The record pictured is Grimes – Art Angels, a release from the closing months of the year but one that basically blew everything that came before it out of the water. It’s an obvious choice to include here, having featured in the end-of-year list of every music magazine ever, but it is easily one of my favourite albums of the whole decade. Art Angels is a perfect pop record, but also so much more than a pop record; it has obviously catchy hits (Flesh Without Blood, Realiti), but maybe more remarkable is the true originality of it. It is just the right amount of ‘weird’; I think that the more unconventional sounds (which run throughout the album, but are especially prominent in songs like Scream, Venus Fly and intro to the album laughing and not being normal) really show off the full range of Grimes’ currently unparalleled creativity and genius as a producer and artist.
You’ve actually been to the UK three times this year, what do you like so much about playing here? If you do like it that is?
Cleo: we do like it! Our label was originally based here so they have a strong understanding of what shows are cool and where to play, and what’s going on.
And what do you like about being here?
Cleo: I’ve always really loved the UK and Europe, it’s a fascinating place to me growing up so far. I think everything is different so it’s kind of cool to jump into a totally different world. It’s also fun to exercise those parts of yourself that you work on so far away, and exercise things that are so close to yourself, and yet to be in a space that’s the furthest you could possibly be from familiarity. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to live inside of!
Harmony: I feel like I learn more about my culture coming here, in a weird way, because it’s like ‘oh I didn’t realise that was part of my DNA that isn’t just human, it’s only the United States’. That’s interesting, and also visually it’s so different from America. Like the architecture and the way things are put together and placed; I feel like every culture has a certain way they shape things, and the visual exploration of that feeling is interesting. Your environment affects you so much that perceiving a different world visually affects internal dialogue, even.
For sure, especially being from somewhere as far away as L.A. You recently moved to Philly too, how has that been?
Harmony: it’s been cool!
Cleo: it was sort of similar to the feeling of coming here, entering a space and environment that we’ve never really lived inside of. It’s fun! Right now and for a long time our eyes have been really wide, and with moving we have been soaking up loads of new feelings too.
So your new record, Before the World Was Big, is really great! Can you tell us a bit about it? Are you happy with it?
Harmony: we both feel really good about the record, we feel like it really hones in on a moment in our lives and represents a perspective and a feeling or idea that we both shared and explored together, and it’s really powerful and cool to put it out into the world. It feels really cool!
Cleo: yeah we’re both proud of it and feel close to it still, we love it a lot.
Apart from music, what other creative things are you guys into?
Cleo: pretty much everything! We both draw, I take photos, and we love making videos.
Harmony: yeah, and just thinking about ideas…..
You both have a cool, distinctive style. What, if anything, do you think inspires that?
Cleo: I like a lot of certain colours, like bright colours and juxtaposition and contrast… except right now I’m not wearing that haha. I don’t think I consciously have any style icons, though.
Harmony: I remember when I was like 13, and Say Yes by Elliott Smith was playing, and I was just like ‘I want to dress like this song today’. I can’t remember what I ended up wearing! I think that the things I like inspire what I wear, but I don’t know what they are exactly.
Do you think that fashion and music influences cross over?
Cleo: I don’t know, it’s strange that image is involved at all, but I guess because there is performance there are visual representations. It’s strange because when you’re sitting writing a song you don’t think about that.
Harmony: yeah you’re like wearing sweat pants or your PJs and eating snacks!
So do snacks inspire the music?
Harmony: totally, peanut butter crackers.
Cleo: yeah, and coffee!
What is your tour-drobe like? It must be a really annoying thing to have to pack for a tour, so how does that go down? What are your essentials?
Cleo: it’s very weather dependant. We came from the east coast which right now is about a million degrees, so we packed warmer clothes for here. And you’ve always got to bring that pair of pants that you really love.
Harmony: and a good pair of sneakers, and some nice underwear that are really comfy. And good socks! We’re very into socks.
Cleo: really your tour-drobe evolves as you go, I haven’t actually been to a shop in Manchester yet but we did a lot of shopping in London!
Harmony: yeah we went to Brick Lane, and have been to a lot of charity shops and stuff. And there was a lot of cool stuff at End of the Road Festival too!
Thanks so much for chatting to me!
Slow Club have been around for quite a while. Almost ten years, in fact. A favourite of the self-proclaimed ‘indie kids’ in secondary school (in my 2005-2010 era at any rate), they have stood the test of time and continue to put out music that is both interesting and (imo) just really nice to listen to. Originally hailing from Sheffield (just like the last band I interviewed, Nai Harvest), Charles and Becca now live in London. I caught up with them at a Disaronno Terrace event in Manchester, and had a chat with Charles about Slow Club past, present and future, the creative process, and of course clothes.
