Tag Archive: UK


Interview: Kites

I admit it. We’ve been relying rather heavily on the Swedes around here lately (but can you blame me?). But, in the name of global citizenship, we’re expanding ever-so-slightly southwest to bring you Kites—proof positive once again that the 80s are alive and well in London (even if the majority of the decade’s greatest proponents—myself included—have little to no memory of the original incarnation).

If you follow The Indie Handbook on Tumblr, you’ve already had a very brief introduction to the band and the handful of tracks they’ve posted on SoundCloud. I’ve been streaming their tracks with increasing frequency over the last fortnight. So why don’t you go ahead and check out a few for yourself as you peruse this interview and we get to know the band a little bit better and maybe dispel some myths along the way. (I have to say, I am a huge fan of Taio’s desert island list. Chet Baker is an inspired choice.)

The band have also recorded a brief session for the online arm of i-D Magazine (a personal favourite of mine). I’ll link to that here as soon as it goes up.

Kites are: Matthew Phillips (Vocals, Guitar), Taio Renee-Lawson (Guitar, Bass), Richard Baldwin (Electronics) and Jack Newton (Percussion)

How did the band get started?

Taio – A series of unlikely meetings and conversations. It all seemed to fit into place like a puzzle.

Matthew – There has been a myth circulating that we met on the towering escalator at Angel Tube station in London. You know, the one where you feel like you are plunging into the bowels of hell. We admit partial responsibility for propagating this fallacy. If the truth be told, Kites began as an idea; an idea based loosely and perhaps a little pretentiously, on creative simplicity. I suppose everyone in Kites brings a different flavor to the make-up of the band. We’re also very lucky that we all get on famously.

What do people say your music sounds like?

Richard – It appears that many people lean toward comparisons with New Order and the like. Although flattering, I’m a big fan of New Order, I think that’s quite a lazy pairing.

Matthew – Yes, we do garner many comparisons with Depeche Mode and New Order. There have even been comparisons drawn with The Killers and The Maccabees but this probably has more to do with our aesthetic, rather than our sound. Artists who claim that their sound is entirely unique are pathological liars. I never get offended by comparisons – it is a very natural thing for people to do and helps outsiders to gain a rudimentary, albeit imperfect, insight into our music.

Taio – The press do make comparisons to New Order and Talking Heads. It is a total honor that people relate us to those brilliant bands. It goes with out saying that we have been influenced by them, but also by a wider range of artists and genres. I think we can stand alone from those comparisons and be judged on our own merits.

What do you think it sounds like?

Matthew – I would like to think it sounded like a mirror screaming back at its onlooker with compassion and, very occasionally, with mockery.

Richard – Personally I don’t think we sound like any single artist in particular, as each of us bring distinctly different influences to the table and that is reflected in the music. However, I recently read someone referring to our latesttrack “The Disappearance of Becky Sharp” as sounding like a “melancholy Erasure”. I was most amused by that. Vince Clarke is a genius.

How did the band’s sound develop?

Taio – I think our sound is still evolving and maturing. We know what we are about, and what music we want to make, but I think we are changing day to day, and so the music evolves as we do.

Richard – On our earlier tracks one might notice that the music sounds quite DIY, which indeed for the most part, it is, we have produced almost all our tracks in my home studio, but over the last year we’ve really learned and honed our sound. Don’t get me wrong, there is always room for improvement, but I think our learning curve is audible in the words, the music and the live performance. It’s great fun developing as a group.

Matthew – Every song that we work on together feels like a constant evolution in our sound. We have become more dexterous and versatile, and our repertoire has become more dynamic. I am already very excited about our future recordings. It has been a heady journey!

Unlimited artistic freedom or global superstardom?

Richard – I don’t think anyone would claim that what we are doing is so avant-garde that it can’t be genuinely popular. As for ‘global superstardom’ I am not sure that’s entirely up to us.

Matthew – It is my considered belief that a songwriter should, under no circumstances, compromise their artistic freedom. However, I don’t subscribe to the view that artistic freedom and success are necessarily mutually exclusive. As for ‘superstardom’, I am not sure if we are of the right oeuvre.

Taio – I think that the former can sometimes cause the latter.

What can we expect from a typical Kites gig?

Matthew – Unabashed passion and energy. We haven’t yet had the inclination to pick up ukuleles and, in that sense, the sound is very electronic and imposing. We try to actively engage our audiences in our aural ceremonies.

