Album review: Baby Queens ‘Baby Queens’ – “Their greatest strength is their ability to break down walls between genre and time”

Published on AfterDark (06 Nov 2016) – CLICK HERE to view

Dean Hodge reviews the eponymous debut album by Cardiff R’n’B fusion band Baby Queens (released through Strangetown Records on 28 October 2016).

Tracklisting: Tired Of Love/Melodi/Had My Heart/Hear Me/You And I/By The River/It Feels Like/Forever/Spiritualize/Unite/Red Light/Samsara

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Having followed them for a lengthy period of time and thrown around the lofty words ‘long-awaited album’ in much of my previous reviews, it comes as a massive relief to be able to finally review an actual album by Cardiff’s Baby Queensthe female five-piece who serve up a hypnotic and harmonious aural cocktail that is shaken and stirred with R’n’B-infused pop melodies and garage rock-imbued hooks.

The Welsh quintet can pose a two-edged sword to any music journalist or press figure. On one hand, you would need a list longer than your arm for the myriad of genres the band could justifiably fit into with petite ease. But it poses something of a quandary on how exactly to articulate or market their sound within one genre or within a single tagline. Additionally, it is just as much of a challenge in how to thread together the numerous stitches of the band’s sound into a cohesive whole, and capture the raw energy of their live sound onto record. This is perhaps an obvious factor as to the why the wait for a debut album has dragged on for what seems like an infinite amount of time. At least it has so in the eyes of many of their fans – or their ‘New-Jack Army’ if that could be considered a suitable royalty-inspired nickname for their fan club – who have been licking their lips over the prospect of a full-length album by the five-piece.

Not content with just putting out sub-standard recordings of the music that they have been pouring their heart and soul into writing while balancing day-to-day jobs, the band take a decidedly more meticulous approach. For them, the production should be just as important, and just as emotionally ambitious, as the songs themselves. Additionally, so much can happen within the realms of life and love in the space of a couple of years, that can only serve to enlighten and enrich the creative nous. Continue reading

Single review: Baby Queens ‘Melodi/Had My Heart’ – “Crafting intoxicating harmonies that stick in your head for days is what they do best”

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews the new single by Baby Queens (released on 13 November 2015).

Copyright Baby Queens.The new double A-side single by Cardiff quintet Baby Queens – released on Cardiff’s Strangetown Records label – succeeds on two fronts. On one hand, it reaffirms them as the next big band you need right now in your life and in your record collection – or streaming playlist in a more modern context. On the other, it paints them as the atypical nightmare of the average marketing-brained music journalist who find themselves in a quandary as to what exactly to label them as.

For one, Baby Queens model themselves as, or at least on the forefront give the first impression of being, a girlband. But musically speaking, they are far removed from any connotations to the label, not least because they actually play their own instruments and write their own tunes. Then there is the music behind the faces. On first listen, it’s R’n’B – influenced pop but imbued with garage rock guitars. Or it’s indie-rock with a dash of reggae. Or it’s hip-hop laced with doo-wop harmonies. The countless musical threads are enough to send your head in a spin faster than the script of a Quentin Tarantino film – and aptly their music would be a suitable soundtrack to one too. Continue reading

Review: Some Kind Of Leader ‘The Flake’ – The band test the musical waters once more with a propulsive acid-tinged hook’

 Some Kind Of Leader 1

Published on AfterDark (18 Aug 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews the new single by Some Kind Of Leader.

Tracklisting: The Flake/My Lord/Two Pair (feat. Cara Elise)

Following the technicolour indie rock of their debut album Dog Club released last year, Cardiff rock revivalists Some Kind Of Leader make a welcome return with newest single The Flake (released on Broken Yoke Records).

Produced by Cian Ciarán (of Super Furry Animals and Zefur Wolves fame) at Strangetown Studios in Cardiff, The Flake sees the band testing the musical waters once more with a propulsive acid-tinged hook anchored in late 80’s jangly guitar-pop and the early 90’s indie-rave scene. The track opens on a surging riff which glides along a spiral of hypnotic techno-adorned synths plucked straight from the heydays of the Hacienda. The influence of Mr Ciarán from the other side of the production board seeps through here, with his leftfield approach adding a further dosage of 90’s dust to the track. 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

Zefur Wolves ‘Too Late/Wake Up’ single review – ‘A masterclass in taking solid psych-rock tunes into unchartered sonic territory’

Welsh supergroup Zefur Wolves – which boasts the partner duo of Super Furry Animals synth wizard and Strangetown Records co-founder Cian Ciaran and Baby Queens vocal siren Estelle Ios among its ranks – have just unveiled their debut single and first taster of their upcoming full-length in the shape of a double A-side release Too Late and Wake Up (released on Friday 13 March).

