With the release of their debut EP last year’s I Used to Love You, Now I Don’t, the rapidly rising Brighton-based dream pop act Hanya — Heather Sheret (vocal, guitar), Benjamin Varnes (guitar), Dylan Fanger (bass) and Jack Watkins (drums) — received attention nationally for a sound that meshes 90s dream pop and shoegaze. Building upon a growing profile in England, the Brighton, UK-based dream pop act has opened for Honeyblood, Lazy Day and Tess Parks.
2020 looks to be a breakthrough year for Hanya: they’ll be making their Stateside debut at the 2nd Annal New Colossus Festival in March. But they begin the year with their latest single, “I’ll Do It Tomorrow.” Centered around shimmering guitar chords, Sheret’s gorgeous and achingly plaintive vocals and a rousingly anthemic hook, the track further establishes the dreamy Brit Pop-like sound that has won them attention nationally while subtly nodding at 70s AM rock. In fact, in some way the song reminds me of The Sundays, Travis and others.
“I’ll Do It Tomorrow” was the result of realising that rarely does anyone take the advice we ask for, we love to procrastinate and wait until things change around us, it’s the magic of the human psyche,” the members of the band explain in press notes. “The song is pretty much advice to an old friend…be every version of yourself, let go, do it now, don’t wait until tomorrow”.
The band has a handful of tour dates, including their Stateside debut at the New Colossus Festival. Check out the dates.
17th January – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton (Love Thy Neighbours ‘Triptych’ Series)
1st February – The Piper, Saint Leonards (w/ Penelope Isles)
11-15 March – New Colossus Festival, New York City
I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the rapidly rising Halifax, UK-based act The Orielles over the past couple of years. Founded by siblings Sidonie B. Hand-Halford (drums), Esmé Dee Hand-Halford (vocals, bass) and their best friend Henry Carlyle Wade (guitar, vocals), the JOVM mainstays built up a great deal of buzz, when Heavenly Recordings‘ head Jeff Barrett signed the band after catching them open for labelmates The Parrots in late 2016.
2017’s critically applauded, full-length debut Silver Dollar Moment found the band establishing a genre-defying sound that meshed elements of psych rock, pop and disco centered around surrealistic observations of every day life. Interestingly, after Silver Dollar Moment, the band’s founding trio recruited Alex Stephens (keys) as a full-time member of the band, expanding the band into a quartet. And with their newest member, they went into the studio to record material that included “Bobbi’s Second World” and a cover/rework of Peggy Gou’s “It Makes You Forget (itgehane).” Those two singles saw the band’s sound increasingly (and playfully) leaning towards Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads, ESG and the like, while featuring rock-based instrumentation.
Last year, the JOVM mainstays were busy working on their highly-anticipated sophomore album Disco Volador. “Its literal interpretation from Spanish means flying disc but everyone experiences things differently. Disco Volador could be a frisbee, a UFO, an alien nightclub or how you feel when you fly; what happens to your body physically or that euphoric buzz from a great party,” the band’s Esme Dee Halford suggests in press notes. “But it is an album of escape; if I went to space, I might not come back.”
Slated for a February 28, 2020 release, Disco Volador continues the band’s ongoing collaboration with producer Marta Salogni while reportedly finding the newly constituted quartet pushing their sound towards its outer limits with the band being astral travelers, creating progressive and trippy material that draws from samba, 70s disco, boogie funk, dance floor grooves and 90s acid house. And they do so while expanding their influences further to include the work of Italian film score composers Sandro Brugnolini and Piero Umiliami, as well as contemporary acts like Khruangbin and Altin Gun. “All the influences we had when writing this record were present when we recorded it, so we completely understood what we wanted this album to feel like and could bring that to fruition,” the band’s Sidonie B. Hand-Halford says in press notes.
Disco Volador also manages to capture the rapidly rising British indie act riding high off the success of their debut, which included a lengthy and successful summer tour with festival stops Green Man and bluedot. Late last year, I wrote about “Come Down On Jupiter,” Disco Volador’s first single further cemented the band’s genre-defying sound, as it was centered around an expansive song structure: starting with a slow-burning and brooding into, the song quickly morphed into a breakneck guitar pop with a psychedelic-tinged freak out. While retaining the razor sharp, infectious hooks that helped the British indie act win attention nationally and internationally, “Come Down On Jupiter” also managed to be an example of how versatile the British JOVM mainstays can be. “Space Samba (Disco Volador Theme),” the album’s latest single is a shimmering disco-tinged track, featuring propulsive polyrhythm led by four-on-the-floor drumming, layers of reverb-drenched, shimmering guitar, a sinuous bass line, Esmé Dee Hand-Halford’s ethereal vocals, arguably making it one of the most dance floor friendly and trippier songs they’ve released to date.
Interview: A Q&A with Mike Bell Co-Founder of New Colossus Festival
Co-founded by three New York music industry vets and longtime friends, Lorimer Beacon‘s founder and head Mike Bell, Kanine Records‘ founder and label head Lio Kanine and Kepler Events and Piano’s Steven Matrick, the inaugural New Colossus Festival, which will take place March 7, 2019 – March 10, 2019, will feature more than 100 handpicked, emerging indie bands and artists from the US, Canada, the UK and the European Union. Interestingly, the new festival takes place the week before SXSW, and that was by design: the festival’s co-founders view the inaugural run of their festival as a stopover that will give these emerging acts an opportunity to play at curated showcases at 6 different venues across Manhattan’s Lower East Side and East Village (Berlin Under A,Coney Island Baby, Pianos, The Bowery Electric, Arlene’s Grocery, and The Delancey for fans and industry professionals alike.
