Near Death Experience – Everything

Near Death Experience, the four-piece psychedelic rock ‘n’ soul band from London, have been busy over the last year. And that’s despite the frustrations that have come with lockdowns and the closure of venues where they were developing their fan base. I know this because Ian Whiteling, NDX’s growling crooner of a lead singer, tells me so by E-mail in advance of publishing this piece. 


We’re keen to start off by re-igniting our Ealing Live sessions, where we host weekend evenings in local Ealing pubs featuring us plus new and original artists,“, says Ian. “This was going well before the pandemic struck. Pub goers loved it as an alternative to the usual covers bands and the bands that played were paid properly.

I make a mental note to head out to Ealing one weekend in the future. NDX would appear to be doing things properly over in West London. I’m struck by how much I miss random live music nights in pubs and bars such as this. Thank goodness light does appear to be at the end of a long tunnel.

We’ve started creating beautiful things for our fans,“, adds Ian. “From personalised made to order CDs to art prints from our band visuals by Pedro Takahashi, as well as launching a range of T-shirts, one by one over the next few weeks.

Yep, can’t fault the endeavour of a band who take advantage of the time we’ve all currently got to develop their merchandise lines. 

But most importantly, NDX have also been productive in their recorded output. “We’ve worked hard, getting together when we can and I think our run of singles from Conquer in late May to Everything this year have been some of our best work.

It’s that single, Everything, that I choose to feature on Sonic Breakfast this morning. It’s a sparky, soulful number that chugs along with a funk-fuelled rhythm. The psychedelic tones add a vintage feel though this never descends fully into derivation for things that have gone before. Ian’s vocal, reassuringly immediate, encourages us all to think big, to open our minds and to all reach out to the ‘places’ we’ve never been before. It all adds up to a pretty neat whole. 

Best not take my word for it though. Have a listen yourself. Thursday’s have just got more cosmic, yeah. 

Elena – Build A Ship

We called it the walk of shame. But I don’t think we were really that ashamed when taking the walk. Meandering home wearing your dishevelled gladrags and yesterday’s underwear, your hair astray and your face ruddied, it was a clear giveaway to all and sundry that you had been up to ‘no good’ last night and this morning.

Who was it last night?”, asks your chirpy housemate, up at the crack of dawn and making themselves a healthy fruit smoothie before heading off to work for an early shift. You mumble something incoherent, masking the fact that you can’t entirely recall their name. You make your excuses and move back to your room to slump onto the bed. Your head tells you that your promiscuity is nothing to be proud of as you begin to descend into a prolonged bout of self-loathing. The beautiful aftermath of a one night stand.


Elena’s glorious single, ‘Build A Ship’, captures those post one night stand feelings perfectly. And yet, there’s a lovely twist in the tale as she’s able to spin a positive out of the self-loathing. Back in her bedroom after a night spent with him, Elena finds an old toy ship that she must have had since childhood. And she uses the ship to create her own happy narratives. 

The single itself is a delightful dose of folk-fuelled pop, engaging, melodic and a fine vehicle in which Elena’s warm vocal can shine. It’s quirky enough to avoid any accusation of blandness but familiar enough for you to fall in love with on first listen. 

Elena, born and home-schooled on a cattle farm in Canada, lives in London now but has evidently been on quite a journey to get here. She’s got a busy year ahead “finalizing and releasing all the music created last year, so preparing for lots of projects!“.

Me – I have a busy morning ahead as I get my Lego from the loft.

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. 

The Lunar Keys – If It Was

I don’t want to get all revolutionary on a Saturday morning. And I certainly don’t want to get myself confused with the small movement of anti-vaccine and anti-mask wearers who sometimes have been gathering together to march in the name of their cause. But it was always a surprise to me that almost a decade of austerity (as a Government policy) didn’t lead to more protest on the streets than it did. I realise that there were gatherings of smaller scale but in impact terms, they were nothing like those marches in London back in the day to protest against the validity of the Gulf War.

In the last years, popular protest seemed to take a step forward. Extinction Rebellion really seemed able to tap into the growing desire for environmental change with their deliberately disrupting activities. And the response to the horrific murder of George Floyd was encouraging. People across the UK making a stand alongside their US friends to say that Black Lives really do matter – and in doing so highlighting some of the hypocritical practices and statements we still have operating in the UK. In the midst of the first lockdown, things got quite heated for a while.

