Horizons 2015: AfterDark Talks With Dan Bettridge – ‘My parents’ record collection was the primary influence on my musical upbringing’

Published on AfterDark (23 June 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to Dan Bettridge, one of this year’s Horizons 2015 artists.

Dan Bettridge

The power of music partly lies in the pure, unabashed escapism it can offer and its ability to transport you to another time and place, regardless of where you are and when. It’s a philosophy that Welsh warbler Dan Bettridge fully embraces.

His husky, bourbon-soaked vocal and raw delivery instantly – the voice of an old soul placed upon young shoulders – sounds like more something born out of a smoky jazz or blues bar in late 60’s or early 70’s deep south America than like anything else today. You can almost feel the warm glow of sunset and the scent of smoke when you listen to his irresistible brand of Americana-infused Celtic soul, delivered with a voice which echoes the spirit of Van Morrison and Otis Redding but refines it within a Welsh lilt. Continue reading

Horizons 2015: AfterDark Talks With Cold Committee – ‘To be asked by Liam Gallagher and Miles Kane to play for them is just living the dream’

Published on AfterDark (23 June 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to James Cairns from Cold Committee, one of this year’s Horizons 2015 artists.

Cold Committee

As the old saying goes, ‘rock ‘n’ roll will never die’. While the rock genre is quite far from dead, it lately seems to be in a prolonged state of hibernation, lurking in the shadows as a wind of soulless, manufactured-pop blandness sweeps across the musical plain.

Where there is a gust of third-rate Ed Sheeran wannabes or mediocre Arctic Monkeys offshoots, there is always a wave of frustrated young men with guitars to counterbalance it. But while there are plenty new bands making a big noise, it doesn’t seem to be getting heard by the masses.  Rock itself is in a current state of deep freeze, slowly being preserved for when the time arises for it to reignite in the mist.

One of its torch bearers may have just arrived in the form of four North Walian lads who together form Cold Committee. Possessing a love for back-to-basics rock ‘n’ roll in its purest form along with a disdain with the bland scene around them, they have decided to do something about it by picking up instruments, learning a few chords and writing great tunes. Continue reading

Review: Stone Roots ‘Paint The Town’ EP – ‘Pristine funk grooves drawn from southern blood but enriched with a northern soul’

Published on Cardiff AfterDark (16 June 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews the debut EP by Cornish band Stone Roots.

Tracklisting: Tease/Do You Get A Kick/Paint The Town/Makes You Wonder

STONE ROOTS - PAINT THE TOWN - PIC 1

When you think of the music scene in Cornwall, some of the stereotypical type of artists that people can often connote with the scene here is either the husky-voiced, acoustic guitar-wielding singer-songwriter or its plethora of elegantly melodic folk bands.

It’s hard to dispute that Cornwall has these in abundance, and all of them are rather great too. But unless you live here and unless you are immersed enough in its local scene, what is often criminally overlooked is the sheer diversity of artists here.

Now and then, our shores can throw up darkly neo-psychedelic indie in the shape of sister duo Hockeysmith, retro psych-tinged garage-rock (Pastel Colours), electro-infused R’n’B (Abee Hague), soulful acoustic folk-pop (Polly Money), blistering garage-punk (Black Tambourines), or just about any musical sub-genre under the sun.

Then there is the sweetly soulful, pedal-to-the-floor funk-pop of Stone Roots. Continue reading

Horizons 2015: AfterDark Talks With Hannah Grace – ‘Horizons has opened up new doors for me that not many people get to walk through’

Published on Cardiff AfterDark (6 May 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to Hannah Grace – one of this year’s nominated artists for Horizons 2015.

Hannah Grace (Copyright by Horizons)

Sometimes the best words that can be said are no words at all, and silence can be the loudest of all. It’s a philosophy of thinking which springs into mind when trying to sum up the music of the aptly named Hannah Grace. Because one listen of her benign, breathtaking voice, instantly takes the words out of your mouth.

It would be a waste of valuable energy to even try to articulate the power of the force that hits you right from the first few notes. You simply just have to feel every ounce of her volcanic vocal and the simmering soulful edge in her sound, exactly what a true ‘soul’ artist should do.