Additionally, the festival will feature a Kick Off Party at Piano’s that features local shoegazers No Swoon, a full kick off day that features afternoon industry panels and an opening happy hour.
As co-founder Steven Matrick told BrooklynVegan last December, the festival’s co-founders are aiming for a CMJ-like vibe. “CMJ left such a vacuum, not only for independent music venues, but for bands all over the world that used it as a way to play New York City every year,” Matrick told BrooklynVegan. “We chose a very convenient weekend to try to bring back that opportunity. We’d also been discussing a way for these venues to work together again and resurrect the collaborative aspect of Manhattan’s music scene.”
I recently got in touch with New Colossus co-founder Mike Bell by email to chat about the festival, its timing, what makes it different than SXSW and other festivals and more. Check out a playlist featuring the festival’s artists — and then the interview, below.
WRH: You’re one of the founders of NYC’s newest festival The New Colossus Festival, which begins its inaugural run next week. The timing is interesting because it’s a week before SXSW in Austin. What inspired you and your team to do The New Colossus Festival? How is it different from SXSW or from the countless other festivals that will take place over the course of the calendar year?
Mike Bell: The timing is no accident. I’ve been pretty connected with the international music community for over a decade and felt that NYC could be more “available” to artists as they pass through and head to Austin. Putting international bands together with some great local acts in a showcase set-up seemed to be the best way to be more impactful for the artists vs. booking a show on their own.
The entire idea behind The New Colossus Festival is to present great new music in a live setting. That’s really it. We don’t have brands doing activities or headliners who don’t need to be “discovered”.
WRH: What will the average concertgoer get from the New Colossus Festival and its showcases?
MB: This festival has been fully curated in-house and we truly feel the quality of the handpicked line-ups will speak for themselves.
WRH: From the flyer, there looks to be about 100 bands playing showcases during the festival’s three days. A lot of those bands are American or Canadian but there’s a fair amount of international representation. How were the participating bands chosen?
MB: We have a lot of Canadian acts! Speaking of which, we are doing an event Thursday night at Coney Island Baby featuring an all Canadian line-up headlined by Dusted (Brian of Holy Fuck).
Mostly, the booking decisions were based on bands we like and had relationships with their teams.
WRH: Everyone who has gotten into music is a fan of someone. As a fan, is there anyone that you’re looking forward to see at New Colossus? Are there any dream bands you’d love to have play the festival, if you had unlimited money, etc. etc.?
MB: There are some bands I’m absolutely planning on catching. In the spirit of creating a level playing field for all the bands who are performing, I’d really rather not call any out by name publicly. Come find me and I’ll tell you who I’m going to see. 🙂
WRH: There are also a number of interesting panels during the afternoon, covering a number of topics including the importance of an indie label, finding your own formula in changing landscape, obtaining a visa to work and play gigs in the States, and mental health in music. How did you and your fellow founders find the speakers?
MB: We decided to do the panels as a way to offer the bands something more than just a stage to play on. This is for them to learn, network, and grow. The topics were chosen based on input from the industry and the panelists are mostly all friends of ours.
WRH: There are a lot of moving parts in a festival, especially one that features as many bands as yours. How long did it take for you and the team to plan, book and promote it? When will you begin work on the 2020 festival?
MB: I teamed up with Lio [Kanine] and Steven [Matrick] fall of 2017 to do a TNC day party at Pianos which happened almost exactly a year ago. This was more or less a soft launch. The event we put together went very well and so we decided to go all in for this year. Planning for 2019 began pretty soon after our 2018 event ended in March. 2020 planning has already begun.
WRH: Venues like Piano’s, Arlene’s Grocery, Berlin Under A and others will be hosting showcases. How did they get involved? With the Sidewalk Café closing, is there an even bigger impetus for keeping the festival in the Lower East Side? Do you foresee participating venues in Brooklyn or elsewhere, like what eventually happened with CMJ?
MB: We started with Pianos and went to venues who were nearby with the idea that we wanted to present great new music from around the world. We do not plan to expand beyond a walkable distance and plan to keep everything as tight as possible.
The idea with doing this on the Lower East Side made the most sense to us. It’s the most music friendly neighborhood in the city even though venue closings have been happening. Historically, this is where many people from around the world came to and lived when starting out the US. There are so many creatives who got their start there from the mid-19th century on the Bowery to today.
WRH: Where do you see the festival going in the 3-5 years?
MB: Hopefully still going! We want to grow and are looking at ways of expanding in ways that make sense while maintaining our goal of putting the music first.
WRH: What’s next for you and your colleagues?
MB: A little rest a little reflection… then onto 2020 planning\
Last year, I wrote a bit about the Brooklyn-based indie rock quartet Russian Baths, and as you may recall with the release of their debut single “Ambulance,” the act comprised of Luke Koz, Jess Ress, Evan Gill Smith and Jeff Widner quickly received attention locally and elsewhere for a sound that the band has described as nodding at Big Black, 70s space rock, Big Muff and British post punk among others.
The band released their debut EP Penance last year through Good Eye Records, and the EP’s first single “Slenderman” is a brooding track that strikes me as owing a sonic debt to 90s alt rock/120 Minutes-era MTV and classic shoegaze, thanks in part to an alternating quiet, loud, quiet song structure featuring layers of shimmering guitars, a throbbing bass line and propulsive, tribal-like drumming with a rousingly anthemic hook.
Based on concept by Sarah Ver Hoeve and featuring her animation, the recently released video comes in advance of the band’s upcoming New Colossus Festival and SXSW showcases in March. And while being visually being reminiscent of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” the new video features humanoid figures floating about in space along with enormous spiders. Interestingly, at point the video feels like being caught in the middle of a terrible and nightmarish trip without anyone to help you come down.