Joulie Fox – Don’t Be Shy

Back in the mists of time and before this website was even a twinkle in the eye, I used to compère at the glorious and much-missed Summer Sundae festival in Leicester. Anyone who saw my contributions on the Rising Stage was left scratching their heads as to how I’d secured such a privileged position; indeed, I would often pinch myself that I was going on before and after some great, up and coming acts to sing their praises and to try to get the crowd a little more frenzied.

One of my favourite parts of the compère role was meeting the acts before introducing them, finding out what they wanted me to say and then forgetting to say it. Looking at the 2009 edition line-up, you find yourself wondering how a universe could have existed in which The Zutons were billed higher than Bon Iver. I’m reminded that this was the year that I embarrassed myself in front of a very young First Aid Kit and had a lovely, spirited conversation with the buzzing and effervescent, Ou est Le Swimming Pool. (I still feel very sad when I think about what happened in that band just a year later.). 

This was also the year that I introduced James Yuill to the Leicester crowds. Memory is a strange thing but I recall a gentle, unassuming and thoroughly decent man who arrived with a minimal, backstage entourage and quietly charmed sans ego. I remember how much I enjoyed his laidback but layered Folktronica set and recall effusively telling him so much to his general embarrassment. 

It’s lovely to see that James is still involved in music. I can’t say that I’ve diligently followed his career but when I saw that the rising artist, Joulie Fox, had enlisted his production talents on her ‘Don’t Be Shy’ single, I rather suspected I’d like the output. And I wasn’t wrong. 

This is a quirky pop song, excellently executed that builds perfectly towards a nonchalantly-dispatched, crisp chorus. It packs much into a little less than three minutes. You suspect that with Joulie on songwriting duties and James on production, there’s a team emerging here where the sky could be the limit.

I ask Joulie about her plans for 2021. “Yes actually big plans for 2021!“, she says. “My first EP, we started working on it with James Yuill, the same producer who helped me with Don’t Be Shy. In the meantime there will be one more single out we did not approved for my EP but I love it so much that I don’t want to waste it. My plan is to finish this EP before summertime, and go wild in Autumn with live concerts. Hopefully this is the last lockdown for us and we will be able to live freely from March.

Let’s hope that Joulie’s optimistic outlook comes true. For now, have a fine Friday and don’t be shy.

 

The Banshees – You’re Wrong

Whenever I’ve visited Liverpool (which was with some frequency pre-Covid), I’ve spied the ‘Yellow Submarine’ sitting proudly on the Royal Albert Docks. A reconfigured narrow boat, it’s now used as accommodation for those desperate to get an overnight psychedelic Beatles fix on the Mersey. I’d always wondered what it was like inside the boat.

I now have to wonder no more. For The Banshees, an indie duo from up that way, have filmed the video for one of their latest releases, You’re Wrong, from the boat. In the opening stills, we see Vinny and Paul clamber aboard before then giving us a self-produced, guided and somewhat magical tour of the mystery space. It looks much bigger than I ever imagined; Liverpool’s very own tardis.

 

The Banshees duo come with impressive CVs. They’ve years of experience playing bit parts in other prominent Scouse acts but you suspect that they’ve really now found their mojo with their own indie scribbles. In ‘You’re Wrong’, Paul’s effortless guitar riffing acts as a perfect counter for Vinny’s deliberately underplayed vocal.

They’ve got something to say as well. ‘You’re Wrong’ is about being aware of your own insecurities, realising that opinions are only words and you can’t please everybody. It’s a sentiment that’s massively bought to the fore towards the end of the track when Vinny sings, “You only got one life to live so you better get together and you better give some time, It’s time, Fall in love with yourself, Take care of your health and don’t you know that you’ll be fine. Just fine.”

When I ask The Banshees about the last thing they did that was wrong, they’re defensively yet jokingly adamant. “The last thing we did wrong was nothing,” says Vinny. “We’re always right…listen to the song…it’s everyone else that is wrong hahaha.”

