis sunk deeply into addiction. By 2015, he had been fired from his band, evicted from his apartment and was inching perilously close to his own destruction. “When you get close to death like that you can feel it,” Francis recalls. An alcohol-induced seizure that year led to a broken femur, dislocated arm, and, finally, the realization that he needed to get clean. Although he identifies as not being religious, Francis took a music-ministry job at St. Peter’s UCC in 2017 at the suggestion of a friend.
Francis’ solo debut, 2019’s Changes was released to critical acclaim with the album landing on Best-of-the-Year lists of KCRW, KEXP and The Current while BBC Radio 6hailed him as “the reincarnation of Allen Toussaint.” Adding to a breakthrough year, Francis toured with Lee Fields and The Expressions and JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas. He shared a stage with members of the legendary The Meters at New Orleans Jazz Fest. And he did a live session on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic.
Despite having breakthrough success with his career, Francis broke up with his longtime girlfriend while on tour to support Changes. When the tour ended, he trend to Chicago and found himself with no place to stay. So, he ended to St. Peter’s and asked if he could move into the parsonage. “I thought I’d only stay a few months but it turned into over a year, and I knew I had to do something to take advantage of this miraculous gift of a situation,” he says.
Francis began writing new material, a series of songs that’s both strangely enchanted and painfully self-aware, inspired by Greek myths, frenzied dreams and late night drives and a possibly haunted church. (More on that in a bit.) The end result is the Chicago-based artist’s highly-anticipated sophomore album In Plain Sight, an album that derives its title from the title of a song that wound up getting cut from the album. “It’s a song about my breakup and the circumstances that led to me living in the church, where I’m owning up to all my problems within my relationships and my sobriety,” says Francis, whose first full-length chronicles his struggles with addiction. “It felt like the right title for this record, since so much of it is about coming to the understanding that I continue to suffer because of those problems. It’s about acknowledging that and putting it out in the open in order to mitigate the suffering and try to work on it, instead of trying to hide everything.”
Continuing his ongoing collaboration with Changes producer Sergio Rios, a guitarist and engineer, who has worked with CeeLo Green and Alicia Keys, the album spotlights Francis’ reminded yet free-spirited piano playing. “From a very early age, I was playing late into the night in a very stream-of-consciousness kind of way,” he says, naming everything from ragtime to gospel soul to The Who among his formative influences.
Recorded entirely on tape with his backing band, Kellen Boersma (guitar), Mike Starr (bass) and Collin O’Brien (drums), In Plain Sight is also fueled by Francis’ restless experimentation with a stash of analog synths lent by his friends during his early days living at the church “My sleep schedule flipped and I’d stay up all night working on songs in this very feverish way,” he says. “I just needed so badly to get completely lost in something.”
By the end of his surreal and sometimes eerie experience of living at the church—“I’m convinced that the stairway leading to the choir loft where I used to practice is haunted,” he says—Francis had found his musicality undeniably elevated. “Because I was forced into this almost monastic existence and was alone so much of the time, I could play as often and as long as I wanted,” he says. “I ended up becoming such a better pianist, a better writer, a better reader of music.” Dedicated to a woman named Lil (the de facto leader of the St. Peter’s congregation), In Plain Sight ultimately reveals the possibility of redemption and transformation even as your world falls apart.
In Plain Sight‘s first single is the uplifting and shuffling boogie woogie “Can’t Stop the Rain.” Centered around a Southern rock arrangement reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Sweet Home Alabama,” complete with a soaring gospel-tinged chorus, Francis’ latest single also prominently features a smoldering slide guitar solo from Derek Trucks.Underlying the whole affair is Francis’ unerring knack for a crafting an infectious hook paired with lived-in, world weary yet hopeful lyrics expressing a profound yet simple sentiment — gratitude. “I wrote that with my buddy David Shaw, who came up with the refrain and this idea that even though life’s going to throw all this shit at you, there’s still so many things to be grateful for,” Francis says.
