The Best Of ANBAD 2010 // Interviews

Now that you’re lying comatose in front of the fire and pondering on the fact that your intestines are now 80% solid Turkey meat, why not drag yourself away from the dull repeats on the TV, and read some excellent repeats here on ANBAD?

Wait – unless it’s Die Hard on TV. Watch until the end of that, and then read on.

There was a glut of interviews with exciting and thrusting young bands this year on ANBAD, all of which gave us a glimpse into the thrills of belonging to a new band. Here are four of the best:

Egyptian Hip Hop: Britain’s Best New Band // Sample quote: “At the moment, we’re happy to keep everyone guessing. In a year, maybe they’ll know more about us and then people’s opinion is out our hands. And when people think they’ve got us down, we’ll do the complete opposite.”

D/R/U/G/SBritain’s Other Best New Band // Sample quote: “We get the Orbital comparison a lot. To be honest though, I’ve never heard any of their music…”

Islet – Out There, Somewhere: A Band Cutting Their Own Furrow // Sample quote: “We’re always more interested in how people react in the real world, at a gig than in the realms of The Internet. It’s a shame that the word ‘hoopla’ isn’t used instead of hype, it’s more fun.”

Run Toto Run – Rebirth In Electronics // Sample quote: “Music sounds fasterer when you’re drunk.”

ANBAD’s Best Band Of 2010: Youthless // INTERVIEW

Isn’t it nice to be nice? Isn’t it nice to find out your favourite band of 2010 is nice?

Thus, prepare to feel appropriately festive as you are smothered with pleasantries in this exclusive, nice, and exclusively nice, interview with ANBAD’s Band of 2010, Youthless.

To prove that they are such good sports, they answered all of my overwhelmingly facile questions with good grace, a sense of humour and with stories about nearly upending whole buses…

Youthless, you’re ANBAD’s favourite band of 2010. How has 2010 been for you?

Alex: 2010 has been excellent! Gig-wise my highlights have been: Opening for Crystal Castles and The Horrors in the Lisbon Coliseum, playing on a moving bus for the Super Bock em Stock festival (we actually had crowd surfing inside the bus and people were shaking the bus so hard it had to stop at one point because the two front wheels were bouncing off the ground!) and playing dressed as Mario and Luigi for a 90’s retro party.

As an overall experience, In The City in Manchester was definitely one of my year’s  favorites just cause of the general lovely vibe and getting to see great bands at the funnest point in their career, when they’re just starting out and are still full of energy and optimism… you know – before the weight of the world has crushed their spirits and turned them into jaded gluttonous rock stars.

Sab: 2010 has been a great year for us as a band and 2011 will be even better hopefully. I would have to say one of the highlights was a show down in the Algarve, Faro. After sound check a huge storm hit the area wetting all our equipment, but by the time we got on stage it had dried up and it was a great show.

What were your aims at the beginning of 2010? Did you achieve them?

Alex: We wanted to make it out of Portugal and we released our first single in the UK through the lovely and amazing One Bird label, so we’re very excited about that. We’re playing Eurosonic and some other shows in Holland next month and releasing some more songs in the UK through One Bird so i think we’ve gotten things started in the rest of Europe.

I also wanted to sing a song hanging upside down, which I got to do a little of in our Super Bock show, so that feels like an achievement.

Sab: My main goal for us was to play tighter and become better musicians and the rest will come. Next goal is to learn to play tight while super drunk.

How have the audiences reacted to you?

Sab: Audiences have been pretty fantastic across the board. We were surprised to see UK audiences react so well, we always thought it might be harder to impress people in the UK cause of the high standard of bands, but the truth is that they are even more ready to wild out.

Alex:  I think anywhere with cheap booze is a good place to play. The  drunker people are the more likely they are to break things, jump on each other and get naked.

Which bands have caught your eyes/ears this year?

Alex: I was most impressed by a band I saw and met at ITC that was bouncing between names… at first they were called Youth and then Books, but they were about to change their name again when we left. I don’t really know how to find them now but they were one of the best things I’ve seen in a while, and very cool guys.

Crystal Castles gave a great show and Wavves was a lot of fun in Lisbon. Thunder and Lightning in NYC have just started out but I’ve heard their unreleased record and it’s phenomenal, as is Warm Brains (Rory Attwell’s solo project in London).

Sab: We played a few shows in London with a band called Man Flu who have a very cool sound. I also really like the new Eels album and a show I saw of theirs this year, very humble and real.

What have you learnt that you wish you’d known in January 2010?
Alex: Never mosh with a cell phone in your pocket and, when on tour, never leave your passport and all your money in a nondescript backpack, backstage. And never drink a whole shoulder of Jack Daniels before going into a Nando’s.

