EP Review :: Frank Turner – Rock & Roll

“Who’d have thought, that after all, something as simple as rock and roll could save us all?”

How Frank found time to make this is beyond me. The man has spent the majority of 2010 on the road (so what else is new?), touring Europe, America and even China, yet he still managed to put out a new record. This five track EP encompasses everything Frank Turner is about. It’s a perfect introduction for the uninitiated, but won’t leave the  hardcore wanting, either.

Rock & Roll is a record full of tributes. It feels like Frank’s way of letting people know how much certain people and things – past or present – mean to him. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some sappy, emo-tinged cry along. This is the Frank Turner we all know and love and these five new tracks are fantastic. The record opens with ‘I Still Believe’, Frank’s tribute to musical greats like Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s a song full of passion and power that can’t be ignored, helped by the fact that it’s catchy as hell too! Anyone who’s seen one Frank’s shows of late will have undoubtedly heard this and chanted along with it’s chorus.  It might take a while, but soon enough you won’t be able to get it out of your head. It’s a real feel good song that follows a tried and true formula. Such a great way to open up a record.

‘Pass It Along’ is a track some will have heard before, and it’s probably my favorite track on here. For me, the whole sentiment of the record was captured in this line: “So here’s to Ragan, and here’s to Marwood. Here’s to Tim, and Jonah too. Here’s to the ones who have to take the stage and sing the truth.” This is a shout out to people just like him. Musicians who go out there and do it, not because they have to, because they want to. It’s a more stripped down track, something that lends itself perfectly to the subject matter. Ben, Matt, Tarrant and Nigel are still there, but they provide more of a subtle backing for Frank more than anything.

Those looking for something completely stripped down will find that in ‘Rock and Roll Romance’. It’s the shortest track on the record, but maybe the most poignant. Perhaps it’s the subject matter? Perhaps it’s Frank’s hushed tones? Maybe it’s a mixture of both? What I do know is that it’s a heartfelt love story told in less than two minutes. Anyone who says Frank can’t write a love song is wrong and this should set them straight.

Considering the tone of the EP thus far, ‘To Absent Friends’ came as quite a surprise. Granted, ‘I Still Believe’ packs a punch, but this one almost knocked me out of my chair. Starting out with just Frank and an acoustic, the track builds into a fast paced crescendo that just made me want to run somewhere (with this in my headphones, of course). As the title suggests, this is about another friend of Frank’s and is a tribute anyone would be proud of. This track in particular shows just how versatile Frank and his band can be, and that fast paced rock tracks can co-exist wonderfully with the regular folk-style stuff fans have come to expect.

Closing the album is ‘The Next Round’, an ode to the bottle and those who drink from it. This is probably the closest to a typical ‘folk’ song as you’re going to get from this EP and it’s calming melody works as a great finish to the record. Simple, subtle instrumentation provides the perfect backing to Frank’s soothing vocal throughout before it, again, rises up to create the perfect feel good ending.

If this is a teaser of what’s to come next from FT, then I can’t wait. Rock & Roll showcases just how great songwriting and production can come together to create a masterpiece. It shows how the range in Frank’s music has broadened, but it retains the simplicity that first drew me and many others in. Disregard Frank Turner at your peril!

Interview :: Andrew Jackson Jihad

© IJW Photo

“So what’s up with folk punk?”

Last month (yeah, sorry for the delay) Andrew Jackson Jihad embarked across the UK to spread their own brand of, the mystery that is, folk punk. During their stop in Manchester we had a bit of a chat to Sean and Ben about dumb Arizona laws, drinking and being on tour with Kepi Ghoulie. They’re really nice guys and great to chat to, but whatever you do, don’t mention Against Me!

Sean Bonnette: Every interview I’ve done, or nearly every interview me and Ben have done, we’ve had to talk about Against Me! for some reason

Ian Critchley: Really?

Sean: Yeah, and folk-punk, what we think about the genre of folk-punk

Ben Gallaty: Next time we’re just gonna play ignorant, and be like, what’s folk-punk?

IC: Yeah

Ben: Never  heard of it before

IC:  Yeah, we’re a hip-hop group

Ben: I listen to ABBA

Anthony Barlow: Yeah, we’re actually a Miles Davis tribute act

IC: That’d be well good

Ben: [To Sean]Wait, did you tell him that?

Sean: Nope

Ben: We had a jokeOne time, we were at Eatsa Pizza (?), and we were talking to somebody and we were talking about music, and we told them that we were going to see a show that night. We told them we were going to see a Miles Davis tribute act

IC: Haha no way, good coincidence

Ben: I didn’t know it was a thing people said

AB: It’s not haha. I was just listening to Miles and John Coltrane on the bus

IC: We’ve coined a new phrase

AB: Yeah, so, how’s it going guys?