Recently Francis and his backing band stopped at Shirk Studios for a loose and jammy version of “Can’t Stop the Rain,” which I think is a good taste of what to expect from Francis and his band, when they start hitting club across the country. Francis is currently on a massive and extensive Stateside tour that included dates opening for The Black Pumas and stops at Americana Fest, Shaky Knees, and Outside Lands, as well as several other stops on the national festival circuit. The tour also includes two NYC area dates: a sold-out Mercury Lounge show on September 20, 2021 and a Brooklyn Bowl show on 9/22/21. You can check out the rest of the tour dates below. Tickets and other information is available at nealfrancis.com.
In Plain Sight is slated for a November 5, 2021 release through ATO Records.
JOVM celebrates what would have been Patsy Cline’s 89 birthday.
The acclaimed Toronto-based jazz-inspired act BADBADNOTGOOD — currently founding members Chester Hansen (bass), and Alexander Sowinski (drums) with Leland Whitty — have developed and honed a sound and compositional approach that draws from hip-hop, electronica, jazz, acid jazz and prog rock — and famously for jazz based interpretations of hip-hop tracks, which has allowed the acclaimed Canadian ensemble to collaborate with Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Denzel Curry, Danny Brown, Mick Jenkins, Ghostface Killah and others.
Interestingly, BADBADNOTGOOD can trace its origins to its founders — Hansen, Sowinski and Matt Tavares — bonded over a mutual love of MF Doom and Odd Future. As the story goes, the band played a composition based on Odd Future’s music for a panel of their jazz performance instructions, who unsurprisingly didn’t believe it had much musical value. Instead of listening to their instructors, the band released the composition as “The Odd Future Sessions, Part 1.” The track eventually caught the attention of Tyler the Creator, who helped the video go viral.
BADBADNOTGOOD followed up with their full-length debut, 2011’s BBNG, which featured interpretations of A Tribe Called Quest, Waka Flocka Flame and of course,. Odd Future. Building upon a growing profile, the members of BADBADNOTGOOD recorded a live jam session with Tyler The Creator in Sowinski’s basement, with videos from the session amassing more than a million views each.
The Toronto-based act’s sophomore album 2012’s BBNG2 was recorded over a course of a ten-hour studio session. Featuring guest spots from Leland Witty (saxophone) and Luan Phung (electric guitar), the album was a mix of their own original material, as well as renditions of songs by Kanye West, My Bloody Valentine, James Blake, Earl Sweatshirt and Feist. That year, the band was the official Coachella Festival house band, backing Frank Ocean and Odd Future over the course of its two weekends.
Their third album, 2013’s III featured “Hedron,” which was featured on the compilation album Late Night Tales: Bonobo. They also assisted with the production and composition of The Man with the Iron Fists soundtrack.
The band’s fourth album, 2015’s Sour Soul saw them collaborate with Ghostface Killah on what has been described as a hip-hop album that nodded at jazz. They ended the year with covers of a handful of holiday standards, including “Christmas Time Is Here” with Choir! Choir! Choir!
Leland Whitty joined the band as a full-time member in early 2016, and the band quickly went to work producing “Hoarse” off Earl Sweatshirt’s full-length debut Doris and “GUV’NOR,” a remix, which appeared on JJ DOOM’s Keys to the Kuffs (Butter Edition). Capping off a busy year, they released their fifth album, the somewhat ironically titled IV, which featured Future Islands’ Sam Herring, Colin Stetson, Kaytranada, Mick Jenkins and JOVM mainstay Charlotte Day Wilson. The album was also named BBC Radio 6’s #1 album of the year.
The Canadian outfit’s highly anticipated psych jazz album Talk Memory is slated for an October 8, 2021 release through XL Recordings. Composed in conjunction with legendary Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai, the album features features guest spots from Karriem Riggins, Laraaji, Terrace Martin, and a list of others. Perhaps more so than their previously released material, Talk Memory sees the acclaimed act actively capturing some of the focus, energy and improvisation which is at the heart of their live show.
