Being stubborn has its place. It feels good when in the midst of an argument to stick our feet firmly in the mud. We know that our position is the right one and we’re not going to budge. Not ever.
This is all well and good for a while but if your encounter is with somebody equally intransigent, it’s not long before the situation is one of impasse. And both parties are just left incredibly miserable by the fact that no progress is being made. Some will choose to never resolve; it’s not in their nature to give ground or to negotiate. But others will see that the original argument was a thing of nonsense and look for ways to reconcile.
That’s the position that Elliot Joe Whitehead finds himself in his catchy-as-hell debut single, ‘Let It Slide’. With a monosyllabic, baritone delivery style, Elliot draws upon all sorts of 80’s influence and DIY charm to issue his own apology. Think Phil Oakey experimenting in his lounge and you mightn’t be too far away from the overall effect. You hope that, by teatime, Elliot has done enough to turn the squelchy mud into a slide that the happy (again) couple can skate over. Top work.
Elliot , by his own admission an “essentially unknown artist from Greenwich, South-East London, with strong ties to Brighton“, is modestly surprised at the response received about ‘Let It Slide’ since releasing it on Valentine’s Day. “I never really expected it.“, he says when we exchange E-mails.
He’s now energised for the future months. “First thing out of lockdown is to make a video for my third single, then release the second and then start rehearsals for gigs and then release the third single with a video!“, he tells me. “I’ve got it all figured out! – I think…”
Just a few days ago, Elliot added a live performance of ‘Let It Slide’ to YouTube to sit alongside the lyric video. I provide both here because I think they offer a real insight into the DIY ethic of the man.
Sonic Breakfast likes the energy and looks forward to the future releases (unreservedly and without apology).
I make no apology for the longer length of today’s Sonic Breakfast post. It’s a weekend after all and we have more time to read and write, to convey and listen, to think and be.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen’s husband for donkeys years died on Friday aged 99. The media in the UK is awash with stories about how great the man was. I rather suspect that he wasn’t as flawless as he’s being presented. This isn’t a blog post about him though.
My Nan, born as Frances but known throughout her life as Sally, also passed away aged 99. She desperately clung to life in those latter years despite her short term memory failing her. She wanted to get her telegram from the Queen for reaching a century. Sadly, it didn’t happen. It’s my Nan who I’ve thought about most this weekend whilst the TV coverage provided an endless showreel of Philip’s ‘great’ works of charity. Her wonderful warm nature, enduring laughter and effervescent fizz was unforgettable to all who met her.
When my Nan died, letters that she proudly clung to were found in her bedside cabinet. They were love letters from my George, my Grandad. “Whatever did I see in George Fripp“, my Nan would mischievously joke in her latter years. We could all see beyond the joke though to know that their companionship was a thing of strength and beauty.
The love letters from George are an amazing read. A man of the countryside, a solid oak, he was not (I imagine) prone to floral language or the poetry of the romantics. And yet, in these letters that document a specific time in the lives of Sally and George, the ruddy emotion of his love flows strong.
My Nan has travelled to Vienna. It is the 1930’s and I assume the menace of Naziism must loom large – though no reference of the external political scene is made. Nan is on an extended vacation. She’s visiting an Austrian friend, an expert cake-maker, and is learning baking skills to bring back home to the kitchen in which she works. My Grandad works in the stables on the same estate.
The scrawl fades but the words are still visible. Grandad must have been pressing hard, tightly grasping the pencil as he carves out his craft. It becomes clear that George has proposed to Sally just before she left for Austria but my Nan, perhaps shocked by his demonstration of affection, has delayed with her answer. “I’ll give you my answer on my return from Vienna,”, she says.
But as the story develops and the letters grow in number, it’s clear that Sally is having a change of heart. Perhaps absence has made the heart grow fonder but in one landmark letter from my Grandad, it becomes evident that the proposal has been accepted. “You make me the happiest man in all of England“, says George before suggesting that he should obtain the permission of parents whilst Sally is away. The language is agricultural and elemental but starkly beautiful. I read the letters to cheer myself up if ever I’m feeling down.
Vienna holds quite a place in my heart. It’s delicious to know that it was from the city, surrounded by sugary whirls and chocolate swirls, that part of my family history is secured. I’ve been there a couple of times but would like to spend longer exploring in the future. The last time I visited was as part of the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s fair to say that my memories of that weekend are blurred by drunken excess and all-night parties.
Michael Schmücking is one half of Another Vision. Until recently, he lived and loved in Vienna until moving back to his hometown, Innsbruck. He remembers the Eurovision in Vienna well. “That was a special summer in Vienna I’d say,“, says Michael. “I was never that interested in EVSC but we spent the night at Cafe Savoy at Naschmarkt to watch the Vienna edition, wich was a total blast!”