Sean: It’s going good

AB: This is the official start of the interview I guess. How’s the tour going? You’ve been on the road, how many days now?

Sean: Errrmmm, 4? 5? 6?

Ben: We left the 29th, so we got 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, is it the 6th today?

AB: It’s the 6th today

Ben: So, err, 7 days

Sean: 7 days, cool

Ben: Since we left our houses in Phoenix, Arizona.

IC: How’re you enjoying Manchester? Have you had chance to look around?

Sean: We haven’t. [To Ben] Well, he has

Ben: I drank a beer. I drank one beer and i’m kinda feeling it so

AB: Which bar did you go to?

Ben: Odder?

AB: Odder Bar!

IC: Yeah, it’s a nice place to do like a beer and a pizza for a fiver

Ben: Yeah, i noticed that, they have a really good deal

IC: Nice pizza as well. Do you, well it’s easy to but, do you ever get, like, overwhelmed on a big foreign tour like this?

Sean: We’ve never been on a big foreign tour like this

IC: Well, is it overwhelming?

Ben: We’re not overwhelmed quite yet, we’ll see what happens when we get to Europe though. It seems like things could very easily become overwhelming once we get there

AB: You’ve had trouble securing an upright bass haven’t you?

Ben: No, actually, for the UK, it’s surprisingly easy. A really great guy that we met in Bristol, named Will Oxtoby (?), supplied me with an upright bass for the entire UK tour. He lives in London

Sean: He’s gonna come to the Brighton show too

Ben: Really great guy. He contacted us about 3 weeks ago and said “I have an upright bass, you’re welcome to use it for the whole of the UK tour”. He showed up to Bristol and had it ready. He sold merch for us because we were busy, like, playing our set, packing up and people were at the merch table. Nicest guy in the world. I don’t have anything lined up for the European dates but I’ll probably end up playing with an electric bass

Sean: Kepi has got a little pink electric bass?

Ben: It’s not pink

Sean: Aww, it should be.

Ben: I like the way the pink ones sound a lot better

IC: How’s it been touring with Kepi Ghoulie?

Sean: Ah, it’s the best. He’s the most pleasant person to tour with ever. Of all time.

Ben: This our 4th with Kepi.

Sean: There was The Queers tour, then there was West Coast, and then another West Coast. Yeah this is our fourth tour with Kepi.

Ben: He’s a really great friend, an amazing musician

Sean: brilliant songwriter.

Ben: Yeah, and as far as having, dunno, if you guys have ever toured or anything

IC: Yeah, I have

Ben: It was like a road trip, y’know like, he is our rock. He’s such a solid, like, mentally, physically, just in every way he’s a really solid individual. So, it’s nice to have him and we’re honored that he’s become a good friend of ours

Sean: Let me just say something about kepi really quick Take a look at this, check this shit out.

IC: Is this the t-shirts?

Sean: This is Kepi’s brain at work. This is Kepi’s work

IC: The Roll technique is the best. It’s all about rolling your t-shirts up

Sean: We always roll but we never roll as deep or as hard as kepi

IC: You’re, playing with some up and coming UK acts tonight, like Apologies, I Have None. Have you had a chance to hear them prior to tonight?

Sean: No

AB: They’re a really good band

Sean: Aren’t we playing with Crywank tonight? That’s honestly one of the best names I’ve heard. One of our UK merch buddies, or merch puppies as I call them, is like Simon Gabriel’s friends with Crywank

IC: Does he have t-shirts? Because so how many people are you gonna offend walking around with that?

Sean: I’m gonna buy a t-shirt tonight

Ben: Or how many people are you gonna impress?

Sean: I’m pretty sure i’ve heard Apologies I Have None though. From what I’ve heard on the internet they’re really good

IC: They’re a good band, yeah

Sean: I think I was checking out their MySpace or something

AB: Speaking of Apologies I Have None and that, what do you know of the UK punk scene?

Ben: Current punk scene? Well, our driver, Nick, has turned us on to some of the UK bands. It’s weird like, all the bands that I was really excited about, I like this band Glasvegas, and it turns out nobody in the UK likes Glasvegas that i’ve asked about. I’m a huge fan of Toy Dolls which is like an old band. I love a lot of music which has come out here in the past. Our driver Nick played us, what is it, something ghosts? It’s like a new band, they’re getting pretty big, I think one of the members is in… I can’t remember.

IC: Yeah, i’m not sure

Ben: He played us the Arteries

IC: Oh the Arteries? Yeah yeah, they played here on Saturday.

Ben: Yeah, who else? He, like, showed us a few other things. Oh, we (something), have you guys heard Caves?

AB: I’ve heard of Caves

Sean: Caves are sick

Ben: We played with Lou who is the lead singer and she did a really good set. I guess she was playing Caves songs but just with an acoustic guitar, so that was really great. So we’ve been learning a lot We’ve met Frank [Turner], of course, he’s from here. We finally heard Million Dead which is his old band and I’d heard of them, so that was cool. We’re definitely being schooled.

