‘The rug can be pulled any time’ – how indie music has adapted during Covid @BBC News

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‘The rug can be pulled any time’ – how indie music has adapted during Covid

Beabadoobee, Arlo Parks and Porridge Radio

This was supposed to be Arlo Parks’ year.

The soulful indie singer was named on the BBC Sound of 2020 list, had her first UK headline tour under way and support slots in the States lined up, not to mention Glastonbury.

But before spring had sprung, she saw those plans “dissolve before my eyes” due to the “devastating” pandemic.

“I think I did have a fear that it was going to seriously rock my career and prospects,” says the 20-year-old Londoner, who is signed to independent label Transgressive.

“It’s shown that the rug can be pulled from under my feet at any time.

Arlo Parks pictured outside The Lexington for BBC Radio 6 Music's State of Independents day on Thursday

“But then on the flip side, I did learn that sense of resilience and finding ways to stay connected with fans and maintaining a sense of inspiration, and just doing my best with what was available and remaining optimistic.”

The Association of Independent Music Award winner says the pause has given her time to write and enjoy some “surreal” experiences – like playing in an empty church with Phoebe Bridgers, and performing to a bunch of cows at Glastonbury’s vacant Worthy Farm.

“Then I guess trying to remain optimistic that gigs will come back at some future.”

Parks is among the indie artists helping BBC Radio 6 Music celebrate and examine the scene on its State of Independents Day on Thursday.

Another rising star whose ascent has been slowed by the virus is fellow Sound of 2020 act Beabadoobee.

Beabadoobee

The 90s-influenced rocker, real name Beatrice Kristi, says it “kind of sucked” to miss out on opening up for her Dirty Hit labelmates, The 1975, at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Instead, she used confinement to live-stream bedroom gigs on social media, and create the “perfect aesthetic” for her debut album, Fake It Flowers, which drops next month.

“I wouldn’t say I didn’t miss out on anything, but we have so much time and it’s nice to take some things slow,” offers the 20-year-old, who has a rescheduled tour booked in for September 2021.

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“In all honesty, I feel like if I went away for this whole year – I didn’t think I was ready. Now I think I’m ready, because I’ve spent so much time with my family and my boyfriend and I’ve kind of grown up a bit.”

‘Cultural recovery’

While socially-distanced indoor gigs have been allowed in England since mid-August, most venues have been unable to put them on in practice.

The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds has seen shows pushed back until next spring, but owner Nathan Clark tells the BBC those dates are only provisional.

The Yorkshireman is one of many grassroots venue bosses waiting to see if they will benefit from the government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund, of which £3.36m has been set aside for music venues.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden told The Mail on Sunday that “mass indoor events” like opera, ballet and classical are now in sight. Yet Clark believes greater “sector specific support” is required to make it feasible for the live independent music circuit to re-start.

St Vincent plays the Brudenell Social Club

He notes how the guidance for “someone going to a theatre to sit down and observe quietly with their arms crossed” is not applicable to those going to see a rock band, rapper or DJ.

“You go to a gig to interact with people,” says Clark. “To enjoy the music, dance and sing along. You can’t do any of that, so it’s taken away the main point of it.

“We’re starting to get back to arranging some types of events and finding ways to make it work,” he goes on. “But it’s not going to be live music as we know it. It’s going to be quite weird for a long time and it’s certainly not going to be worth any money for us, for the artists, or for anyone else.

“It’s basically an exercise in seeing, can we do it? Can it support a cultural recovery?”

‘Normal jobs’

Brighton-based guitar band Porridge Radio emerged from the rubble of 2020 after their second album, Every Bad, was nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Fittingly, it finds frontwoman and main songwriter Dana Margolin reflecting on feelings of frustration and uncertainty.

Plans for the four-piece to quit their “normal jobs” to chase the music dream full-time have had to go on hold for now, which she believes may have worked in their favour during the crisis.

