Ryan David Orr – Margaret

Monday morning… It’s all come around far too quickly… Weekends are but a flash in the pan…

Let’s all ease ourselves into the week with this laid-back, gentle folk number from Ryan David Orr. He’s an experienced songwriter on the North American folk scene and in this tune, ‘Margaret’, Orr brings his soothing voice to the fore. I’m reading it as a song about lost opportunities, mistakes that have been made and dreams yet to be realised. There’s something hauntingly positive within as well though and it’s this that makes for a good Monday morning listen.

I asked Ryan (a qualified massage therapist) to tell me an entertaining story about the touring and travelling life he sometimes leads when he’s not living in the home he’s built for himself in the mountains of Arizona.

This past May I had the great pleasure of playing at the Bitter End, legendary music venue in New York City. I was extremely excited and a bit nervous, and parked a couple blocks from the venue after scouring the city for a parking spot. I was right on time to the venue, played my show, checked out the band that played after me, had a great time and then went to pack my gear in the car.

Well, apparently I had parked in a “no parking” zone, and found an empty street where my car had been. I ran my license plate through the NYC database and discovered the car had been towed and was being held by NYPD at one of the pier warehouses. Being from Arizona, I was not happy about the prospect of not having my car until they opened again the following Monday, so I scrambled to get to the pier before they closed. However, all of the taxis that passed me were off duty and I couldn’t get a ride, so I opted to rent a bicycle and ride like hell to make it there in time.

So at about midnight, there I was, out-of-state musician, post performance, buzzed from a few microbrews at the venue, peddling frantically up New York City’s west side to beat the clock. I finally arrived and they informed me that my registration had expired two days earlier and I couldn’t have the car until I was valid. My phone charger was in the car, so with about 2% charge left on my phone, I fumbled to quickly hit up the AZ motor vehicle website and pay my registration. My payment went through literally 30 seconds before my phone died.

So they finally gave me my car, but now I was stuck with this freakin’ bicycle that I had to return to some rental site. So I shoved it in the back, managed to barely close the door, and went searching for the bike drop-off. Got the bike back, went back to the venue, got all my equipment, then finally drove to my friends’ house in Brooklyn for the night, several hours, hundreds of dollars, and a pretty solid bike ride later.

Next time I’m taking a train.

Here’s hoping that your Monday mornings are a bit better than the aftermath of Ryan’s gig at the Bitter End. If you like what you hear within this video then do head across to his website here to listen to more of his music and to find out more.

 

Wampire – Bazaar

My day job is taking me to London quite a bit over the next couple of months. I plan to make the most of this by getting along to some gigs of bands who aren’t touching the East Midlands when they tour.

One such band is Wampire. Eric Phipps and Rocky Tinder (what a fabulous name) met at school. They settled upon the name, Wampire, after hearing German goths mispronounciating Vampire.

I wondered with interest about their 2013 album, Curiosity, but they’ve truly raised the bar higher with their new release, Bazaar. Some reviewers call them psych-pop and there’s definitely elements of that yet I think this album takes them further into some of the punkier, rockier, soul stuff only hinted at before.

Indeed, this is an album that draws upon many influences and then fuzzes them together into a Wampire sound. A bazaar is a street of shops where goods and services are exchanged or sold and Wampire’s album, Bazaar, definitely meets that definition, offering up a range of styles to keep the listener curious.

They’ve just released a video to one of those Bazaar tunes that touches on soul. The muted sax that runs throughout Wizard Staff comes to the fore in this bizarre yet completely creative video. It’s worth watching if you’ve got any interest at all in wizards, private detectives, tandem bikes or roller skating.

I’ll be listening to Bazaar a whole lot more before I head off to their show at Oslo Hackney on November 24th.

 

Heyrocco – The Cookie Leicester – 6th October

“This song’s about premature ejaculation”, drawls Heyrocco’s lead singer, Nate Merli, as this much vaunted trio from South Carolina launch into their opening song, Melt (previewed here). It’s not packed at the Cookie in Leicester but it’s fair to say that those in attendance have had their attentions fondled.