Sean: Bring Me The Horizon


Ben: We’re getting schooled quite a bit now that we’re here

IC: Good stuff. Is there any local Phoenix bands you’d like to promote or mention?

AB: To give us the other side of it

Sean: Right now, we think about like bands that I’ve,that  I’ve actually been enjoying that are currently operating in Phoenix. I’m kind of a fucking old man

Ben: Roar

Sean: Oh yeah, Roar. Oh God Roar’s so good. There’s The Roar, Sweet Bleeders, Color Store, Treasure Mammal. I’d say Treasure Mammal is probably the best one doing it right now, in Phoenix.

Ben: Porches is a lot of fun, I’m a little bit biased, I played drums in that band right before I left so I dunno if that counts

Sean: It counts. Porches is awesome

Ben: I don’t know if I can say that

Sean: I have no affiliation with that band

Ben: I’m trying to think of some others. There are a lot of good Phoenix bands. We’re going on tour with a band called Royal Monsters in December and I’m really excited about that *laughs* Who else? There are a lot of really great bands in Phoenix, and and also bands that have been broken up. Footox. We do some covers of Footox songs. French Quarter is a band that Steven Seinberg is the lead song writer of, and he’s not performing music right now but that was a really good band. There’s a lot.

Businessman’s Lunch. They’re not really playing but they think they’re still semi-active. They did an amazing album. Sleep In The Sea, rest in peace. Tiger Team, rest in peace

IC: We have got a kind of cliché question but…

Ben: Sure

AB: It’s a name question

Ben: I’m sure we have a cliché answer

IC: Having  Jihad in your name, have you encountered any problems coming over?

Sean: We have a great story

AB: Do tell

Sean: No one has ever given a shit about (something something something) at the airports. I mean we do our best to like

IC: Play it down?

Sean: Play it down, yeah. Never conceal it, but y’know, they’ve opened up my suitcase and seen like a stack of Andrew Jackson Jihad twelve inches, and they’ve been like, “oh, can you move some of these records in to here, we need to make this 50lbs”. But this time we brought over these three big boxes of merch, and we got through customs no problem. Have you guys ever like, travelled outside?

AB & IC: Yeah, yeah, yeah

Sean: We just had a cart with these three giant boxes on it with ‘Fruit Of The Loom’ written on it. Basically just screaming merch, but we walked through the ‘nothing to declare line’ and there was like four security guards. We just kinda smiled at them and walked through

AB: I can imagine that. It’s kinda daunting in a way, coming through the airport and you go through the nothing to declare line. I go through with nothing, and I’m still nervous *laughs*

Ben: Well, yeah, it was crazy because we’d heard from some people that like you’re not gonna be able to get that much stuff over and then I went on to usairways.com, and i’m like, we get two free 50lb packages and then it was like $55 for the next one, like i’m gonna fucking pack them all. We got to the airport, we checked it all in, we showed up in Philadelphia and we met up with Kepi and he’s like “Oh shit, you guys brought all that – that was all merch? That’s not a good idea. They’re not gonna let you through with that” and i’m like “really, they’re not going to?” and he’s like “yeah, they’re gonna give you a really hard time”. So we got to the airport and we got our boxes and it was really like daunting because there’s just a line of customs agents like standing right next to the undeclared line and we were just walking by, and i was just like “hi guys, what’s up?” I just kept walking, and thought “they’re gonna stop me if they wanna stop me.” We just walked straight through and nobody did anything, it was amazing.

Sean: We’d heard that if you, if they do call you on having merch just to say it’s promo. ‘ah, we’re just gonna give this to radio stations and promoters to, y’know, for putting up the shows and stuff.’

Ben: It’s hard to sell that though, y’know, when you have like 200 t-shirts

IC: It’s a big radio station, they’ve got lots of listeners

Sean: Well, y’know, you could say we’re going to, we’re going to that big festival and we’re just gonna give a load of free stuff out. Get our name out there. We’re really ambitious. *laughs*

AB: *laughs* You released a new record last year, but can fans expect any new AJJ material soon?

Sean: Erm…Yes. We’re writing songs right now for a new full length album, and that’s coming out in 2011 at some point. We also recorded a really fun radio session last night and, depending on how good that sounds, we might have a little tour EP or something out.

Ben: We’ve been working on a split. I don’t know how many inches it’s gonna be, but it’s gonna be a record. A split with O Pioneers! from the states. We’ve been working on that for about two years now, and it’s almost locked in and ready to go. That should be coming out before…

Sean: …the Armageddon

Ben: I’m not gonna say, because it might jinx us, but it will be coming out at some point. It looks like the ball is rolling on that one.

IC: Good stuff.