For the band, a song is a living, breathing entity that naturally changes and evolved as it’s played in different settings. The album plays with that thinking. After years of relentless touring, the band paused and refreshed and looked at their history and experiences before starting out on the creative process for the new album. And as a result, a sense of reflection and renewed communication is at the heart of their new creative approach. Interestingly, that led to the album’s title. While their earliest material took place very quickly, the band took on a much more international approach: The album was written over a two year period, with the band expanding upon the album’s material in the studio, rather that on the road.
Talk Memory’s latest single “Beside April” is an expansive and breathtakingly gorgeous composition featuring a cinematic string arrangement, skittering syncopated drumming and a mind-bending and expressive guitar solo. The end result is a song that — to my ears — is one part indebted to Brazilian psych rockers and JOVM mainstays Boogarins, one part jazz fusion, one part shimmering film score.
Directed by Camille Summers-Valli, the accompanying visuals draw some inspiration from the first motion picture, Horse in Motion 1878. The video itself manages to be simultaneously surreal, trippy and gorgeously shot. Plus, there’s a majestic horse that’s really the star of the entire affair. “There was really special energy around this video,” Camille Summers-Valli says. “The band wanted to do something with horses and equestrians. That’s where this begun. Funnily enough, I am petrified of horses. But it felt like a good way to overcome my fears. Subconsciously through a process of reading, finding references and discussing with my team, I started to piece together the puzzle of what this video could be. We shot this in Georgia; where the casting was incredible. The horse also was wonderful. So strong and majestic, we just wanted to do this beautiful creature justice. The magic aligned, so many great hard working people pulled this video together.”
Acclaimed Melbourne-based punk act and JOVM mainstays Amyl and The Sniffers — Amy Taylor (vocals), Gus Romer (bass), Bryce Wilson (drums) and Declan Martens (guitar) — formed back in 2016, and shortly after their formation, they wrote and self-recorded their debut EP Giddy Up. The following year, saw the release of the Big Attractions EP, which was packaged as a double 12 inch EP with Giddy Up released through Homeless Records in Australia and Damaged Goods in the UK.
The band exploded into the international scene with a set at The Great Escape Festival, a series of sold out London area shows and a Stateside tour opening for JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They added to a busy year with a headlining tours across both the UK and US before signing to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Flightless Records for distribution across Australia and New Zealand and Rough Trade for the rest of the world. The year was capped off with a Q Awards nomination for Best New Act and won the $30,000 Levis Prize.
Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Aussie punk quartet took 2019’s SXSW by storm. And then the band promptly released their self-tiled, full-length debut to critical applause globally while further cementing a feral and anarchic take on ’77 era punk. Adding to a breakthrough year, Amyl and the Sniffers won an ARIA Award for Best Rock Album.
Comfort To Me, the Aussie punk quartet’s highly-anticipated Don Luscombe-produced sophomore album is slated for a release this Friday through ATO Records. Written during a long year of pandemic quarantining, in which the members of the band lived in the same house, the album’s material sonically draws from a heavier set of references and influences including AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Mötorhead, Wendy O. Williams, Warthog, Power Trip, Coloured Balls and Cosmic Psychos. Taylor’s lyrics and delivery were also inspired by her long live of hip-hop and garage rock.