Sab: Fast bass solos and bass tapping. Guitar Hero, that shit actually helps.

What was your preferred indulgence of 2010?

Alex: Whisky.

Sab: Guitar Hero, and I’ve finally learnt to appreciate whisky on its own without ice. My girlfriend gave me a metal flask to carry it around and take little sips.

Any pleasant surprises?

Alex: Sab got a cat.

Sab: I got a cat.

Anything that you wish hadn’t happened?

Sab: More like what did I wish would happen and didn’t. Our concert in the Açores was moved to 2011.

Alex: Yeah, I was excited to go there too. They say that place is the real life Atlantis.

Can you sum up 2010 in one word?

Sab: Keoooooo

Alex: Wohoooo

FINALLY – what’s your one wish for next year?

Alex: Free green renewable energy for everyone.

Sab: I can´t tell you or else it won’t happen.

Youthless’ Facebook // // Photograph by Anka Anthon


Cal / D/R/U/G/SAt this year’s In The City new music festival, the only band I saw twice was the same band that most  people saw twice – the band which seemed to garner praise at the same exponential rate at which they gained audience members. D/R/U/G/S are a rarity: a band making dance music that legitimately has a foot both in the past – Orbital-esque house – and an exciting future of clever, involving dance music.

Cal, 22, writes the songs and performs them live with George, 19, who he’s known for years. Both Cal and George were in bands before – Cal was in a ‘sort of punky band’ – but neither really captured anyone’s imagination. Once they formed D/R/U/G/S, their intentions suddenly clarified and they never looked back.

I arranged to meet Cal in a backstreet bar in Manchester, his home town. The rain swirled darkly outside and I waited in the bright warmth for him to arrive. He was late. I wondered if, not unreasonably, he’d taken one look at the weather and decided against a voluntary drenching.

D/R/U/G/S – Liquid Max (testmixx)

A friend stuck his head into the room. “There’s a young man with a keyboard stand looking confused next door,” he said. I found Cal, recognising him from the stage – the same infrequently blinking eyes, the hood’s deep shadow cast over his face, the sharp stubble, the quick movements.

We order drinks and sit down. Cal is wet, but friendly and eager to talk. Views and ideas tumble out quickly, overlapping, inquisitive, brash and confident. It makes sense. D/R/U/G/S have only been together for about eight months, but have taken giant strides. How?

“It was definitely a bit word of mouth thing but that harks back to our whole beginnings – it’s always been a word of mouth thing with us because we’ve not had a push off anyone. It was the only way we were ever going to do it. It’s to do with the type of music it is – it’s not designed, not pre-planned. It’s not necessarily a commercial sound in the traditional respect.”

But it connects with people very directly – look at the reaction at In The City: each gig had a bigger and more enthusiastic crowd than the last.

“There was no master-plan. Look at our name – it’s not the most commercial name! We didn’t really think about it at all. It’s all just a product of making beats and getting them out there.”>

It has taken you by surprise, then?

“Definitely. We’ve both been in bands before that have been a lot more geared towards ‘being a band’ – doing it ‘properly’, going to record. Very straight-forward. I was in a punky sort of band for a year. We did gigs, but it wasn’t anything real, you know? But this was totally the opposite, because I wanted to make something different, that wasn’t just the same old thing we’d done before. It has become a band when we didn’t expect it.

D/R/U/G/S - Masters Of Darkness

Has D/R/U/G/S’ organically-formed beginnings been artistically satisfying?

“It’s they way it ‘should’ work; but being cynical, you don’t think it will. But it has. I can’t deny we’re happy with it.”

That organic feel extends to the music itself, I say. It sounds semi-improvised, similar to how Orbital operate.

“We get the Orbital comparison a lot. To be honest though, I’ve never heard any of their music.”

I’m staggered. Really, I ask him. Honestly? He laughs. “Honestly.”

This astonished me – not because D/R/U/G/S sound particularly like Orbital in their songs, but because the way in which they perform the songs is so clearly similar: rooted in live manipulation of cunningly cultivated samples, albeit from two tiny samplers the size of shoe boxes, as opposed to Orbital’s comparatively Jean-Michel Jarre-esque set-up.

“It makes more sense now – that comparison. A lot of bands – 90% of electronic bands – use laptops, and it all sounds pristine and compressed. That’s exactly what we didn’t want. We use samplers. We’re big hip-hop fans, so every song is on the samplers, but broken into tiny pieces, so we can put them all back together on stage. We have total control.”

And then it’s a matter of judgement when performing them?