I guess just trying to push yourself, and not do the same thing every time. We’ve always been conscious of trying to make a record that’s different to the last one, purely to keep ourselves entertained. I guess the differences between records are a reflection of what we’re listening to at the time, and where we’re at with our lives.
When I’m writing I always try to do something else as well, something creative but not songs, so they feed off each other. For our first two records I was painting a lot, and for the last record and this record I enrolled at St Martin’s last year to do a writing thing, so I’ve been using that as a springboard. I find if I’m doing something like that, I write loads and loads more music as well. It’s like being fit, if you only write a song once a month, when you come to do it it’s going to be difficult, but if you do little and often you’re able to communicate your ideas a lot more easily. I kind of treat those other creative activities like, say if you were making a dress, the bust that you put it on – I treat the other activities as a framework to build writing songs on. You could just write the same song over and over again, but if we stopped tomorrow, I wouldn’t want to look back on what we’ve done and think we could’ve put more work in.
That’s really interesting, I definitely find it helpful to have to have more than one thing going on at once too. You live in London now, do you still keep up with the DIY scene in Sheffield and the north? Any names to watch?
A lot of our friends are in bands back up north and in Sheffield. We’re good friends with Seize the Chair, and I guess those guys in Nai Harvest and Best Friends are all part of the same group. I’ve seen them a few times and I really like it, I like the link between skate culture and music and you often end up with really interesting stuff. If you move away from a place you do get disconnected from that, you kind of have to be there to appreciate it, but whenever I go back I always try to see stuff.
Onto fashion… how important is ‘aesthetic’ to you as a band?
I think if you asked Becca this question, you’d get a totally different answer! It’s nice to have some sort of unity on that front, we always try it or there’s some sort of vague attempt to do it, but then three days into the tour we just want to wear something comfy.
Where do you get your clothes from? What are you wearing right now?
Anywhere really! Right now – I got some new Dr Martens today, and I’ve actually really got into dying clothes recently. This shirt was light blue last week, so I got a sachet of dark blue and black dye and I’ve just been dying a load of clothes.
I had this last question for Becca, but she couldn’t make it here, so maybe you can help. I wanted to ask if she finds that as a “””girl in a band”””, there’s any more pressure on her to look a certain way or at least to be concerned with fashion? Do you notice that her experience is different to yours?
Yeah, it’s still a pretty male dominated industry. I don’t think there really should be a distinction at all. She shouldn’t be a “girl in a band”, she’s just a woman playing music. Some people seem to think that it’s this really incredible thing that a girl is in a band and writes songs, I think it’s a bit of a 70s view to have! I’m sure she does have a different experience than me, but I think she just makes an effort the same as anyone would.
Words and photos by Hannah Farrington
Nai Harvest is Ben Thompson (vocals and guitar) and Lew Currie (drums). They are a two-piece from Sheffield whose sound (in very brief summary) has grown from roots in twiddly emo to a sort of fuzzy indie punk that music media seems to find difficult to describe. Whichever adjective you prefer, their new record Hairball is really, really good; from the very first line ‘I wanna know what the weather’s like in your mind’ to energetic title track Hairball. I’ve had the contagious first single Buttercups stuck in my head for months, and dreamy Ocean of Madness is proper ~summer anthem~ material (and my personal favourite song from the album).
How’s tour been?
Ben: it’s been really good, we’ve been with our best friends and had all our friends opening the shows. It’s been really nice to be able to curate a tour and ask people we want to play with to play with us.
Lew: the best tour we’ve done I reckon.
The new record is very sick, what’s your favourite song from it?
Ben: All The Time, it’s really easy to play.
So you’re both into creating visual art in one way or another (Ben studies at Manchester School of Art and Lew is an illustrator), how important are visuals to you as a band?
Ben: I guess the aesthetic of a band is quite important, obviously music is the most important but you’ve got to have a clear direction visually.
Lew: I think it’s 50/50, you’ve got to stand out these days pal.
Ben: yeah, if your record covers are ugly and your t-shirts aren’t nice then no-one’s gonna buy them, regardless of how good the songs are – a sad but true fact! And as we’re both artists it’s kind of important to have an art vibe with Nai Harvest as well.
Which do you prefer to create then, art or music?
Ben: I actually prefer music these days, art is becoming more and more stressful as time goes on.
Lew: yeah same, I wouldn’t say art is a job but it’s more that way than music.
Ben: me too art is becoming more a job and I have to think about it more, whereas music comes really naturally.
And Lew quickly tell us about the book you’ve just done?
Lew: I basically decided to do a book because I got bored of doing conceptual work. I wanted to draw what I know and I really like football. It’s basically a collection of moments in my style.
*check out Lew’s Tumblr for his illustrations, and pick up his book via Snöar Press if you’re into that*
Where do you get your clothes generally?
Ben: off Etsy or eBay, or just general charity shops. There’s a really good one near where I live in Withington, shout out to Cancer Research UK.