Taio – I do enjoy the live shows and performing. After all the nerves fade, I do enjoy it.

Your dream gig?

Taio – A Kites set on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury or Coachella main stage.

Jack – A Kites show also, but perhaps at Madison Square Gardens in New York.

Matthew – I know I might sound like a broken record when I mention this, as I do so frequently in interviews, but I would give my left nostril to see the Stop Making Sense tour.

You can only listen to one band/artist for a year. Who is it?

Matthew – Patrick Wolf

Taio – I would have to find a way for there to be more than one. Kate Bush springs to mind and Chet Baker does too… as does Joni Mitchell… and Björk. As you can see that’s an impossible question to answer.

Jack – I would go for The National.

Richard – From my own record collection it would have to be Norwegian Ambient Electronica from Biosphere, on account of him having enough material that I could listen to a couple of albums a month without repeating.

Introducing the Kabeedies, whom you already know

Photo by: whoever took it

Photo by: whoever took it

If you are the sort of person who actually reads through your Facebook “updates” inbox, and you have already read the sad excuse for a newsletter I sent out on Friday, then you have already heard that the Kabeedies will be releasing their debut LP in November. If not, now you have. However, I realized today that I have been remiss in every actually mentioning the Kabeedies here.

I have been listening to the Kabeedies (I never know, do you capitalize the “T” in “the”?) all summer. They popped up on one of our last.fm stations back in May and I have not been able to get that sound out of my head. At first glance, the Kabeedies seem to share the qualities of certain other acts a person might be inclined to label “twee”, or the even more meaningless “indie”: namely, a cute girl up front, sharing vocals with a boy or two. But, really, they are “twee” in much the same way Los Campesinos! are, which is, not really at all. In reality, they’ve got a lot more in common with the world of punk than the Belle & Sebastian-laden Glaswegian scene. (Certain fans will be unwilling to acknowledge these influences for fear that admitting an affinity for anything punkish will require the shaving of their tragically beautiful emo hair into fluorescent mohawks.)

Actually, the Kabeedies have a lot in common with Los Campesinos! (or, reaching back into the 80s, the Sugarcubes), not so much the impenetrably nihilistic lyrics of LC!, but the generally frenetic style and the boy/girl vocal doubling, check out “Little Brains” and “Treasure Hunting” if you need proof. “Palindromes” demonstrates a soft spot for linguistic curiosity (“Both my parents are palindromes / M-U-M and D-A-D”) while “Lovers Ought To” provides a glimpse at a relationship through the window of social networking: “messing about with MySpace poses / and we try to show affection, buying plastic roses”.

Since I first heard the Kabeedies this spring, I’ve checked back every few weeks to see if there was any word on an LP. And, finally, my OCD has borne fruit. Hopefully, we will be able to take a closer look at the album in the coming weeks before and give you a better idea of what’s in store. For now, there are a couple of singles, an EP, and a handful of (different) tracks on MySpace and last.fm. For now, have a listen and catch them on tour (UK only) in October.

Photo by Alison Wonderland

Photo by Alison Wonderland

I know, I’ve been talking about this for a long time (here, for instance, and here, and here) and, before you ask, no, it’s not here quite yet. The School’s debut LP, Loveless Unbeliever, is slated for release in October, so you have still a couple of months to wait (for you Druids out there, that’s one autumnal equinox – two full moons for you werewolves). But far be it for me to go more than 45 seconds without thinking of my favourite Welsh pop purveyors or the album which is quickly becoming the most exciting thing to happen in 2009 (and it hasn’t even happened yet!).

Thankfully, for those like me, suffering – willfully, faithfully – from twee fever, The School have preempted their LP with the release of a split 7” (Searching for the Now 6) on Slumberland Records this week (the School take the A side with two tracks from George Washington Brown, the latest nom de rock of Pete Gofton, Kenickie’s Johnny X, on the flipside). Of course, if you’ve taken my advice in the past and visited The School on MySpace, you will recognise their cover of Left Banke’s ‘And Suddenly’. The School are perfectly equipped to pay homage to these pioneers of baroque pop with their uncanny evocation of the 1960s girl group sound with a pinch of C86 and just a dash of Camera Obscura. The performance is so well executed, in fact, that it is difficult believe that this is a cover song at all and even more difficult, still, to stop listening. When you’ve had a month like I have, this is the music that keeps you alive; listen to it about a dozen times, and suddenly, the world is full of sunshine.

