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Q&A with Singer-Songwriter JJ Draper ahead of his New EP “The Theft and The Flight”

After working with Ed Tullett (Novo Amor, Hailaker) on his previous Silhouettes EP, garnering praise from Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and opening for Rhye at London’s KOKO, JJ returns with a delicate and emotional selection of tracks.

JJ’s new single ‘…if you’re awake in the night’ and the upcoming EP “The Theft and The Flight” has all the tenderness and artistry of Sufjan Stevens, Nick Mulvey and Bon Iver while also capturing its own voice and tone. Acoustic guitar-led with soft falsetto vocals, incorporating subtle, dappled sampling, electronics and piano, the new work is an exploration of JJ’s rich and intense, emotional soundscapes.

Following his first EP, JJ went back into the studio to arrange a new body of work. Having spent the early years of his career as a top-liner and collaborator, he thought it time to take a considerable catalogue of songs to his band and work with singular vision to create the sound he wanted.

Speaking on ‘…if you’re awake in the night’ and the new EP JJ said:

“Returning home in March last year to a police cordon around the car park of my flat, I turned on the news to discover that a young man had been brutally murdered on my doorstep. Not having a real insight into the growing culture of gang violence in London, I wrote ‘…if you’re awake in the night’ to chronicle the surreal experience of those who come inadvertently into contact with a troubling world they don’t understand.

I wanted all my new music to be honest and grounded, both lyrically and in the way it was recorded. I spent months experimenting at Natural Habitat Studios working with many great musicians to make something I hope feels homespun, authentic and vivid.”

Listen to JJ Draper’s new single “…if you’re awake in the night” here below and read on to get to know the mind behind the music.

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

My earliest memories of loving music are in the family car, probably. I’ve got 3 older brothers and we had this enormous space wagon (Toyota Previa RIP) that took us all down to Wales for holidays. We listened to loads of Travelling Wilburys, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix.

When I first started to think about music making more deeply-focusing on HOW it was made – I was in my early teens. My brother had introduced me to Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Elliott Smith, Nick Drake and it set the wheels in motion toward an obsessive listening period where I absorbed every influence I could.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

It’s a very loose process but is consistently the way I write best so I suppose it’s a formula! I improvise on a guitar (and sometimes piano), often in deranged tunings, and find a progression or part that excites me. Then I’ll begin making melodies and improvised lyrics over that. At that point, the melody and mood start to determine how the progression develops from section to section. I’ll record all this in voice notes until a whole structure is complete and only after that do I sit down and write a structured lyric, often incorporating the nice parts of any improvised moments of attitude and creativity. I write prolifically ‘til I have a load of stuff to record then lose interest in it ‘til I’ve cleared the decks in the studio.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Difficult to say. I have an internal motor that is always running and a restless energy. My friends and family will do impressions of me “flapping” which is a collective term for all the various pacing, arm waving, hand twitching stuff I get up to when I’m visualising. I sort of black out and have these intense periods of focus and creativity and move around a lot. It’s odd. Although I write honestly about things that happen to me or around me, I think the inspiration is more from the feel and sound of the arrangement I’m imagining. The desire to reach that “goosebump” feeling, that moving unique ambiguous feeling that great musicians have given me my whole life. The song can really be about anything but I’m looking to initiate that ecstatic release for myself and for others.

As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?

Where to start? There’s a lot I’d change about myself, society, humanity, people! Nah, to be honest, I understand the things I find frustrating in the music industry – there’s a lot of fear and a lack of ambition. For instance, an example of what I deem to be bad business, is the pop industry’s obsession with trying to replicate the success of another artist by finding soundalikes. It’s astonishing to me that a lot of money (and there still is a lot of money out there, no matter what people hear) gets poured into artists who are the “next Adele” etc. It’s a sure fire way of getting a quick, decent return on an investment but shortsighted, lacking in ambition and real creativity. I hate the thought of great singers or songwriters being forced to mould themselves around something that has already been. The audience wants new things. Of course you have to trust in the development and packaging of a new thing, but that’s what the industry should be investing in. I don’t mean everyone needs to be a radical, but an honest perspective will always be “new” in some sense, have a unique sound and voice. That and the fact that labels etc are so risk averse that artists often have to be at the stage of self-sufficiency to attract them – like “hmmm, there’s a captive audience that we can jump in on and take a cut of” rather than giving talented people the infrastructure to succeed.