AB: Yeah, definitely. So you guys are from Arizona and there’s a pretty controversial law surrounding your home state. I’m not going to pretend I know a lot about it, but guys like Rise Against, Kanye West and Rage Against The Machine have said they’re not going to play in Arizona because of this law. I just wondered how you felt about that.

Ben: I mean, if they want to do that that’s fine *laughs* I like to think that the law doesn’t represent the majority of Arizona’s residents, but the polls would suggest otherwise. I disagree with the law and I’d also like to mention that the Governor who passed the law wasn’t voted in by the population, but elections are coming up and, I hope not, but it looks like she could become our legit Governor so…

AB: Do you think this militant approach is the right one to take? Can it work?

Sean: It’d probably be way more effective if it was like Kid Rock and Toby Keith boycotting Arizona instead of a bunch of bands like Rage Against The Machine. Well college bros like Rage Against The Machine, but I notice, on the Sound Strike roster, there’s a lot of indie bands and they’re not really gonna make a difference. Being so small, they could actually do a lot better by coming to Arizona and having voter registration booths at the very fucking least. Boycotting has worked with Arizona in the past to get Arizona to recognise Martin Luther King day as a paid government holiday. We were one of the last states. It took a Public Enemy song, Stevie Wonder and all of his friends boycotting, the Super Bowl bring moved from Arizona. They hit Arizona in their wallet and then Arizona finally tapped out to justice, but the boycott’s not big enough yet. If the Super Bowl, Kid Rock, Toby Keith, Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, all those big money making entertainment streams decided to cut their flow from Arizona, yeah it’d totally work. That’s not militant. That’s smart to me.

Ben: I’d say that, even more than that, it’s the conventions that have been canceled and those are huge. Phoenix in particular,  because it’s a destination people travel to from all over the world, because it’s beautiful in the winter and nowhere else is like that in winter. So canceling those and moving those elsewhere will have much more of an economic impact on Arizona than a rock show.

IC: Has it affected any of your shows?

Sean: Just kids asking about it. It’s affected our interviews a lot.

AB & IC: *laughs*

IC: We thought we were really original with it.

AB: You’ve broken my heart now

Ben: Well you’ve done your research. I would also just like to mention that most of the bands I’ve seen since the legislation was passed have brought it up during the show. They typically say ‘we disagree with this and we’re preaching to the choir’, because most of the people who go and see the bands that I go and see are pretty much on the same wavelength.

IC: Yeah, definitely. Finally, if Chuck Ragan, Henry Rollins and a shark had a fight, who would win?

Ben: Are they all fighting against eachother, like a Royal Rumble?

IC: Yeah, yeah

Sean: Three creatures enter, one creature leaves. I’m not going to call a shark a man. Is it a man shark? Is it a shark with beefy arms?

AB: No, just a shark

Sean: Is it in water or on land?

IC: We’ve had to discuss this quite a bit, so we’ve decided it’ll be in space.

Ben: If the shark had a gun…

All: *laughs*

Ben: …I think Henry Rollins would win

Sean: I agree.

Ben: And that’s all I have to say on that

AB: Well thankyou

Sorry for the delay on this everyone. We’d like to thank Sean and Ben for putting up with us for those twenty minutes. Thanks to Naomi Barker for transcribing this as well. It may never have gone up without her.

Video Interview :: Austin Lucas, Jon Snodgrass, Cory Branan, Chloe Manor (The Budget Helicopter Tour)

“…The best bits of The Revival Tour”

Austin Lucas, Jon Snodgrass (Drag The River), Cory Branan and Chloe Manor agreed to chat with us for a bit at Leeds’ Brudnell Social Club. The Budget Helicopter tour was in full effect and the guys were ready to head out to the rest of Europe. Instead of boring your arses off with a wall of text, we made this a last minute video feature. We discussed everything from touring with the family to the drawing of helicopters. Enjoy!

Thanks to Austin, Jon, Cory and Chloe for letting us do this, and to Joe Brownridge for standing there for ages and filming it.

Album Review :: Dave Arcari – Devil’s Left Hand

Delivering more of his bar room brawling music, Dave Arcari sets fret boards and stages alight with another offering of trademark blues.

As a follow up to his hugely successful Got Me Electric, delta bluesman Dave Arcari delivers his latest offering, Devil’s Left Hand. Combining his now trademark fusion of traditional pre-war delta blues based riffs and a voice that feels at home down on the bayou, Arcari pleases both fans and newcomers with this latest album, his sixth in total.

With the impressive and wonderfully accurate tag of “Scotland’s answer to Seasick Steve” hanging over his head, a lesser musician would be swallowed up by such a hallowed compliment. Dave Arcari, however, is not a lesser musician. Rather than shy away from this pseudo sycophantic compliment, Arcari instead relishes in the spotlight and the accolades that follow a statement like that around.