Listening to this tune and taking ‘on board’ its message does seems like an ideal Thursday thing to do. 

Rime Salmi – Batwanes Beek

It’s always good to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and to embrace new things. As the years advance, it’s one way to stop yourself getting staid or stuck in your ways. There’s so much to discover in this wonderful world and precious little time to find out about it all. Why settle with what you know when around the corner there might be something that can give you even more joy and happiness – as long as you go into it with eyes wide open? 

That is, of course, so true when listening to music. Our tastes are formed young and we keep returning to those tracks of our youth (and songs that sound like them) because of their familiarity. They offer us comfort and it’s easy to see why they might provide our go-to moments.

Sometimes, I like to shake up my listening. I’ll deliberately find tracks from genres that I know next to nothing about and dig into what I find. To a degree, this is how I stumbled upon ‘Batwanes Beek’ by Rime Salmi. I’m very glad I did. A cover of an ‘Arabic classic’ by Warda, Rime has turned the tune into her very own Afro-pop anthem. 

 

In my ignorance, I know very little about ‘Arabic classics’ or Warda who first released this song. But the internet is such a rich encyclopaedia and Wikipedia such an extensive resource that things don’t stay mysteries for long. 

Warda, the Algerian Rose, was born in Paris to a Lebanese mother and an Algerian father. Her father owned a nightclub and encouraged her to sing patriotic Algerian songs from a young age. A ten year break from singing (her first husband forbade her to) was broken in 1972 when she sang to commemorate Algeria’s independence. After divorcing her grumpy husband, she married again and her career blossomed. She cooked with wine and became something of a superstar commanding a state funeral when she passed away in 2012 aged 73. Warda sounds like she lived a full life of pushing out of her comfort zone. 

Rime Salmi was born in Morocco but raised in Canada. For Rime, it’s clearly very important to both embrace the culture she comes from as well as the one she has grown up in. What we get in this version of ‘Batwanes Beek’ is a vibrant explosion of happy sound. It’s hard not to smile when listening to the spirited joy on offer here – and we all need to smile more now than ever. 

And then there is the video that features Rime and three well-known dancers from Montreal’s LGBTQ scene proudly using the city as an urban catwalk. Rime sums it up better than I ever could when she says that “this video is a scream. This video is a statement. This video is a manifesto. Arab LGBTQ+ people exist, love and love one another… and it’s something to celebrate.” 

Happy hump day – keep being curious.

Slow Walk – Sherlock Holmes Would Know

I am somewhat ashamed to say that I have never read a novel featuring Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle has passed me by. Add to that confession that I’m not a great watcher of TV and so have not even dabbled with Benedict Cumberbatch’s latest portrayal of the legendary sleuth then it’s not hard to see why I don’t feel particularly qualified to be commenting on today’s Sonic Breakfast post.

But (as I’m sure many will be quick to point out) such elementary ignorance has never really stopped me before. And besides, the excellent ‘Sherlock Holmes Would Know’ by Slow Walk isn’t really about the great, drugged-up detective. Rather, it’s about a “hapless fool who suspects his lover of foul play but isn’t smart enough to break the case and so he daydreams of being the legendary detective and solving the mystery that is his life.” 

Suspicion, daydreaming and trying to solve the mystery of my life are all things I feel abundantly qualified to comment upon. 

There’s a lovely marching bounce to ‘Sherlock Holmes Would Know’. With a morsel of Britpop-era Blur and a bite from The Blockheads, Keith Turner, the man behind Slow Walk, has come up with a jaunty, funny and sometime sweary song about how foolishly following your intuition can sometimes not be wise. Watch out for your neighbour eh as they’re doing the dirty on you….

