Sløtface – The Old Queens Head – November 20th 2019

If 2019 has taught me anything, it’s to jump when Georgie, the fab PR person from Propeller Records, sends a recommendation about anything. She promotes a fab range of music, largely from Norway. It’s never failed me yet in terms of quality.

I was going to have a Wednesday in but then got the notice that Sløtface (still pronounced Slutface) were doing a special event at The Old Queens Head. It’s a pub just down the road on the Essex Road, a little over five minutes walk away. Always looking appealing from the outside, now was my chance to see the interior.

There’s a Wednesday celebration going on downstairs at the Old Queens Head. I guess that somebody has just got married. “I said to you in the first year of uni that by the third year I’d be sucking your cock”, screams one drunken casualty. It’s 8PM and I quickly head upstairs, following the printed instruction. 

It’s quite a venue – faux square music hall with an edge of punk spirit. On Wednesday’s The Old Queens Head does cocktails for a fiver. Sadly, it takes a good fiver minutes to make each drink. That leads to queues of nonsense length at the bars. It’s a good job that it’s a midweek session. 

Sløtface are here to excitedly proclaim that their new and second album, Sorry For The Late Reply, is about to launch. The set-up for tonight is announced. We’re going to get a band Q&A with a journalist from the NME before a first listen to the new disc. To round things off, Sløtface will play a short set. The serious fans here whoosh in unified excitement.

It’s hard not to warm to Sløtface. The NME fanboy gets his notebook out and asks his prepared questions. Discussions like this are rarely fun. But, at least he steers clear of questions about the recording process. There’s little more dull than discovering about how an album was engineered. 

We learn that for Sløtface, releasing records is anti-climatic, akin to those birthdays that nobody remembers. The staunchly feminist band rally against missed merch mistakes before revealing that this new record is political but personal not preachy. It still might be categorised as indie pop punk but Sløtface show that their influences range wider; Weaves, Phoebe Bridges and Julien Baker all get nods of acknowledgement. Specific tracks are mentioned. The NME scribe believes that ‘Crying In Amsterdam’ is the album’s centrepiece but the band are less sure. All of Sløtface like ‘Stuff’ because they didn’t much like Haley’s boyfriend who it’s about. “I wanted to call it ‘anti-consumerist love song‘”, says Haley, ever so jubilantly. 

The album does sound ace. Many here must have already heard it because they get up and mingle, talking over the top. I like what I hear. There’s every indication that 2020 could be a major year for Sløtface as their difficult second record lands. 

Gigs in bright rooms put on for fans and press wonks are always odd affairs. But the four members of Sløtface make a better fist of it than most. Tracks from this new album sound impressive and stand up well against the odd old track (Nancy Drew). A break from their current tour with Pup, Sløtface are initially relaxed about our sedentary state. But, by the end, they’re urging us to our feet. Haley stage dives because it’s what she’s done on every night of this tour. Sløtface are a band that could connect with you anywhere. 

The chap from the NME visibly riles Sløtface when he suggests that their mission is to make as many enemies as friends. On tonight’s evidence, the likelihood of more friends is the certainty. 

Grimm Twins, Bird Shoes and Lavde – Sebright Arms – May 20th 2019

The London gigs I’ve been to since January have mostly had decent turn-outs. Even on the stay-in nights early in a week, venues have been throbbing with numbers. Thus, I’m surprised and a little thrown to find myself watching a Monday night support act at the Sebright pretty much as the sole member of the audience.

And it’s not as if Lavde, the band in question, are so bad that they’re deserving of the low turn-out. Refreshingly (and despite being acutely aware of the sparseness), this three piece still put on a show. If they’re going through the motions it sure don’t show. Their thing is classic rock; the beardy bass player wears a Slayer T-shirt openly promoting his influence. With some soaring vocals and elaborate almost proggy solos, things go a bit Muse-like for a while before getting back on track with songs that draw upon AC/DC and Led Zep chord structures. There’s rock postures, awkward (given the numbers present) crowd invasions and down-on-yer-knees histrionics. All told, quite enjoyable. 

 

A few more have turned up for main support Bird Shoes but the Sebright is by no means packed. “Hello Wembley, it’s an honour to be here. Thanks for having us”, says the singer of this indie-punk duo who draw obvious numerical comparisons with the likes of Slaves and Royal Blood. They’ve travelled up from Bournemouth, ‘the crack-addict capital of the country’ and pound through their set as if they’re in a hurry to get back. “Thanks for coming out tonight when you could have been at home watching Antiques Roadshow”, says the singer, temporarily forgetting that it’s a Monday night. ‘Door’ is introduced, a song in which they appear as clowns in the accompanying video before all gives way to a megaphone tirade whilst swigging on a can of Stella. 