In this latest collection of material, Arcari once again demonstrates the vast wealth of musical talent and knowledge from which he regular draws upon. With a unique ability to combine the sweet, soothing sound of the American Deep South with the more folk and vague rock elements of traditional Scottish music, Devil’s Left Hand once again aptly demonstrates the Scots guitarists best assets and love of what he does.

Kicking off the album is the eponymous “Devil’s Left Hand”, a traditional sounding delta blues based song that immediately illicts the sights, sounds, smells and anything else affiliated to the blues. Perfectly picking up where Got Me Electric left off, this track, along with “Can’t Be Satisfied” and “One Side Blind” have the almost boyish enthusiasm for the music that makes the man himself tick. “Blue Train” and the wonderfully titles “Come to my Kitchen” continue along this line of thought. The effortlessly smooth and indefatigably cool sound of the slide steel guitar rasping the sound into the listeners’ ears. If the devil could play guitar then it would truly sound like this.

Once again, Arcari features a traditional Scots folk song on an album, this time the wonderfully paced and highly charged “MacPherson’s Lament”. However, as is becoming a regular feature of Dave Arcari, any traditional element and rose tinted, Walter Scott romantic visions of shortbread boxes and roaming in the gloamin’ are shattered in a cocktail of gravel toned vocals and malevolent guitar. Perhaps this is a sign of the modern society in which we live but the furiously updated and harder, nastier sounding version of a folk song dating back to the seventeenth century certainly fires up the blood.

In all, Devil’s Left Hand is an album of which many things can be taken from. For fans of Arcari and his original and unique approach to both Scots folk music and the blues, this is more of what has been experienced before. For new listeners, the album serves as a fantastic introduction, not only to Dave Arcari as an artist but also to a genre that is progressively moving towards a tighter, more enclosed niche market. With artists like Arcari and his contemporaries, hopefully the blues, and specifically folk and delta blues, will not disappear entirely from gig venues all over the country and world.

Jonathan Whitelaw

The album is on general sale now and Dave is currently touring the UK. For details, visit his official website: http://www.davearcari.com

Promo :: Frank Turner – ‘I Still Believe’

Hello, and welcome to the Frank Turner Minute

Touring the UK, Europe, the States, China and wherever else wants him has taken up the majority of Frank Turner’s time this year. The Winchester-born singer/songwriter never stops. Even when he’s got time to rest, he’s still busy doing covers, helping charities and recording a new EP. Rock & Roll – Frank’s new five-track stopgap – doesn’t come out until December, but here’s a taste of what’s to come.

Debuted sometime this year, ‘I Still Believe’ is Frank’s homage to his heroes. Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash all get a mention in this catchy new single. In true Turner fashion it’s a real crowd pleaser. Even before release swathes of people were singing the words back to him (good old YouTube), so I can only imagine what’ll happen now. This track will feature alongside ‘Pass It Along’, ‘Rock & Roll Romance’ and others on the new EP, as well as being included on his new album.

Watch the video, watch it again and then buy it off iTunes.

Rock & Roll is released on December 6th on Xtra Mile Recordings and Epitaph Records. Pre-order your copy here.

Germs Of Perfection :: The Weakerthans


Canada, eh? That’s where the next band to cover Bad Religion hail from. The Weakerthan’s have been compared to bands like Against Me! for their punk rock take on folk music and they’re really bloody good. Yet another band that I’ve heard of, but not heard much by. Then again, that’s what compilations like this are for aren’t they? Well, besides being a fitting tribute to one of the best punk bands going.

The guys have covered ‘Sanity’ from Bad Religion’s fourth album No Control, released in 1989. It’s a chilled out take on the classic song and, again, isn’t something I’d expect on a compilation like this. Be sure to check it out.

EP Review :: Myles Pereira – Of Pears and Figs

Just who the hell is Myles Pereira?

London-based Myles Pereira is a Blues/Country/Rum influenced singer song writer, who curiously seems to be finding his place within local punk scenes. Surprisingly unknown, I first saw Myles play a low key punk gig in Manchester and was blown away. When he announced his EP was free to download, I felt I had to not only enjoy this five song gem, but also share it with the world. (well Moon and Back readers at least!)

The album opens with the track ‘Lumberer’ a track which truly sets the mood for the entire E.P. The sound is very personal and stripped down, giving a sense of intimacy that seems to be missing from even the biggest names of singers armed with acoustic guitars. (Yes I’m talking about you James Blunt, you don’t even come close to this kind of talent.)

The album continues in a similar fashion. Showing Myles as a very sensitive soul, tearing through his thoughts and emotions with a very unique a melodious vocal sound, which thankfully is not a product of careful auto-tune editing, as this euphony is not lost during his live performances.

