Katie Kittermaster – The Problem & Lukewarm Lover

Katie Kittermaster first came onto my radar just over a year ago. Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that, from time to time, I dip into Fresh On The Net’s Listening Post. Every weekend, punters get to listen to a longlist of 25 songs chosen by a bunch of moderators from which to pick your top five – this week’s iteration can be found here. Back in February 2020, I was taking a week-long break in Spain (pre-Covid feels so long ago) and recall a relaxed Saturday morning blasting music out loud when one of Katie’s tracks came on. More poppy than I might have typically chosen, Katie had something that made my ears prick up. Her tune felt solidly honest with lyrics from the heart; similarly, I immediately trusted her casual, conversational delivery. And I liked the alliteration of her name.

Katie sent me a short E-mail after I picked her tune as one of my top five. Very few acts follow up in such a way and it endeared her to me even more. For my part, rude as ever, I failed to respond and carried on reading about Caroline Flack (who was tragically in the news that weekend).

So, it’s lovely now to reinvigorate my acquaintance with Katie. She’s been super-productive over the past year releasing a series of great singles. I’ll highlight two here, The Problem and Lukewarm Lover, but if you’ve got time this weekend (and who hasn’t when we’re in lockdown?) I’d recommend digging further still. 

The Problem is a quirky, upbeat number. It’s Katie’s acknowledgement that hiding behind her chatty, bubbly exterior, there’s a worrier waiting to get out. Lukewarm Lover is about a relationship on its last legs with both parties not sure how to bring things to an end. The themes in both are universal, the honesty is diligently conveyed. 

I check in with Katie and ask how she’s getting on this year.  “I decided not to go to University and have been working on new music this year.“, she says. “Initially Zoom sessions were quite strange as working with somebody you haven’t physically met was daunting….especially as all of my songs are quite personal! But I’m writing with a lot of people now and collaborating has been really positive. In all honesty, I’ve been busier than ever – I think this has helped me to keep focused and hopeful.

Katie reveals a reason for wild celebration later this year. “My Dad hasn’t been able to return from China since February last year – he is finally coming home in June. So, not long after lockdown we will be together as a family again. This will be emotional!!!!!!

It’s testament to Katie’s positive spirit that she’s been so productive in what must have been an emotional maelstrom of a year. I like the honest endurance of her catchy pop. She’ll keep releasing singles and EPs this year. And I’ll continue to listen. 

But for now – back to my shortlisting on the Listening Post. 

 

The Ramisco Maki Maki Rocking Horse – Holy Barnacles

I was delighted to receive an E-mail from The Ramisco Maki Maki Rocking Horse a week or so before Christmas. 

The E-mail began:- 

‘Holler Sean, how be yo’self? 

These here hooves were just over at the Fresh on the Net Listening Post and I noticed you thew my hooves a vote for that there Holy Barnacles ditty o’ mine, mighty kind of you captain, these here hooves sure appreciate the support. Anyways, I thought I might yodel forth and make acquaintance, throw you a copy of the EP and such. ‘

This was no ordinary press release and I immediately warmed to Ramisco, the horse.

It was true that earlier that weekend I’d been enjoying the Fresh On The Net listening post. One of the stand out tracks had been Holy Barnacles, a short and sweet, banjo-fuelled, cowboy country stomp. I was hooked before the drinking/thinking couplet but that cemented my admiration.

I confess I was a tad surprised to discover that the man behind The Ramsico Maki Maki Rocking Horse was not some nutty, grizzled American from Austin, Texas but a Scottish Highlander, Ray McCartney, with his own label, Planet Groucho records. It was on this label that the EP, Possessed by the Gods of Cowbell Oblongata, was released back in November. It’s a fabulously inventive record, deliciously offbeat with quirky twists and casio-punk turns. 

It’s exactly the sort of release that I first set up Sonic Breakfast for. I’m sure regular readers will approve.

 

 

The Sonic Breakfast Top Ten 2015 – Five To One

As 2015 draws to a close, I’m reminded that I’ve kept regular readers of Sonic Breakfast hanging. It’s been over a week since I let people know what was ten through to six in my posts of the year that I was keen to revisit. I’m still to do my top 5. 

Hoping that turkey was loved and Santa bought you everything you wanted… Without further ado… 

 

5.OBS Unplugged – Steve Parker

Steve is still a legend in Leicester. Unlike others in this top ten, he’s released nothing since I did my blog post about him in January and appeared in no videos promoting new tracks. I expect the same level of minimal marketing intent to carry him into 2016 as well. He’s played gigs around this fine city, just his unassuming, slightly world-weary, warm voice and guitar picking. Everybody who knows him knows how great he is. Sometimes, people who have never seen Steve live before catch him playing a tune or two at pubs and festivals around town. They might even try to buy his latest CD. He rarely has anything to sell. A true gent. Younger musicians could learn much from this man.