“Well, we have a basic idea – but it’s all semi-improvised. Every show is different. We do a different set pretty much every gig. Limitations are the best way to inspire any sort of creativity. We take from where we can and turn it into what we want.”

Cal samples himself playing guitar, keyboards, even the saxophone, all in the quest of finding brand new sounds to play with. The immediate comparison is with Beastie BoysPaul’s Boutique, where a besieged band found a new direction by creating their own samples.

“It’s kind of like remixing yourself. It’s not how you’re supposed to work – but then we use our samplers live, and they’re not supposed to be used like that.”

But that’s how you’ve got your unique sound.

“Definitely. And again, that’s from the [self-imposed] limitations.”>

D/R/U/G/S – Love (Love_Lust)

What about the audiences’ reaction?

“Very early on we learnt what did and didn’t work live. We never played to empty rooms, we always played to good crowds in London, so it was do-or-die. You have to adapt on stage, we were so unprepared in the first few gigs, and we were working it out as we went along.”

Your other audience is online, where bloggers have lapped up whatever you’ve released, especially in America. How does it feel to have immediate acceptance in a country that many spend a long time failing in?

“America was quicker to pick up on us than here in the UK. [Pitchfork spin-off site] Altered Zones were on us straight away, the first day they started – and that was in June, three months in [to D/R/U/G/S’ existence]. I think we fit in there more over there than we do over here. A lot of the great bands that we play with – like Salem, White Ring, Blondes, Teen Girl fantasy are foreign – whereas there’s not so much of that here, really.”

Do you think that’s partly because of the way you create music? You’re in the third or fourth generation of dance music makers but are consciously not drawing inspiration from the current generation. And like you, the dance pioneers were heavily influenced by hip-hop, so maybe you have a similar accessibility and feel?

“Spot on. Over here, the bass music scene eats up a lot of people who maybe would be making other electronic music, but we purposely didn’t want to go for that massive bass sound.”

And when you eventually record your music, will you record it from live gigs, or go to the studio?

“We could go into the studio and get it really polished up – but I don’t want to do that. That’s not our sound at all. It’s more rough and ready. I want to go in the studio with another artist, rather than the standard route of using a producer. We’re very DIY – get it and do it. So far, we’ve done everything our way, and we’ll keep doing it like that.”

He sips sharply at his pint. For a band that formed 8 months ago, D/R/U/G/S have been shoved a long way down the path to success very quickly. They haven’t deliberately cultivated their fans, or relentlessly pushed for success, and Cal is as bewildered by their rise as he is focused on their next move.

D/R/U/G/S: Like A Lion Eating A Diamond

He moves quickly, unhesitating, and at times his thoughts arrive faster than he can convey them. At the heart of it all is the mindset of an artist – an artist who believes in the importance of self-expression, albeit with one eye on having a good time on the dancefloor.

The clock clicks to seven o’clock. With startling efficiency, we are dumped out of the bar to allow a knitting group to convene, and simultaneously cast sullen eyes at the gloomy skies outside. We compare lingering damp patches that have somehow resisted an hour in the warmth, and prepare to step back into Manchester’s soft horizontal drizzle.

Before we part, Cal mentions that when Huw Stephens suggested the Orbital comparison to him, he was offended, because he mistook Orbital for ‘that Lager Lager Lager band‘. Having found out the truth, he’s now happier with the comparison, but still hasn’t heard their music.

Naivety, tightly self-imposed restrictions, a blinkered inward focus – it sounds like the recipe for disaster. It isn’t. Cal’s demeanour is not cocky, but bold – the confidence of someone who hasn’t put a foot wrong yet, and doesn’t intend to either.

IN THE CITY 2010 REVIEW – Triumph, Freaky Dancin’ and Phlegm

How best to review the best In The City for years? You’ll find acres of praise written (a lot of it here on ANBAD), so adding much more seems superfluous, save for another dollop of much-deserved praise.

Thus, here’s a tremendously glib faux-award ceremony, featuring the best bits, exclusive interviews and a video of a man dancing, playing a keyboard with his forehead, and then falling over.

Widest Variety Of Bass Noises: Youthless. I interviewed the brilliant and lovely Youthless after their excellent last gig at Umbro Studios.

And in case you were thinking of skipping it, remember – an interview that spawns the quotations, “I started writing music because I like to climb on things…” and “…my trademark is bass feedback that sounds like a whale…” is always worth a listen.

Interview with Youthless – In The City, Manchester – 15/10/2010

Please ignore my witless guffawing – I was very heavily medicated on ‘flu medicine.

