Do you remember that feeling you had when you had your first high school crush? The rush of emotions you had when you saw them. The way that every little thing that they did played on your mind until the moment you fell asleep. You’d count the days left until you’d get to see them again and the only thing that would be on your mind was that specific person.
That’s the way the new Fears Chella record leaves me feeling. It’s an odd analogy but stick with me.
Springing onto the Stoke music scene back in 2016 with ‘Cool’, one of the strongest debuts I think I may have ever heard, Fears Chella left us wanting more. It took them a long time to deliver more, however, when eventually they released two further singles last year titled ‘Girlfriend’ and ‘Lush’.
But with a tour planned (and postponed due to a “mental studio schedule”) and their popularity rising, Fears Chella are back with new music and it’ll putt the sunshine in your blustery wintery days.
If catchy guitar pop does it for you, then ‘Polaroid’ is most certainly what you need to get your kicks.
Opening with their signature clean-cut guitar sound and Andy Gannon’s distinct vocal style, ‘Polaroid’ begins like a dream. Its lyrical simplicity and almost predictable musical nature are what makes this track stand out from the crowd, allowing you to truly lose yourself in its bubble. The verse breaks like a wave over the chorus, where every single building block can be heard in all of its glory. From Ben Tansey’s foot-stomping drum beat and Tom O’Neill’s understated bass line to Gannon and Dylan Mellor’s overlapping guitar parts, the chorus is the sticking point of ‘Polaroid’.
There’s no complex lyrics to over analyse, nor is there an intricate riff to throw you off course. There’s just three minutes of quality Chella and their developing sound that is quickly maturing into something completely new.
So I return to my earlier analogy of high school crush pop. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a song for kids, although it can be enjoyed by everyone of any age. What it does do is provide you with that rush of feelings you experienced as a loved-up teen, keeps you lingering on every single lyric, then leaves you pining for another drop of whatever it is that has you reaching for the replay button.
Compare ‘Polaroid’ to their debut ‘Cool’ and you’ll hear how this band have sneakily revamped their sound from grungey rock to ear-worm guitar pop. Fears Chella jumped straight into prime position when they arrived on the scene all those months ago and ‘Polaroid’ ensures that they stay there, where they so rightly deserve to be.
You might know him as the former frontman of alt-rock band The Eyres, but more likely you’ll know him as the solo acoustic performer that’s been winning the hearts of everyone that hears his music.
Of course, we’re talking about Oli Ng.
The Springsteen-inspired musician is about to hit the road with his band to tour his brand new upcoming EP titled ‘Hold Fast’. Despite having toured Europe previously, this will be the first time that Oli will take his band abroad with him.
Speaking of the tour Oli said: “I’m really looking forward to getting back on tour, especially with my band this time. It’s been a while since I jumped about on a stage as I’ve done a lot of solo acoustic shows, so I can’t wait for that!”
His latest four-track offering will be released on Friday 2nd March. ‘Hold Fast’ will include ‘Gone Mad’, his most recent single release, as well as two new tracks and a rework of The Eyres classic ‘Long Way Down’.
The trio, made up of Oli on vocals and guitar, fellow Eyres bandmates Jordan Cope on bass and Leon Robinson on drums, will begin their 16-date tour at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton on Wednesday 7th March, finishing up at Checkpoint Charlie in Amsterdam on Sunday 25th March.
Oli and his band will stop off in Stoke on Saturday 10th March to support The Jokers at The Sugarmill. Tickets and more information can be found here.
We’re very lucky in the Stoke-on-Trent music scene, in that we hold some of the strongest bands and musicians known to any local scene ever. So lucky in fact, I think we often take for granted how readily available good music is to us. We don’t think about what life would be like without some of these bands when we step out of the door and head to a gig to see them.
Nixon Tate & The Honey Club are one of those bands. They’re the sort of band that draws people in; the kind that leaves everyone in a venue asking the same question: how has this band not made it yet?
After the release of their EP ‘Roses & Bones’ back in January 2017, which they drip fed us track by track over a period of 12 months, they fell silent. Although performing heavily at both local venues and local festivals, a new music release was very much lacking and it was something that was beginning to concern me. But the release of ‘Grubby Kids’, a track that had had a place in their live set for some time, soon blew those concerns out of the water.