I ask Keith what he’s most looking forward to in 2021.  “I think mostly I am hoping things get a little easier for everyone,“, he says. “I get to see my friends again and ideally I’ll be standing in a field somewhere watching a great band with a cold beer in my hand. But in the meantime I am happy and very fortunate to be in the Slow Walk bunker knocking out mad cap videos.

You can’t say fairer than that. From the man given his monicker by a group of youths in Tufnell Park (a mystery I’m saving for a potential sequel), I hope you enjoy Tuesday’s Sonic Breakfast tune as much as I.

 

 

 

Honey – Do It All Again

There was a story that came out of China after their first lockdown that loads of couples were now filing for divorce. Separation rates were going through the roof. It all stands to reason that spending more time with your significant other, having to put up with their more extreme habits, might be the thing to break any camel’s back. 

There are also very real stories of increased rates of domestic violence emerging during these volatile times. Clearly, there are some relationships that people shouldn’t ever stay in. The fact that it’s been arguably harder for people to leave dangerous and destructive relationships during lockdown periods is a crying shame.

But there are some relationships that just need a bit of TLC to make them work. And that’s what today’s really quite lovely Sonic Breakfast song is all about. ‘Do It All Again’ by the emerging Swedish duo, Honey, is about the ups and downs of relationships. This is about making the bad moments count and realising that, whatever the outcome, the life-decisions that you have made are the right ones for you.

 

The video is a real charmer. Miranda and Magda, the vocalists and front persons from Honey are singing from their sofa whilst we also get live action from the dining table of Karsti and Samme. They reflect on the path that their relationship has taken; the holidays they’ve taken together and the parties they’ve enjoyed. The memories are moving and the nostalgia sweet.

It helps that Honey lay down a sound within ‘Do It All Again’ that could quite easily have been around when Karsti and Samme first met. This is a song with a majestic 70’s pop tone; the comparisons to Abba are inevitable and I’m not just saying that because Honey are from Sweden. 

‘Do It All Again’ is a gem to cherish – as are your relationship memories. Happy Monday.

 

SHYAWAY – Smile For The Camera

I have friends who hate having their photo taken. So eager are they to avoid the pose for the camera that they concoct increasingly varied tales as to why they can’t be pictured. They’ll insist on taking the snap themselves or they’ll go and hide in the toilet. If push comes to shove and they have to be in a group shot, they’ll stand right at the edge and definitely behind a taller friend so that their image stands a chance of being masked. “It’s a thing from childhood”, they say when quizzed about their behaviour.

I suppose those friends that actively shy away from the camera are refreshing when compared to those who hog the limelight. These are the people with more selfie sticks than rooms in their house. Every day and sometimes every hour, they declare their need for attention and adoration by posting a new pic of themselves onto their social media channel of choice. I think, of the two extremes, I’m more in this camp. But, I do check myself from time to time. And I don’t even have an Instagram account.

‘Smile For The Camera’ by SHYAWAY is a fun and perky piece of pop for your Sunday morning delight. It takes a jocular swipe at the self-absorption that comes from being too dependent on your photo content. Bouncing along with intent, this is clever pop that can’t fail to get under your skin.

SHYAWAY is the stage name of Adam Macaulay, a multi-talented musician/songwriter from Brighton. He tells me that he’s currently scoring for a string quartet and woodwind ensemble when we exchange a couple of mails in advance of this piece being published. He leaves one in no doubt on which side of the selfie fence he sits.

“We should eschew social media and this self-worshipping lifestyle; focus on the life we’re actually living right now as opposed to the carefully curated online one.“, says Adam. “Either that or we just do what Kim Kardashian does; shake our ass for the masses and smile for the camera.”


John Swale and the Missing Pieces – An interview

Yesterday was a sad day for me. I am no longer a property guardian. I’d kept hold of my cheap-as-chips, wonderful space in London’s zone one throughout the pandemic in the hope that some sort of normality will return soon but it doesn’t seem to be imminent. I could no longer justify the cost of my pad that I’ve not properly lived in since the first lockdown. Adios Upper Street.

