Jon Sandman – Selfless Isolation

Something that’s struck me over the past few months is how creative and resilient people have been over the last year. You only have to do a quick scan of a few recent Sonic Breakfast posts to realise that the shit conditions many artists find themselves in have also helped them to create great work. They’ve been able to push out of their comfort zones and to realise their dreams. It’s almost become a ‘now or never’ mentality. 

It’s hard to believe that Jon Sandman has rarely performed his music live before, so assured does he sound on recent release, ‘Selfless Isolation’. But that’s what Jon confirms in our E-mail exchange. 

When lockdown eases, I really wanna get onto the open mic scene.“, says Jon. “I’ve only been releasing music since the pandemic hit, I’ve never performed any of my music live, so I think that getting into my local live music scene is the next big step for me.

You can’t help thinking that the open mic scenes in Oxford and Cambridgeshire will lap Jon up with open arms. ‘Selfless Isolation’ is a gem; literate, immediate and reflective, it chronicles the range of feelings I guess we’ve all been privy to over the last year. “Selfless Isolation’ is my ‘Ode to COVID’; a reflection on a year of loneliness.“, notes Jon. “It’s gently political – a rebuke to those responsible – but also deeply personal. Lyrically, I think that it’s a song that a lot of people will connect to.

Jon cites Sufjan Stevens as his biggest influence whilst also noting that Beirut, Spoon and the more electronic sounds of Big Black Delta, Metronomy, Miami Horror and Passion Pit all play their part. It’s an impressive array, a wide range of stuff. You can see some of that influence seeping through in ‘Selfless Isolation’, a folk tune with nods towards Father John Misty and Louis Brennan. Both creator and consumer, Jon reveals that he’s “always looking for cool new bands to check out!“.

Sonic Breakfast continues to profile cool acts on a daily basis. Jon Sandman has used this time of isolation to become one of them. 

Louis Brennan – The Greenwich Pensioner – 18th March 2019

I am drunk. On a Monday night. This is evidently not a good thing. Even if I make excuses in my own head and try to justify it all by saying it’s just my St. Patrick’s Day one day late this is far from convincing. 

I have an excuse of sorts; it’s another gig in this fair city and a new venue for Sonic Breakfast. The Greenwich Pensioner, out Poplar way, has had a makeover. Energetic new owners have lined up a tasty range of beer, a fine pizza menu and a set of live gigs that are not to be sniffed at. “I’m just booking things that I hear and like“, says the Northern proprietor. “We’ve not even got a PA. I don’t know what one is“, she adds, in a refreshingly honest moment.

You suspect though that these are people of good taste. And they’ve struck lucky with their first booking, Louis Brennan, even if the crowds aren’t exactly flocking in to support. Louis has been featured on Sonic Breakfast before (here). He’s got the quality to be playing venues much bigger and the select few know they’re getting a treat.

“I hope everybody likes depressing music“, he says by way of opening banter. A table of beer-swillers having a few post-work pints show their opposition by raising the level of their conversation. Louis wears them down by attrition and a few songs in, they leave. 

His voice, baritone gold, is one to get lost in. Sat on a bar-stool in the corner of this square and open room, Louis picks away on his guitar playing new songs and old songs. It really is all sorts of lovely. Ideas flow from lyrics with such speed that it’s sometimes not possible to keep up with this master poet-raconteur. It’s like discovering that Leonard Cohen is alive and well and playing a secret show at your much loved local.

Louis declares that he was going to play three half-hour sets but will now settle for two 45 minute halves. “It’s like a paper round where you’re diligently delivering the free papers rather than throwing them in the hedge“, he suggests whilst stoically working through his set-list and wondering if anybody actually cares.

But we do. This is a night of unplugged joy, a Monday night delight for the discerning. As Louis draws things to a close, a local group of Kendo enthusiasts come into the pub in an altogether surreal quadrupling of the punters present. Their menacing looking swords are sheathed but Louis doesn’t risk alienating them by playing on.

Beer is drunk. The wonderful Wild Brew beer at 6.6% is not one for a Monday night session. But it’s too tasty to not test. Taxis are booked. This hangover will hurt at work tomorrow. 

Louis Brennan – Airport Hotel

It felt somewhat neat and a little appropriate on Valentine’s Day to receive the new song and video from Louis Brennan, Airport Hotel.

 

Sending brightly-coloured cards with glossy emotions does little more than sabotage and sanitise the complicated feelings we all experience around ‘love’ and it’s perhaps this that turns many off from celebrating with flowers, chocolate and poor poetry on St. Valentine’s Day.

In Airport Hotel, the emotions are real and raw; let yourself get carried away with Brennan’s expressive, baritone voice as it gradually reveals the story of ‘forbidden’ love that permeates throughout the song. The string arrangements rise and fall as Louis ponders how he might explain to his wife (and kids) that he has fallen for another. It’s stark, dark and yet beautiful storytelling that’ll surely tug on the most emotionally detached. 

The release of ‘Airport Hotel’ comes slightly in advance of Louis’ album ‘Dead Capital’ which is scheduled to drop on February 23rd. It’s an album that Sonic Breakfast is quite excited to hear. Back in 2017, Louis released another track from it, ‘Bit Part Actor’. Brooding, dark and melancholic with the poetry taking centre-stage, the video stars one of Sonic Breakfast’s favourite comedians, Ed Aczel. 

In despondency, it’s entirely possible to find lovely art.