You may be very familiar with Cian and his aforementioned band who are currently making a huge wave of hysteria with their impending comeback and homecoming gig in Y Plas, and Estelle’s own band of merry maids Baby Queens. That really is the only similarity between these two bands Zefur Wolves, who up to now have remained a mystery. Such comparisons are blown out the door by the first few seconds of the intro to Too Late. Continue reading

Horizons 2014 Spotlight: Baby Queens – ‘An intoxicating, hypnotic musical cocktail to warm the soul and entrance the mind’

Baby Queens interview

Published on Cardiff AfterDark (12 Mar 2015)

The cream of Welsh pop royalty Baby Queens talk to AfterDark about their upcoming debut album, being chosen for the Horizons project, and the artists that most influence their sound.

The current golden girls of the Cardiff music scene Baby Queens are making a big noise in Welsh shores and beyond – one which will undoubtedly go up a few extra notches with the news that a debut studio album is finally expected to see the light of day.

After an exciting year that has seen them go from being chosen as one of the twelve acts to represent the Horizons scheme by BBC Wales and Arts Council of Wales, to emerging as one of the highlights of last year’s Swn Festival – and in the process being lauded by fans old and new one of the most exciting, hyped-about prospects in the Welsh music scene – Baby Queens have officially begin work on the recording of their debut album expected to be unveiled later this year. Recording has commenced at Strangetown Records studios with production duties overseen by Super Furry Animals synth wizard Cian Ciaran – an inescapable figure in Welsh music news lately thanks to his aforementioned band’s recent comeback and a debut album with Zefur Wolves (also consisting of his partner and Baby Queens member Estelle Ios). Continue reading

Review + Interview: When Worlds Collide ‘Sunrise’ – ‘A four-headed musical beast unleashed in all its glory’

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE

When Worlds Collide is more than just a band – as their name denotes, they’re a four-headed musical hybrid creature. Genre is a word they don’t know the meaning of. They seamlessly blend blistering indie rock, slick funk, bruising hip-hop beats and stream-of consciousness rap – and treat them as if they are the same beast. On first listen of the band, it’s clear that each of the members originate from diverse corners of the musical realm and are individually masters of their own art. Together though, they create something truly distinctive, distant and distinguished from anything else they dare anyone to compare them too.

With their debut offering ‘Sunrise’ they unleash their Frankensteinian creation in all its beautifully demented glory into an unsuspecting audience. They couldn’t pick a more apt name for a tune with enough earth-shaking, toe-tapping melody and poetic attitude to ‘wake up’ the entire music scene around them and begin their own musical revolution against the current state of chart-manufactured drivel if they tried. ‘Sunrise’ weaves funky guitar melodies and relentless beats with the quickfire lyrics of frontman Kain Melo Heron. Think Red Hot Chili Pepper-style grooves crossed with Arctic Monkey-laced verve and swagger, complete with mind-tripping yet soul-awakening lyrics reminiscent of Finley Quaye.

I even got treated to my own private showing of the single’s accompanying video (directed by Lewis Edwards and Cara Elise of Baby Queens fame) at a casual after party in the band’s flat. It is with a degree of smugness that I can brag of my ‘I was there’ moment to countless other future WWC fans when the single and band eventually reach the lofty heights they are destined for, which I’m confident they will. Check out the official video for ‘Sunrise’ below:

On the eve of the release of the band debut video, where I got an exclusive premiere of the track, I took time out to do a casual interview with frontman Kain, joined by Cara and Vanity of Baby Queens and video director/self-appointed poet Lewis Edwards plus a few other friends. Here is the post-Swn Festival, mid-party interview from Kain in full (with a bit of input from the other three too):

Prior to this interview, I’ve just been given my own world exclusive of your new single ‘Sunrise’. Tell me more about the single, and details of the release of your upcoming EP.

KAIN (WWC): We’re releasing the video tomorrow (Oct 19th) and it will hopefully be available to download on iTunes by the end of the month. With the rest of the EP we’re releasing , we’re just going to work more on the tracks, and make sure we can get all the harmonies on each track as perfect as they can be. So far, we’ve recorded two of the tracks from the EP, and we still got another five to record.

The band have a very diverse range of influences in their sound. Are there any artists in particular that inspire you the most, or who maybe inspired you to take up music?

KAIN (WWC): Personally, Red Hot Chili Peppers are huge favourites of mine and Anthony Kiedis is an idol to me. As a lyricist, he speaks to my soul. All the artists I look up to, they write songs that speak on a ‘conscious’ level. As a band, we are very eclectic in our music taste and our influences come from many places whether it’s grime or rap or rock. Genres don’t exist to us; true music speaks to your heart, whatever shape or form it takes. We want to break down the barriers between perceived ‘genres’ of music, and we want our music to be a representation of us, rather than of what other people around us are doing. Like you said earlier, a lot of journalists tend to pigeonhole artists in one particular genre. I take it as a compliment that we’re not easy to categorise, because I want to be part of something groundbreaking or different from the norm.