As said earlier, the sound is very personal, and the production of the E.P echoes that with a kind of “high quality home recording” feel. This isn’t a hindrance, it only emphasizes the intimate nature of the EP. Each song feels to have it’s own sense of warmth which relates the subject matter of the poetic lyrical content.

The songs are in no sense “punk rock” but there is definitely something here that makes Myles Pereira playing alongside the upcoming bands of that scene work. What that is, I am not sure.

The four original works on this E.P are some of the most fantastic songs I have heard from a solo artist for a long time. In addition, there’s a cover of Danzig’s ‘Mother’ on here too!  It’s free, what more could you want?! So download Myles Pereira’s Of Pears and Figs, tell all your friends, find out when and if he’s playing near you and go and support this talented young man!

You can download the E.P from Myles’ MySpace page:

Album Review :: Lissie – Catching a Tiger

The debut album of Lissie Maurus finally arrives in a wave of southern based, folk rock that brings a smile to your face.

Lissie Maurus

Lissie Maurus

With a refreshingly similar trend towards the great folk rockers of the Los Angeles underground movement in the 1960s comes the debut album Catching a Tiger by Lissie Maurus. Compared by many to the great Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and general notoriety fame, Lissie is taking huge leaps and bounds towards establishing herself as THE adult oriented rock scene’s up and coming artist.

Having grown up in the American Mid West, it is hard to believe that this soft voiced young girl with locks of spun gold and a demeanor that would put even a daffodil to shame for extroversion, is already holding her own amongst the ruff and tumble of the music industry. With a seemingly unfathomable innocence and very marketable naivety, Lissie Maurus describes her own music as part folk and country rock and part “Freeway rock”. The latter of these descriptions more than aptly encapsulates her debut album Catching a Tiger which delivers fourteen tracks worth of her soulful voice and expert backing from Seattle southern rockers Band of Horses.

Kicking off this AOR based album are the harmonic duo of “Record Collector” and “When I’m Alone” two tracks that immediately demonstrate Lissie’s imaginative and considerable lyric writing and imagery ability. With a sound that is very warm and friendly, Maurus’ vocals add a wonderful sense of depth and completion to what is a strong musical opening. Ben Bridwell and the rest of the Band of Horses begin with strong performances here “When I’m Alone” paying particular attention to their strong percussion ability, the result a haunting, up beat ballad that gets both the head bobbing and the mind thinking.

The album then stalls somewhat, not picking up again until the eighth track “Cuckoo” Here the pace takes a much needed injection, the true potential of Maurus’ so called “Freeway Rock” description really coming into its own. A nostalgic and positive look back at misspent youth with just a pinch of regret thrown in for good country measure, “Cuckoo” is a perfect embodiment of Lissie and Band of Horses potential to fulfill a large gap within the current musical market. Rather than be bogged down by the all too easily exploited morbid and unhappy memories that plague every creative genius, this song celebrates the defiance of youth and its petulance, delivering this message in an upbeat, subtly produced number that could very well and perhaps should be the independent, folk anthem of this summer.

The album closes with “This Much I Know”, a plodding ballad that is, admittedly, a little clichéd and predictable despite being once more wonderfully crafted and sincere in its own belief. In all Catching a Tiger is a strong and gutsy debut album from this excellent new talent. With a strong work ethic and growing notoriety of experimentation, a recent semi acoustic performance of Lady GaGa’s Bad Romance at numerous live appearances, has only credited and developed this young woman’s talent and exposure in a positive light. What lies ahead for Lissie and her backing band is potentially very encouraging.

However, the question of “Does the music industry need another blond, plaid shirted folk singer” is unfortunately a very relevant one. Although a brilliant debut, a certain lack of originality still underlies the work as a whole, a great pity considering Maurus’ talent. Only time will tell, as it so often does, whether this dove will fly, or be crushed by corporate blood letting.

Jonathan Whitelaw

The album is on general sale now and check out Lissie’s website for tour information et al: http://www.lissie.com

Interview :: El Morgan

We first saw El Morgan when she played with Austin Lucas in Leeds last month and she blew us away. When we heard she was going to be in Manchester and at Refuse To Lose, we jumped at the chance to see her and have a chat.

After a few Facebook messages, we were sorted. Sat in a place commonly known, in Manchester, as Vimto Bottle (due to the giant wooden bottle of Vimto on it). We chatted to Miss Morgan about her first time in Manchester, getting to play with her heroes and her possible inclusion on The Revival Tour.

Ian Critchley: How’s it going?

El: Morgan: Pretty good. I’ve been in a car for a long time, but it’s pretty awesome.

Anthony Barlow: You drove up?

EM: We got driven up here from Portsmouth today.

IC: You’ve just come off a tour with Austin Lucas. How was that?