Nixon Tate & The Honey Club were back and it seemed they were armed with new music (and lots of it). This was confirmed earlier this month when they released yet another track that further cemented them into the local music scene.
‘Porch Light’, released on Saturday 17th February, was promptly given the honour of being BBC Introducing Stoke’s track of the week; a title that it more than rightly deserves. It’s a simple track, in that it is no more and no less than anything we have heard from Tate and his Honey Club, yet it is exactly what we want and more importantly, what we need.
Beginning with the anticipation of Joe Richard’s revving guitar, ‘Porch Light’ uplifts you from the getgo. NT’s warm vocals breakthrough and soon, the rest of the band are slotting in around each other to create an effortless and almost perfect bed of chords, rhythms and beats. Every single track feels like a musical recipe and ‘Porch Light’ is no different: every lyric, strum, chord and rhythm added to the mix in equal measure, combined with 100ml of “ooomph” and 400g of pure euphoria.
For some time, I’ve struggled to put my finger on what it is exactly that makes this band stand out from the rest. What is it that these four men (now five after the recent welcoming of new drummer Peter Richards) have that other bands don’t? Yes, lyrically, they’re one of the most poetic of the bunch and you only have to listen to the briefest of seconds to feel that rising urge to dance, but it’s more than that. So much more.
Maybe it’s their experience of performing, writing and making music, or more likely the friendship that bleeds through into every note played, that makes Nixon Tate & The Honey Club a damn good band. Put simply, these guys have something good and they should keep hold of that for as long as they physically can.
‘Porch Light’ is like every Nixon Tate & The Honey Track rolled into one and it provides us with an idea of the direction that the band intend to take their music this year. 2018 is set to be an incredible year for local music and I predict that Nixon Tate & The Honey Club will be leading that charge from the front.
If you do one thing this year, let Nixon Tate & The Honey Club into your life and allow yourself fall in love with this band and everything that they have to offer. It’ll be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
For over a year, I’ve been privileged enough to have been given a secret look in at an exciting project from DROMA Records.
Remember them? DROMA Records, the creative project of brother/sister duo Jack Tasker and Sophie Bret Tasker. Still in its infancy really and yet already a significant heavyweight in the Staffordshire music scene, thanks to a growing number of artists who have had the pleasure of collaborating with them and producing music with them.
So when something arrived in my inbox from Sophie Bret Tasker, I got very excited. Even more so when I realised that this wasn’t from a DROMA artist, but actually from Sophie herself. If you’ve listened to the latest Don’t Call Me Ishmael album, or, indeed, any of the most recent Taskrz records, then you’ll have probably already have wondered where Sophie’s solo release is. It’s true that after the release of Don’t Call Me Ishmael’s second album ‘I’m Broken But I’m Fine’, second to the unique songwriting style of Gary Wilcox, the subject that received the most airtime from listeners was Sophie Bret Tasker’s staggering vocals on their single ‘To The Moon’. Her heavy vocals cut through the track like a razor and cover the song in a chocolatey layer of pure bliss.
But that was then and this is very much now.
That something that arrived in my inbox back in October of 2016, would later become her debut release as Futurewife. And what a release it is.
‘Nicest Day’ is a four-track EP, made up of three fully formed songs and one opening collision of sounds, beats and harmonies titled ‘Pram’. This is followed by ‘Again and Again’, the leading single from the EP, which elegantly introduces you to Sophie Bret Tasker and the thing that’s been pulling focus for the last 18 months. ‘Again and Again’ carries an entirely funk-inspired guitar riff, that, if it wasn’t for the ahead of its time synthesized sounds and the electrifying ending, could easily be placed amongst some classic 80’s pop records.
‘The Nicest Day I Can Remember’, the track that made BBC Introducing Stoke sit up and listen and finally offer her a chance to debut her work live on air, is one of the most personal pieces on the EP. It’s the one that I distinctly remember listening to late at night, after receiving another exciting email from Tasker herself, telling me she’d been working on the experimental side project.