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

Impossible question! I’ve been performing since I was 4, was an actor predominantly til I was 21 and the “golden glow” of being on stage, the charged silences and the roar of applause is heaven. I love making people laugh, too, there’s no better feeling. BUT, it does have a tendency to leave you hollow and on a downer, like any drug. The studio and writing, however, is a much more lasting pleasure. The songs continue to make me proud and excited to share, and there are definitely some real moments of ecstasy when you start to realise a sound and it’s just as good as you imagined. I can’t say. I think I prefer performing, JUST.

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

I love hearing people have had shivers or tears because that’s always how I’ve judged how much I love something. I have to say, though, at one of our last headline shows at The Grace – having an entire audience belting out the chorus of Gwythian so loud I stopped singing, and turning to my band who were all grinning, was incredibly special. It just felt such a positive thing to share with people.

What’s on your current playlist?

Big Thief UFOF, Wilco Ode to Joy, Todd Rundgren Can We Still Be Friends? I should say I tend to listen obsessively to a few things and not go through reams and reams.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?

I’ve got an EP out on 3rd July which includes two new tracks and the two singles I’ve released in the past month. I’m so proud of it, particularly excited to share one of the songs which I think is my favourite piece of production/arrangement that Joey Walker and I have done. After that I’ve got what I hope is a bit of a belting single which is a deliberate and violent diversion in style and then another 4 songs to release whilst recording a full album. At some point, I shall get back to gigging with the band and make 2 videos that were in planning before COVID 19.

Famous last words?

“I told you I was ill” – Spike Milligan got there first unfortunately…

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Q&A with ‘Empty Swimming Pool’ band Voodoo Bandits

Photo Credit: Christopher Brew

English indie rock band the Voodoo Bandits have released their new single ‘Empty Swimming Pool’ via Superblue Records. They have been featured on rising Youtube channels like Fancy Melancholic and Sounds New Sounds Good. Their debut single was voted as track of the week on Indie Rocks Radio Manchester and featured on Spotify’s ‘Hot New Bands’ Editorial Playlist. They have a collective stream count of 140 000 plays. ‘Empty Swimming Pool’ was produced by Dave Armstrong (Back Door Slam), and the mix and mastering were done by Jamie McIntyre (The Covasettes and The Flitz). We find out more about the four-piece indie rock group in this interview.

How did the band form?

The band as we know formed sometime late 2018, not becoming active till we released our first song in March 2019! However, our roots go back. Myself (Ben), Corey (guitar), and Nathan (drums) played together back in 2016 as teens. I met them at an after-exams house party. A few months later I went from being terrible at guitar to halfway OK, I wrote a couple of songs and fancied forming a band. I hazily recalled that they played instruments (I didn’t know them before this!), so I hit them up! We then went through many singers, cover gigs, and previous releases with different folks, until I became a frontman and Charlotte (bass) joined, where we became the band as we know it!

How has your musical background helped shaped your sound?

Although two members have a pretty musical background growing up, I don’t think it has shaped our sound much!

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

Always starts with a riff! Sometimes it feels like the right riff will never come, but eventually, it does. After this, I make sure we can get a sick lead going, and get bass and drums to link the whole song together and drive it home. Once an idea gets established and feels strong enough, I’ll add other parts, such as verses, middle 8s, and solos. I tend to get the vocals finished last. I really enjoy creating emphasized rhythms on our songs, as they feel fun to play and listen to. ‘Empty Swimming Pool’ is no exception, giving a very big in your face part played by everyone, counting you into the song right off the bat!

What are or were some of the challenges for you in producing or performing while keeping true to your vision of your music.

It can be hard trying to replicate records live! But we mostly stay very close to the elements we have, and try to use a technique to create dynamics, making ourselves sound as big as possible! I also think it’s important for us to remember to let loose and have fun live, I write music designed to be fun for us to play; being so new, with not so many live shows played we are coming into ourselves, trying to convey our energetic and happy sound as 4 people on stage!

Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear right now?
Hockey Dad, Marsicans, Sports Team.

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

I actually love the creation of the songs. Catching an idea and seeing it come together; I then can’t wait to record it and eventually perform it!

Any “strange tales” or things that may have happened during a show that seemed too weird to be true?

We once played alongside John Otway and saw some things man!

Do you find that social media and keeping up with your fans has become overwhelming? Or do you rely heavily on others to take care of that for the band? Which platform would you say that you enjoy engaging with the most?

