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

INTERVIEW // The Circus Sands

Once again, our intrepid and talented southern-UK reporter Sarah Stead has filed a report that delves into the grimy madness at the heart of a young rock band.

She spoke to The Circus Sands, a young, exhilarating rock group from the south-east about sweat, ceilings bowing from the weight of the moshpit and  the vital importance of whether T-Rex was an influence (or not)…

The first time I interviewed The Circus Sands, front man Simon Corcoran was hungover, wearing a strip of material as a tie and there was an earring holding his shirt together.

This time, seven months later, things are looking a whole lot better.

The band – who hail from Reading and Newbury – have been gigging non-stop since then, including slots at a few summer festivals, and at the end of November they released their first EP, Dr Death.

Circus Sands // Dr Death

“The EP has been around for a long time,” said Corky.

“We recorded it in September 2008 but it’s just taken this long to get the money together to get the CDs made.”

Playground magazine recently gave away 15,000 copies of the EP’s title track to accompany an interview and review, but there are only 200 copies of the EP itself, which are almost all sold out already.

It’s a foot-stomping four track introduction to the band, whose scuzzy, lip-biting rock and roll is reminiscent of a less explicit Louis XIV, or a less Swedish Hives. And sometimes it’s arty, but arty like Tracy Emin is arty.

I don’t think anybody’s ever said they don’t like it…” said Corky.

The three-piece play raw, hip shaking, danceable rock but, by and large, are taking a break from performing at the moment.

“It’s been a busy year for us,” said bassist James Hallett. “We must have played at least 60 gigs, it felt right to stop for a while. We’ve been playing the same songs for a year so it was time to have a little break and write some new stuff which we’re hoping to record later this month so we can release two more EPs next year. You could say the band is pregnant at the moment!”

A few days later I learned that by ‘pregnant at the moment’ Hallett actually meant they were about to announce they’d grown a fourth member, Jake Ambridge, but weren’t going to tell me about it. Cheers mate.

Anyway, back at the interview and, as the empty Bulmers bottles stacked up, I asked Corky how the music has evolved since the Dr Death EP was recorded.

“Well, we’ve got a lot of new guitar pedals!” he said. “We’ve tried to get a bit more experimental, we’re aiming for nice melodies and songs you can sing to but keeping the dirty, sexy element to it.

“We’re trying to get away from the garage rock sound, though. We’d like to be a bit more ‘out there’ and a bit more weird sounding, but keeping the melodies.”

Chris said, “The thing is that we’ve stuck to our guns and we’re not just going for what’s cool now.

“We’re rock and roll. There’s a lot of nu rave stuff around but we keep doing what we’re doing. “So many bands think they’re the next big thing but don’t put the legwork in, like travelling back from a gig til 3am then getting up for work the next day.”

Despite a prestigious slot at Basingstoke Festival in July (“We were the act on before Chipmunk so technically we can say we supported him,” said Hallett), Corky said the highlight of the year was gigs in Taunton and Brighton on consecutive days.

The band are nothing if not hardworking. They have gigged all over the South and their live shows are always high-octane, energetic and sweaty.

Chris – who is without fail totally drenched in his own sweat after each gig – recalled with a proud grin, “At one place we played in Bristol it was so hot I passed out afterwards.

“At Birdcage in Portsmouth we had about 150 in this room upstairs, and the ceiling was bowing in the room below.That was a brilliant night!”

In between Chris and Hallett arguing about the band’s influences (“T Rex,” “We’re not influenced by T Rex at all,” “I am,” “But we’re not even slightly glam,” “I am.”), telling bad jokes, slagging off bands that ‘don’t work hard enough’ and debating how old Ian Curtis was when he died, we somehow got an interview done.

The Circus Sands are one of my favourite Reading bands to hang out with. Like their music they’re dirty and sexy and, as Corky said, they’re always up for the after parties. Bring it!

Download the Dr Death EP on iTunes and listen at