“I think for us, we don’t have this sense of entitlement to a job in music,” says Margolin, who also works as a nanny. “It’s quite new for us anyway, for things to be going well!

“We’ve not played any of our sold-out shows,” she adds. “It just didn’t happen. So I’m like, ‘Oh well, does it really exist?'”

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‘Music is a product’

Tom Gray’s band Gomez won the Mercury Prize in 1998, when it was possible to stage an award ceremony.

Gray, now a director of copyright collective PRS for Music, says Southport’s finest would have “no chance” of making a living from music in today’s landscape, partly because streaming royalties don’t go far when split five ways.

With gig earnings virtually cut off overnight, most artists have found they can no longer fall back on income from recorded music. Gray has launched the Broken Record campaign, calling for streaming giants like Spotify and YouTube to change their “outdated” models and pay artists more fairly. According to CNBC last year, rights-holding artists on Spotify earn around $0.006 (£0.0051p) per stream.

Tom Gray and Ben Ottewell of the band Gomez

“Recorded music is a product; it’s a thing that we make and we spend months and years of our lives making it,” says Gray.

Gray stresses the “narrative” that independent musicians earn as much as megastars like Adele or Stormzy needs to change too. “These people live in your communities, they play in your pubs, they probably make your coffee,” he says.

‘Consumption stronger than ever’

North west-based indie label Nice Swan Records offer “artist-friendly 50-50” record deals to the acts that come through their stable, such as Mercury Prize nominees Sports TeamPip Blom and Fur.

The two-man operation, comprising Alex Edwards and Pete Heywoode, have also had to cancel tours this year and delay album campaigns for their more established acts, some of whom have had to take advantage of furlough schemes and other funding.

However, they found that launching an “introducing” series, highlighting their new signings during lockdown, brought great exposure.

“It’s been really exciting launching new careers and getting loads of coverage in the media and press and radio,” says Edwards. “But obviously with more established acts that are going into album two and three, we’ve hit some brick walls.

“We’ve noticed streaming figures going up,” notes Heywoode. “The consumption of music has been stronger than ever.”

Sister Ray Records

The pair will continue to put their artists’ material on streaming sites, and in independent record shops.

Phil Barton, who manages the Sister Ray shop in central London, says they had a “brilliant” Record Store Day last month.

They shifted most of their stock via a mixture of in-store and online sales, which he says was “a shot in the arm” after “a really bad six months”.

He thinks smaller record shops can help themselves by having an online presence. He’d also like to see some external help so they can continue to enable people to “make contacts, exchange ideas” and discover their own Arlo Parks, next year and beyond.

“I think record stores should come under the same sorts of banner as live venues, and they should be treated as a sort of cultural necessity,” states Barton.

“If we are to save as many record shops as we can, then maybe we should make it very difficult to close them down.”

PHIL MADELEY ANNOUNCES DEBUT EP ’21ST CENTURY WITCH HUNT’

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PHIL MADELEY ANNOUNCES DEBUT EP ’21ST CENTURY WITCH HUNT’

OUT 4TH SEPTEMBER VIA NICE SWAN RECORDS

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR THE THE TITLE TRACK HERE

Phil Madeley has announced his highly anticipated debut EP huge new single 21st Century Witch Hunt, set for release 4th September via Nice Swan Records.

21st Century Witch Hunt is a remarkable collection of work that seamlessly encapsulates Madeley’s musical journey so far, with the Birmingham troubadour effortlessly amalgamating a wealth of genres, from dark forboding production to an almost spaghetti western take on alternative classics, all underpinned by his signature vocals and lyrical craft.

Speaking about the debut EP, Phil Madeley said: “‘The EP questions the current state of play. It’s about alienation, division, redemption, and largely myself. It’s questioning the soul of our actions. I’m a bit obsessed with finding meaning in everything. At times this is a flaw, but it has its moment in the sun when it comes to songwriting. We recorded it within a day earlier this year at RAK Studios, which suits the sound of it. It ended up being an outpour of my experiences over the past year and feels like a great base to introduce myself as a songwriter’.