EM: Yes. It was brilliant. It was really good. It’s really good to tour with such an awesome artist. I met him last time and he’s sort of a bit of a good mate now as well,

AB: I was going to ask how the tour with Austin came about actually

EM: Well, I’m in a band called Livers & Lungs as well and we played with Austin at The Windmill in London, in Brixton, and sort of met him then. Our friend Lloyd booked his first tour, that we played with him on. Then in Swansea, we were supposed to play with him again, but some of the other band members couldn’t go, so I went on my own. Which meant I met him one on one and…

IC: You’ve played with some pretty high profile people too. What’s it like playing alongside your heroes, as such?

EM: Pretty awesome, because you kind of look it and you go “oh my god, I love these guys” and then you meet them and they’re really cool, normal people, really down to earth. It’s like, you can only be a fangirl for so long *laughs*.

AB: You’ve played with Chuck Ragan as well, haven’t you?

EM: Livers & Lungs did, yeah. We played with him when he did the Frank Turner tour. He came and did a show for the lovers of Chuck in Swansea. He was really cool.

AB: Nice. We missed the Leeds one.

IC: Yeah, we missed his secret gig in Leeds.

EM: Apparently, that was crazy. It was so much fun.

AB: Well, it was in Santiago’s. The best place in Leeds

IC: Speaking of Chuck Ragan, The Revival Tour is supposedly coming to the UK. Do you think you’d be part of that if it did?

EM: I think I might lose my shit if I got to be apart of the Revival Tour *laughs*. I dunno. I doubt it. I can’t wait to go and see them when he’s over with the Drag The River guys and Austin and Corey Branan. I’ll definitely be at some of those shows. I can’t wait.

IC: Your music has been put into the pigeon-hole genre of ‘folk-punk’. How do you feel about the rise of folk punk?

EM: I think a lot of people get tarred with folk-punk. I really like some folk-punk. I like a lot of artists who get told they’re folk-punk. I think that if you like punk music, but you happen to play an acoustic guitar you get put in folk-punk. I get the ‘folk’ tag a lot as well, so I dunno. It’s a bit of a cliche to say this, but tags are so annoying. You know what I mean?

AB: Yeah, definitely. You’ve been compared to acts like Laura Marling and Emmy The Great as well, how do you feel about that?

EM: The last one I got was Lily Allen. It’s amazing. I’m not sure how much I’d go for that myself. I think they’re amazing, but…

AB: Do you think it’s because you happen to be female and play an acoustic guitar?

EM: Yeah, a little bit. Occasionally. There’s a lot of really amazing artists and I think people try and find the closest thing. If they’re gonna use your gender to do that, then I’m not gonna hold it against them. It’s not always that close is it. People like to say ‘oh, it sounds like this. It sounds like that’. It’s just a matter of taste isn’t it.

AB: Of course, smooth talker over here (that’s Ian, by the way) compared you to Ani DiFranco in Leeds.

EM: Yeah. Well, that’s probably the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me. I’m not sure if I’d go with that. I think she’s stunning.

IC: You’ve been getting some pretty high praise recently, we’ve got a great quote here: “If you don’t like El Morgan, you’re a dickhead”. That one’s from Austin [Lucas].

EM: *laughs* whiskey will make you say things like that.

IC: Against Me! played on Wednesday and we went drinking with them after and well… (Here’s where Ian, not so casually, glances at me – Anthony.)

AB: Oh yeah, I started bigging up your cover of ‘Sink Florida, Sink’…

EM: You didn’t?

AB:…to Tom Gabel whilst doing shots

EM: Whoa! *laughs*. What’s he like?

IC: He’s nice. He’s really nice. Everyone involved with the tour, all the crew and everything were all super friendly. George Rebelo is now my best friend.

EM: *laughs*

IC: The album Fight Or Flight is dedicated to Nick Morgan, who is that?

EM: That’s my dad. He died last July. He brought me and my sister up, singing since we were very small. We were a very musical family, so we were very close. It’s been a pretty tough year.

IC: Yeah, definitely. Where did the name of the album come from?

EM: I, literally, woke up at five o’clock in the morning and knew that’s what it was gonna be called. *laughs* It was one of those inspiration things.

AB: Speaking of names, the name El Morgan is spelled so many different ways.

EM: Yeah, I know.

AB: *laughs* Is that your fault?

EM: I got nicknamed ‘L’, the letter, when I had just started sixth form, because I didn’t like being called Ellie. I just said call me L and they went “what? like L”. It just stuck, but when you’re nearly thirty you can’t really have a single letter name. When you’re at work and all that kind of thing. It’s just El for Eleanor.

IC: You’re a big supporter of the ‘Saafsee’ punk scene. Did I say that right?

EM: Yeah boi! *laughs*

All: *laughs*

IC: Do you know anything about the Manchester scene? If you do, how do you feel the two compare?