 

Grimm Twins are worthy headliners. There’s more than a dash of the Buzzcocks about this punk band from Macclesfield. Like Pete Shelley, they’ve got some killer rhyming couplets (“We are Generation Zed, we take our I-phones to bed.”) and the singer has more than a passing resemblance. But Grimm Twins embellish this with a Gallagher sneer and swagger. It’s nihilistic and nonchalant, recent release ‘I don’t care’ full of the existential crisis of youth. “We’re all working tomorrow so wish us luck on the long trek home”, says the singer before launching into their closing number. 

I hope they’ve had fun. Nights like this are great. Three bands, not all to my taste, have battled gamely amidst a challenging atmosphere. And for that they deserve nothing but praise.

Skinny Lister and Wood Burning Savages – Leicester O2 Academy – March 9th 2019

It’s exhausting to simply watch Skinny Lister live on stage. Goodness knows what it must be like to actually be in the band. They just don’t stop moving, none more so than singer, Lorna Thomas. Quite how she still has the breath to sing without wilting is anybody’s guess. They’re certainly well practiced in this hard-partying performance lifestyle.

Indeed, this correspondent wonders whilst watching them at Leicester’s O2 on Saturday evening if there’s a band that he’s seen more times over the last five years than Skinny Lister. And if there is he’s not sure who. Be it hungover early afternoon at a festival or later at night at their own headline gig you always know what you’re going to get. This is a frantic, riotous folk, an exhilarating Clash-like head rush, a sharing-caring  united celebration, an opportunity to let your hair down whilst all else turns to shit. 

Ostensibly, Skinny Lister are here to promote their new album, The Story Is. And they take the opportunity to play a fair few of the songs from it. It might have only been out for a few days but the tunes already appear to have worked deep into the heads of the moshing crowd and the more-cautious types who position themselves just outside the throng. There’s no sign of discernible lull here when the band plays new ones. “This is not a drill”, we urgently sing reminding ourselves that life is to be cherished whilst also comprehending the stark situation described within set and album opener, 38 Minutes.

For Lorna (and her brother Max), Leicester is pretty much their homecoming gig. They tell us regulars once again that they remember Saturday lunchtime folk sessions at the old Phoenix (what days they were) – and a Skinny Lister gig in Leicester wouldn’t be what we love without an appearance from Party George, their Dad. He comes on stage during the traditional encore as do the rest of the touring entourage, support acts and shameless liggers, in a finale free-for-all knees-up. Six whiskies is the most exuberant of drunken excess party tunes and it’s hard not to delight in its playing tonight. 

 

I mention the support; we berate ourselves for missing the opener, Trapper Schoepp, but happily arrive just in time for the Wood Burning Savages. From Northern Ireland, they’ve got a neat take on the angry, the political and the human.  They’ve got a retro -rock anthemic sound not dissimilar to The Alarm (though I’m sure they’d baulk at such a comparison). “Put your name on our mailing list and you could become our First Minister“, says their lead singer, clearly as despairing of the state of things in Stormont as most are here about the impending Brexit gloom. 

 

Lorna dances with the punters; she dives into the mosh and crowd-surfs. The flagon of rum gets passed around as is tradition though I’m no longer close enough to the action to take a gulp. John Kanaka, Skinny Lister’s largely acapella call and response number, raises the roof like never before. 

This is a band at their very riotous heights. As they head off overseas with leg one of their UK tour done and dusted, the neatly reworked Scholars bar at the O2 knows it has witnessed a treat. 

Idles – Well Done

Your blog’s a bit Radio 2 innit“, said somebody to me the other week.

“No, it’s not. It’s eclectic”, I protested. “It’s basically things that catch my ear and excite me.”

But then I looked back over old posts and I saw what they meant. There’s a fair few fiddles and enough acoustic guitars to shake a tambourine at. 

Well, all I can say is fuck you today! I couldn’t sleep last night and so found myself listening to new music at 4AM. Maybe noise and energetic aggression hadn’t been doing it for me but then I heard this new track, Well Done, by Bristolian band, Idles. I certainly couldn’t sleep after that.