The EP features the huge title track ’21st Century Witch Hunt’, which was released in spring to critical acclaim and was accompanied by stunning, cult-like visuals, as well as debut single ‘Same Skies’ and forthcoming hit ‘Lay Across’.

HOTEL LUX SHARE VIDEO FOR ‘BALLAD OF YOU & I’ STARRING THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER

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HOTEL LUX SHARE FINAL SINGLE ‘BALLAD OF YOU & I’ FROM DEBUT EP ‘BARSTOOL PREACHING’ WITH VISUALS STARRING THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER (LOVE ACTUALLY, GAME OF THRONES, STAR WARS) AND PRODUCED BY KRIS R (SPORTS TEAM, JOHNNY MARR).

HOTEL LUX RELEASED THEIR DEBUT EP ‘BARSTOOL PREACHING’ VIA NICE SWAN RECORDS FOLLOWING A COVID-19 DODGING SOLD OUT UK TOUR AND PARIS DEBUT. TODAY THE BAND SHARE THEIR FINAL OFFERING FROM THE EP ‘BALLAD OF YOU & I’ ACCOMPANIED BY SOME SPECIAL VISUALS FILMED ON THE ESSEX COAST. THE TRACK HAS BECOME AN INSTANT FAVOURITE FOR THE BAND AND  KEEN TO GIVE IT THE RIGHT TREATMENT THEY CALLED IN A FAVOUR FROM FRIENDS GZI WISDOM AND PARTNER, THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER. FRONTMAN, LEWIS DUFFIN ADDS:
“The Ballad of You & I seemed to be the moment that crowned the EP for us. A step in a different direction away from our comfort zone, our best attempt at a pop tune. We thought it was important that it didn’t get lost within the turmoil of Covid and because it’s so vivid of a tune, putting a video to it seemed perfect.”
BARSTOOL PREACHING IS OUT NOW via NICE SWAN RECORDS
VINYL: https://niceswanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/hotel-lux-barstool-preaching
SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/album/0HYwkvtYC7sTzVCr08tWiE?si=TpVWF391SUyJxkW_oKuJMA 
PRESS HIGHLIGHTS:
“a compelling listen no matter the headache in the morning.” NME
“killer stuff” – Iggy Pop on 6Music
“Lewis Duffin is still the sharpened tack in the side of modern day British inertia” – So Young
“sizzling “pub rock” gems” – DIY
“Many a band try and fail to create this sense of postmodernism, but it’s Hotel Lux’s actual relatable schisms that makes it work for them” – Line of Best Fit
“I really like that!” – Huw Stephens, Radio 1

NSWNi004: Hallan – Modern England – Out on August 8th 2020

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NSWNi004: Hallan – Modern England

 

Portsmouth-based four piece, Hallan write and rehearse in an 18th-century fortification built into the side of a hill and surrounded by a forest. It’s within these dramatic surroundings that frontman, Conor Clements channels the frustrations, insecurities and events of early adulthood into his lyrics, which are littered with observational poetry and messages of reassurance that you’re not alone in this overwhelming world.

Drawing influences from the people you cross every day – in the supermarket aisles, on your Facebook feed, next door neighbours – Hallan observe and commentate on British life via an Orwell-influenced bleak vision of the future and the cut-up style of Burroughs and other beat generationers. Heavily influenced by the classic post-punk sounds of Joy Division and The Fall, ‘Modern England’ is a hard-hitting social commentary on England today, from the housing crisis and plummeting employment rates to Brexit and uninspiring modern indie music, that Connor wrote over the top of an instrumental demo.