Whilst feeling mournful about giving up the space, the response to a set of interview questions I’d sent out popped into my mailbox. And they made me chuckle (a lot). Then, they made me feel nostalgic for the group living that I’ve so recently left. And then they made me gasp at the wisdom within. John Swale is an intelligent man and a dream to interview – of that there can be no doubt.

I was initially drawn to John Swale and the Missing Pieces after hearing their song, Party Like It’s 2019. It’s literate, amusing and deserves to be heard by many. We talk about the ‘inspiration’ for the banger he’s created below. Settle down with a coffee and a croissant on this Saturday morning, immerse yourself in these mighty words before then doing your hoovering to the party track.

 

Most readers of Sonic Breakfast will know nothing about John Swale and the Missing Pieces.What’s your elevator pitch?

Poetry is the underwear of the soul. Here’s mine! Also… don’t take the elevator. Take the stairs.Less carbon emissions. gotta say that, I’m a millenial.

And why should readers of Sonic Breakfast be listening to your music?

Don’t listen to my music, listen to the words! My songs are just poems I’ve put to music. It’s kinda like the poems are the kale…and the music is the mayonaise. You know the kale is good for the mind but it needs the mayonaise to make it a digestable prospect for most people. Most people are scared of poetry, ya know.

Party Like It’s 2019 certainly suggests that you lived it large that year. Care to tell more?

Actually I thought 2019 was a pretty terrible year for most of us…the election, Trump’s visit, Toblerones got smaller and then Greg and Amber split up two weeks after winning Love Island…tragic really…which made for the double irony of course cos 1999 was way better. I mean, we still had Tony the tiger back then didn’t we?!

What’s been the best gig you’ve ever played? What made it so special?

I live in a warehouse with 36 people and we put on a gig during lockdown just for us. In the lockdown before that it was that ‘don’t know what you got til it’s gone’ thing and we were so hungry for live music so it felt so fucking euphoric to be part of that world again. It was a true energy flow between crowd and performers. Although it was only a little ‘un it felt way more special than a lot of bigger shows I’ve done. Bring on the summer of love festival season post covid!

If you had to come up with your dream festival headliners, who’d be on the list?

Any festival at the moment would be a dream. And I can’t even dream of festivals right now cos my dreams are too fucking full of anxiety ridden narratives. Recently I dreamt Hitler and Goering came to my warehouse to kill us all…so I drowned them both in cereal bowls, then they turned in to little fish (specifically roach)…which I diced up and fried and fed to my housemates (it’s not complex I just think I’m Jesus in my dreams apparently) …. Then of course The Verve reformed and did an unplugged rendition of bittersweet symphony in our backyard in gratitude for us saving the world from the holocaust (Oh yeah the dream was set pre-holocaust) and then we all got wildly high. So I’d probably say The Verve would be my dream headliners, LCD Soundsystem and errr John Swale and The Missing Pieces. I mean, who else?!

Given the nods to Prince in Party Like It’s 2019, what’s your favourite Prince song and why?

I like the silences between the songs with Prince. What was he all about anyway? Just a guy with a Napoleon complex who was deluded about how sexy he was. That’s why I chose to rip his song off. Add to the first world torture inherent to my poem. I mean it’s a song about not being able to party while the world is in a fucking pandemic. Prince’s 1999 is a tacky as hell song and it needed to be to add to the joke. Plus his song was about an apocalypse not really about partying at all. It was perfect for it!

As the UK enters a third lockdown, what would be your advice to anybody struggling to cope?