Only someone with as much emotive authenticity as Hannah Grace could write a song about a person calling off a relationship and somehow make you empathise with them as much as the one whose heart is broken. Yet somehow the 21-year-old Bridgend songbird manages to achieve exactly that on the title track of her debut EP Meant To Be Kind – a raw yet refined four-track cut which sounds remarkably accomplished for a debut yet still tinged with a raw, intense energy. Continue reading

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Talks With Super Furry Animals’ Cian Ciarán – ‘The shows have sold really well so the pressure is on to deliver’

Cian Ciaran

Published on Cardiff AfterDark (30 Apr 2015)

This coming Friday in Cardiff marks the comeback of arguably one of its most revered exports – as 90’s psych-indie kings Super Furry Animals grace the Cardiff University Great Hall on May 1.

With a sell-out crowd awaiting the return of the Welsh rock icons, not an ounce of the huge sense of anticipation is lost over SFA member/synth maestro Cian Ciarán. Yet he shrugs off any nerves in his imitable laid-back, unassuming manner.

As if returning to duties as the synth wizard of SFA for their first UK tour in six years wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he has many other things to keep him occupied – he is currently touring with his new band Zefur Wolves (with his partner Estelle Ios among the line-up) in promotion of their self-titled debut album released earlier this month, and a solo album coinciding with the general election is set for release this summer. Continue reading

Half the World Away – Life since Graduation, Living with Asperger’s and My New Year Goals

This is the time of year where the majority of people begin unveiling the annual ‘new year, new me’ statuses which are practically inescapable on my news feed, and most I know are probably once again setting out resolutions which are perhaps slightly unrealistic and end up being abandoned by the first week of January. I have to admit to probably being one of them in the past and setting out goals I can never achieve, which is why I have stopped bothering with them in recent years.

However, 2014 has been different for me. At the start of the year, I was still a university student and my only wish, more than anything, was to graduate with the best possible grade. That is probably a slightly meagre resolution to make, but graduating with a university degree seemed for me unrealistic in itself so many years ago due to having a form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. The thought of me even getting into university was, just a few years ago, a source of humour perhaps. It was the general assumption I would fail to get into university by my former school and many other people that drove me on to prove them wrong, and I like to think I finally have. Most of the things I set myself out to achieve this year I have mostly succeeded in doing, including the proud achievement of graduating with a degree. On top of that, I feel I have gained a newfound confidence which I have lacked in everything for so many years and which has held me back, but not anymore. With that, I go into 2015 with new goals and milestones I want to accomplish, and plenty of renewed positivity and confidence that I can do exactly that. Continue reading

Review: Ben Thorpe ‘Illuminations’ – “A solid debut offering from a promising artist”

BEN THORPE

Tracklisting: The Thump/Division/Call It Sweet/Down by the Valley/Retrospect/Pretty Little Colours/The Quartet/Like You & Lou/Cherry Picking/Porcupine Love/It’s Chemical/Illuminations

The male acoustic guitar-wielding singer-songwriter has practically become an entire genre in itself and effectively a whole sub-industry, thanks to the success of artists such as this year’s official soundtrack to summer Ed Sheeran (currently enjoying an unbroken eight-week run at number one in the album chart), Ben Howard, Paolo Nutini and George Ezra.

Cornwall’s own recent contribution to this growing wave is Redruth-based Ben Thorpe who introduces his debut album ‘Illuminations’ to the world at a time when the male singer-songwriter is arguably at its peak. With so many other similar artists, it is a task to distinguish the truly great from the truly average and the defiantly unique from the defiantly homogenous. Thankfully, Ben manages to both emulate his influences and peers, and refine his sound into one that singles him out from the rest of the pack.

The debut album by Ben Thorpe is packed with hooks and bags of attitude in equal measure. The combination of yearning, angst-ridden lyrics with sun-soaked upbeat melodies result in a collection of songs that simultaneously float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

His vocals throughout fall somewhere between the sneer and snarl of Arctic Monkey’ Alex Turner and The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, and the whisky-soaked gravelly tone of Paolo Nutini. Certainly, there are infleunces of each on the blissful indie-pop of album opener The Thump, which sounds like what the result would be if Nutini did a cover of a Strokes tune, as does the funky blues of The Quartet. Division mimics a stripper-back Monkeys track without the heavy guitars but swagger still kept intact. Built on Ben’s tender vocal and a delicate string-plucking melody, the track briefly builds from its quietly yearning vibe into a choir of voices that promise a big finish, only to fall back onto a whimper.