He says of the track: “It’s the characters in our town, the conversations they have and what we see on our television sets. We want to reflect what’s going on in the here. We don’t want to make a one-sided political message or talk for a generation. The song is exactly what it sounds like. A condensed England if you will. With so many strange and vapid trends gripping the nation sometimes you have to take it all in and find some humour beneath the surface. Pugs and face changing apps. What’s that all about? And how could we forget Brexit? It’s a good job we all have our red passports. But then again does anyone in the country have a clue what’s ever going on? Maybe it’ll all blow over if I stick to my microwave dinner and keep my eyes on the screen.”

 

Hallan have already started to build an army of local fans, their last headline show sold out so quickly in advance that the support acts weren’t allowed any guests and having supported the likes of Porridge Radio and Sports Team, the future looks bright for the seaside town’s exciting, young act.

Hallan are: Conor Clements – Lead Vocals

Josh Ransley – Guitar

Joshua Tweedale – Bass Guitar

Adam Mills – Drums

NSWNi003: Sprints – The Cheek – Out on June 19th 2020

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NSWNi003: Sprints – The Cheek

 

Dublin-based four piece, Sprints are the latest new act to emerge from the city fast becoming one of the most prolific places for hot new bands. With the recent success of other locals Fontaines DC, Girl Band & Silverbacks – Sprints are the latest in line ready to burst out of the city having just formed last year and are already creating a wave of excitement across Dublin with early single, ‘Kissing Practice’.

Their creative process is very much rooted to the everyday goings on around them and just like a true garage band, write and rehearse in their village home’s back garden shed. Taking things to the next level, they were quick to team up with Girl Band’s Daniel Fox who has been producing them in his studio. Drawing influence from the likes of Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem – there is a fun, energetic and retro feel to what they do but very much sounding as fresh and exciting as their local peers. The Cheek is a raw, raucous and bass fuelled single with post-punk and alt-rock influences. Laced with sarcasm, the song tackles sexuality head on.

Lead singer and guitarist Karla says on the single; “The Cheek was inspired by conversations at bars and Karla’s experience with her sexuality. As a person who is bisexual, your experiences can be dif icult. You’re not gay enough, you’re not straight enough, you can be over-sexualised or demonised, I’m going to bed or I’m going to hell. People of any gender identity or sexuality will face criticism and pigeon holing based on their label. Whether it’s being told I wouldn’t have been kissed did they know I was bi, or being asked would I do a threesome, having your ass grabbed and your space invaded – this is my big fuck you to all those people.

Thematically it is all centres around my experience of sexual assault, unsolicited advances and sexuality as a whole. It’s raw, personal and high energy because it’s a song that is all about venting frustrations. “ Sprints have already started to build an army of local fans, with their last few shows around Dublin selling out rapidly. The band are now set to unleash their ferocious post-punk to the world.

Sports Team’s debut album Deep Down Happy debuts at Number 2 after a *seriously* close chart race

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Chromatica by Lady Gaga holds on to Number 1 for a second week in a photo-finish Official Albums Chart race.The UK’s fastest-selling album of 2020 so far retains the albums top spot finishing ahead of its closest competitor by less than 600 chart sales.

It means midweek leaders, indie band Sports Team score this week’s highest new entry at Number 2 with their debut album Deep Down Happy. The six-piece do however seize the title of the biggest seller of the week, leading on physical sales as well as having the edge on digital downloads. Sports Team score the best seller of the week across UK independent record shops and Number 1 on the Official Vinyl Chart after shifting 4,300 copies on wax.

The six-piece, who formed at Cambridge University, took their loss in good spirits – comparing the week-long competition to 1995’s “battle of Britpop”, when Blur’s Country House beat Oasis’s Roll With It to number one.

“It was Blur vs Oasis, and we were Oasis,” they wrote on Twitter, next to a picture of them sharing a beer at a picnic table. Took it closer than we had any right to. Will be paying back the IOUs well into our forties but… what a ride. Love you all.”

Overall an absolutely fantastic achievement for a debut record! Everyone here at Nice Swan is extremely proud of all that you have achieved over the last few years.