All four of us spent most of 2020 enclosed by pandemic authority in a 3-bedroom rental in our home city of Melbourne, Australia. We’re like a family: we love each other and feel nothing at the same time,” Amyl and the Sniffers’ Amy Taylor says in a lengthy statement on the album. “We had just come off two years of touring, being stuck in a van together eight hours a day, and then we’re trapped together for months in this house with sick green walls. It sucked but it was also nice. We spent heaps of time in the backyard listening to music, thrashing around in shorts, eating hot chips. The boys had a hard time being away from the pub and their mates, but it meant we had a lot of time to work on this record. Most of the songs were really intuitive. Main thing, we just wanted it to be us. In the small windows we had in between lockdowns, we went to our rehearsal space, which is a storage locker down the road at National Storage Northcote. We punched all the songs into shape at Nasho and for the first time ever we wrote more songs than we needed. We had the luxury of cutting out the songs that were shit and focusing on the ones we loved.
We were all better musicians, as well, because that’s what happens when you go on tour for two years, you get really good at playing. We were a better band and we had heaps of songs, so we were just different. The nihilistic, live in the moment, positivity and panel beater rock-meets-shed show punk was still there, but it was better. The whole thing was less spontaneous and more darkly considered. The lyrics I wrote for the album are better too, I think. The amount of time and thought I put into the lyrics for this album is completely different from the EPs, and even the first record. Half of the lyrics were written during the Australian Bushfire season, when we were already wearing masks to protect ourselves from the smoke in the air. And then when the pandemic hit, our options were the same as everyone: go find a day job and work in intense conditions or sit at home and drown in introspection. I fell into the latter category. I had all this energy inside of me and nowhere to put it, because I couldn’t perform, and it had a hectic effect on my brain.
My brain evolved and warped and my way of thinking about the world completely changed. Having to deal with a lot of authority during 2020 and realising my lack of power made me feel both more self destructive and more self disciplined, more nihilistic and more depressed and more resentful, which ultimately fuelled me with a kind of relentless motivation. I became a temporary monster. I partied more, but I also exercised heaps, read books and ate veggies. I was like an egg going into boiling water when this started, gooey and weak but with a hard surface. I came out even harder. I’m still soft on the inside, but in a different way. All of this time, I was working on the lyrics. I pushed myself heaps and heaps, because there were things that I needed to say. The lyrics draw a lot from rap phrasing, because that’s what I’m into. I just wanted to be a weird bitch and celebrate how weird life and humans are.
“The whole thing is a fight between by my desire to evolve and the fact that somehow I always end up sounding like a dumb cunt. So anyway, that’s where this album comes from. People will use other bands as a sonic reference to make it more digestible and journalists will make it seem more pretentious and considered than it really is, but in the end this album is just us — raw self expression, defiant energy, unapologetic vulnerability. It was written by four self-taught musicians who are all just trying to get by and have a good time.
“If you have to explain what this record is like, I reckon it’s like watching an episode of The Nanny but the setting is an Australian car show and the Nanny cares about social issues and she’s read a couple of books, and Mr Sheffield is drinking beer in the sun. It’s a Mitsubishi Lancer going slightly over the speed limit in a school zone. It’s realising how good it is to wear track pants in bed. It’s having someone who wants to cook you dinner when you’re really shattered. It’s me shadow-boxing on stage, covered in sweat, instead of sitting quietly in the corner.”
In the lead up to the album’s release, I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles:
“Guided by Angels,” a riotous, mosh pit friendly ripper centered around Taylor’s frenetic energy and punchily delivered vocals, buzzing power chords and a pub friendly, shout along with a raised beer in your hand hook. But underneath all of that, “Guided by Angels” is fueled by a defiant and unapologetic vulnerability and a rare, unshakeable faith in possibility and overall goodness; that there actually are good angels right over your shoulder to guide you and sustain you when you need them the most.
“Security,” a Highway to Hell-era AC/DC-like anthem full of swaggering braggadocio, boozy power chords, thunderous drumming, shout along worthy hooks and Taylor’s feral delivery. Much like its immediate predecessor, the song is fueled by its narrator boldly and unapologetically declaring that they need and are looking for love — right now! ”
“Hertz” Comfort to Me’s third and latest single is a scorching AC/DC-inspired ripper fueled by the desperately frenetic energy of the bored, lonely and trapped within their heads desiring something different than the four walls of their apartment that they’ve grown sick of. It captures a feeling that many of us have struggled with during the pandemic with an urgency and vulnerability that’s devastating.