We don’t get an overwhelming amount, but we do get enough to be really encouraging! It’s enough for a couple of people to handle as long as our phones are handy. We do make a point of being quick and being meaningful with responses. We really like to talk and interact with fans and make sure to leave no-one ignored, as we truly appreciate anyone who’s taken the time out to reach out to us! Instagram is favoured for interaction and keeps us the busiest!

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

We’ve not played that many shows yet, so seeing people sing the words and dancing is still amazing to see. Reviews online and what people say about us very much sticks in my memory too and fuels us to keep trying in this industry. However, It was awesome when a few of the crowd ended up on stage for the final track when we played in Manchester!

Besides two members currently in college, does the other half have 9-5 jobs or projects that they are busy with on the side?

Charlotte (bass) is a full-time Ship Registrar, and I am a part-time Fire Fighter and occasional pint pourer at the pub.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?

You can expect a few songs in 2020 for sure, more shows in the UK, and our first step into festivals.

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Solo Artist Drew Makes noise releases neo-pop song

Drew Makes Noise has just released his new single that feels like sunshine on the ears, titled ‘Satellite’. The track was released via One Inch Punch. During his time performing with the Ed Zealous band, Drew Makes Noise would support acts such as Snow Patrol, Two Door Cinema Club, and Maximo Park. The band has received features in CLASH Magazine, as well as air play by Phil Taggart for BBC Radio 1. They have performed at the acclaimed Glastonbury Festival. Now as a solo artist, Drew Makes Noise has been supported by Gemma Bradley and Aine Cronin-MCartney for BBC ATL Introducing.

Drew Makes Noise’s sound is a fusion of neo-pop crossing over with psychedelic pop. He finds inspiration in a combination of 80’s and 90’s to the current sounds of today. These acts include Wolf Parade, Polyphonic Spree, John Grant, Mercury Rev, and Tame Impala. ‘Satellite’ captures Drew Makes Noise impressive creative ability as a musician, combining all of his musical influences that result in a fusion of summer euphoria.

Drew Makes Noise speaks about the single, “Satellite came from a 2-hour long solo jam on Pro Tools with arpeggiators and synths. There was so much of it that I wrote albums worth of songs in the time it took me to put all the complex pieces together in a song. Depending on how I feel I sing the lyrics with no sense of irony or completely ironically.”

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Joywave release their anti-choas single, ‘Like A Kennedy’

Joywave recently released their ear catching single, ‘Like a Kennedy on the 21st of June. Self described as an ‘anti-chaos song’, the track is inspired by complete exhaustion and media burnout. While the sound is consistently alt-indie/dreamy-pop, the lyrics start off with a surprising and unusual set of lyrics, “my head is swelling like a Kennedy”.

The combination of singing about assassinations and bombs with the mellowed out music creates an impactful result, allowing you to truly focus on the lyrics. However, Joywave themselves put the song into the best perspective with their audio commentary (you can find it below).

New York based, Joywave has proved just as prolific and popular on the road, performing countless headline dates, show-stealing sets at international festivals spanning Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bumbershoot, and the UK’s Reading/Leeds. They also support runs with such artists as The Killers, Young the Giant, Walk the Moon and many more.

Joywave will be releasing the music video for the single, ‘Like A Kennedy’ soon.

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Listen to the single here:

Listen to their audio commentary here:

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HUNGER ‘Light It Up’ with new single

HUNGER have just released their new single ‘Light It Up’ via Born and Raised Records. It is the first track in a monthly release cycle leading up to their debut album Mosaik to be released on December 20, 2019.
The Vienna-based trio is Daniel Rumpel, Johannes Herbst and Lucas Fendrich. They began HUNGER in 2015 after all being in bands previously. There was a unanimous decision to no longer play live, but after the recording their first few track, the band realised how much they had missed playing to a live audience. Their extensive touring schedule has since seen them perform at a string of festivals, including Out Of The Woods Festival with the likes of  Alt-J, Phoenix, Feist, Sohn, Milky Chance, and The Strumbellas.
‘Light It Up’ acts as an exciting prelude to their upcoming album. Blending elements of alt-rock, synth-pop and dark electronica it presents a multi-layered universe of off-center pop-rock well worth exploring.
Speaking of the track HUNGER explain: “’Light It Up’ is about adventures, moments and memories we’ve experienced and still want to experience in our lives. It’s an anthem for going out and to live and experience life and its freedoms. We wrote and recorded the song in a little hut in the Austrian alps. The ‘gospel choir’ halfway through the song was recorded in a tiny kitchen and is basically just the three of us and our producer singing in hundreds of tracks.”