Lew: pretty much the same, charity shops and my dad actually.
Out of all the current UK bands in this scene you two have one of the most distinct aesthetics, has this ever been a conscious thing?
Ben: not at all! It’s weird because people in America always ask if we’re brothers even though we don’t physically look alike. I think it’s because we look sort of coordinated, but it has actually never been intentional.
This is my least favourite question that I get asked as a blogger; can you describe your style?
Ben: my style is kinda lazy, baggy and comfortable. I don’t like anything to fit properly.
Lew: the bigger the better! Pretty much the same, but a bit more sporty.
Can you describe my style?
Lew: fire emoji.
Ben: haha fiery fashion babe. I don’t know, it’s like London Fashion Week in Manchester casual.
Ok cool I’m putting that in my bio. Any fashion influences or icons?
Ben: Orlando Weeks from The Macabees, still swag after all these years. He brought white trainers and sick bowl cuts into rock and roll, legend.
Lew: Mike Skinner I reckon, hard as fuck.
What about other bands you know, who else dresses great?
Ben: Best Friends probably.
Lew: Magic Gang.
Ben: yeah they’re pretty swag… like Jack Wills punk, yacht punk, gone on a boat but also in a punk band…
Lew: and Mahogany!
Ben: Hetty from Night Flowers always dresses really Vogue, like really long coats and heels, she always looks very put-together. And when we saw Alvvays, Molly had the coolest stripy t-shirt on I’ve ever seen, with a red Mustang and white trainers. She was dressed like a boy and it looked so sick!
And your favourite bands, musically and/or visually?
Lew: I’m gonna say The Streets, musically and visually it works together.
Ben: yeah The Streets is a good one he’s got that scally thing on lock. Mac De Marco’s got a pretty good look on the go with the whole gap teeth, cap, stoner-but-not-actually-a-stoner vibe, dungarees and stuff… I reckon he’d be so fun to hang out with.
Lew: at the moment musically it’s Cymbals Eat Guitars.
Ben: yeah and the new Waxahatchee record is amazing, and I can’t wait for the show.
Nice, and finally what can we expect from you in the next year?
Ben: just loads more live shows, probably a cool support tour, and back to the states in October.
As a blogger, I’m involved in an industry built on and dominated by inspiring, independent and successful young women, and that is honestly so exciting to me. The phenomenal things that some of my friends are achieving literally make my heart swell. By stark contrast, the increased level of outrage at the recent announcement of Reading and Leeds Festival’s almost exclusively male line-up (and then the following slow realisation that it isn’t just R&L – Download features nine bands including women and Slam Dunk has just one act with a female member) has reminded me just how bleak the gender (as well as race, sexual orientation and identity) equality situation is in other scenes which I consider myself a part of.
In some respects I’m conflicted about even making this post because the gender of band members really shouldn’t be a thing of note, and certainly not a defining factor of that band, but at the same time it’s important to recognise the women who manage to go against the generally sexist grain of the music industry as a whole. If we talk about girl bands more, the hope is that more girls will feel inspired and confident enough to start new girl bands (I certainly wish I had this sort of confidence in myself), and there will be less and less of an excuse for the sort of abysmally uneven gender balance on festival line-ups of today. Sidebar: for an interesting read on sexism and the music industry (and more importantly what to do and what is already being done about it) I’d recommend this Noisey article. I’m also going to see Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) talk about her new book Girl In A Band this week which I’m very excited about, and I’m curious as to whether she’ll provide me with a new angle on women in music – I’ll probably be tweeting about it @hannahlouisef.
In the meantime, I thought it fitting to share some appreciation for my favourite all-girl or girl-fronted current band from a variety of genres. Happy listening – let me know if you’re into any of these bands, or have found something new!
Blah Blah Blah
This girl-fronted band is actually on the Reading and Leeds lineup, hurrah! Perfect indie pop that makes me think of summer whenever I listen to their self titled LP, no matter what the weather is like outside. I was lucky enough to watch Alvvays (pronounced like ‘always’) play at Manchester’s Deaf Institute earlier this year; they were record-perfect and I smiled the whole way through.
Marry Me, Archie
This is one FFO hardcore/punk. If you haven’t already heard of G.L.O.S.S (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit), they are a fairly new band from Olympia, Washington made up of trans-women/femmes/queers who are sick of punk catering exclusively to white boys. ‘I DON’T REMEMBER INVITING YOUR WORDS / I DON’T REMEMBER INVITING YOUR GAZE / I’D NEVER ASK YOUR OPINION OF SHIT! / MY BODY / MY RULES / GET ON WITH IT’ – from Targets Of Men. They have channeled anger and intelligence into a powerful and cutting demo which has kicked up quite the storm; I don’t think I’ve seen it posted online anywhere without the tagline ‘best demo of the year so far’. In the context of this post, it’s very cool to see something made by trans* women being widely embraced in hardcore and punk across both the US and the UK (and probably elsewhere too) – I hope this sets a precedent.