I wrote about Steve on the back of a set I saw him play as part of the OBS unplugged showcases at Leicester’s Musician. We’re not far from another series of these fine January gigs – a fab way to begin the year and these nights never fail to unearth some pretty special talents.

 

4.Rope Store – Get Me Out

The weekly listening post over at Fresh On The Net often reveals new acts that I can’t help but fall in love with. When Norwich’s Rope Store apparently came out of nowhere with their fine track ‘Get Me Out’ back at the start of the year, it was clear that 2015 was going to be an interesting one for Gemma and Jason. That certainly seems to have been the case. 

Gigs in London and growing popularity in Norfolk see them end 2015 with BBC Introducing videos and a Christmas single release which again was featured on the Listening Post. ‘What’s Life All About’ is a belter of a track. I’d recommend watching Rope Store closely in 2016.

 

 

3.Peaness – Fortune Favours The Bold

 I’m not bragging about this in the slightest but I think that Sonic Breakfast was the first blog to feature Peaness. I sent this ace track across to a well connected friend in North Wales and since that point, Peaness have been taking the indie-pop scene in Wales by storm. 

 Sold out shows at Cardiff’s SWN festival and a review from Huw Stephens suggesting that Peaness were one of his highlights bode exceptionally well for 2016. With a knack for writing seemingly simple songs that surge under your skin, Peaness’s size will surely grow.

 

 

2. OBS Unplugged – Lucy Davies-Kumadiro

 Lucy’s one of the most captivating artists I have ever seen play at an OBS unplugged night. She played her first ever show at one of these nights. Her performance at Leicester’s Musician back in January was simply sublime. 

 She’s now studying at University in Nashville and, by all accounts, wowing her fellow students and those slightly wider afield with her gentle, sweet soul. I dare say it’s been a term of settling into American life. As Lucy gets more familiar with her surroundings, Tennessee will be wanting to claim her as one of their own. 

 It all makes me most excited about OBS unplugged 2016 and what talent will be on offer to see.

 

1. Workers In Songs – Sorry Marie

 There was never any doubt in my mind what would be the Sonic Breakfast number one post for 2015. We need to go right  back to the first day of the year and the very first video premiere that we ever had. The wonderfully deranged alt-country act from Roskilde, Workers In Songs gave me the opportunity to launch their video for ‘Sorry Marie’. I still love watching it and hearing that anguished vocal.

 

Over 2015, Workers In Songs have released a new EP, Scrapbook. It’s another impressive stunner. Here’s a one-take video with a song from that EP, Big Ol’ River. 

Thanks for the support for Sonic Breakfast across 2015. I’ve been lucky enough to hear some great music and to go along to some fine gigs and festivals. Looking forward to sharing more of my life in music with you next year. 

 Sean

 

 

 

 

Van Wyck – An interview

I have a weekend ritual. It might be on a Saturday or it might be on a Sunday morning but I’ll always find time, when lounging in bed, to listen to the listening post on the brilliant Fresh On The Net website.. It’s a rich source of fine new music. A few weeks ago now, I was blown away when listening to ‘Tanned Legs’ by Van Wyck. I savoured the air of minimalist mystery. I liked the gentle approach. 

Intrigued, I tried to find out more but there was little circulating about this stunning new voice. I satisfied my curiosity by sending some questions by e-mail.

 Van Wyck will be a new act to many readers of Sonic Breakfast. How would you describe yourself to them?

 I’d describe this EP as dark and intimate. I’ve tried to get real close to the listener, to draw them gently into these songs where I hope they find wonder, solace and maybe some form of fragile beauty. And I guess my lyrics are very descriptive. In the last weeks I’ve been compared to Damien Rice, Leonard Cohen and Marlene Dietrich, which makes for a weird and wonderful cocktail. (a jewish irishman with long legs)

 What makes you happy? And conversely what makes you sad?

 happy: the unexpected

sad: too much of the same

 You’re based in Amsterdam. Does living there influence your sound in any way? What’s the best and worst things about living in Amsterdam? Is there a scene of similar folk based musicians or are you having to blaze your own trail? 

 Right now I’m pretty much blazing my own trail, but that’s not Amsterdam’s fault. I’ve been in many different bands, both as a musician and as a vocalist and have decided a year ago to focus on my own songwriting and performance and try to find my own space in between al these genres and scenes that have influenced me. Van Wyck is my first solo endeavor and I wanted to sing myself loose so to speak, from any particular genre. Of course folk music has had a deep influence on me, but so has Harry Belafonte, Prince and Marvin Gaye.