Stop reading the fucking news! Lockdown seems to me like a once in a lifetime gift of time and space to reflect on personal internal shit and think and review what really matters in the scheme of things when all the fake shit like awards ceremonies, fashion, etc are taken away. I liked how uncool lockdown 1 was. I remember Joe from Idles talking about how he was going to bed earlier and earlier each night. It gave us all a collective vulnerability. also trust optimism. It’s very difficult to be sad when you’re smiling. I don’t wanna get too Deepak Chopra on this shit but suicide is a huge problem at the moment especially in young guys. So much emotion is chemically based. Running and exercise has saved me from the spiral of mental breakdown so many times during lockdown. And soon as I stopped reading the news my anxiety started to clear and I found out the important things through people I live with. Why poison your mind with fear of huge speculative shit like brexit, slowness of the vaccinations, etc you have no control of outside of you in lockdown when instead taking the time and mindspace to think about how to best inhabit your body, learn self love and what you’d like to give to the world in the future will ultimately be better for you and society. Amen.

And looking forward what are you hoping for more than anything else in 2021?

I actually hope that people will have taken this pandemic as a formative experience to reflect on the personal as I mentioned. It seems to have had some of an effect already. Things like the George Floyd protests to me wouldn’t have happened in such a beautifully momentous way if we hadn’t all been given the experience of stepping outside of our homes and immediately feeling vulnerable to the threat from the virus in a similar way certain minority groups have experienced that threat from others in society. Also I hope there will be less focus on the monetary. and the momentary. It’s kind of like… a good trip. I always think it’s a bit sad seeing people I know, loved up on a trip and treating other people with far more candid love and openess and honesty but then as soon as the comedown hits , they’re back to their normal selves, failing to incorporate any aspect of those higher feelings into their everyday life. It seems a bit like a wasted gift. I hope experiences from this pandemic won’t be wasted in that same way.

How did you celebrate 2020 turning into 2021? Was it radically different from your New Years Eve in 2019?

Well after a crazy chemical christmas with my 36 housemates(!) I wanted to have a sober,reflective start to the year and I’ll proudly say I missed Brexit day… cos I hadnt been reading the news and I had a great blue sky thinking day as a consequence. I read it had happened in a poem by Roger mcgough two weeks after the fact…’when Big Ben bongs and some sing songs, I’m staying in’. There’s always a real human beauty in his sardony and it was a great way to soften the blow. If I ever get terminal cancer I want Roger Mcgough to be the one to break it to me. Ideally while rigged up to a huge hand operated morphine drip please. As for 1st January, I spent the day writing in my big black book…less resolutions more a new post covid soul manifesto… taking obligatory breaks to join the cuddle puddle of my still loved up housemates in the basement of my warehouse. It was pretty dreamy…with not hitler, fish or cereal bowls in sight.

Tell us your favourite joke?

Apart from John Swale and the Missing Pieces? hmmm…a difficult one…ok how’s about… what’s the saddest variety of gardening implement…a forlorn mower. Not funny?…oh.. ok….what about…. A musician walks into a bar. Oh wait no he didnt. It’s lockdown!

 

 

 

Rae Radick – Keep ‘Em Guessing

We’re at the end of another working week (if you’re lucky enough to be working) and that calls for a bit of a knees-up. In the past, we might have looked forward to Friday evenings because a trip to the pub would have followed the day in the office. And as the alcohol flowed so would our conversations. The office joker would do bad impressions of Boris whilst others just let off steam about the things that were causing them sleepless nights. I’m sure those evenings will return.

But, just in case you need an extra fix of bar life and the fun that can happen within them, today’s Sonic Breakfast treat comes straight from a Stateside tavern. In that bar, we find Rae Radick and her friends having fun, playing pool and singing karaoke whilst putting one leery punter firmly in his place. 

 

‘Keep ‘Em Guessing’ is a good time, toe-tapper that clearly draws influence from the country-rock sounds of Shania Twain. Even if it’s not the sort of music that you might typically be drawn to, I urge you to give it a chance. It’s music designed to make you smile – the video simply amplifies that – and we’re probably all in need of a bit of happy juice right now.