Such blunt introductions to their songs continue to characterise this gig as we get to know the interests and attitude of these Nirvana influenced pop-punk kids who balance self-deprecation with an assured swagger. “This song’s about being a loser”, states Nate but we don’t believe he really believes that. Two swooning Japanese fan girls mouth along to the words and you sense that Nate will soon become a winner.

He’s certainly quite a captivating frontman. Shambolically dressed in odd converse boots (does wearing one black one and one white one make them inverse boots?), Nate jumps and flails around the stage. He’s playing at being a tortured soul, a bit too charming and polite to ever completely descend into madness but when he stands up straight and rolls his eyes into the back of his head, you wonder if he’s about to fit. The stage at the Cookie is only raised a few inches higher than the audience but at one point, Merli brings his microphone stand and guitar amongst us to really break down any sense of them and us.

Bass player Christopher Cool, acts as his name suggests and stays calm throughout concentrating on creating a tight rhythm section with Taco Cooper on drums. There are times when these two freak out but those are few and far between. The final song of this 40 minute set arrives which signals the right time for Taco to leap from his bass drum, rugby tackling Nate to the ground. It’s a play fight, a high school rumble but perfectly in keeping with the laddish euphoria these mates are trying to create. It’s also a pretty fine climax for a gig that started with a song about premature ejaculation.

You have to give special credit to the excellent promoter for this gig and many others that happen in Leicester. Ian Magic Teapot has been putting on gigs for years and I’m sure he must lose a small fortune when potential punters decide to stay in their warm houses instead of venturing out into cold Autumn nights. The shame of it all is that tonight at the Cookie for a mere fiver, people would have seen a band that are still learning their live craft but are already displaying the signs that any return visit to these parts will demand larger venues and more of a ticket scramble.

 

Dory Previn

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dory Previn recently. She’s an artist that I really wish I’d not overlooked for so long. Lyrical intelligence, vocals somewhere between Karen Carpenter’s and Amanda Palmer’s and musical arrangements from heaven, this is stunning stuff.

Dory Previn died in 2012 at the age of 86. She stopped releasing albums in the mid 1970’s but there’s an incredible canon of work against her name that I’m only just discovering.

What a life she had. There’s a candid honesty within her songwriting that’s tender, sad, occasionally uncomfortable but often darkly humourous. These are stories about her own life; her Catholic upbringing, her time spent in mental institutions and her complicated relationship history. She’s lived these songs.

Many of her songs linger on her strained, complicated relationship with her father. A war veteran, he apparently never resolved some mental battles after being gassed. When young, her father boarded his family up into the house they lived in and held them captive by gunpoint for months. Dory often reflects on how she could never gain his approval or love. I’m not sure she says it any stronger than on ‘I dance and dance and smile and smile’ from her 1971 album, ‘Reflections In A Mud Puddle’.

She’s got songs about casual flings and one night stands; awkward, compromising situations that focus on inadequate human relationships. ‘Coldwater Canyon’ and ‘The Lady With The Braid’ are good, starting points if you’re drawn to such songs. Her marriage to Andre Previn broke down and ended in divorce after he had an affair with the 23 year old Mia Farrow. And, true to form, she writes candidly about the experience in ‘Beware Of Young Girls.’

I spent a couple of fine hours in bed last weekend listening to a fine radio interview that Bernadette Cahill conducted with Dory Previn in 2005. Interspersed with fragments of Previn’s songs, this is a relaxed and gentle, thought-provoking, sometimes laugh-out-loud exploration into an incredible talent.

I’ve joined the fan club.

 

 

Cross Wires – Your History Defaced

“When you’ve got Crosswires, Everything is Buzz Buzz,Everything is Beep Beep”

It is surely no accident that Cross Wires, a four piece from East London, share their name with a track from XTC’s first album. There’s a moment in ‘Modern Art’, the opening track from ‘Your History Defaced’, the dark and desirable new EP from Cross Wires, when you wonder if Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have got back together for one final studio blast. The meandering verse gives way to a skewed chorus that’s almost singalong if new wave post punk is your thing and you really hate the concept of singalongs.

 

Yep – Cross Wires have no crossed wires when it comes to understanding their place in the history of popular music. There’s a raw, deliberately under-produced excitement that permeates throughout this five track EP. “The past is always repeating, I can’t run away“, sings Jonathan Chapman within ‘Tab Clear’. This is an EP with a knowing nod towards early Jam, a dash of mod and a double serving of punk.