The Bands I Swore I Wouldn’t Miss Under Any Circumstances, But Did: Yuck, White Ring, Dutch Uncles, Young British Artists, Egyptian Hip Hop, Eagulls, Brown Brogues…

The Band That Isn’t Cool Enough For In The City, But Have The Tunes To Make It Anywhere: The effortlessly strange Lissie Dancefloor Disaster, who have the kind of thrilling earworm-songs that, in a fair world, would see them topping the charts for weeks. Success can’t be to far away now, surely.

Listen to a surprisingly sane interview with LDD here!

The Band That Actually Exceeded The Hype: D/R/U/G/S, a band whose name is increasingly painful to type. I can’t remember the last time a band’s very first song gave me the feeling of sudden realisation that I was watching something particularly brilliant, only to then trash that revelation and replace it with feelings of even higher praise during the next song.

Yes, they sound a bit like Orbital, but since when has that been a bad thing? So good I saw them twice, and would have seen them three times, if they hadn’t clashed with Youthless.

Tinnitus Providers Of The Week: No Age

Sweat-Inducers Of The Week: No Age

The Band Whose Template All Other Guitar Bands Should Copy: Yep, No Age. They were so blisteringly alive, almost all other guitar bands witnessed seemed flaccid and insipid in comparison.

The Most Wholly Wonderful Dancing Of The Week:

Congratulations to Lissie Dancefloor Disaster, for coming to the hometown of Happy Mondays’ Bez and out Freaky Dancin’ the master himself.

Most Phlegm Produced In One Three-Day Burst: Me. Sniff.

So That’s It. In The City is over. There’s a hole in my life that Manchester’s normal gig scene just won’t be able to fill. How sad.

More Coverage:

Daytime Liveblogs: Wednesday / Thursday / Friday

Night-time Gig Reviews: Wednesday / Thursday / Friday

My BBC Introducing Coverage: Wednesday / Thursday / Friday

In The City – Thursday Gig Round-up

The sophomore day bristled with collective happiness. Beginning with good-natured Radio 6 Music round-table bickering between Peter Hook and Guy Garvey, whose main job was to get a word in around John Robb‘s chipper motormouth babble, the night embraced an In The City which has truly begun to feel like the breezily ‘now’ festival it ought to.

The streets of the Northern Quarter teemed with cheerful gig-goers, all basking in the realisation that virtually any gig they poked their heads into would be a good one.

Lissie Dancefloor Disaster, direct from Sweden, encapsulated this ethos in one unrestrained and crazed performance to a dozen bewildered punters at Dry Live. An OCD/ADHD/MDMA blur of gauche colours, songs titled “You Can Have My TV I Don’t Want It” and, most importantly, tunes that sounded like the best, most rawkus, most pop songs that The Knife never made.

Laser focussed as much on demented, stage-clambering self-expression as on demonically hook-laden pop songs, they may prove to be deeply uncool within the confines of In The City, but are too good to be ignored any longer.

I was so thrilled by their off-the-wall gig that I collared them afterwards, shoved a microphone in their faces and asked them slightly brainless questions:

Lissie Dancefloor Disaster Interview @ Dry Live, Manchester ITC

Back in normality, LA’s Kisses were – indeed – soft, tender and dreamy, while in the Soup Kitchen, Thomas J Speight‘s backing band just looked happy to be joining in the fun.

Walls, confusingly performing at Band On The Wall, began slowly, but rubbished the the fad for instant gratification with a careful and organic set of coiling electronica. Combined with stupendously blissfull visuals that actually drew murmurs of satisfaction from the audience, we drifted home on a technicolour fog of stupified pleasure. This, I thought, as I slept-walked home, is what In The City is all about.

More Photos:

Walls: Soft, beautiful

Lissie Dancefloor Disaster: Insane, Brilliant

INTERVIEW // Islet – Out There, Somewhere

Islet are a new band. That much is obvious. Less obvious is the route they took before emergence, which is suddenly, strangely radical. And they don’t even know they’re doing it.

I know you’re out there
I know you’re gone
You can’t say that’s fair
Can’t you be wrong?

Dinosaur Jr., Out There, 1993

Islet are a band who have done it differently without even trying, and the story is not so much a breath of fresh air as a huge, Mistral-sized gust of clean, sweet change.

There was a time when the act of discovering a new band was thus: after hearing a snatch of a song on a late-night radio show, and assuming you were lucky enough to hear the DJ announce their name afterwards, you would spend the following weeks scouring the NME, Melody Maker and fanzines for more.