I ask Rae, a touring member of the American Bombshells (look them up, I had to) what she’s most looking forward to in 2021 and she’s quick to assert what she wants. “What would make it a great year is if COVID was no longer hindering artists from performing at gatherings, and I can get back to my second home…the stage.

From the evidence supplied in ‘Keep ‘Em Guessing’, Rae is quite the performer. I’d go to any bar she might be in and I’d try my very hardest not to be the drunken barfly loser propped up on a stool. 

Have a cracking weekend.

Circus Of Bones – Simone

Cast your mind back a couple of months and I was singing the praises of Circus Of Bones (here). Their single, ‘A Big No Body’, had really got under my skin and, for a few weeks, I was playing it to whoever would care to listen. It’s fair to say that the response it elicited was mixed with some sharing my enthusiasm but many finding little to love within the punky swagger of the tune. They are not my friends anymore.

Circus Of Bones has been in touch to tell me that a second song and video is now up for release. Simone comes sonically from a similar place to A Big No Body and for that reason I love it. In bursts of spoken word, we learn snippets about Simone. She works at the Weatherspoons on Holloway Road and has a layabout partner at home who can never quite get around to reading the collected works of TS Eliot. She takes the bull by the horns and runs off into the sunset alone.

The simple, lockdown-friendly video amplifies the sense of despair felt by our protagonist. Here we have a chap that’s going stir-crazy on his settee. In muffled and grainy image, we see him put his head in his hands wishing that a bit of Netflix and Chill could again be an option. 

At its heart, Simone is a blues song about a break-up. A partner languishes at home bemoaning the fact that he should have been a bit more dynamic and adventurous when he had the chance. Simone is the one that got away and now he only has the sofa and his PlayStation for company. It’s a song that we can all relate to. 

If you can’t, I suggest that you’re very lucky and very kind and perhaps just a bit too saintly to be reading Sonic Breakfast.

(I jest of course – all are welcome here). 

 

 

 

Grizzly Bird – The Drummer’s Trauma

I’ve always wished that I could play the drums. I had a lesson once when I was a young boy but, even then, I realised that getting my feet to do different things at different times to my arms was a step too far for somebody as naturally uncoordinated as I am. I guess it’s a skill that could have been channelled through intense practice but, by then, I’d picked up a guitar and was happier trying to learn an instrument where just two limbs (and fingers) are needed. (Insert Def Leppard comment if minded).

And drummers (for all of their skill in keeping any band on track along with a bass player) did seem to be at the butt-end of the jokes. Watch any interview with the Beatles and Ringo is the one who is laughed at by the others, the slight outsider who will be consigned to narrating Children’s TV series about toy trains in future years. Spinal Tap takes the narrative to the extreme with the spontaneous human combustion scenes and inability to hold onto a drummer.

Hans Gnendinger, the Berlin-based musician and main songwriter in the Grizzly Bird trio, is waxing lyrical about his approach to songwriting, an approach that in the case of ‘The Drummer’s Trauma’ keeps the light mocking well and truly alive. 

After writing Empathy and the birth of my son and I didn’t write a single song for two years. Not that I didn’t have any ideas, but they were always too big and too complicated. But when I showed my bandmates my very first recordings while on tour, I remembered how I wrote my first songs – little stories full of in-jokes inspired by my friends or things they said. So when drummer Florian Dietrich kept complaining at every rehearsal about his job working in the drum department of a well known Berlin music store, I realised I have a song right there.”

It’s an interesting, refreshing approach that leads to a quirky, interesting product. Slightly reminiscent in style and lyrical content to Jens Lekman, ‘The Drummer’s Trauma’ draws upon astute observation and humorous anecdote to pinpoint focus on some of life’s minutiae. And then, like a wayward stick of dynamite in a children’s cartoon, it blows the situation up just for fun. 

It’s a perfect Wednesday Sonic Breakfast track – and, even the drummers out there, might find something in the skewed rhythms to appeal?