Saturday, 21 February 2015

Mourn - Mourn

Madrid's Hinds (formerly Deers) took 2014 by storm touring their playful summer tunes and bringing the fiesta wherever they went. Travel east to Spain's second city and you'll find group of young Catalonians. Barcelona's Mourn, from a distance seem to have popped up over night, releasing their self-titled debut LP on February 16 on Captured Tracks.

Opener 'Your Brain Is Made of Candy' paces out of the blocks before trotting along echoed guitar strums and leaping into a drum lead gallop. A sudden finish to what has become a raucous opener sounds almost as if some ludicrous person has pulled the plug on the four teenagers. They quickly set things straight by jumping into the suitable named 'Dark Issues'. Thundering drums and ragged guitar riffs create a shroud of post-punk smog which leaks slowly into your jubilant ears.

'You Don't Know Me' and 'Marshall' offer up a mesmerising few minutes of heavy head-banging guitars at the album's midpoint. 'Squirrel' then meanders towards a more indie sound with a busily bumbling bass solo which plunges into a pool of slashed guitar chords.

 Youthful anger opens 'Jack' as singer Jazz Rodríguez Bueno calls out "you think you're awesome, I say you're boring, you called me a baby, I just said fuck you!". This fury continues until the albums bitter end in the form of the band's first ever song, 'Boys Are Cunts'. Scratching guitars accompany vocals reminiscent of Savages' front women Jenny Beth. Soft coos then morph into agonising screams of punk rock euphoria as the album explosively arrives at an abrupt finish.

On the surface Mourn's music is far from the dreamy indie rock of Hinds. However, as front women Bueno and Carla Pérez Vas chant "Your brain is made of candy" a fierce wave of youth power crashes against the glistening beaches of Barcelona. Despite their sound differences, Spain's two brightest new bands are leading the latest wave of exciting young European musicians and the future is looking sunny!

Monday, 9 February 2015

An Interview With... Art Is Hard Records

I've been pouring my musical heart out onto this blog for a little while now and while I try to keep things diverse one name seems to keep popping up. Art Is Hard Records was, until fairly recently, my local label. Set up by two friends, David and Richard, The label's love of local bands and links with the UK's extensive DIY scene helped introduce me to a whole new world of noisy pleasure. 

I spoke to co-founder David about the past, present and future of Art Is Hard.

How and why did you start Art Is Hard?

The how feels sort of fuzzy thinking back, it just sort of happened. Me and Richard had been talking about doing it for ages. We used to put on gigs in our hometown of Weymouth, mainly just because we wanted to put our tiny seaside town on the map as decent place for music. Starting a label was what we decided to do when we realised no one was going to come to our shows. 

You recently sold the last copies of The Black Tambourines/New Years Evil split EP, your first release. how did that feel?

We were incredibly naive and had no idea what we were doing when we put out two tiny bands from the South West on 7". When 250 copies turned up in my tiny bedroom I rather quickly resigned myself to taking them to my grave, so it's with a mixture of gratitude and sadness. 

What's it been like building up a record label in the South West?

It was originally our plan to only release bands from the South West but it didn't take us long to release most the bands we would of wanted to. We then started getting exciting people from further afield asking us to release them, so we had to break our own rules. I love the south west though, bands seem quite happy just making great stuff without getting really hyped and fizzling out like they might do in other places.

One of the great things about art is hard is how you get lesser known bands heard through initiatives like the pizza club and the post card club, can we expect more to come?

Definitely, this time last year me and Rich lived together and Georgie and Jake who help us out were both close by. We've all got less time at this year so we'd agreed it would be a silly idea to do one but then a couple of weeks ago Rich came to stay and we had a couple of drinks and decided we really missed doing a single's club so hopefully we should be launching the 2015 version very soon. We've got some great stuff lined up already including singles from The Red Cords, Trust Fund and Doe as well as lots of completely new bands.