Amsterdam and The Netherlands have no strong own tradition in music (could you name any Dutch bands?) It’s a small country and has focused mainly on copying english and american genre’s. There is no typical Dutch brand of folk, or similar female songwriters like you find now in the Scandinavian countries. but there are a lot of wonderful musicians and songwriters working at the moment. Because of this lack of tradition and history there is also a lot of freedom to create something new. And the worst thing about Amsterdam? Definitely the Bierfiets!

 Sonic Breakfast first heard about you as a result of hearing a track of yours, Tanned Legs, that was submitted to the weekly listening post on Tom Robinson’s Fresh On The Net. How encouraged were you by the response you got from that? Do you often observe scenes in municipal swimming pools?

 The response were heartwarming, it was so wonderful to read how people find words to describe my music. They often find better words that I could and point out things that were hidden beneath the surface for me. And to be reviewed in french is always a treat. So yes, it’s been incredibly encouraging and has given me the feeling that i’m on the right path.

And yes! Swimming pools are always a source of inspiration, I think it’s the floating, or the warm water, or all those vulnerable bodies in ill-fitting suits, somehow makes it easier to reach this subconscious realm where I think my songs stem from.

 Who would play you in the biopic about about Van Wyck? 

 I don’t think I’ll merit a biopic anytime soon, but I would love my music to be featured in a film. People often say they find my music cinematic in that the lyrics conjure up so many images and I love listening to music in cinema’s. Deep in those red velvet seats in the dark with big speakers all around. So I would love to write the score for a movie, probably something french and moody and otherwise a classic film noir with Lauren Bacall and Robert Mitchum

 And finally, what do you wish for most over the next six months? What excites you most about future appointments in your diary? What will success look like over the next six months?

 This is an excellent question because I am so looking forward to the coming months. I’ve started rehearsing with some wonderful musicians and this Monday will start recording  new material. After working on my own for quite some time, this is a big change for me. I’m very much enjoying singing harmonies at the moment. So I hope to release a new EP in the coming months – that would be success number one. Number two would be playing live with my new band. And the ultimate success would of course be to create the album I have glimpses of in my mind – in my perfect world it would be produced by Ethan Johns. I am a great admirer of his work and love his ability to sound both so close and intimate yet sweepingly overwhelming at the same time.

 

 Vulnerable bodies in ill-fitting suits, classic film noir, Marvin Gaye and Ethan Johns. It’s fair to say that Christine Van Wyck has inspired this man. Take a listen and see what glistens. I sense you’ll be as charmed as I was. 

 

 

 

Rope Store – Get Me Out

I’m probably not the only one that likes a bit of a lie-in on a Saturday morning. But, I’m not exceptionally great at sleeping for long spells and so I often use that time in bed to listen to the weekly ‘listening post’ on Fresh On The Net.

Fresh On The Net is a fabulous blog, developed by Tom Robinson. There’s a team of people involved within it who all demand the utmost respect for the way that they support and encourage new music to prosper.

The weekly ‘listening post’ runs from Friday to Sunday afternoon (though you can always listen to old editions). The very best tracks that ‘Fresh On The Net’ has received in that week are published for all of our listening pleasures in a ‘Soundcloud’ playlist. The challenge (should you choose to accept) is to pick your five favourites out of these 20+ songs. It is always a challenge to pick just five because the standard is ridiculously high.

Last weekend, one of the stand-out tracks from the list was by a band called Rope Store. After picking them as one of my five, I was delighted to get an E-mail from Jason, a member of the band. He told me, “we’ll soon have the live band up and running. It’s mainly me and Gemma on the recordings, but the live band is a 7 piece, with a brass section.”

According to the Band Camp link that Jason sent, Rope Store are from Norwich. They make 1960s inspired songs in a disused nuclear bunker, recording straight onto 8 track with one ribbon mic. The four songs that are on Bandcamp at the moment are all gems; I love the speed with which Jason and Gemma write and record. The song I first heard of theirs was ‘Get Me Out’, recorded on New Years Day evening and released on January 2nd. Rope Store’s music is so perfect to me because of the rough and ready imperfection. The songs here are so immediate that they don’t need polishing towards blandness.

Somewhat oddly, barely 24 hours before ‘Get Me Out’ was recorded, I was also in Norwich, deep in a grumpy malaise and uttering similar words. But, I was asking to leave the New Years Eve party at the Waterfront after spending a few hours hearing the standard indie fodder that probably gives new music a bad name.

And that brings me back to Fresh On The Net. This isn’t about the promotion of standard indie fodder and that’s what I love about their site. I’m off to listen to this weeks listening post and to revel in the delights of some new discoveries. See you there.