EM: Well, I love the 255 boys. When they came down to Southsea, it was really nice to meet those guys. I’m more of a newbie to it than Tim or Jack or other members, but it’s been really nice to meet a lot of people. I look forward to getting to know a little more about it, because I’ve never been to Manchester before, so this is my first time!

IC: Yeah.

AB: Serious question now. If Chuck Ragan, Henry Rollins and a shark had a fight, who would win?

EM: Chuck Norris.

AB: Chuck Norris? Chuck Ragan.

EM: Chuck Norris would win in a fight against anyone. That’s the punchline.

IC: *laughs*

AB: Well don’t I feel like an idiot now.

IC: When you played in Leeds, you drew a heart on your album cover when you signed it for me, does that mean that you’ll be my girlfriend?

EM: I’m afraid not, but it does mean I think you’re very nice. I’m afraid I’ve already got a boyfriend.

AB: You’ve crushed him now.

IC: I know, yeah. I’m not coming to the gig now.

EM: *laughs*

IC: We thought you and Austin were gonna drive off a cliff, so that he could write some new material.

AB: How did it go?

EM: We’re planning on it. It’s in the pipeline. We were busy *laughs*. We found other things to write songs about. I stubbed my toe, it was a bit traumatic.

IC: That song, is it on the set list for tonight?

EM: Yeah, it’s where I’m gonna get the power for tonight from. My achey foot.

IC: Finally, you said it’s your first time in Manchester, is it going to be your last?

EM: Definitely not. Unless they kick me out and don’t let me back in.

AB: We’ve not been kicked out yet.

IC: Well, not for a while

AB: There was that one night…

EM: *laughs*

IC: I think that’s all we’ve got so thanks a lot

AB: Yeah, thanks for doing it on such short notice

EM: It’s alright, cheers.

Check out El on Myspace.

Single Review :: The Magic Numbers – The Pulse

The latest release from The Magic Numbers as a preview of their upcoming album.

The Magic Numbers

The Magic Numbers © The Magic Numbers

Returning to their harmonious, country and vaguely indie rock roots, The Magic Numbers return with their latest single “The Pulse”. Also featured on the track are sneak previews of two songs from their upcoming album The Runaway scheduled for release later this year.

With a sound that made them traditional cult heroes with their debut album The Magic Numbers in 2005, the group was being hailed as the new champions of the folk and indie fusion that was sweeping the scene at the time. Through no fault of their own, The Magic Numbers were never truly able to conquer all who unfolded before them and by the time their second album, Those The Brokes was released in 2006 they had all but solidified their status as cult favourites and little else more. The true extent of this is the fact that they are currently still touring the country in a vague attempt at promotion for the album that debuted almost four years ago. However, with the prospect of the new album on the horizon, it would seem the band are preparing to stage somewhat of a comeback.

“The Pulse” itself is as interesting a single as the group could muster to release. A typically layered folk ballad, the soft, kindly spoken lyrics and vocals of Romeo Stodart encompass the listener within the fairy tail world that the band paint so very well in almost all of their songs. Coupled with the harmonic, almost spiritual backing vocals of the rest of the band, as musically sound as “The Pulse” is, there just seems to be a lack of kick and any real depth, or dare it be said, point to the song as it wistfully continues without ever really reaching a climax. Standing at almost five and a half minutes also means that listeners cannot really avoid the song, willfully waiting for an end that never really comes.

The other songs included on the single release, “Dead Mirrors” and “This Isn’t Happening” offer a much more focused return to previous form for the band. “Dead Mirrors” has a haunting, celtic quality, Stodart and his sister Michele coupled with percussionist Angela Gannon on vocals evoke the wonderfully crafted images. It is also worthy of note that a deep lineage of an almost country root running through the song. Drums from Sean Gannon pulse throughout the song evoking the image of galloping horses across a starry-lit prairie, sending a tingling shiver down the listeners’ spine.

“This Isn’t Happening” is much more of a single and suspected album filler track, the probable product of studio time spent that did not wish to be completely wasted. Once again the musical ability is without question, Stodart’s vocals here show particularly good range but the overall track once more feels like it lacks a purpose and direction. Its combination of a quiet ballad opening with a more up beat, more typically indie feeling chorus and second half feel clumsily put together that gives a less than convincing disjointed feel to the song. The thrashing symbols and drums also sound out of place, drowning out the remaining percussion and guitars at points which, coupled with the repetitive nature of the lyrics do not do much for the band or their product.

Overall the release of The Pulse is in general a good enough release to tease fans and occasional listeners of the band’s work. However it is greatly hoped that these songs are merely samples and not an overall representation of the album as a whole. That would be majorly disappointing as it would fail to spark the initial enthusiasm and pleasurable enjoyment that led to The Magic Numbers’ success. The single is on general release from 31/5/10.

Jonathan Whitelaw

Check out the band’s official website. The single is also available for download from itunes: http://www.themagicnumbers.net/