I asked Jonathan why Cross Wires had settled upon ‘Your History Defaced’ as a title for this EP:-

“All the songs on the EP are kind of twisted versions of things that have happened to me. The idea behind it was we are all carrying around this baggage with us and we all have our own reality. Two people can have two different versions of the same event. It comes from that idea really.”

That sense of unresolved baggage from the past looms large; ‘Last Stand’ tells the mournful tale of a woman who’s getting older and no longer ‘rules the town’ as she once did. Elsewhere, we have persistent ghosts living in houses, misunderstandings and future days filled with dread. This is music that can hardly be described as happy; it comes from too claustrophobic a place for that. Sonic Breakfast highly recommends that you give it a listen over at Bandcamp.

 

 

Donna HineZ – Ice Cream


“I do enjoy reading your daily Sonic Breakfast posts”, said a friend at the weekend. “But it could do with being a bit more urban, a bit more soul, a bit more pop“, they declared, firmly nailing their musical appreciation to the mast.

“I’ll feature any new, quirky music if I like it,” I replied. “This isn’t about preferring one genre over another. It’s a Jack of all trades and a master of none. This is about finding the stories behind the songs. This is about discovery.”

Today, I received an E-mail about Donna HineZ. With the weekend’s accusation still ringing in my ears and a general acceptance that I’d never really understand why the ‘Z’ has to replace an ‘s’, I had a look and a listen.

Donna HineZ is a Londoner. Displaying a talent for all things stage as a youngster, she got a place at Brit School. Sharing a class with Jessie J, she forged an initial career in musical theatre working alongside an array of talent that included David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler and Louie Spence!!

The video to ‘Ice cream’ was released months ago but I’m told that the single gets a full release at the end of November. On the surface, winter is an odd time to be releasing a song about a food that’s made for sunny, summer days on the beach. But, perhaps this is the point; when it’s cold and rainy, we need some form of escape and what better way than to think of the vanilla stuff.

Anyway, some might argue that to take this song too literally is missing the point. It’s not really about ‘Ice cream’ is it? In many ways, this is an uneasy bedfellow, a companion piece, to the Heyrocco song, Melt, that I featured on Monday. It’s a tune of cone-licking proportion that Prince would be proud of. It might be throwaway pop but it’s also damn raunchy and just a little bit provocative. It’s featured because I like it.

 

Police Dog Hogan – Thunderheads

I have a friend who knows everything that there is to know about clouds. He could tell you whether something was a nimbus, a curious or a bilious (I’ve made these up) and let you know what sort of weather we might be due as a result.

When I first heard “Thunderheads” by Police Dog Hogan, such is my ignorance that I had no idea that a thunderhead referred to a cloud formation. But, a little search of the good old internet, told me that a thunderhead is one of those clouds, a Cumulonimbus, associated with thunderstorms and atmospheric instability.

This is a song about resilience. It’s a statement about strength in the face of adversity. “You do not frighten me”, sings lead singer, James Studholme, as the song builds to climax and refrain. Whatever thunderstorm or instability might be on the horizon is of little consequence because resolve has already been built from years of the same.

There’s eight of them in Police Dog Hogan. They create a feast of folk well suited to festivals. Some have called it ‘urban bluegrass’ but I’m not sure that offers the full picture. This is Americana with a very English twist. With guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles and trumpets, there’s no doubting their musical expertise. They’ve an average age greater than 40, so have had a few years to perfect such talent.

I’ve been listening to a preview of Police Dog Hogan’s third album ‘Westward Ho!’ (Released October 6th) for some time now. As a young boy, growing up in Dorset, there are tunes on it that immediately resonate. ‘West Country Boy’ offers a very English insight into what it’s like as a musician to tour the village halls and cider pubs in that neck of the world. Any song that manages to name-check Melksham and Mere within a country-folk framework is fine by me.

This video for ‘Thunderheads’ has some truly gorgeous locations in it. As the summer passes and we face the onset of Autumn, it’s worth thinking how all of us are going to give a good, old two-fingered salute to those clouds on the horizon. This is as good a place as any to start.