Meeting them for the first time at our Ei8htball Media Lounge at SXSW, they are genial, jovial and welcoming. Shooting the breeze easily about whatever comes to mind. When not talking about the music, it’s hard to imagine just where such a primordial soup of a sound could come from.
Fitting then that South London trio Happyness burst onto the scene earlier this year with an effortlessly outstanding self-titled EP. The group’s breezy melodies and sly lyrical jabs immediately connected, leading into debut album ‘Weird Little Birthday‘ which Live4ever praised as displaying ‘songwriting principals far more upright than at first they seem’.
Catfish and The Bottlemen’s first set at SXSW in many ways provided a fitting tribute to precisely what’s endeared the four-piece to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Fresh from a Top 10 UK chart placing for debut album ‘The Balcony‘, animated lead singer Van McCann discussed with Live4ever how the band dealt with a raft of sound issues in their bid to ingratiate themselves to an expectant Austin crowd.
“It must have added to it I guess that we were having a bit of trouble”, he said. “I don’t even remember singing a song last night. I thought if anything let’s just make people talk about us so that tomorrow they’ll come and see us again and give us another chance”.
There are few bands who have been through such a humbling journey in making their way to the upper echelons of the alternative music scene. It quickly becomes apparent that the relentless touring schedule required in meticulously crafting their sound, and making their music heard across as many pubs and music venues on either side of the A55, has seen a tight-knit family unit develop – something which McCann articulates with utmost exuberance.
Barth (lead vocals/guitar), Del (lead vocals/guitar). Plus our gang of cronies when we play live: Danielle Wadey (keys/vocals), Hannah LeCheminant (keys/vocals/percussion), Ben Beetham (bass), Jack Wilson (guitar), George MacDonald (drums).
In the space of six months Gaffaney moved from New Zealand to the US, recorded an album and an EP, and has since been gigging nonstop around the world, now joined by Grammy winner and industry extraordinaire George Pajon Jr..
A pure passion for music and an unbridled love for performing makes the new duo one of the most promising new rock n’ roll bands of the past few years.
The immaculate sense of style reflects the sleek electronic ambiance of his musical project. Last year, critics took note of a pristine take on electronic music as East India Youth’s debut album ‘Total Strife Forever‘ earned a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize. Just a year on from the first album, he’s back with ‘Culture Of Volume‘, which sees Doyle’s songwriting and production skills take a notable leap.
Think about the South By Southwest Festival, for instance, and beauty might not be the first word that springs to mind. Think about the stifling heat, the sweaty bars, the copious volume of alcohol and the thousands of music lovers crammed in to half a dozen Austin blocks every March and the first answer in a game of word association mightn’t be all that glamorous. Fortunately though, South By is merciful in its size.
From Japanese all-girl punk bands to home-grown New York grime, a motley cast of every size, shape and description are arriving in Texas in ever more increasing numbers each year, slowly transforming a traditional new music showcase into the most eclectic US event on the calendar, finding plenty of room too for those bands who choose to attack the world of rock from a far more elegant angle.
Step forward Dry The River.
Grant Nicholas is a man well accustomed to the art of penning a hit single; churning out high octane radio friendly rock-pop gems since the early nineties.
More recently, he has diverted his attention to solo projects, which history tells us can be healthy for both creative and inter-band relationship purposes. In this instance, it has produced glorious results and sparked a rebirth in Nicholas’ writing. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a field of ecstatic fans singing back ‘he’s got a CD player’ to you, but Grant is no one-trick pony, and is well adept at producing work of a more introspective nature. This is exactly where we find him in 2015 as he releases ‘Black Clouds‘, the companion piece to the 2014 solo album ‘Yorktown Heights’.
It’s a swift follow up to ‘Yorktown..’, which only dropped last summer. But such is his current outpouring of songs, a new release was necessary and, above all else, very much welcomed. The current solo venture has unveiled some soul baring lyrics and acoustic laden, beautiful melodies to boot. ‘Black Clouds’ draws on inspiration from some of history’s most influential artists, from Neil Young to Tom Petty.
We caught up with Grant to catch up on touring, his new record and his take on the current state of the music industry.
Mention the Vans Warped Tour and they’ll immediately be finalising plans to tour their own Rock N Roll Circus in the US, on one bus, with Parquet Courts, The Ming City Rockers and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros invited along for the ride.
Casually ask about alternative recording locations and within a split second their minds will wander to a dusty Cuban street, writing songs with Father Christmas, the haze of local distractions as tangible in the air as Austin’s pop-up barbecues.
Stick some Champions League football on in the background and hell, you might as well give up altogether.
It’s true, Palma Violets are an uncontainable bundle of energy. They burst into our Media Lounge at this year’s South By Southwest Festival like a litter of puppies let loose from the back seat of a car after a particularly long journey, eager to sniff out and investigate what games there are to play in every corner of their new surroundings.
Follow-up ‘Undertow‘ should be a meatier affair though, if the irresistible first single ‘We Can Do What We Want’ is anything to go by. Using the help of bass player Rob Graham to both expand their horizons and rise above that crowded two-piece world, the track hits like a latter day Ramones if those punk pioneers had cut their teeth in urban Derbyshire rather than late-night seventies New York.
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