Her lyrics, so raw and personal, are masked by her ability to make some of the funkiest beats known to local music. And, with a little help from brother Jack Tasker and mixing master Tom Bath of UTC Studios, those beats are the reason you end up hooked on her sound.
Wrapping up ‘Nicest Day’ is the sombre ‘In Our House’, a track that is mainly led by its bongo beats and simple soft synths. Tasker’s vocals float effortlessly on top of what lies beneath this track, slithering in a reflective dream-like state, before reaching their peak midway to produce a noisy chasm of sound. Much like ‘The Nicest Day I Can Remember’ the lyrics are real, openly discussing some of the hardest and most heartbreaking moments in Sophie Bret Tasker’s life.
‘Nicest Day’ is a spellbinding debut release, from a musician who is known for everything but creating electronic experimental music. It makes you wonder how long Sophie Bret Tasker has been sat on this urge to break out and create something of her own; something so different, yet so brilliantly unique.
What matters now, however, is that Futurewife has been born and with it, a brand new collection of songs and stories awaits.
It’s a simple question, but the answers are endless. At a time where social class and social status seems to be at the centre of every headline and conversation, music is one of the few things that links us all together.
Music doesn’t care where you were born, who your parents are or what sort of salary you earn. It doesn’t care whether you’re a builder, a plumber, a lawyer or a banker. It doesn’t care if you went to university or not, nor does it care about the decisions you make.
Music is for everyone and unapologetically so. It defines every single moment in our lives. There’s a song for your first kiss, an album for your first love and a whole genre for your first heartache. There’s music for your wedding, for when your children are born and for when they fly the nest. There’s music for when your favourite team wins a game and for when they lose. There’s music in our darkest days and in our finest hours.
There’s music in everything we do.
We want to know what music is to you. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s personal to you. Our aim is to collect as many responses as physically possible and display them on a page or in a post on our website. We want to bring people together through music, by celebrating what it means to you.
So tell us, anonymously if you wish, what does music mean to you?
Catchy, creative and irresistible; three words to describe The Hubbards and their music over the last couple of years. 2017 has seen the release of ‘Just Touch‘, a single that nudged them ever closer into the limelight, given them slots at festivals such as Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Great Escape and Dot to Dot and carved out a string of shows and tours that have put them in venues all around the country.
With the recent release of ‘Body Confident‘ still hot to touch, it’s time to delve deeper into this AA side and the second single that accompanies it. ‘Easy Go’ is the parallel opposite to ‘Body Confident’. It’s laid back, softer, yet so obviously belongs on the same page as ‘Body Confident’.
There’s a subtle sadness that pours out of ‘Easy Go’ as though it was written after a night out that turned sour. It plods along to the sound of the band’s signature guitar style, which has become such a strong definitive aspect of each of The Hubbards releases. ‘Easy Go’ continues to bubble away under the surface before gradually becoming slightly more twisted as it turns in on itself, leaving vocalist and bassist Rueben Driver screaming into the depths of the song, opening up the layers and peeling back the emotion.
Almost as soon as it rips itself apart does it put itself back together, like the moment after an argument where you can feel every single word hanging heavy in the air. ‘Easy Go’ is the sort of song you’d want to play in that moment, to fill the silence, and to say the things you’re too afraid to say out loud.
The Hubbards have a magical way of joining the dots and ‘Easy Go’ slots in perfectly. Even the music video draws a line of connection with past single ‘Cold Cut’. Listen to any of their music and you’re sure to hear that something that is hidden within every chord sequence and every strum of their guitars.
Who knows what 2018 has to offer for this four-piece, but I know that their journey as a band is far from over. In fact, it may only just be beginning.
He’s a mystery and that’s how he likes it, but now, nine months after he first teased us with his music, Jean Rouch has released his debut album.
The story of Jean Rouch appears to begin at the start of the year, when the phrase “If you seek, you will find” was distributed (without any explanation) amongst popular music figures within the Stoke-on-Trent music scene. It was confusing, but it didn’t take much time for everyone to jump on the bandwagon, some without really knowing what they were sharing it for.
This in itself seems to fit into Jean Rouch’s character and the themes of his album, but more on that later.