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KETTLE OF KITES have revealed a new single: ‘Orchid’, a haunting new cut that offers reflects on the blurring of fiction and reality as Earth stands on the precipice of environmental disaster.

As with the rest of upcoming studio album ‘Arrows’, the latest single from the post-rock collective sources its inspiration from the revolutionary works of science fiction author Isaac Asimov. Chiming with the recent Extinction Rebellion and climate change protests that have taken place across Europe, Asimov’s novels often dwelled on the implications of man-made ecological disaster and the lyrics of ‘Orchid’ find Kettle of Kites inflecting his sentiments to provide timely reflection on the urgent need for environmental action.

Frontman and lyricist of Kettle of Kites Tom Stearn explains further:

“In much of the science fiction works of Isaac Asimov the creation of a parallel universe set in the future serves as a tool to explore forward thinking ideas but also to focus our attention on our present. ‘Orchid’ is set between present and possible future, reality and fiction, and is the song from ‘Arrows’ which is closest to our own current reality and is set in the moment when humanity is forced to abandon earth, now polluted and uninhabitable because of radioactive substances.”

Cruising the astral planes between REM, Idlewild and Talk Talk, ‘Orchid’ is the latest sonically ambitious and majestically progressive cut from Kettle of Kites. With a slow-burning and wistful atmospherics that build to a brooding, apocalyptic crescendo, ‘Orchid’ animates a dystopian world once only envisioned in the nightmares of Asimov with lucid effect. As Earth stands on the precipice of facing such a reality, ‘Orchid’ acts as a stark reminder of our fragile planet’s mortality and of the accountability humanity must take to preserve its future.

‘Orchid’ is just the latest in a string of singles including ‘Weathervane’ and ‘Oliver’ that lead to much anticipated new album ‘Arrows’ this Autumn. A science fiction concept album that traverses the listener through space, time and beyond, the record features 9 tracks of stimulating post-rock each inspired by the groundbreaking ideas of Isaac Asimov.

At a time when isolationism and ideological inward-looking, seem to be gripping the western world with greater effect every day, Kettle of Kites are a band unafraid to break the curve. With its constituent members hailing from Scotland, England, Belgium and Italy, Kettle of Kites gaze far beyond the borders of Earth and transfix upon the wonders of the universe and its limitless possibilities. Arriving in 2019 like a pan-European, sci-fi space rock programme, the four piece will deliver their new album this Autumn: ‘Arrows’, an innovative concept record inspired by the works of science-fiction pioneer: Isaac Asimov.

Straddling the astral planes between Radiohead, Talk Talk and Green-era REM, Kettle of Kites are a sci-fi inspired rock band currently based in Italy.  Releasing ‘Loan’ in 2015, the band’s debut album arrived as very much the solo effort of Scottish songwriter and former member of orchestral indie-pop outfit Admiral Fallow: Tom Stearn. Recorded unceremoniously in a basement in Italy, the  release was finessed half way across the world at the famous A Pocket Full Of Stones studio in Australia.

Returning to the project in 2019 with an expanded line up and a brave new vision for the band’s future, Stearn enlisted talents from across Europe in the form of Genoa’s Pietro Martinelli (bass), Brussels-based Marco Giongrandi (guitar) and London-based drummer Riccardo Chiaberta, to map out the musical schematics of upcoming concept album: ‘Arrows’. Combining a wealth of experiences from music scenes across Europe, on ‘Arrows’ the new-look line up adeptly illustrate the vividly visionary worlds and endlessly imaginative idiosyncrasies of acclaimed Science Fiction author Isaac Asimov. Harnessing supernova crescendos to spacial melodies with artful effect, ‘Arrows’ sees Kettle of Kites charting their true potential with nine intrepidly arranged and intergalactically influenced compositions that reach for the stars.


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Dark and atmospheric PINERO|SERENE release second single, ‘Dead Flowers’

Alternative dream-pop duo PINERO|SERENE gears up to release their debut EP, Dark Matter on the 12th of July. Ahead of that, they have shared their second single, ‘Dead Flowers’ premiered by TMRW Magazine. The single was officially released last Friday, 28th of June.