On Down by the Valley, he blends a Jeff Buckley-inspired morose vocal turn with the retro twang of Miles Kane, while Pretty Little Colours sounds like Tom Odell with a guitar in place of a piano. It’s Chemical is arguably the poppiest song on the record, with angsty lyrics welded onto an infectiously upbeat melody and energetic beat. The driving title track closes the album. Where the album opened on the most graceful of touches, Illuminations closes with a sucker-punch acoustic guitar hook.

Overall, a solid debut offering from an artist with a lot of promise, who imitates all his obvious influences without sounding like a clone copy, and dresses it all in his own distinctive style that marks him as a real contender for the elite of Ed Sheeran-era guitar-bearing male artists.

‘Illuminations’ will be released next month. You can catch Ben Thorpe supporting LightKnife at the following venues/dates:

– Miss Peapod’s Cafe, Penryn, Sat 23 Aug

– Studio Bar, Penzance, Thurs 4 Sept

– The Balcony, St Ives, Fri 19 Sept

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Introducing… Gareth Lee & Annie Baylis: ‘The day we first met was a surreal experience’

Gareth Lee and Annie Baylis

It’s hard to believe that the duo of vocalist/guitarist Gareth Lee and vocalist/violinist Annie Baylis has only existed since the start of this year, and even more striking that the pair had never previously met until on the set of their first music video. When you listen to their superbly crafted, pleasantly harmonic folk/pop, it sounds like the work of a pair who have known each other for years.

Gareth’s wispy, refined vocals and laid-back guitar melodies coupled with soothing strings and deft vocals courtesy of Annie forms a striking combination, and the terrific chemistry and flawless harmonies of the duo make their music instantly memorable on first listen.

Here is an interview with the duo straight from finishing their set at this year’s Helstonbury festival.

How long have you been together as a duo?

We formed the band at the beginning of this year, but we’ve been gigging together a year before.

How did you first meet?

Remarkably the first time we properly met in person was on the same day we shot our first music video in St Mawes. We hadn’t seen other on the gigging circuit up to then and it was through friends of ours where we first heard of each other. We sent each other tracks and worked out some harmonies online. The day we first met on the set of our video was a slightly surreal experience, but one that sparked off our musical journey together.

Obviously you come from very different music backgrounds. Has working together brought a new element to both of your individual musical styles?

I think in terms of our approach to writing songs it’s definitely brought about a change. We’re able to bounce our own ideas off each other and bring our own style to the songs we write together, which enables us to inject a lot more creativity and energy into our songwriting.

Have you recorded any material together, and plan to release new music in the future?

We’ve very much rushed into that process as a lot of our songs were still very undeveloped going into the studio. We hadn’t gigged much prior to our first few sessions, so when we performed our tracks in the studio, they lost their ‘feel’ or the live element they had.

We felt that instead of going headfirst into a studio, it’d be much more natural to record us in a live environment. A couple of weeks ago, we recorded some of our live gigs and we plan to compile some of these recordings onto our first EP, which we intend to release in September.

Have you toured much outside of Cornwall?

We have done a few shows out of Cornwall recently. Weirdly enough, our first gig away from home was all the way in Newcastle which obviously was a very long trip for us, and it was make-or-break whether we could stick it that long. We made it through the trip and through the gig though, and we certainly learned plenty more about each other on the long, audacious journey there.

Do you think there are enough music venues in Cornwall to really drive its music scene?

The sad thing is that a lot of the places in Cornwall that are really getting behind original music don’t make enough money to keep them open. The Nightjar in Truro is one great former music venue that unfortunately shut down recently. They were extremely supportive of original music, and venues with that level of passion are very rare down here.

Are there any artists in the Cornish scene you think could breakthrough in the next year?

Cornwall is full of ridiculously talented songwriters, and there’s always new people coming through. People always think London is the haven of good music. London does have a lot of talented artists too and playing in London is a great platform to kickstart your music career, but I find it sad that Cornwall gets overlooked as a musical base because we have so many artists with so much potential.

More from Gareth Lee & Annie Baylis:

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More from Gareth Lee:

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Introducing… Stone Roots: ‘Infectious, energetic funk-pop’

STONE ROOTS

Despite only being together for little over half a year, funk-pop four piece Stone Roots are already making a name for themselves in the local scene through their infectious sound and energetic performances. Fronted by the talented Holly Turton whose sultry vocal tone and charismatic stage presence blends effortlessly with the tight-but-loose groove and driving melodies of the band’s rhythm section (Chez Jeffery, Harry Bosworth and Harry Clemence), the band know how to create a feel-good vibe and get an entire crowd on its feet.