Since then, Rouch has released two singles: ‘Racketeer’, an instrumental track complete with plodding drums that seem as though they’re signalling the start of a battle and ‘Privacy Is Sin’ featuring Cal Locker and Ant Holland, a track that seems to twist and turn into something terrifying and nightmare-like. Both have very different yet very significant accompanying videos, both leave you with unanswered questions and they both make you feel just that little bit uncomfortable.
‘Glory To He Who Brings Dispute’, his debut album, is not an easy listen. It isn’t something you’d put on after a stressful day at work, nor is it something I’d recommend you press your ear to if you’re struggling with hard times. It isn’t an album to listen to in one sitting either, unless you’re looking for seven reasons to start a revolution.
Opening with a short burst of dialogue and the haunting whispers of the album’s title, ‘Glory To He Who Brings Dispute’ starts as it means to go on. There are no vocals, other than the exchange of words at the beginning; only a dark and brooding guitar part that says more than enough to paint a picture in your mind.
The album continues in this way with ‘You’re Not Alone’ (featuring a guest appearance from The Red Kites frontman James Biddulph Junior), feeding into your own personal nightmare. James Biddulph Junior’s vocals sound like nothing I’ve ever heard from him before, especially as the song picks up pace and JBJ’s recognisable psychedelic style transforms into a beastly roar.
It’s worth noting that Jean Rouch himself appears never to sing, only acting as a narrator to the chaos he whips up around himself. He lights a fire with his words and the music does the rest, making this collection of songs extremely remarkable and a little bit mind-blowing.
Listening to ‘Laid To Rest’ makes you feel like you’re falling through heaven backwards, the ethereal ghostly harmonies of Natalie Webb and Jack Wood lifting this track up above the rest. ‘Racketeer’ follows, with ‘Media Is Pain’ falling in behind and Emily Law’s soft vocals heavily contrasting against the wailing guitars. Rouch returns here too, repeating the words “…seeing… hearing… lying… cheating…” over the music until eventually dying out in the final seconds.
‘Media Is Pain’ is the most “pop” track off the album, although using that term to describe any of these songs would be clutching at straws. What this track does do however, is offer a reason as to why Rouch began his life by distributing a phrase via social media. The ease at which it spread, much like a virus, falls effortlessly into the premise of this track and even if it wasn’t planned in that way, it makes for a very fitting example of the power of the media.
Rouch’s first single release ‘Privacy Is Sin’ follows on, before you reach the concluding track ‘Le Dernier Chapitre’ or “the last chapter” for those who were wondering. All of the guitars in the album seem to be based around a similar pattern, making this feel more like a concept album than anything else. ‘Le Dernier Chapitre’ opens with this guitar pattern, as Rouch pours his dark poetry all over it. He speaks as though he’s looking down on the world, speaking to and for the people, as he says “love each other and forget how to hate… make memories to last forever, not money to last one solemn hour…”.
It’s oddly positive and empowering, providing a kind of beacon of light amongst a crumbling world. ‘Le Dernier Chapitre’ is the song you’d expect to hear at the end of a film, right before the world falls in on itself and yet, it’s my favourite of them all.
Jean Rouch is eccentric, unique and yes, still very mysterious. His inspiration and musical themes are heavy, but he speaks for the ones without a voice. The music is cinematic, the quality is crystal clear and the album as a whole is unlike anything else. Is ‘Glory To He Who Brings Dispute’ going to be your next favourite album? Probably not, but Jean Rouch is a person you’re going to want to follow and his music is definitely something you’re going to want to hear.
The music scene which is rooted deep within the streets of the city of Stoke-on-Trent is a powerful one. With a rising wall of young hopefuls, a gradual blurring of the lines between what’s classed as “old” and “new” music, a bubbling concoction of blogs, festivals and new music platforms, as well as the potential crowning of City Of Culture now within smelling distance, Stoke is undoubtedly a very good place to be.
But much like anything, the music scene is flawed. Whilst local bands thrive at every venue in their path, backs are turned and doors are closed for anyone attempting to break through the barrier that divides “local” and “out-of-town”.
But what if you’re a band of two cities? What happens then? That’s something that Deep City Diver are trying to work out.
Local folk or out-of-town aliens?