It’s spit-simplistic and shouty, punky and direct. It name-checks Mary Berry, Trevor Nelson, reggae and a chap called Tarquin in what sounds like an angry protest against ‘stuff’. I want to believe that this ‘well done’ is a two-fingered salute against conformity and blindly accepting whatever might be popular. 

I hear that Idles live show is something else. They’re touring at the moment and, whilst not touching Leicester, there are options not far away with a gig at Derby’s Hairy Dog on November 11th being the obvious time for me to check them out. 

Well done Idles for giving Sonic Breakfast a shove and a kick. Love it. I’d still rather cut my nose off to spite my face.

 

 

 

Skinny Lister – Cathy

I had to get away from the fortress. The exuberant house music was playing havoc with my head. People that I’d never seen before were smiling as if they were long lost friends. Perhaps they were long lost friends. I doubted it.

I walked towards the main stage. The relentless beat in the heat was stifling these dancing feet to a walking pace. Skinny Lister were about to come on the stage. I’d seen them before. A bit of folk was surely what I now needed to recharge my batteries. I could sip at a pint of cider whilst chilling on the grass.

Little did I know.

Skinny Lister became my favourite festival band that day. There’s something contagious about their enthusiastic, inclusive approach. You might watch them from a distance when they take to the stage but, by the end, you can’t help but be immersed in the throng they create. Here’s what I said about their gig at Beat-Herder:-

“Skinny Lister on the Saturday afternoon are a case in point. Their well-rehearsed folky festival set doesn’t fail to get the skin blistering as those that are assembled work up a sweat with their energetic bouncy dancing. The flagon of rum that gets passed amongst the crowd is communally quaffed by thirsty onlookers. Laura Thomas takes a break from her vocal duties and waltzes with the audience. People wake from an afternoon slumber to find a double bass being plucked next to their heads. This is how Mumford and Sons should be.”

I saw them twice last year at different festivals. After both sets, I walked away beaming. Hangovers from a previous day of drinking were forgotten about. It was time to get back on it.

Skinny Lister are building up to the release of a new album, Down On Deptford Broadway, in April. They’ve pre-released two tracks from it although these are folky-punk lunges that live show regulars might already be familiar with. Singer Dan says about latest single, Cathy, that ‘It’s an ode to addiction and recklessness. A declaration of desire for something or someone you know is bad for you. The classic wrestle between head and heart.’

 

 

Previous single release, ‘Trouble On Oxford Street’, had an accompanying video full of beer and rebellion to entertain us.

 

 

It might be grey and dismal outside but I can sense festival fields not far in the distance. This makes me smile.

The Cardboard Crowns – An interview

I’ve been listening to The Cardboard Crowns quite a bit recently. Their new(ish) album, Global Citizen, has me hooked. Long train journeys have passed by in a flash. I’ve simply plugged my headphones in and allowed myself to drift off into the exuberant ska pop punk world that they inhabit. Here I ask one of my new favourite bands ten questions by way of introduction….

(1) Many readers of Sonic Breakfast might not have heard of ‘The Cardboard Crowns’. In less than 100 words tell them what they need to know…

The Crowns are a four piece blast of something different. We really try to deliver high energy, high involvement entertainment. There’s a lot of boring archaic convention in show business these days… that’s something we try to blow to pieces. We’re also really big on (as the title of our new album Global Citizen would suggest) trying to get people to identify themselves more with the human race than it’s sub sects. We’re all humans, lets have a good time together, and also try to think about those of us who are in rough spots as though they were our family.

(2) What have been your highlights and lowlights of 2014?

We’ve had some really awesome times this year. This is the first year we’ve really had an opportunity to drop the gloves and hit the road. We’ve played some awesome festivals: Ottawa’s Sparks st. new years eve event with K-OS, Beer Fest in Toronto with Wide Mouth Mason, Hope Volleyball With Matt Good, and we’ve been lucky enough to play a couple shows along the way with one of our biggest influences The Planet Smashers. That said, we REALLY loved our album release mini tour through Montreal Ottawa and Toronto. The support was really out of this world! As for lowlights… I guess we had one fiasco show (I won’t say where…) but my (Joel) throat was infected so I tried some REALLY COOL mime intro… miming is clearly not a forte of mine I guess. At any rate we made It through the set, and my car tow bill was only $250. Nasty business.

(3) You’re from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Is it a city with a good music scene? What are the best and worst things about living there?