Another Vision have recently released a single, Heartbeat. It’s atmospheric, grainy pop; the analog synths offering more than a nod to an Eighties influence. Restrained at the start but one that you know will erupt into a storm of emotion, the impending sense of loss is never far away. “You fade away, I let go. Memories, I want to hold on“, sing Another Vision in the chorus – simply and effectively summing up the longing at the heart of Heartbeat.
“I moved from Vienna back to our hometown Innsbruck in Tyrol, which is also part of the whole story around our upcoming songs as well as in Heartbeat.“, says Michael about the tune. “Moving is a strange thing these times I’d say.”
Here at Sonic Breakfast, I’d tend to agree. Heartbeat is equal parts romantic and sad, optimistic and reflective. It seems highly appropriate for a weekend such as this.
This might come as a surprise to some but I take my ‘art’ seriously. Publishing a blogpost every day could be perceived as a tendency towards quantity over quality though I still have standards to maintain. If I’m not happy with the content of an article, I will start again. I can’t say that I’m ever up all night poring over my words to get the tone just right but there’s more teeth grinding and general grunt-work going into these short daily outbursts than the average Joe might think.
I’m sure that Emma and Gerry, the emerging South African duo of EMERGER, would understand. Indeed, their wonderful latest offering ‘Round We Go’ is all about that creative process we go through to come up with our end-produce. “We wrote this song for all the creators out there.“, says Gerry. “The song chronicles the creative process and all of its intricacies. Everything involved with the creation of a work of art has so many layers of complexities, which we feel a lot of people have taken for granted.”
Admittedly, when the song is as fine as ‘Round We Go’, it’s quite a challenge to take it for granted. Synth-based and drawing influence from the 80’s, Emma’s vocal comes to the fore from the off before a big, bold chorus gets into your head. A word of warning – it’ll be one that goes round and round in your head after a listen or two. The lyrics of the opening verses especially , taut and neat, deftly describe those initial creative flurries as if it’s the first throes of a romantic relationship.
“Starts off with one idea, Tame at first, But then it evolves to, One million thoughts for every hour, Spinning ‘round no turning back from here. So much there is to say, The smokescreen fades, And colours come into play, I’m lost in conversation, With my word constellations.”
I take the opportunity to ask Emma and Gerry how things have been in South Africa seeing as we hear lots about the potential Covid variants in our news broadcasts. “Yeah, things are going okay-ish over here.“, they say. “Happy that we have more time to create during the pandemic, but yeah the loss of income due to no gigs/touring have been a massive blow. The South African variant is definitely a real thing. The first batch of vaccines our government ordered proved to be ineffective against the mutated strain. So it was a huge fail and put a massive delay on the vaccination process. Things have started returning more and more to normal. There are isolated instances of gigs that are starting to take place again. But there’s some serious predictions of a third wave that’s still to come, because our government can’t vaccinate enough people soon enough.”
That does sound serious. Clearly, world leaders need to bash their heads together and ensure that vaccination rates are more equitable across the globe. The triumphant xenophobia evident in the Daily Express (‘our vaccine deployment is better than yours’) is no way to fight a global pandemic. But that’s probably a blog post for another day.
For now, let’s all allow our creative juices to flow with the sweet sounds of EMERGER.
“All this luminous colour… seems… that it enters the eye like a glass of wine running into your gullet and it makes you drunk straight away“. – Cezanne about Tangier
When I lived in Spain, we sometimes talked about nipping down to Malaga or Gibraltar and then heading out to Africa. A six hour ferry ride to Tangier makes it more than possible to travel with a backpack and to arrive on another continent by daylight. Having barely left Europe in my life, the excitement gained from even thinking about such adventure was palpable.
You mention Tangier to some and they might think of the danger; the scooters that can zip past the unsuspecting tourist and steal their unprotected possessions. And I’m not saying that such crime (and worse) doesn’t exist. But, I’m drawn to the city with its rich cultural history. This is the city in which William Burroughs wrote and imagined ‘The Naked Lunch’. Surely, the hippie influence from years gone by, the influence of the visits from Brian Jones and the other Rolling Stones, can’t have been completely stamped out with the recent regeneration of the beachfront and the creation of new, modern bars and clubs?
It’s not clear if Skymachine have ever been to Tangier either. The band from New Zealand are suitably influenced by its reputation though to release a single in honour of the place. For Skymachine, Tangier is simply representative of a feeling. “I have always loved the idea of just packing a suitcase and jumping on a plane with a one-way ticket.“, says Brydon, the head honcho from the outfit. “If you met someone you wanted to spend the rest of your life with, could you leave everything behind to be with them? Tangier is that feeling.”
Music-wise, this is a track that will make lovers of 80’s pop romanticism squeal with delight. It’s got the glamour, the shiny suits and the synth beats in abundance. There’s an overwhelming sense of longing within this pop nostalgia; radiating in romance, we’re all encouraged to experience our own Tangier moment as we throw caution to the wind and escape to a new continent.