With members from both Stoke and London, the three-piece, now based in East London, are looking to break into this scene and all of its sticky-floored, sweaty, live and local glory. Having already performed locally only once before, on a line up with China Tanks and acoustic soloist Chris Reale, the band are keen to be accepted as a “Stoke band”.
For Stoke-born bassist Joe Macmillan, returning to the scene he once performed so regularly in with previous band Aversion, has been wonderful and frustrating in equal amounts. “We went around to venues and asked who’d take us. I think we’d just released our first single and that’s all we had at that point” he tells me, as we stand in the electronics aisle of a well-known supermarket chain. “No one would have us because we were that “out of town band””.
With two Australians in the band and everyone living in London, the trio has struggled to break into the Stoke scene, even with Joe’s local musical past. “London is the adoptive city but I’ve kind of felt so incredibly drawn to Stoke”, vocalist and guitarist Ryan Nicolussi adds. “It has these really incredible parallels with Wollongong which is where my family are. It’s a steel city so it’s quite working class in many ways. I think Joe’s enthusiasm is infectious you know?”
I do know. After spending just half an hour with the pair I can’t help but feel proud of this city and the progress it’s making, especially with regards to the City Of Culture bid, something that Joe believes we’re more than ready for.
“From what I understand there’s a very rich industrial history which creates then a cultural history,” says Ryan. “It is a creative city, I think, throughout the years and historically. I think it makes a lot of sense to carry on that torch.”
Where it began
Deep City Diver began as a concept long before it became a physical entity, with Nicolussi writing many of the songs that appear on their self-titled debut album before he’d even entered the country. But a chance meeting through mutual friends in an East London pub, lead Ryan to Joe – “… you know: “How do you do? Lovely to meet you”. Twenty minutes later: “Do you want to be in a band?” – and Deep City Diver was born.
Drummer Ryan Kalkman joined shortly afterwards and the boys got to work developing Ryan’s songs. “I think the moment that we kind of knew that we could continue with this trio was when Joe heard the demo for ‘Another World’. He was really excited about it and Ryan was too. That was the key moment where I could see how it could work.”
Lines of connection
Before the album release in October this year, the band released two singles to grab the attention of indie pop fans everywhere. The plan was to draw in potential fans with something catchy and simple, before dropping their album later in the year – an album that goes far beyond the realms of “generic indie music”.
A nine-track mother of a record, the album takes you on an 80’s inspired journey filled with youth, energy and emotion. Tracks such as ‘Easy Prey’, ‘Everyone Is Alone’, ‘Another World’ and ‘Down On Wreckyn Street, I’m Ruined’ bounce off the album at full speed, whilst ‘As The Crow Flies’, ‘Honeyeater’ and ‘Living in the Hyphen’ ground you, Nicolussi’s vocals making you feel things deep within your heart.
It’s clear that Ryan too feels a deep attachment with the songs, as he explains his passion for ensuring that they all ended up on the same album together. “There are all of these lines of connection between the nine songs on that record… we’ve got other stuff in the works but there was a real line in the sand that I wanted to draw with this chapter.”
The album came into fruition after an online kickstarter campaign gave the band enough money to create physical copies, although not in the way you might expect. If you want to get your hands on a copy it’s vinyl only or an online digital download, making Deep City Diver just that more interesting. “Is the CD dead?” asks Joe. “Yes probably, because I don’t have a CD player in my bedroom let alone in my house.” It’s true that vinyl is making a comeback in a huge way and with it, the long-lost age of patience as you tentatively remove the album from its sleeve, place it on the turntable and drop the needle. There’s no fast forward or rewind, which makes it easier to appreciate the music in full.
Stoke and beyond
Tonight Deep City Diver will act as main support for Divenire at The Underground in Stoke, where they’ll perform one of the best sets the venue has ever witnessed. But the journey hasn’t been easy. “We struggled to get this gig and we’ve only got it because we’ve curated it and basically hired the venue,” says Joe. “Stoke’s great, but it’s got this lock down and we’re trying to be considered a Stoke band. Can we have dual residency?”.
“We’re more Stoke than we are London”, Ryan adds. “I mean there’s two Australians in the band and a guy from Stoke!”. It’s a frustrating situation for the trio, but one that I’ve heard time and time again. Despite having such a vibrant local scene, it appears that Stoke struggles to accept outsiders – even if they’re formerly of this parish.