There seems to be a sudden increase in AIH activity involving bands from across the pond, what's it like working with people so far away and how do those intercontinental relationships come about?

We're in a good position where a lot of good stuff now comes to us which is how we've ended up working with people like Shunkan and Blessin'. It's good fun although it can be a bit tricky trying to organise stuff with the time difference. I keep seeming to read important emails, first thing in the morning when I wake up and then completely forget about them.

2015 marks your fifth birthday, will you be celebrating in style?

I hope so, in terms of the wider music world which we exist in it feels like it's going to be a really big year. All the bands we've been releasing over the last couple of years suddenly have their debut albums coming out so it would be fun to get everyone back together for a big party later in the year. Maybe even a festival...should probably start planning!

If you could sign any band or artist, old or new, who would it be?

I'm not too sure on this actually; it's not something I ever really consider. Sort of like how I never really got celebrity crushes, it's just a weird unrealistic thing. It would be nice to carry on working with bands instead of being a stepping-stone for a bigger label but right now we can't really support that.

Is there anything coming up in 2015 that you are particularly excited for?

Tons! Obviously the aforementioned single's club. We're also doing a Record Store Day release with a dream team of other labels, the debut Shunkan album and also the second part of our Family Portrait series.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a label?

Start small and simple and be prepared to spend hours emailing people without a response. p.s. try and just have fun.

Visit Art Is Hard's tumblr to brows the archives and get your hands on some epic free music.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Musical Love Affair: Ides - Prisms

I've not done one of these for a while so it's probably about time I shared with you what I've been adoringly shovelling into my ears by the bucket load. Ides is perhaps best known because she is Alana McArdle, lead singer of Cardiff's noisiest indie-pop rabble - Joanna Gruesome.

On 'Prisms', in the absence of her four band mates, McArdle is almost unrecognisable. There is a vulnerability to the lonely partnership of young woman and guitar as she gently calls out "simple things, they make no sense to me". Perhaps ironically it is the songs beautiful simplicity that gives it a sweet and relatable charm. McArdle's heart-breaking sincerity, as she sings, "I hope that you're as happy as can be", seems to cover a deep frustration revealed as the song softly floats away on a gently flowing river of humming feedback.

Ides four minutes of tender bliss is available as part of Art Is Hard records' 2013 postcard club, where the download is accompanied by a beautiful postcard.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Best Friends

Four years ago the Gods of music, no doubt on a drunken night out in heaven's answer to Sheffield, sent down to earth four young men. Since that fateful day these four demigods have been blending into Sheffield side streets, slowly learning our ways and above all making some bloody good music. Now the group, who call themselves Best Friends, are ready to take over.

As the cold of January set in, who came out of hibernation to save our freezing ears? Why it was Best Friends of course! A deep orange sun rose over frosty carpets of dew bringing with it the news that the band had signed to Fatcat Records. 

Some say birds could be heard singing a new song that morning. The song in questions was quickly recognised as 'Shred Til You're Dead', a wholehearted indie banger released along side the morning's exciting news. On the first single to be released on their new label guitars are most definitely shredded and combined with a phenomenally catchy chorus, it is without a doubt a winner.

This recent flurry of activity is by no means the first we've heard of Best Friends, although its been a while. In 2013 the awesome 'Happy Anniversary/Nosebleeds' 7" was released on Art Is Hard records. The Single showcased the band's undeniable talent for writing infectiously catchy garage rock.

 Past videos show us there is more to this band than great music. Whether they are dressing up in drag in the 'Happy Anniversary' video or writing songs about a zombie apocalypse in the form of the epic eight minute long 'Hawaii 666', there is always something madly amusing going on when Best Friends are around. 

This playful attitude to making music, combined with a reputation for a raucous live show and songs as strong as 'Shred Til You're Dead' make Best Friends one of the most exciting young bands around right now. Who knows, 2015 might be the year they begin their climb back up to the musical paradise from whence they came.