More information was the desired booty – words, pictures, gossip, anything. A gig review if you were lucky. Glueing oneself to the same radio show, finger poised over the REC button on the tape deck, hoping the DJ would play it again. Such behaviour seems archaic now, but this, remember, was the norm only just over a decade ago.

Now recognise this new route: band records song, band uploads song to Myspace, Bandcamp and Soundcloud, band blogs about the minutiae of their nascent musical lives, band immediately gets all the information you could ever need out there, the public consume ravenously.

This sounds perfect. It is not. Once you’re out there, mystique dies. Putting it all out there is too easy, too neat, too perfect. It’s even easier than total obscurity: after a while, someone will put it all out there for you. Craving information with such bludgeoning hunger ensures that something important – an emotional connection maybe – is lost.

Psychologists bemoan the impact that readily available pornography has had on teenage boys – their initial contact with sex is of the type that they will never see in real life. Real sex will always be tainted with lingering disappointment.

Like the teenage boy disappointed by a virginal girl’s stubborn reluctance to engage in sexual theatricality, witness the fans who dump a band after one album and move on, gobbling up more and more of the temptingly shiny and new.

If a fan knows everything about a band from the start, we all lose that something. The bands, the fans, labels, everyone. Islet gave nothing away.

Until their website was launched a month ago, Islet have existed in rumour, tip-offs and gossip alone. Their music wasn’t online. The band wasn’t online. The music only existed on the stage. If you wanted more, it had to be from fan sites, from excited reviews, from camera-phone videos.

I wanted to speak to Islet about their strange introduction to the public, and how it felt to be most well known for what they haven’t done rather than what they have.

And yet Islet, apparently, are unaware of all of this. When I spoke to Isleteer Mark, he was – understandably – more concerned with the pile of old merchandise that the Super Furry Animals had given him in a Cardiff recording studio just moments before. I tore him away from the Furry sun-visors:

ANBAD: Islet seem to, for once, have been overtaken by hype on the internet, rather than cultivating it yourselves. You’re one of the few bands who may have been surprised by the online reaction. How does this feel? Did it catch you unaware?

Mark: I don’t really know where the online reaction is to be honest. We’re always more interested in how people react in the real world, at a gig than in the realms of The Internet. It’s a shame that the word ‘hoopla’ isn’t used instead of hype, it’s more fun.

Was your ‘internet silence’ a very deliberate ploy – a rejection of the taken-as-read idea of an all-important online presence – or laziness, or a land-grab at a new gimmick, or was it just something that you didn’t see value in at that time?

To begin with we just started a band and when we had enough material and felt like it, we started doing gigs. We thought that we might as well wait until we have recordings before we make a website – so that’s what we did. People got a bit carried away with it, we’ve never proclaimed ourselves to be anti internet, I’m on the internet now, I was on the internet then and we all regularly utilise its many facilities.

New Music Strategist Andrew Dubber took a shine to you and set up your fanpage – how did you feel about that? Did you think it was – not a ploy so much – but as much of a demonstration of his own new band promo ethos (the Posterous account, selling the fan T-shirts, etc) as his genuinely enthusiastic appreciation of you?

We found it quite funny at the time, mainly because he and his friend Ben set it up straight after a gig in Swansea, of all places. You will have to ask them about their genuine enthusiastic appreciation of us. Mine and Bunters’ (also in Islet) older brother Lee hilariously bought us both a T-shirt from the fanpage, I’m yet to wear it.

The no-mp3, no-download, no-Myspace way of operating found an enthusiastic fan base. I really like that idea of a band having an air of mystery – is that part of the reasoning? Do you like that too? Do new bands who give everything to their fans from day one lose something special?

I think yes to all of the questions. At the moment we don’t feel the need to constantly tell the world where we are, what films we have watched and what we had for breakfast. Though who knows, one day we might feel that urge. The ‘no Myspace’ thing has got out of hand – to me it’s like caring whether or not we eat at McDonald’s. I do think that people in general give too much away about themselves on the internet, not just bands.

Is it becoming OK for bands to want to have success and money? For a long time, rock was very deliberately anti-corporate, anti-big business – whereas even young bands are now eager to sign deals that would have been entirely gauche just a few years ago.

I think it’s always OK for bands to want ‘success’. I think it’d be very difficult to start a band and not want any form of success, it depends how you measure it. We felt very successful when we finished our first song and got our first gig. We haven’t licensed any tracks as yet [for use in advertising] but we’ve not been asked to. We have no rules, we just deal with things as they come.

And that was it. The band are tired of discussing the hows and the whys – they just want their music to do the talking. This is clearly a tough task to undertake in such stubbornly chattering times.

