Monday, 31 October 2011

Interview: Dry The River

Peter Liddle of up-and-coming folk band Dry the River has come a long way to get where he is today. And I don't  just mean in terms of his career.

"I never knew how far away Newcastle is… but it's fucking far away," he says, sitting in the band's tour van. The group have driven up all the way from Brighton today to support Bombay Bicycle Club at the O2 arena this evening.

He gives me the 'grand tour' of the van: covered in clothes, books and crumbs. "Those three seats at the back are where we sleep when we're doing really long drives and stuff, and sometimes we put roll mats down there."

Sounds like a pretty grim lifestyle, I say. "It's actually really quite nice to sleep down there!" replies Liddle. "It's really quite dark, and the gentle rocking of the van puts you to sleep."

Even at home, the band hardly live in luxury. When not on tour, all five band members live together in a two-bedroom house in Stratford. "We live on mattresses, and we have a rehearsal room in the basement," he says. "It's not glamorous in the slightest!"

Sporting a moderate beard and several tattoos, Liddle looks every part the rock star. But this onetime punk was also once a medicine student who dabbled in journalism in his spare time, interviewing Robert Winston in the house of lords for The London Student. "He took me into the restaurant they have in there and bought a pot of tea and some sandwiches," he says. "It was amazing."

After this current tour of the UK, Dry the River are off to New York to play the CMJ music festival, and then a European tour with another labelmates The Antlers. "We played at Reading and Leeds with them it's gonna be cool to tour together," says Liddle. "With mates!"

The band are known for their loud and energetic performances - not something usually associated with folk music.

"We all grew up in hardcore bands and punk bands," muses Liddle, "so it was always the way we played - less attention to really accurate playing, more trying to bring an intensity to the live show."

Liddle tells me about the debut album - as yet untitled - which is planned for release in February. "It's finished. We did it in the US, in Connecticut, with a producer called Peter Katis who did the National, Interpol, Jónsi's [from Sigur Rós] album.

"We wanted to make an album that's not too hi-fi, not really polished and modern-sounding - but not super lo-fi either. Peter's equipment is all analogue stuff that all has a really old feel to it. He has a really great ear to making textured records."

Being based just sixty miles north of the big apple had further perks: "At the weekends, we went to New York and played a few shows. Some of the guys from the National came to see us!"

So, in the unfortunate case that this jet-setting lifestyle falls through, what will Liddle do? Finish off his half-complete medical degree?

"People keep saying that, yeah! Trying not to think to hard about it… either that, or do a masters and go into something completely different."

"People always say, 'where are you going to be next year?' and I sort of think, well if we're still doing this I'll be over the moon. They're always like, "bet you can't wait for the massive tour buses and big stadiums and whatever" but we absolutely love every day at the moment and we're so lucky to be able to do this for a year.

"If I can do it for another year it would be equally brilliant," he adds. "But you can fall into the trap of constantly wanting bigger and better things without appreciating the fact hat we're known, full time musicians, which is all I've ever wanted to do. And it may not be glamorous but we get to play shows every night, and we don't have to have day jobs, so it's pretty amazing. So we're trying to take every day as it comes and really enjoy ourselves."

A version of this article was originally published in The Courier.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Gig Review - Bombay Bicycle Club @ Newcastle o2 Academy, 1/10/11

Fresh off the back of their third and best album to date, A Different Kind Of Fix, Bombay Bicycle Club ventured on their biggest UK tour so far to showcase the newfound maturity of their latest tunes.

The notably adolescent crowd gathered for opening act Dog Is Dead, the brightest hope of the rapidly exploding Nottingham music scene. Best known for their appearance in the latest series of Skins, they played a fantastic set taking in fan favourites and material from their forthcoming album. ‘Young’ was brilliant as ever with crisp, powerful harmonies, new single ‘Hands Down’ already sounded anthemic, whilst their set closer, a new song, was truly electrifying.