The scene in Ottawa is interesting… it’s a bit of a lazy little town when looking from the outside. But the most packed shows we play are always there. The support in Ottawa is unreal, and there’s something so cool about having a nearly fully bilingual crowd. There are some REALLY talented bands from Ottawa as well, our good Buddies Finding Chuck and Mosquitos for starts… but I could really go all day with awesome Ottawa acts. Great town for music, it has a great attitude and support system for it’s artists, and great artists for it’s fans.

(4) In the past month you’ve released the terrific album, Global Citizen. Apart from the fact that Global Citizen is also the title of one of your songs, why did you settle on this title for the album? Is it important to be a Global Citizen and why/why not?

We titled the album Global Citizen for a few reasons: A) we really love that crowd hook at the end, B) (more seriously) it kinda sums up a lot of what we’re about. The lyrics talk about human fragmentation, and how we relate more strongly to a kinda silly national identity (beavers + maple syrup + “thank you sorry eh”) than we do to the suffering and state of affairs outside of our immediate field of vision.

(5) Bits of the album suggest an anger (or at least a frustration) with the music industry. What’s wrong with it and what would you change about it if you could?

I suppose you’re PROBABLY asking about Pulling Teeth. Really I wrote that song about advertising and the culture that’s sold between the satirical one-liners in our commercials. That said… the state of the industry has a lot of similar goofiness as well. We’re bombarded every day with the same 4 chords and lowest-common-denominator “sex n’ money” lyrics; Pulling Teeth is about how selling the idea that you’re not good enough unless you have X amount of dollars and intercourse, at the cost of our confidence and self respect, is REALLY destructive to our humanity.

 

 

(6) Who are your influences?

Main influences I guess are Toots and the Maytals, Sublime, Planet Smashers, Against me, all our friends, and global events.

(7) The video to ‘Hat’s off’ is a pretty entertaining watch. What was the thinking behind it when you made it?

Ahhhh the Hats off video haha. A few of our dear friends at Prototype D invited us to an abandoned factory to shoot some sort of video. It was all very loosy goosy show up and see what happens, so that morning the boys and I decided we’d surprise them by dressing up like super (idiots) heroes! They were certainly surprised as we showed up over an hour late (we’re real divas when it comes to superhero costumes). So feeling a little bashful we apologized for the late arrival, and followed that up with “And no we don’t have a clue what to do for this video”. I don’t even think we knew we were going to shoot hats off. We basically had to turn a somewhat uncomfortable situation around visa vi running around like clowns, jumping, and climbing whatever we could find. Luckily the city workers and our good pals at Prototype D forgave us, and all in all the video came out quite well!

(8) Is it obligatory to wear a cardboard crown at a ‘Cardboard Crowns’ gig? Who typically wears the best one?

It’s not mandatory or anything… but it can be lucrative! Originally our hardcore friend-base started wearing crowns to our shows to show their support. We then tried to reciprocate the love (and start a wicked gimmick) by offering discounts ticket rates at the door for people wearing home-made crowns. We’ve seen SO many awesome crowns at our shows over the years it’s hard to pick the best. We had one gentleman with a castle for a crown, complete with working draw bridge, we’ve seen Lord Sauron’s crown carefully constructed over at least several hours… personally I love it when people incorporate egg cartons. Those ones are just hilarious for some reason.

(9) What are your plans and dreams for 2015 (and onwards)?

The Crowns want to do it. We want to be a self sufficient, fully independent band that tours and meets cool new friends and have a great time. We want to try to get people onboard with global thinking, and we want to, frankly, make a positive change in the world. It’s a tall order, but with the amount of awesome people jumping on board every day, be it by donating to doctors without borders, at our album release shows, showing solidarity with crowns, making AWESOME cover videos (montreal boys!) it feels like it’s happening, and we couldn’t be more excited and thankful!

(10) And finally – energetic humour isn’t far from the surface with ‘The Cardboard Crowns’. What’s your current favourite joke?

Hmmm… I feel like the best jokes the crowns know are usually when we actively try be funny on stage. Every time we plan any sort of gag, or joke or whatever we always get a TON of laughs… The kind of laughs that manifest themselves 2 years down the line in one of those “hey remember how DUMB that idea was?! MAN are we lame” kinda conversations. I think our favourite jokes are one ones where everyone ends up laughing at how bad we SUCK at being funny lol. Anyone who’s been to a crowns show will know our banter is always ripe with this kind of “comedy”!

 

I don’t know about you – but I can’t wait for these guys to be able to tour Europe. They’d make a pretty decent festival band…