Yet they determinedly persist in protecting their reputation. When Islet first got in touch with me, it was to politely but firmly refute a claim I’d made – a rumour I’d heard rubbishing their DIY ethos.

Islet’s anachronism makes life hard. Blab everything, and their fun dissolves; keep their lips nipped tight and idiots like me propagate bitter rumours because I’ve got nothing else to go on. When it comes to controlling their self-image, it turns out that they are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t; they’re even damned if they try neither, or both.

In the end, all this will pass, and it’ll be what remains – the songs – that will be left out there, surrounded by the debris, and they are what will count. It’s always the songs. And Islet’s songs aren’t an anachronism at all – they’re more daring, more exhilarating and more uncannily new than any other band’s for a very long time.

I know a few women who are Burlesque dancers. Their chosen sport is the art of the tease – not quite giving the whooping crowd what they want, but giving them enough to want more, more, more. And every time they return to dance, the crowds get bigger.

Islet have unwittingly joined their leggy troupe; sequins, corsets and pasties switched for guitars, raw musical talent and a gut faith in human nature, desire and curiosity. Every time they play a gig, a little more of them is out there. But only a little. And yet the crowds keep getting bigger.

Li Daiguo: Ludicrous Sound-Spasms

Writing about new bands is the fun bit. Wading through acres of PR email bluster to get to the bands is the hard part.

PR emails are a necessary evil – without them I’d have a lot more spare time in my life and would certainly have heard many fewer dreadful Evanescance sound-a-likes that hopeful/stupid PRs think I’ll some how find fascinating.

And yet I would also have missed out on a a raft of thrilling new artists. Thrilling new artists like Li Daiguo, who, on the strength of the PR blurb, ought to have been a truly hellish prospect. Just take a glance at the checklist of horrors:

  • Finnish Folk/Nu-Jazz ensembles? Check.
  • A focus on improvisation and human beatboxing? Check.
  • Formal training in Classical music? Check.
  • Collaboration with clowns, jugglers and actors? Check.

I have cut that list out and kept it as not only an example of all that’s wrong with music, but also as a reminder to ignore what’s written and get stuck in to the music. Because Li Daiguo – get this – is brilliant.

Li Daiguo // Lullaby

Listening to Lullaby is like watching a slow motion video of a room full of randomly gathered objects exploding, but in reverse. Slowly, the seemingly unconnected sounds – a plucked noise here, a zithering buzz there – stop pinging madly between the speakers and form one coherent and beautiful noise-mess.

Wonderfully, all of his songs are like this. Like a study in carefully-formed  madness, there is a wonderful balance of precise control and ludicrous sound-spasms. A real treat.

INTERVIEW // Dutch Uncles

Dutch Uncles, like Egyptian Hip Hop, are another exciting new Manchester-based band that has chosen a name which guarantees career-long facile questions: whether any band member is Dutch, or is an uncle, or indeed has an uncle from the Netherlands. Maybe it’s why Wu Lyf keep such a low profile.

Either way, these universally strange monikers do highlight the skewed thinking and deliberately obtuse nature of Manchester’s newest crop of bands. Hiding complex musical arrangements behind breathless pop songs and charity shop shirts, Dutch Uncles are more obtuse than most, and all the better for it.

I grappled manfully with lead singer Duncan Wallis on a day off from the Duncles’ support slot on the Futureheads tour. Their new single, The Ink, is out on Monday. It’s quite clearly brilliant to me – but what have the band’s peers thought?

Duncan, cagily: “We actually gathered all of our friends round the house on Sunday and played them the song on repeat. It was unanimously agreed that people like music.”

So how does a song like this emerge? The balance between melody and yet retaining the winsome off-kilter quality must be akin to spinning musical plates. Or maybe old 12″ records…

“The piano riff came first and pretty much told us what to do. We’re quite separate in our writing, so our influences between music and words are never the same. The words come last so its more about relating it all together at that point, but we never give ourselves much time on it because the idea can lose its popularity very quickly with us… unless its a stonker like The Ink.”

Despite having chosen to take a more singular route through rock, Dutch Uncles‘ pace is quickening. They’re still, Duncan says, taking it one single at a time, but more than a hint of pride and urgency lingers:

“Recording an album within the first 4 months of being Dutch Uncles was quite a feat at the time. However, putting all of our cards on the table so soon without a proper “campaign” has probably delayed our progress longer than we’d like to think.

Having splurged forth from the unexpectedly potent rock gene pool of Marple along with contemporaries Egyptian Hip Hop, Delphic and  Maple State, they’ve managed to retain a unique sound. These bands are notably very different to one another, and yet an element of cohesion remains.