Based in the artistic hub of London’s East End, PINERO|SERENE create dark, atmospheric soundscapes, through a unique and paralleled songwriting collaboration, that personifies emotional experience. Neeq moved to London from Berkshire to pursue a passion for photography and music. She dabbled in spoken word poetry, fascinated by the potency of words, and has since honed her skills to the development of abstract songwriting and production skills. Cheryl began playing bass at age thirteen, and toured around Germany and The Netherlands in her early twenties, eventually settling in London.

“‘Dead Flowers’ is the last in the chain of a four-track EP, which takes you on a journey through personal evolution. It’s about facing the fear of letting go, to make space for a new dimension of existence and perception.” – PINERO|SERENE on their latest single.

The music video for their single ‘Take My Soul’ was also premiered last month, on the 14th, with positive responses so far. You can watch it below

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Infectious indie rock single shared by UV Rays

Last Friday indie rock band UV Rays announced their new EP, ‘The Right Stuff’, and shared lead single “Overrated.” Under The Radar premiered the track, praising, “The single takes its cues from ’90s emo, opening with an in media res beginning that evolves into an explosive chorus that mixes bright vocal harmonies with a pleasingly discordant wall of distorted guitars.”

Coming quickly on the heels of the Try and Begin EP, the Brooklyn four-piece UV Rays have returned with The Right Stuff EP, a three-song collection of infectious indie rock that further establishes them as some of the most exciting songwriters in the city. While Try and Begin cast a wide net, demonstrating UV Rays’ knack for melding complex instrumental arrangements with pop sensibilities, The Right Stuff presents a more streamlined side of the band that proudly puts their dynamic vocal melodies at the centre of the action.

Opening track “Overrated,” sung by drummer Erica Warner, begins with a thicket of snarling guitars before launching headfirst into one of the band’s catchiest choruses to date, despite its menacing cult-y overtones. “We’re genuinely not as selectively welcoming as the song portrays, but like, close enough,” Warner quips.

The band draws inspiration from artists such as Nirvana, the Beatles and, the Buzzcocks.

The Right Stuff EP – Tracklisting:
01. Overrated
02. Girlfriend
03. Faster Now

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Emerging songstress JULA presents ‘Leave’, a powerful debut.

JULA, the flourishing voice from Amsterdam, has shared her debut single ‘Leave’ via Tall Mountain Records on May 31st, 2019. Written by JULA and co-produced alongside Jan Schröder (known for his work with Causes, DO, Mainstreet and Martin Garrix), the song comes off of her upcoming debut EP PHOENIX, set to drop this year.

‘Leave’ features an unpretentious, minimal instrumental that creates a cool, open and musing ambience. JULA’s controlled voice effortlessly shines through and warms the track, poetically carrying a message of resilience and fearless self-determination.

“I remember when I first had the idea for this song; I was at home with my loop station just improvising, making soundscapes. It was a cold day and as I sat there, this song just came to me.” JULA says about the theme of her debut offering. “It’s about a feeling I sometimes have, a weight that I carry with me. A feeling that overwhelms me, which I can not escape. I wallow in it for a while, cover myself in it and then, all of a sudden, it’s gone. It’s a very lonely feeling, very dark, but it’s not necessarily negative, it’s a part of me I have learned to accept and even appreciate sometimes; without the low, I can’t experience the high. That is what ‘Leave’ is about.”

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Ben McKelvey Releases Video for Folk-Rock Song ‘Wild Child’

Ben McKelvey’s  latest folk-rock track, ‘Wild Child’  has just hit the airwaves. The accompanying video sees the multi-instrumentalist flex his musical muscles as he gives viewers a taste of his many skills.
Ben has plenty of stage time under his belt,  Having supported the likes of Wet Wet Wet , The Overtones, and Mike & The Mechanics. A short illness rendered the young musician bed-ridden, and it was then that he began to focus on songwriting. He originally had no intention of ever playing live, but since his first live performance, he never looked back.
The video, produced by Jake Robbins (Natives) is an uplifting track,  centred around the highs and lows of life as a musician. Ben gives some insight: “‘Wild Child’ was the last song I recorded for the album. It instantly became my favourite on the record and probably is my favourite I’ve ever written. There’s a lot of emotion in this song and it’s the most personal I’ve ever written. A song based on true events about how being a musician is something you can’t choose to let go when it’s in your blood and how it can destroy personal relationships. A tough song to write but very therapeutic. It was written at a low point in my life but when we get to play it live, it’s just incredible. I guess it’s dedicated to the musicians out there giving it their all.”

Watch BEN McKELVEY ‘Wild Child’ here.

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