…actually just listen to the whole thing
Artefact is a very new girl-fronted band from South Wales. They just put out a demo via Bandcamp featuring seven(!) brooding goth-y, post-punk-y songs, which make me want to wear black dresses with bell sleeves and dance around a bit, and I am so into Hannah’s Siouxsie Sioux esque vocals. You can listen to and download the demo for free or with a donation on their Bandcamp.
This Scottish scuzzy indie pop duo is going from strength to strength at the moment. Their 2014 self-titled full length (listen to and download on their Bandcamp) is really great – even when shouting ‘I will hate you forever! Scum bag sleaze! Slime-ball grease!’ on Super Rat they’re still sweet without being too sickly, and just really very nice to listen to. I’m particularly obsessed with the extremely Scottish pronunciation of ‘another fucking bruise, this one looks just like a rose’ in closing track Braid Burn Valley. I imagine the record would make the perfect soundtrack to a warm summer drive down roads lined by corn fields. I hope to catch Honeyblood at Dot To Dot festival in Manchester later this year.
Last but not least is Canadian synth-pop / ‘future-pop’ female/male duo Purity Ring. If you haven’t heard of Purity Ring before you might actually be a little more familiar with them than you think; their song Fineshrine from first LP ‘Shrines’ was used in a Very TV ad, prompting a barrage of ‘very tv ad music’ google searches. That album is quite perfect in my opinion, but they have very recently put out another full length ‘Another Eternity’. I haven’t had enough time to fully digest and figure out what I think of it yet – I love the dreamier songs like Push Pull and sleepy closing track Stillness in Woe but think that the more upbeat like Flood on the Floor (which I imagine would be phenomenal to watch live) are actually more interesting. On early impressions I think I prefer Shrines but that is neither here nor there; you should still listen to this band!
Flood on the Floor
I could go on and on, but if you want more check out A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Adventures, Tropic of Cancer, Grimes, Petal, Warpaint, VUM, Haim, Waxahatchee and to backtrack a little everything on this useful riot grrrl list, and watch The Punk Singer.
TLC – No Scrubs
Little Mix – Salute
Nicki Minaj – All Things Go
Beyoncé – Pretty Hurts
Taylor Swift – Blank Space
I want to write more about music on my blog but I’m in an awkward position where (I imagine that) almost no-one who reads my blog cares what music I’m into, and almost no-one who is involved in the same sort of music scene as I am cares what I think about it. Nevertheless, inspired a little by Zoe and Lily‘s ‘soundtrack to my life’ YouTube tag, I’ve decided to do it anyway as it is what I spend around half my life preoccupied with. Now, it is very difficult to write about a show/gig/concert/etc, without sounding embarrassing, so I’m going to try to keep each little section short and sweet and keep my adjective usage to the bare minimum. I hope this interests at least a few of you, and please let me know if you’d like to see similar in the future!
One thing that 2014 lacked in for me has been hardcore shows. I enjoyed Twitching Tongues early on in the year, and I did see Turnstile again in the summer. I also saw Stick Together, Take Offense and Cold World at Outbreak Fest – none of which were mind-blowingly great, but pretty cool nonetheless. Fingers crossed for some better things in 2015!
Other honourable mentions of the year were Merchandise (incredible band but oddly hardly anybody went), Headroom‘s first show, Citizen, Nothing, Taking Back Sunday, Balance and Composure, Seahaven, Diamond Youth, Nai Harvest, Walleater and last but by absolutely no means least One Direction(!!!!) (VIP courtesy of BooHoo!), which was a truly excellent experience. There were other bands too, who I’ve either forgotten about or just weren’t quite worthy of a mention. Next year I’m already looking forward to American Football, Mineral (again), Alvvays (oh somebody sell me a ticket for Manchester in January, please?), and hopefully some better hardcore shows. Bands I’m gutted I missed this year include Lust For Youth, Iceage, Slowdive (what is up with bands who only play in London??).
The absolute worst band I saw was Bam Margera’s Fuckface Unstoppable, a somewhat spontaneous evening thanks to a hookup by a friend, and an absolute assault on my ears, but I met Bam Margera so it was all worth it for my 14 year old self.
So all in all, 2014 hasn’t been a year in which I’ve been to many particularly ~cool shows, but one during which I have thoroughly relived my youth (a phrase which sounds ridiculous coming from a 21 year old, but you know what I mean) and also had some musical experiences I never thought would be possible thanks to the magic that is 90s bands being short on cash. Were you at any of these? I’ve linked to the Bandcamp or Lastfm pages of some of the more current bands I’ve mentioned here, do go and check them out. I wanna talk about music, so please let me know your thoughts on this post!