Do they influence each other in any way? The idea of the bands meeting up once a week for tea, cakes and a chat about time signatures appeals.

“I don’t think we influence each other much, but we certainly inspire one another. Its all just a contest to be the best band at ‘Winter Wonderland’ [a possibly imaginary gig] at the Royal Scot [their local pub]. That said, the ‘Myspace plays’ competition has been a depressing game of late…”

If the confidence and clamour around the band keeps building, how ‘big’ would they like to become? Does this even cross a young band’s mind? Is the band’s size and status even an ambition at all, or a happy side-product?

“If it wasn’t a career prospect then we wouldn’t do it is the truth. But we don’t plan on getting elevators in our house from it…do we? Apart from ‘Winter Wonderland’ we can only work towards getting more of our music released.”

And like that – poof – he was gone. I didn’t even get time to ask the questions about Holland and the band members’ familial roles.

The brilliant single The Ink is out on 31st May.

Clash Gig London photo by Jessie Hutchings, other photo by Katie Greswell

INTERVIEW // My Awesome Mixtape

Their Mixtape: Awesome

My Awesome Mixtape were reviewed on ANBAD to fairly rapturous acclaim back in November.

I was so taken with their delightful song, I quickly collared them (virtually, of course – they’re based in Bologna) for an interview. Which I then promptly forgot about.

Here it is then, charming pigeon-English intact, a couple* of months late. It turns out they are not only purveyors of lovely, multi-faceted pop songs, but wholeheartedly nice people to boot. Nice people, who, hopefully, will forgive my forgetful indiscretion…

Hi My Awesome Mixtape! How are you? Where are you in the world right now? What you see? And what is good about that place?

Hey mate! Here’s all fine, right now we are spending our coldy winter in Bologna, our hometown, the city that has seen us growing up and getting older and older!

In my review, I was surprised at your sound: an unusual blend of Indie-Pop shyness, disco beats and Pop luxury. How did the band arrive at such an interesting combination of sounds?

My Awesome Mixtape // Me And The Washing Machine

Actually, we are not so concious about the sounds we create, mainly because the My Awesome Mixtape‘s aim in making music is the most natural and spontaneous one.

The only thing I could say is that we are 5 guys coming from different musical backgrounds. The results in mood could be explained as a perfect mixture between the different musical tastes we have.

Why are you called My Awesome Mixtape? Mixtapes are seen as a kind of old idea now, in the era of Spotify and iTunes – what do you like so much about mixtapes?

Actually the name was caught in a “Boogie Night” film frame. In that scene was framed an audiocassete titled “My Awesome Mixtape n° 6”. We found the term “My Awesome Mixtape” so damned catchy that we decide to take it as the band name…

There is no link between the ancient art of making mixtapes and the band name; but personally speaking I think that most of the time old objects such as vinyl, audiocassettes, cds were definitely preferable.

How has the experience of being a new band been?

We feel ourselves really lucky! It is not so common to travel the world with a van and see so many places, visit so many cities all over Europe, and know tons of people getting in contact with an enormous variety of cultures…that’s probably the most exciting thing I could ever experienced.

What about the Italian music scene? I was in Bologna a couple of months ago: it was a wonderful place – traditional and beautiful but youthful too. However, I wasn’t there for long enough to get a real grip on the music scene – what is it like?

Bologna is mostly famous for the university ( apart from Spaghetti Bolognese and the ham), that’s why you found it youthful! Cultural and musical life here is commonly widespread all over the youngest inhabitants, in fact here in Bologna there are a lot of wonderful bands: Blake/e/e/e, Settlefish, A Classic Education, Buzz Aldrin, Nervous Kid, and many, many more.

What is the Italian Indie music scene like? What is good about it? What is bad? Is it big or small – do you or bands like you get a lot of exposure in the media? And how do you fit into the music scene?

Italy, as you know, is a really small country, so the musical scene is small too! All the bands know each other and most of the time there is a “brotherhood” mood among them…

Of course there are problems, Italy is probably one of the worst European country in terms of politics and cultural broadcasting…that means that most of the Italian music remains unknown even at Italians too!

Basically, our aim is to reach the most distant place from our home, play there and have fun!

And finally: If you could meet any musical hero, who would it be,
what one question would you ask them, and what drink would you buy them?

Probably Ian Mackaye, after offering him a Chinotto (a typical Italian soda) I would ask him what does he think about the nowadays musical scene

*or three**

**OK, four

INTERVIEW // Run Toto Run

Run Toto Run: devoid of necks

Matt shakes his head, raises a fist to the blue, vapour-trail-free sky, and shouts “Damn you!” in mock-anguish. He has no-one in particular to be angry with, but is still frustrated – and for good reason.