So where do you go for inspiration when writing songs, and what is the process? Does the music come first, or the lyrics?

KAIN (WWC): We’re all close friends in the band and meet up as regularly as we can just to jam together. Often myself, Chris (our guitarist) and Rhys (our bassist) will come up with all these melodies and Dan (our drummer) will add a beat to them. I always have ideas for lyrics coming up in my head or things I want to express and as we’re jamming, they just pour out and these songs just come together. I wouldn’t say there’s a particular process; when you get this creative vibe going, sometimes they just come out of nowhere and the words, beats and melodies just flow together.

Do you all have any goals you want to achieve musically or professionally?

KAIN (WWC): We just want to be playing music for a living, and playing to as many places and people as we can. It would be great to take our music to an international stage and increase our following. I know we absolutely have the potential to be as big as we want to be, because we are doing something different from the rest of the pack, and like you said it is hard to pinpoint us to a certain genre. I want to make something that will last. It’s not just me saying that; we all work together, and there are no big egos here. We know where we want to be and how to get there. Everyone contributes to the formula that is at the core of our music; without one of us it wouldn’t work.

Can you tell me about how you all first met, and decided to form a band together?

KAIN (WWC): I was in school with Chris, Rhys and Dan from the band, plus all the people in this room. Even know we all knew other then, it wasn’t until a few years after we left school that we met up again and started getting very close. Three years ago, I was invited to go to Reading Festival with them. When I saw Chris play, I remember thinking how perfectly he just captured the sound I was going for. Eventually, all four of us formed WWC.

LEWIS: This is the best way I can describe When Worlds Collide. All the members of WWC all came from such different backgrounds to an extent that really they weren’t really meant to intertwine and it’s coincidence how they met, yet they work so well together. Music is a universal language.

VANITY (BQ): The ‘world’ isn’t just the earth we live on. Our world is also what we build up from our own ‘conscience’ and when we collide with other people and their own ‘worlds’, we create something beautiful together.

CARA (BQ): Obviously we know so many talented people in the scene who are all gifted in their own way and work hard at what they do, but some people naturally blend with your style and others don’t. All four members of WWC are completely in sync with each other musically; Chris is definitely the ‘John Frusciante’ of the band, he’s the perfect match for them.

Do you think there should be more festivals like Swn where there is so much diversity of music in each venue, rather than separate stages for particular genres of music?

CARA (BQ): I think it would be great to have more gigs and festivals where was more diversity of music on offer, rather than sticking within the same genre. It’s precisely the reason Swn Festival has been such a success and was especially brilliant today. The variety of artists was unbelievable, and it was particularly great to see so many acts that you wouldn’t hear of otherwise all brought together in one setting.

KAIN (WWC): When I was writing rap music, I reached a point where it actually started to bore me and it became repetitive. I didn’t want to write just generic rap music or what other people defined as rap; I wanted to write true ‘songs’. I think with my band, we’re making genuine ‘music’ in that we’re blending so many sounds together rather than just sticking to one, because that’s what music should be; making all these sweet harmonies from so many different elements.

Given you’re all from such different backgrounds, it’s pure chance in a way how you all came together. Inspired by this, have you ever come up with initiatives for bringing up-and-coming artists from diverse musical backgrounds together, creating a ‘network’ between artists and helping them open doors into the industry?

CARA (BQ): Myself and Kain always try to encourage collaborations with other artists in our local scene, and Kain has set up a lot of gigs in his local community.

KAIN (WWC): I’m all for helping people in my community and encouraging people to take up music as a way of expressing themselves, or finding a place for themselves within the music scene whether it’s being a performer or being a fan and being inspired themselves to create something.

CARA (BQ): I think we should do more to help the music scene grow, in Cardiff and in Wales. A lot of the heart and soul has been dragged out of the current music industry but as we saw earlier at Swn today, there are so many talented musicians out there who are all doing it for the love of music.

KAIN (WWC): I think in the current scene of chart manufactured dross, we’d be a great band to lead the forefront of other musicians because our music comes from the heart and speaks to the heart.

So what does the next year hold?

KAIN (WWC): On December 8th, we’re doing a radio interview and then doing a show in Brewhouse with Baby Queens. We’re currently planning a tour and there’s a lot of places we’re currently considering, so keep your eyes and ears out for further updates in the future; we’re even flirting with the idea of playing in Cornwall! We want to get the EP out as soon as possible, plus we have lot of ideas for videos and possible singles, along with the small matter of finishing our eventual album. What else can you expect from us? Positivity, love, laughs, great music. We have a vision of where we’re going, and know we’re good enough to get there.

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