Astral Pedlars – Where’s The Underground?

Often, it only takes a line. That was certainly the case with the press release from Astral Pedlars and their ‘Where’s The Underground?’ single. Astral Pedlars spend much time in that press release explaining that their songs are an ‘existential journey towards the portals of transcendence: Freedom, Unity, Creativity and Good Times.’. If I’m honest, It all goes a bit over my head when they talk of daemons, the subconscious and the opening of those portals. But then, just as I’m minded to give up, I spot the line:-

“We’re part of a group of DIY musicians in London who run a regular gig and disco night at the George Tavern under the name Infinite Pop Underground.”

I only ever got to the George Tavern once during my year-long tour of London’s gig venues. I vowed to go back but Covid-19 has scuppered those plans for now. It was a little over a year ago though that seems much longer given what has gone on since. 

That night was a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Kevin Hewick’s first gig with Factory Records. John Hollingsworth entertained all with his tales of life from within the music industry. And Kevin was on top form live; his voice soared like an angel as he seemingly channelled all of those decades of experience into one night only. It was a beguiling, cheeky and captivating watch; I know how great Kevin can be live (here’s an earlier review I wrote for eGigs – here) but this night was something else. I fully intended to write about it on Sonic Breakfast but chose instead to sit on a stool at the bar, to drink the beer on offer and to take it all in. 

I digress. I ask Roy, the lead singer from Astral Pedlars, how things are at The George Tavern. “It was one of the venues to get the gov support the first time round, which is good news for them.“, he says “I’m not sure the extent of it and if it is still helping them now. But I’m sure they will pull through.” 

I hope that’s the case. The imposing, old coaching inn out in Mile End, apparently mentioned in Chaucer and Dickens, offers a classic space for gig-going. London has many of these classic spaces and the optimist in me yearns that they might all be flourishing again by the end of 2021. The pessimist suspects this is a forlorn hope. 

I digress again. ‘Where’s The Underground?’ by Astral Pedlars is bloody good. It’s their first single and it’s catchy as hell. A bouncy flute hook tangles with a dance-laden synth as Roy sings over the top of it all. Astral Pedlars cite Talking Heads as an influence (alongside Kierkegaard, Tillich, Socrates, Nietzche, and Guy Debord) and you can certainly see that coming to the fore in this release. At its core, “Where’s the Underground? is a song of searching and longing.

As I leave the gig at the George Tavern, I become acutely aware that I have over-indulged; the beer has gone to my head. I find somebody milling around and ask them where the nearest underground is? It seems like a complicated trek so I hail a taxi instead. 

Dean Jackson and Kevin Hewick

Dean Jackson is a fine man. For years now, he’s been a man to influence if you’re an act from the East Midlands. Dean is the presenter of The Beat, a show that goes out across the BBC local radio network in Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. Between 8 and 10 every Saturday evening, Dean and his team feature the very best unsigned music in the region via BBC Introducing.

Kevin Hewick is a fine man. For years now, he has been an influential and yet largely unrecognised talent on the local Leicester music scene. Spend five minutes in Kevin’s company and he’ll entertain you with one of his many rock n’roll tales. Kevin was once signed to Factory records. He was very nearly the man to replace Ian Curtis as lead vocalist in Joy Division. I reviewed one of Kevin’s recent Leicester shows here

Tonight, at the BBC radio studios in Leicester, Dean Jackson briefed a gaggle of interested Leicester musicians on the processes behind BBC Introducing. In an informative session, Dean and his team told all those present how they could maximise their chances of getting airplay. If you’ve got a song with a short intro that lasts no more than four minutes and if you can convey emotion whilst singing in tune you could well be onto a winner. Clearly, there’s more to it than that and there are always exceptions. 

On Kevin Hewick’s latest album, the excellent ‘Heat Of Molten Diamonds’, there are tracks that are 13 minutes in length. Kevin was listening to Dean tonight. He asked some questions and made some comments when given the opportunity to do so. Kevin’s point (I think) was that some of the rules laid down by BBC Introducing (there are always exceptions) make it harder now than it ever was to get an audience for your recordings. This wasn’t the way it was for Can. Kevin then told all how Lauren Laverne told him to ‘bog off‘ on Twitter when he complained about her playing ‘that Daft Punk tune about Giorgio Moroder that’s 9 minutes in length.’

Despite some of these differences in opinion, you could tell that both men have a healthy respect for each other. I wish I’d written the phrase down but Kevin said something like, ‘You’re a good man within an evil empire‘ about Dean. And you got a sense that, if BBC rules allowed, Dean would love to play Kevin’s 13 minute opus on a Saturday evening. It’s certainly true that both are good for the East Midlands music scene.

Here’s a track from Kevin’s latest album. If you’ve not got a copy, it can be purchased from his website. It’s worth adding to your collection.

 

 

And here’s the excellent video of the same tune.