I live in hope that, once this Covid thing is all done, the use of protest to get voices heard (preferably the ones I agree with of course) is something that becomes more the norm than the exception. And I suspect that the four members of The Lunar Keys, ‘anxious types from the suburbs of London, with too many tunes and nervous energy trapped in their Psyches not to be in this band‘, would all broadly agree with me.

Their recent release, If It Was, is a song about protest and possibilities. Hidden within a neat, well delivered Indie-Rock tune, we get a call-to-arms simple chorus asking the listener the question “If It was just a choice you could make, Would you change the world today, Would you sign it with your name?

I ask The Lunar Keys what one thing they would change about the world today. “We would make all world Governments and Corporations accountable to Amnesty International, the WHO and the UN“, they say before adding, “and if we were allowed one more (hypothetically) a ban on any entity of Super Rich… the Risk of Human Rights and the Planet.

Worthy causes but if the revolutionary zeal and ardour within is a little bit strident for you today, The Lunar Keys do add “On the lighter side -We would ban blue smarties.

Now there is a cause that we could all protest against, right? 


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.


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.




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 millennial ya know?

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 mayonnaise. You know the kale is good for the mind but it needs the mayonnaise to make it a digestible prospect for most people. Most people are scared of poetry you see. John Swale and the Missing Pieces is all about making poetry…great again!

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 on TV back then, didn’t we? Also, going on tour with The Gossip in 2019…was kinda fun. Humblebrag!

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. We were so hungry to see live music after being deprived of it for so long it felt so fucking euphoric to enter that world again. It was a true energy flow between crowd and performers. Although it was only a little one it felt far more special than a lot of bigger shows I’ve done. Bring on the second summer of love, 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 Goring came to my warehouse to kill us all…so I drowned them both in cereal bowls (I mean what else!)…then they turned in to little fish (specifically roach)…which I diced up and fried and fed to my 36 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 having saved the world from the Holocaust (Oh yeah the dream was set pre-holocaust)…and then we all got beautifully high. Yeah, welcome to my lockdown mind everybody!

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 the hell 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 poem 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 to be a once in a lifetime gift of time and space to reflect on personal internal shit and review what really matters in the scheme of things when all the fake external 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. For me, this all seems a potential opportunity to focus more on living inside out rather than the other way round.

Also, trust optimism. It’s very difficult to feel 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 have saved me from the spirals of mental breakdown so many times during lockdown.

And as soon as I stopped reading the news my anxiety started to clear and I found out the important headlines through the people I lived with. Why poison your mind with the fear of huge speculative shit outside of you like Brexit, slowness of the vaccinations, etc that you have no control over in lockdown when instead, taking the time and mind space 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. You know…fuck the system…do kind shit. that sort of stuff. Amen.

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

 I hope that people will have taken this pandemic as a formative experience in collective empathy and time to reflect on the personal as I mentioned. It’s kind of like… a good trip, you know. 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 openness 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 vibrations and inhibitions from conditioning into their everyday life. It seems a bit of a wasted gift.

I mean, the lockdown seems to have had some 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 collective experience of stepping out of our homes and immediately feeling vulnerable to the threat from the virus. A collective empathy. A taste of the feeling certain minority groups might have experienced from threats from others in society. 

Also, I hope there will be less focus on the monetary…and the momentary. 

Also also…I’m looking forward to the second summer of love! Socially distanced dating during lockdown, for those of us who haven’t been twats and disrespected it, has kinda felt like living out a Jane Austen Novel or can’t even fucking kiss! And I always hated Jane Austen, haha.

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

Well, after a crazily beautiful chemical Christmas with my bubble of 36, haha, I wanted to have a sober, reflective start to the year with no comedown and I’ll proudly say I missed Brexit day… cos I hadn’t been reading the news I had no fucking idea it was happening that night and had blue sky inside out thinking as a consequence. I have no control over that shit anyway so why let it bring me down?

 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 wit and it was a great way to soften the blow. If I ever get terminal cancer I want Roger to be the one to break it to me…you know..

“Johnny boy, I’m breaking this to you here,  

with the spirit of constant good tumor”

…See where I’m going with this? Ideally, it’ll be whilst I’m rigged up to a massive hand-operated morphine drip.