He ought to be in New York, playing the violin; instead, Eyjafjallajokull’s petulant ash-gasm means all flights are nixed – so he’s stuck in gloomy Manchester, and nursing a heavy cold to boot.

He shrugs. “Oh well,” he grins, after his momentary release of steam, “what can you do?” Bandmate Rachael suggests that we can go for a coffee, and we all agree that this seems as good a solution to the problem as any. Such is the cheery outlook of Manchester band Run Toto Run.

After de-camping to a noisy coffee shop, we sit and we talk about change.

When Run Toto Run were first featured on ANBAD back in December 2008, they were a delightful, sunny, folky quartet producing delightful, sunny, folky songs. Yesterday, I listened to their new single. Things are different now.

Run Toto Run // Hater

“It’s been a year since we were on A New Band A Day,” mentions Rachael. “That was a double bass ago,” adds Matt, thoughtfully.

That instrument’s cruel axing is indicative of their subsequent mutation. Matt joining the group was the catalyst, bringing the electronic expertise that Rachael longed for. Change was quickly afoot. Or perhaps, not so quickly.

“We were then writing songs that were still very acoustic, but heavily influenced by electronic music. We’d sample violin lines and vocals, then mess around with them live.”

That sounds exciting, I venture. The pain of a resurfaced bad memory is etched on Matt’s face. “Yeah – but it was massively, massively impractical. Stressful.”

In RTR’s new music, wistfulness has been replaced by introspection, and stringed plucking now a mere bit-part, demoted by a surge of technological burbling. The only constant is Rachael’s dreamy voice, clutching firmly on centre-billing as always. What has brought about this stylistic volte-face?

“We all used to work full-time jobs, and when we started we were pushed in front of the industry at the 2008 In The City music conference, we weren’t ready.

“We didn’t have enough time to work on the band in the way we wanted. The sound we made wasn’t really what we were interested in. What really focussed our progression was me losing my job.”

Like the volcano’s grip over flight arrangements, events out of the band’s control gave rise to an opportunity of a lifetime.

The event in question was the economy disappearing down the toilet, and the resultant time ‘in between roles’ allowed Rachael and Matt, RTR‘s creative duo, to step off the new-band carousel and breathe deeply.

Rachael is only grateful for the delay. “It gave us an opportunity that most bands never have. We could solidly focus on the band, and in that  time, we wrote a whole album and changed our sound completely.


“If we’d been signed earlier, we would have been pushed down a route dictated by the sound we had then, and not been able to experiment. We’re really lucky to now be in a position where we’re writing songs that we would choose to listen to.”

Relief, hope, pleasure. Most new bands collapse in the vacuum that forms after being rushed into releasing the first record too soon. How many bands get a chance like this?

Matt’s eyes widen: “It was a scary step for the band to take. Because everything was learnt again, even the simple things were new. We went from plugging our instruments in and playing to having huge diagrams showing where cables went for the new equipment. Now, when we play live using samplers, we’re adjusting and changing the sound organically – and that’s how we’ve written too.”

Thanks to the twin resources of time and determination, the resultant sound is no clumsy mashing together of tech and folk, but a complex melding that belies its organic growth.

“It’s the fusion of different ideas – you can listen to the old songs and the new songs and tell that they’re by the same band, even though the sound is massively different. By combining the two different songwriting approaches – the old and the new – we can record quickly, then email songs out and recieve feedback just as fast.”

Feedback from the top, too. Rachael: “One day we decided to record a cover of a Bombay Bicycle Club song, and later that night Steve Lamacq played it on his radio show. It’s so exciting – the technology gives you the means to do fantastic things.”

It’s interesting to see what will happen now – because there are so few limitations. The more time we have, the more things grow. Every gig we’re doing at the moment, we’re giving away a five track demo to give away for free, which builds a following who we get a lot of feedback from. We feel like we’re making friends, and we’ve learnt a lot very quickly by doing this.”

Everyone’s happy. Matt’s so happy, his subconscious is clawing through the ether to help out.

He recounts a story of how he’d sent himself a text message whilst on a night out, which was subsequently lost in a boozy miasma. The next morning, he discovered it, and read the words, ‘Music sounds fasterer when you’re drunk.’

“Perhaps it’s true…” he ponders. They decide that this ought to be explored further – and this seems to be a good time to allow them to retreat into the exciting new world of sonic adventure. And, presumably, booze.

Run Toto Run‘s new single, Hater, is out on the 24th May. Buy it from, and listen to more here:

Photography by Karen McBride