Band Of The Week: Malady

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London group, Malady have been gigging around the capital and teaming up with friends for shows over the last 18 months. The four piece have now released their second video offering following on from the live video for their track ‘Famous Last Words’. Next up is this awesome demo of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ something that is probably being span right now at Arsenal’s training ground.

It’s early days for Malady, a group who openly express that they’re still honing their craft as they go. With this in mind, the band have taken a step forwards with a relatively non committal release which serves a something for future fans to go back to when they return from a show.

Watch this space….

 

GET TO KNOW… HOTEL LUX (DIY MAGAZINE)

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With a new video out today and their debut EP on the horizon, we meet the exciting five-piece.

Hello and welcome to DIY’s introducing feature, Get To Know… getting you a little bit closer to the buzziest new acts that have been catching our eye as of late, and working out what makes them tick.

Recently we’ve met Nice Swan record newbie Phil Madeley, LA-based collective Peach Tree Rascals, experimental artists GLOWS, Aussie alt-rockers Loose Fit, and now we’re introducing you to gritty five-piece Hotel Lux.

Raised in Portsmouth and now a solid staple of the ever-blossoming South London scene, the group create sizzling “pub rock” gems, blending indie grooves with darkly intense lyricism, and are currently gearing up to release their debut EP ‘Barstool Preaching’ on 24th April.

Sharing the animated vid for recently released stomper ‘Eddie’s Gaff’ today, created by the band’s own Cam Sims, he explains, “The video for ‘Eddie’s Gaff’ is the result of boredom during the COVID-19 lockdown. It features stuff that we all took for granted a few weeks back.”

We caught up with them to find out a lil’ bit more about what makes them tick.

Describe your music to us in the form of a Tinder bio.
Like to try a variety of things, average around 3 minutes.

What’s your earliest musical memory?
Madness – Baggy Trousers. Used to think the lyrics were jokes as a kid. Still reckon it’s the only song bar our own (and even that’s debatable) that I know word for word.

Who were some artists that inspired you when you were just starting out (and why)?
Just all the bands that we loved collectively. I remember making a playlist on Spotify titled ‘London Band’ when we decided we were gonna give Lux a go when we moved up to London. Can’t recall exactly what was on it but I know there would’ve been a bit of Dr.Feelgood, a bit of the Blockheads, the Stranglers, Specials blah blah blah. To be honest, the list of bands all five of us can agree on is very slim. Maybe those four were the only four.

You’re from Portsmouth! What do you think of the music scene there at the moment?
I’ll be honest, I don’t know enough about what’s going on there to answer that question. There’s a real lack of venues in Pompey which makes it hard for a scene to really thrive. It’s in dire need of a decent 100 cap to really push something there – it’s a big uni city so there’s room for a good scene à la Bristol, Brighton etc. As much as it pains me to say that other city up the M27 looks better at the minute but that’s because they’ve got the venues. Southampton, that is.

Are there any other artists breaking through at the same time that you take inspiration from?
I wouldn’t say that there’s anyone about that we’re taken inspiration from directly but it’s inspirational to see those in the circles around you doing well for themselves. Fair play to Sorry for releasing the album of the decade in its opening year though.

Who would be your dream collaborator?
Damon Albarn full stop.

Musically or otherwise, what are you most looking forward to this year?
In the current climate I’m just looking forward to seeing the pals for a pint again. Nothing more, nothing less.

If people could take away one thing from your music, what would it be?
That ‘any fucker can do it’ mantra ain’t a myth.

https://diymag.com/2020/04/02/get-to-know-hotel-lux

Nice Swan Picks – 30th March

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As promised every few weeks we are refreshing this humble playlist purely for your aural pleasure. Best of the best only!

We’ve decided to add a load of our new discoveries that have been recently released from some amazing acts such as Cabbage, Hotel Lux, Cable Ties, Home Counties, The Lounge Society, The Homesick, Ikebe Shakedown, Sports Team & many more….