 As for 1st January, I spent the day writing …my obituary, haha, no not cos of my deathwish but…you know…how I’d like to be remembered…a kind of…reverse-engineering the soul if you will… You know…try to root actions from love not fear…follow my bliss, not my blisters…that sort of stuff. Also, I started ‘John Swale’s 99 days of new shit’ (see @johnswalepoetry), I mean we all need something to stop our souls stagnating over the expanding lockdown, don’t we?

 Course this was all done between taking obligatory breaks to join the cuddle puddle of my still loved up housemates in the basement of my warehouse. In all it was a pretty fucking dreamy start to the year. And no Hitler-fish or cereal bowls in sight, right?!

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 didn’t. It’s lockdown! Sorry about that.

Yeah, take that one.




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). 




Gürl – Surrender

I decided to make the most of a few days away from work to head to Valencia. I’ve never been here before but I can now see why friends rate it so highly. Despite being visibly impacted by the pandemic, there’s still an urgent sexiness, a thrilling throb in the air. Like a virgin, I can’t wait to give in to the full experience. 

My legs are tired though from all of the tourism-walking that I’ve been doing. Eagerly, I look at the health app on my phone to realise with disappointment that I’m simply covering the same steps that I did in a normal London day pre-pandemic. I’m out of practice.

Then, after work, I was invariably rushing across the city to spot the new and the up and coming. I still keep an eye out for what those acts are now doing. Bristol’s anti-pop  band, gürll, were one that most impressed. 

I saw them twice in 2019, both times as the support act for Gazel. The first time I saw them (review here) at Paper Dress Vintage, they delighted with a powerful, sexual machismo, their vibrant desire-fuelled soul bouncing off the vintage garments in the clothes shop. 

Last month, gürl released a new single and video for a song, Surrender, that perfectly sums up the mood they create. As lead singer, Joshua Dalton observes, “Surrender tells a story of desperate submission; giving yourself to someone fully and them giving themselves to you. A dangerous kind of love, filled with the shallow base yearning of smoky eyes, tipsy confidence, and hands running up your back, through to an endless, cosmic devotion. Surrendering to someone, totally.” 

You can’t say fairer than that. 

I didn’t want to write about Surrender in 2020 to get lost amidst the Christmas buzz; I wanted to feature this as my Happy New Year song. 2021 is surely going to be better and we won’t be able to surrender to those sexual urges any longer. 

Valencia – I’m about to see what your Saturday offers. 



Sonic Breakfast’s Act Of The Year – 2020

It’s been the strangest of years – of that there is no doubt. Who knows how 2020 will ultimately be recorded in the history books but few would bet against it being seen as the year that it all changed. Very few of us are going back to what we once had. 

At the beginning of the year, Sonic Breakfast had completed the transition from a blog that wrote about acts I liked to a blog that wrote about gigs I liked. So happy was I with the change that I considered retiring the whole blog when the initial lockdown came. A writers block came over me and I wrote very little until August. By then, I’d made my way to Spain. The space and warmth chilled my lethargy and I tentatively began dipping my toe in the ‘band water’ again. Turns out I’ve enjoyed the routine it’s provided – finding new art to write about in 2020 has been a joy and there’s so much of it around. 

I’m still livid about what’s happening back home. Brexit is so clearly the stuff of nonsense. And to do something as negatively game-changing whilst a mutating pandemic rages is nothing short of supreme idiocy. But there are a few who will benefit and so they make up lies in the state-controlled media to encourage others to believe. Mostly the lies stick by attaching blame for what’s been going wrong on others; those dirty immigrants or those foul foreigners. It makes me sick.

They say that good art can come from such dire circumstance. And whilst I’m not sensing a mass movement of revolutionaries quite yet, there has been some positive shoots. Bladderwrack is a no-brainer for Sonic Breakfast’s act of 2020 as they’ve been on the money with a series of singles, many (but not all) taken from their raging album, Good Mourning Britain. That album, recorded in a session of one-hour, sets the tone for what’s to come.

Sonic Breakfast first wrote about Bladderwrack a little over a month ago when they released their single ‘Gammon’. Readers can top up on my anger by revisiting that post (here). As 2020 draws to a close, Bladderwrack have been at it again with their Christmas release, Please Sir, We Want Some More. The Dickensian Punks draw upon the spirit of Oliver Twist to highlight the plight of many who are starving and dying whilst others benefit from the systems and apps they’ve (not) created. 

It’s a brilliant rant, not for the faint-hearted, as it shows in mocking satire what Britain has become. Bladderwrack are worthy winners of Sonic Breakfast’s act of 2020. The medals are in the post.