But the band have high hopes, with plans to return to the city at least three times next year. Along with gigging and continuing to break down the dividing lines, 2018 should also see the release of new music. “The second album is written. We haven’t recorded it but it’s been written,” Ryan says, as I question him about the next step. ‘Dream Sequence’, a brand new track that they’ll later perform at The Underground, is set to be released in the new year and although the band are unsure of how they’ll present their new material, it’s safe to say that we’ve not heard the last of Deep City Diver.
They’re a rare breed of a band; one you only come across every once in a while and with a debut album that ranks highly within local releases of 2017, as well as the passion and drive to make quality music together, it should be us who’re asking for them to play our best venues.
Can they be considered a “Stoke band”? E Major says hell yes.
After a short musical silence Thomas & The Empty Orchestra is back with a brand new single and a fresh collaboration.
Thomas Bower has teamed up with alternative hip-hop and spoken word artist Otis Mensah to produce ‘My Old Heart’, a dark bluesy single fuelled by life-inspired themes such as duality and ego. It begins sparsely; a single dirty guitar part leading the way whilst Bower’s vocals etch themselves into the flaky painted structure. They’re rich and warm, weathered even, as though recorded late at night and in one take.
The track remains largely stripped back throughout. There’s no crashing drums, thumping bass lines or amplified guitar riffs. As with all of Thomas & The Empty Orchestra’s releases thus far, ‘My Old Heart’ is reserved and carefully considered, yet packs a punch that is far more staggering than ‘A More Equal Punishment‘ and ‘Patron Saint‘ combined.
Aside from a brief guitar solo that slithers in-between the layers, ‘My Old Heart’ comes into its own the moment Mensah opens his mouth. At first its an odd coming together of sounds and genres. Is it blues? Is it hip-hop? Is it even allowed?
The very fact that this style is fairly unheard of in popular music makes it all the more attractive. Mensah speaks with passion, his words cutting through the music like barbed wire, as he proves why he rightly deserved a slot on the BBC Introducing stage at this years Glastonbury Festival.
‘My Old Heart’ is the product of a musical experiment conducted by Bower and Mensah who, having met and performed together at various open mic nights, wanted to explore the combination of folk music and hip-hop/spoken word. The outcome is a beautiful poetic fusion of music and words, that goes way beyond the boundaries of what popular modern music embodies.
Allow ‘My Old Heart’ to blur the lines you draw to define your taste in music and start experiencing the next wave of cool.
When The Hubbards released ‘Just Touch‘, we thought we’d found our favourite single of 2017 and we weren’t the only ones. At the point of writing this, ‘Just Touch’ has been streamed close to 40,000 times on Spotify with their equally as addictive video having just over 13,000 views on YouTube.
Add to that their recent support slots for pop-giants The 1975 and Foals as well as a slot at Radio 1’s Big Weekend and suddenly The Hubbards are a band you wish you’d heard of sooner.
So when word spread that a new single was on the horizon, we knew that we’d be in for a very exciting ride.
‘Body Confident’ is The Hubbards on top of their game. A swirly misty curtain of guitars and bass forms the backdrop of the single, whilst vocalist Reuben Driver instantly welcomes you in with a simple “hey, how’ve you been?”. The song remains like a conversation between Driver and the listener, giving ‘Body Confident’ a casual overall feel that is just as moreish as the song itself.
At the chorus the guitars jump up a notch to lift the song even further, offering the signature Hubbards sound only with the slightest of twists. Driver’s vocals, now harmonised, pulse with the guitar melody they’re perched on, before dropping back down into the second verse and bubbling over into the following chorus.
The Hubbards have a knack for producing catchy earworm-type singles and ‘Body Confident’ is one of them. It oozes modern indie finesse with a confident attitude to go with it and their track history proves that this isn’t a fluke. The four-piece have grown with every release; from ‘Is It Me?’ to ‘Cold Cut’, ‘Born To Fly’ to ‘Just Touch’, their music has developed but the quintessential Hubbards sound has always (sort of) stayed the same.
How far will this band go? You’ll find the answer to that in their music.