Holy Now, Lazy Pilgrims and Calluna – Sebright Arms – March 13th 2019

The AirBNB is comfortable this week. I’m paying peanuts to be in Bethnal Green. The room has a desk (on which there’s a couple of cups and a box of strawberry, raspberry and cranberry infusion teabags – but no kettle) and the bed’s a dream to sleep on. I sit and write at the desk and I’m almost tempted to not head out to a gig. 

But this one comes recommended by a good friend who’s music taste I trust. I realise that the Sebright Arms (a venue I loved when I visited last – here) is no more than a twenty minute walk away and I’ve always been a sucker for a bit of Swedish jingle and jangle. Holy Now, recent additions to this year’s Indie Tracks festival line-up, are probably going to be worth making the effort for.

I’ve got some time to kill so order a burger at the Sebright bar. When it arrives, it’s nothing short of a taste-delight though I’d completely miscalculated that preparation time plus eating time would result in wolfing the food down to catch the opening act. Rather than give myself indigestion, I masticate slowly and saunter down to the Sebright basement when Calluna are in full flow.

They’ve clearly brought a fair following to the Sebright – and it’s unfortunate that some of the between-song banter fails to reach out beyond the dewy-eyed front row friends and family. For, despite hailing from Milton Keynes, Calluna should be more confident than this. In lead singer and band leader,Heather Britton, they’ve got a vocalist who has a pleasant, mellow husk to her voice. The band make a polished gentle shimmer of a sound and you can see why they’ve already got Match Of The Day (or is that MOTD2) soundtrack credits. My notes say it’s a bit like if Tanita Tikaram ever did shoegaze. My notes are probably wrong. 

 

The fan room empties for Lazy Pilgrims. They’re an altogether more challenging proposition than Calluna. A four piece, two boys in beanies flank a singer, Georgie, who’s probably well dowsed in patchouli oil. Their thing is grunge with a fair dose of prog. My notes suggest that it moves into stoner jazz at one point but given that’s barely a genre (is it?) I’ll just settle on the fact that they give us extended jams with power vocals. Chris, the guitarist, changes guitar after one particularly epic solo, probably because he’s worn the other one out. I notice that Chris is wearing no shoes but is wearing a particularly thick pair of woollen socks. Georgie is odd in that she wears a black boot on one foot and a sock on the other. Random things distract as my mind wanders. “This one is called ‘Sepia lips and the cosmic elliptical”, says Georgie. Oh my, I am done. In a festival field though, this could be right up my street. 

 

Holy Now are two boys and two girls from Gothenburg, Sweden. They write great songs but that is probably where the similarities with ABBA cease. “They’re like a band that would have been on Sarah Records back in the day”, says a decent chap I chat with before Holy Now take to the stage. Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that this is a label that appeals and so I await their entrance with anticipation.

“It’s been a long day. We had to be up at 4.30 to catch our flight”, says Julia, singer with Holy Now. Nobody can tell that this is a tired band though. Their breezy tunes are delivered with attention-grabbing energy. It’s all about twee melody, discord and harmony. Julia has a high-pitched wail of a vocal which makes it sound less pleasant than it actually is; the rest of the band moderate with bursts of backing vocals which take the songs to new and interesting places.

Best of all, there’s a sense that Holy Now want to have shambolic fun. They admit that they’re testing a sharper approach to their chat between songs. “How does you say Sebright?“, ponders Ylva, the drummer. “What does it mean?“, she adds before telling all about the lovely merch on offer. We’re encouraged to count to four in Swedish enabling the count-in to an upbeat jaunt of a number. “Grab someone you love for this ballad”‘ we’re told – potentially strange advice for a song with a chorus containing the lyric ‘Break It Off’.  “That’s a really sad song”, admits Julia as it draws to a close. 

It’s been another night when making the effort to get out and about has richly rewarded. I’m lucky to be living this nomadic lifestyle. 

 

 

Fira B! Sweet Poo Smell – Grumpy Old Bastard

Today, Sonic Breakfast starts again in earnest. The long, wet summer is nearly done. 

 It was a noble aim to cut back on reviewing British festivals but those spare weekends at home twiddling my thumbs became so dull – thus, pretty much every weekend this summer was consumed under canvas. In time, I’ll link back to those reviews for EFestivals.

 The number of unread Sonic Breakfast E-mails rose. I hope nobody thinks I’ve been rude. I did spot one particularly interesting mail though. 

 ‘Dear Sean‘, it probably didn’t say. ‘We’d love you to come to Palma-Mallorca to watch some bands. We’ll put you up in a hotel on the edge of town that you’ll struggle to find at night after a few too many beers. We’d love it if you had lunch on us as well.’

 I would have been foolish to turn down such an appealing offer from the Balearic Islands’ cultural ministry. I was able to get some annual leave from my day job and I now write this whilst sipping a cocktail at the side of a pool. (Some of these words are not true.)

(Click on page 2 to read about last night)

 

The Good Graces – Before You Go

Long term relationships are complicated. I suspect that to ‘do’ them successfully you need to find beauty in the mundane and the routine. For many couples that I observe, those patterns that form over time (the ‘doing the washing up’ together moments) become central to their happiness.

That’s why this song by The Good Graces from Atlanta is so utterly charming. Love isn’t all about buying flowers and shagging all night on a rug in front of a fire whilst toasting marshmallows (though I’m sure this does no harm either). For lead singer and main songwriter, Kim Ware, it’s much more about taking the bins out.  

 The Good Graces describe themselves as providing ‘minimalist, catchy folk pop of heartbreak and hope.’ They’ve been going since 2007 and have a few, tender and lo-fi records to their name. Initial album, ‘Sunset over Saxapahaw’ has been labelled a post-divorce record which a quick listen on Spotify confirms. ‘Before You Go’ comes (I think) from a much happier place with Kim now able to appreciate the minutiae that leads to happy relations. 

I’ve got a general weakness for the twee and I spent a good few years in Bristol appreciating ‘Sarah Records’ so it’s no surprise that The Good Graces are floating my Sunday morning boat.