Dog Is Dead - Motel by thisisfakediy

As the sold-out crowd continued to pile in, Dry the River took their blend of alt-rock and folk to the stage and played a short but stunning set. Two singles into their career, they already sound astonishingly confident, with songs simultaneously intricate and powerful – like if Fleet Foxes grew a huge pair of cojones. Ending with the spine tinglingly beautiful ‘Lion’s Den’, it was a travesty that the majority of the crowd talked over their set. The world simply needs an album from these guys. Right now.

Dry the River - "No Rest" by Dry the River

With a lengthy wait before Bombay Bicycle Club emerged, the audience were getting restless. And incredibly annoying. Jostling to the choice picks of a between-sets DJ, the two thirds of the crowd not being arseholes were scowling at the third that were. It didn’t stop when the band finally arrived and kicked straight into ‘Shuffle’, to which half the crowd tried unsuccessfully to mosh and began ill-suited shoving matches.

The new album material provided the majority of set highlights. New single ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ grooved along on a buoyant bassline, as did the fantastically layered ‘How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep’. In contrast, most of the first album material sounded stagnant, all of the loud ‘epic’ moments revealing themselves as blustery noise with no hooks to back them up. However ‘Always Like This’ was fantastic, and should have ended the set in the place of ‘Beggars’. A mini-set of Flaws tracks sounded great, managing the tricky task of not sounding too out of place.

Bombay Bicycle Club - How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep by Terrorize

Bombay Bicycle Club are in need of a more charismatic frontman and a few more killer tunes if they’re to be a brilliant live act. As it stands they were, on the whole, very good, but on this tour it was hard not to feel that they were outshone by their own support acts.

Originally published in The Courier

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Best Of The Inbox 3: Girls Shouting

Hello everyone! Thought I'd share a couple of choice tracks that have been languishing in our inbox for a while.

First up is some fuzzy west coast girl rock, courtesy of SNEAKPEEK. Being given away on their bandcamp page is a live version of 'Walk All Over Me', a slow and grungey treat. It may not be complex or particularly original, but its simplicity lends it an irresistible lo-fi charm.

Next, here's latest offering from Unicorn Kid - the third track of his free Tidal Rave EP. Chiptunes may be increasingly unfashionable recently (well, since Kesha got her claws into it...), but perhaps the answer is to simply go up a generation of consoles - from NES to Super NES. 'True Love Fantasy' sounds as if it's been taken straight out of a particularly high-energy platform game (anyone played Donkey Kong Country 2?), and the candy-coloured vocals courtesy of Talk To Animals simply top it all off.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Album Review: Forest Fire - Staring At The X

If you can cast your memory all the way back to 2008, you may remember a brief time when, following in the footsteps of Radiohead's In Rainbows, bands were desperately handing away their music for nothing.

Forest Fire were one of these bands, giving away their debut album Survival for the low, low price of zero pounds - but with a refreshingly sleepy pace, it stood out among the crowd as a gem of a record.

Three years on, normality has been restored and most bands are charging for their music again. But three years is a long time between albums - could Forest Fire manage to maintain their distinctive sound after such a long gap?

The first three songs of Staring At The X don't inspire much confidence. Compared to the debut, they open with a bigger and more commercial sound - great songs, true, but far from the chilled-out beats of Survival. Perhaps they're just there to grab the listener's initial attention - because with these out the way, the album becomes considerably more ambitious.

‘They Prey Execution Style’ combines buzzing synths with funky guitars to spooky effect. And in 'Blank Appeal' and title track 'Staring At The X', the beat slows to Survival's sleepy, swaggering pace, albeit with distorted guitars and drum machines. Surely the crowning glory of the album is eight minute-long 'Visions In Plastic', a mediative beauty that closes the record in trademark Forest Fire style.

They may be marketed as folk music, but Forest Fire are shamelessly urban; there’s no rural idyll present here. Regardless, Staring At The X is an album that manages to have its cake and eat it - effortlessly expanding on the sounds of their earlier work without sacrificing the band's identity. It's been a long wait, but it's been worth it; this is an album that deserves all the fans it can find.

Staring At The X won't be released until 17th October, but they're taking pre-orders over at FatCat's website now.