Straight after their set at this year’s Helstonbury festival and during a few casual pints, I (somehow) managed to grab a quick interview from the band.

How long have you been together as a band for?

We’ve been playing as a band for four months now; we actually got together at the end of last year and started writing our own material together, but we didn’t properly launch the band or start gigging properly until April this year. That way, it gave us a bit of time to gel together as a band and refine our musical sound and on-stage performance. It also gave us time to work on the promotional side of proceedings; in other words creating a ‘brand’ and identity for us as a band. It’s very hard to establish your own distinct sound and identity when you’re just starting out and there’s obviously so much competition and a wealth of very talented artists out there – in Cornwall and beyond. We wanted to make sure that when we launched the band proper, we had the best possible start.

As well as performing and gigging around Cornwall, are you planning to record and release any of your material?

Whenever we’ve written our own original material, we’ve recorded demos of each track. We’re hoping that by the end of the year, we can book a studio and record all the tracks we written, and hopefully it will materialise into our debut EP.

We also want to do a UK tour and start playing outside of Cornwall. We still haven’t decided which places or venues in particular we want to play, but a tour is definitely on the agenda. We were all based in Cornwall prior to forming the band, but we all have family from different parts of the UK including Somerset, London and Brighton.

Who are your musical influences and do you each bring an element of them to the band?

We don’t necessarily have a particular group of influences; we’re all influenced by a wide range of artists and we all bring our own musical style and inspirations into the group which I think enables us to be a lot more creative and looser in our performance and songwriting process.

Check out ‘Tease’ by Stone Roots below:

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Review: Hockeysmith ‘But Blood’ EP – “Anthemic, brooding, electronic shoegaze-pop”

HOCKEYSMITH

Think of a mix between the driving, euphoric rhythms of Ride and My Bloody Valentine, the distorted guitar riffs of Nirvana, and the seductive melodies of Portishead, and you still only come a fraction closer to pigeonholing what genre or sound Cornish sister duo Hockeysmith fit into.

It is almost impossible to categorize one because they are a band that refuse to be categorized in any way; instead they straddle the middle ground and uncharted territory between all genres, creating for themselves a completely distinctive sound that blends all their influences into one smouldering melting pot, yet still manages to sound like nothing else around at the moment. Their sound is as mysterious and enigmatic as the band themselves. Indeed, there is little known about the band even in local circles; they very much let their music do the talking for them. It seems to be a wise move, because one listen of their debut EP ‘But Blood’ (mostly recorded in the band’s caravan in remotest Falmouth) is enough to leave you excited for what else this duo have to offer.

The aptly eerie instrumental opener Phantom Whistle casually warms up the listener for what is to come with a kaleidoscope of jagged guitars and synths, before the title track really kicks things off. It is on the grandiosely morose title track But Blood where the pair fully introduce themselves and their brand of dark, anthemic electro-pop. The track (accompanied by an equally hallucinogenic video which you can see for yourself below) showcases the passionate, seductive vocals and harmonies of the duo which recall Cocteau Twins at their peak, combined with heavy, daze-inducing riffs inspired by the shoegaze of Ride, and darkly euphoric melodies that sound like a grunge rock version of Stone Roses.

Hesitate displays a softer, tender side to their sound, falling somewhere between the sultry vocals of Portishead and the sinister guitar-driven beats of Death in Vegas. Kicking in with a bouncing beat and centred around the delicate vocals and harmonies of the duo, the track slowly builds up over a wall of distorted basslines, crashing guitars and synths, restraining itself until the last chorus where it fully bursts into life only to finish all too instantly.

After the quiet intensity of the first three tracks, the mellow Meanwhile brings proceedings to a placid finish as the descending, downbeat guitar hook and reverberated snyths gently wash over the listener. However, the same simmering intensity that drives the previous tracks is still on display here.

‘But Blood’ is 15 minutes of anthemic, brooding electronic shoegaze-pop that is introspective enough to soundtrack your night in yet energetic enough for revellers to mosh or sway to at gigs and festivals, all delivered with the perfect combination of grandeur, delicacy and menace. For the ultimate alternative soundtrack to the festival season, look no further than this sublime collection by a band beginning to quietly assert themselves in the music scene.

‘But Blood’ is available now and can be streamed here. Check out the official video for the title track below:

Listen to the EP below:

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More from Hockeysmith:

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