Continuing their ongoing collaboration with director John Angus Stewart, the recently released video places the frenetic nuclear bomb that’s Amy Taylor in a number of different set ups. At points, you can literally see Taylor being inspired by AC/DC’s Bon Scott and Angus Young and hip hop while capturing the urgent desire to just enjoy being here now with good people — to just go for a drive somewhere.
Along with the new single and video, the band announced that on October 5, 2021 they’ll premiere a filmed performance of Comfort to Me’s material played in full, in one take, on a slab of concrete in a suburban wasteland in the Melbourne area. You can purchase tickets for the livestream here: https://www.amylandthesniffers.com
Brighton, UK-based indie rock band and JOVM mainstays Thyla can trace its origins to when its founding members — Millie Duthie (vocals), Danny Southwell (drums) and Dan Hole (bass) — met while attending college.
While becoming JOVM mainstays, the Brighton-based indie act have helped cement their hometown’s reputation for a music scene with some of England’s hottest emerging acts.The band has played profile rising shows with Dream Wife, Luxury Death, Matt Maltese, Yonaka, Husky Loops, Lazy Day, Sunflower Bean, INHEAVEN and Fickle Friends. And they ere spotlighted alongside Pale Waves, Nilüfer Yanya, and Sorry in NME‘s 100 Essential Acts for 2018.
Thyla’s debut EP, 2019’s What’s On Your Mind was released to critical applause from Pitchfork, Stereogum, NME, The Line of Best Fit and Dork — and the material from the EP received airplay from BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 6, Radio X and KCRW. Adding to a breakthrough year, the Brighton JOVM mainstays opened for Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever, played attention-grabbing sets at The Great Escape, Live At Leeds and Hit The North. They capped the year off with their first national tour, which also included a headlining stop at London’s Electrowerk.
Last year, Thyla released their sophomore EP Everything at Once. The EP featured he anthemic and ambitious “Two Sense,” and the coming-of-age story “Lenox Hill,” which was arguably the most personal song the band’s Millie Duthie had written to date. After the release of Everything at Once, the rising British act spent the bulk of last year working on their highly-anticipated full-length debut.
Slated for a January 28, 2022 release through Easy Life Records, Thyla’s self-titled full-length debut will feature “Breathe,” an atmospheric yet dance floor friendly banger featuring glistening synth arpeggios, sinuous bass lines, squiggling guitar blasts, stuttering four-on-the-floor, Duthie’s plaintive vocals and an enormous, crowd-pleasing hook. The end result was a song that — to my ears, at least — reminded me of When The Night-era St. Lucia, while being completely of our weird and uncertain moment.
“Gum” the self-titled album’s second and latest single continues a run of rousingly anthemic material but while being a subtle return to form: while glistening synth arpeggios and driving bass lines are still prominent, the song features fuzzy power chords and thunderous drumming and Duthie’s plaintive vocals. The song manages to capture a self-assured young band — young compared to yours truly — with an unerring knack for an enormous, shout-along-with-your-friends worthy hook paired earnest, lived-in songwriting that seems to say to the listener “Don’t worry, we’ve been there, too.”
tach identity and value to ourselves and the sneaking and uneasy feeling that the more we learn, the less we know. And while you may learn more about yourself, everything else gets increasingly complicated and difficult. “Gum is about shrugging the weight of the world off your shoulders – being stuck, knowing it, and choosing not to care,” Thyla’s Millie Duthie explains. “The world is weird; life is confusing. You’re not always going to get what you want, but let’s stop talking about it.
Directed by John Daly, the recently released video for “Gum” features some surreal imagery — notably of the trio seemingly playing an unending game of Tug of War and not getting anywhere, despite being in the English woods.