You ought to know, however, that this song will not be on the album. This is the only release planned for this track (except for the B-sides and rarities collection bound to be compiled in about a decade in celebration of the band’s inevitably illustrious career). And, as if that is not enough of a reason to entice you to open your pocketbook, there are two tracks (‘End of the…’ and ‘Twin Towers’) by George Washington Brown on the B-side. No, he is not likely to be mistaken for The Angels or Shelley Fabares, but is still well worth your attention. So check it out on the Slumberland page. You will not regret it, because, as I’ve said before, at any given moment, The School are reminiscent of everything that you love about music.

Ah, Sweet Bitter Things

Why we at The Indie Handbook are –oh god and I thought I would never say it– big fans of Twitter:|

1) Eric can tweet at people (dirty!)
2) We can discover fantastic music that we may not run into otherwise

Bitter Things is one example. So, thank you, Bitter Things, even though you may have started following us only because we had the word “indie” in our name (although you really don’t seem like the type) or because we happen to be following some of the same record labels. I’d like to say that we officially love your music.

I only spent a few months in London, but to me, Bitter Things has a quintessential London sound, dark and moving and full of convincing guitar riffs.   In fact, although “Let Me Down Slow” is over 4 minutes long, it’s my favorite of the songs on their myspace page.  They clearly know what they’re doing– longer than 4 minutes and you’re just being greedy, so usually I’ll officially peace out, but Bitter Things has me hooked.  Nick Gledhill has a voice full of character (check out “You’re So 2oth Century”), reminiscent of David Bowie on Ziggy Stardust, Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter, or the Kinks’ Ray Davies.  Not that their sound is completely British 70′s rock, but who doesn’t love a little Bowie twist?

Speaking of influences, the “influences” section of Bitter Things’ myspace bears mentioning.  Nick begins talking about the music he’s been listening to lately, then mentions movies he’s seen and books he’s been reading, and then discusses the National Portrait Gallery and the paintings he has been enjoying and the people he has been watching, and finally he concludes (as every philosophical, self-aware, true lover of life eventually does) that “[the girls in the art museum] are also an exhibit and so are you and so is everyone who passes through the place to behold and be beheld and this is a very strange and interesting place to be.”  Except obviously he explains it all in much more length and with much more eloquent detail than I just did, so I’m suggesting/demanding that you go to their myspace page immediately, listen to their music, read their “influences” section, and cry because unless you are in the U.K., you probably won’t catch a show anytime soon.  Or maybe you will.

www.myspace.com/bitterthingsmyspace

P.S. Eric would like to add that the Bohemian girls are his favourite part of the V&A, too, and the Tate Modern, for that matter.

In many ways, the city of Glasgow is a driving force behind The Indie Handbook (and not just because I am of Scottish descent and not-so-secretly wish I could live there)–it is also the home of indie gods Belle & Sebastian (and one of my celebrity crushes, Isobel Campbell). No, this is not about Belle & Sebastian, seminal as they may be, you already know how fabulous they are. This is about fellow Glaswegians, Strawberry Whiplash, a band with one of the best names I have ever heard.

Strawberry Whiplash are Laz McLuskey (who writes the songs, plays the instruments, and also records as Bubblegum Lemonade) and someone named Sandra (who sings the songs that Laz writes). You probably wouldn’t actually have to listen to Strawberry Whiplash or see a list of their influences to have an idea what to expect, a photo of Laz with his classic red Rickenbacker would be sufficient. But for those of you not as presumptious as I am, think of that jangly C86 guitar sound with a Velvet Underground fuzziness (see also: “Factory Girl”, a musical homage to Warhol’s “poor little rich girl”, Edie Sedgwick).

The band is part of an impressive lineup on Santa Barbara’s own Matinée Recordings (including Bubblegum Lemonade, Cats on Fire, the Electric Pop Group, and the Hermit Crabs). I will probably refer to this roster a lot in the future. But right now, I am only concerned with the distinctive, cutting Rickenbacker jangle and Isobel Campbell-like vocals of Strawberry Whiplash. They have released one EP, Who’s In Your Dreams, all of which you can hear on their MySpace.

My favorite thing about Strawberry Whiplash: they are self-defined “part-time indie popsters” with real jobs, like we are, but we (much to my dismay) do not live among the Scots (and their intoxicating accents).

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