Monday, 30 March 2009

Songs of the day: Let me and You're So Square, Baby I Don't Care by Elvis Presley, from Jailhouse Rock

If you have Spotify (and you should), you can listen up here: Elvis Presley – Let Me

So...Song of the Day. We'll see if I can keep this up.

Aaaand here's another! - You're so square (baby I don't care)

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Interview: Polar Bear

You could call them experimental but we say they're weird and wonderful. Playing jazz for people who love Bjork as much as they do Coltrane, Polar Bear is like listening to many worthwhile if controversial conversations all at once. Drummer and founder Sebastian Rochford tells The List about the evolution of the quirky quintet and their signature sound.

Tell us a little about how Polar Bear came to be

It was started by me with a sax player called Rachel Musson and bass player called Amy Baldwin and gradually turned into what it is now. Think I met Pete first through another sax player, Julian Siegel, in the first minutes of playing together I felt like I had been waiting to meet this person for a long time. Tom, I saw playing and really loved although I was quite nervous playing with him at first as I knew he played a lot with Tom Skinner, who is one of my favourite drummers. Mark, I saw playing and was really blown away by his individuality and the amazing spirit he brought to the gig. John, I met through a friend who knew that I was fascinated by his music, I read an interview with him once and was so intrigued by him I spent a year trying to find his album. When I saw him playing live I realised that what he did was quite spontaneous and thought would really fit with where I wanted to take the band.

You obviously have an array of influences. Tell us some.

I think growing up in such a big family where everyone was into music opened my eyes to lots of different kinds at the same time. My mum loved jazz and Stevie Wonder and my dad loves Bach and Tina Turner.
At the moment I'm listening to Kaushiki Chakrabarty, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Durrty Goodz, Giggs, Pom Pom, Kwes, Joe Grind, Pnur Ozer and Radiohead.

Songs like fluffy I Want You use a mad mesh of sounds, many unidentifiable?

That tune has John playing different sounds through a PlayStation controller, the idea was to mix electronics with the other instruments to create one sound and have moments of not knowing what was doing what.

What is the song Beartown about?

I wrote Beartown driving up Brixton Hill where I used to live after I had been playing in Russia for two weeks and stayed in an area called Beartown. Being there had a real impact on me, I loved the people so much, felt quite different when I came back.

What kind collaborations with other artists have you done?

Think the only collaboration we've done is with Shlomo, the beatboxer, which I enjoyed a lot and have been playing with him since then.

Any album news?

We recorded half of it and recording the other half in beginning of June, am quite excited about it.

What should we expect in Glasgow?

Hopefully music that hasn't been played that way before and some new tunes too.

Polar Bear play with Dirty Projectors and Lucky Dragons at ABC2 in Glasgow on 29 March.

Also here in The List

Sunday, 15 March 2009


A slice of attitude

As I ate a slice of pizza from an Edinburgh pizza chain the other day, I couldn't help but chuckle at its size. In comparison to the pie slice I had in New York City recently, this laughably tiny triangle didn't hold a candle to ones in the Big Apple; it could barely hold a couple of bits of pepperoni.

New York City is this amazing place that I admittedly must frequent every year. She has it all, at any corner, at any hour, and more than likely it can be delivered, and yes, many times in portions that are beautifully abundant. Luckily I have a super girl friend who could show me around on my last visit and introduce me to some unknown corners holding the city's finest foods.

Back to the pizza. Fat Sal's in Hell's Kitchen was a first stop, and my friend's regular indulgence. It's the kind of portion that merits only a slice or maybe two to totally satisfy. Mine was a thin, crisp and voluminous slice with feta, tomatoes and basil (pronounced this time 'bay-zul') and it tasted just like I had arrived.

A quite famous hot dog joint was our late night stop. Grey's Papaya on Amsterdam and 72nd has most recently been immortalised on-screen with Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist and now I know why it's such a local institution. As a friend of ours said, in a very Brooklyn accent, "Where else in New York can you get two dogs and a drink for $4.50? You can't get anything in New York for $4.50." It's true. Considering I once had to pay $20 for a simple martini, I knew that my cheap yet amazing saurkraut and dijon mustard-covered 'dogs' were special indeed.

New York is also known for its attitude and although I think it's just more of a case of millions of very nice people with a bit of a shell, I did find just the place to go if you want a taste of the 'tude. The Hummus Place in the East Village was my stop off one day amid some vintage shopping. Now my hummus was the best I have had. Enriched with sauteed mushrooms, onions, parsley and paprika, it was a colourful snack I enjoyed with a cup of brilliantly spiced coffee. However, after I left, I was chased onto the sidewalk and confronted with my bill and an angry waiter who thought I hadn't tipped. He just hadn't seen the more than 20% tip (at least 18% is customary) that I left on the counter so I did point it out to him and continued on a bit baffled but admittedly thinking still, 'God, I love New York!'

Interview: Spokes

Audiences are wrapping their arms around Manchester quintet Spokes as their orchestral approach to indie is likened to artists such as Sigur Ros and Arcade Fire. Liam Morley, guitarist and one of Spokes' three vocalists, talks to The List about their new label, album re-release and the church that inspires them as the band prepares for a UK tour.

What's your story?

I met Owain when we were doing music at university in Preston, we started out recording songs on my computer. We imagined this big sound that we weren’t really getting, that’s when we decided to put the band together. We’ve all known each other and been friends for a long time so it’s been really natural process.

To be cliché, describe your music!

It’s difficult to answer that one without reverting to clichés again. A lot of people describe us as a shoe-gaze band primarily but since that’s as a derogatory term. I’m probably going to wish I hadn’t said it. I suppose it’s down to the fact that we tend to mix an influence of 60s pop music and folk with much noisier and drone elements. People are often surprised that there’s only five of us, they’re convinced it sounds like there’s more people playing. The place we hole up to write and rehearse has a lot to do with it I think, it’s just got a big, warm reverb that we feed off. It’s an old building that connects on to a church and although we’re not religious people it’s hard not to be affected by the atmosphere that brings.

Who do you hate being musically compared to?

When comparing us to Hope Of The States once someone called us Spokes Of The States, that was pretty annoying, although it probably just made them sound silly really. We know that people have to make comparisons so we try not to be too bothered by them.

The Untitled Demo on your MySpace page is just splendid. Is that new?

Thanks very much! It’s very new yes, as you can tell from the title. Since the last record we’ve shifted to using a group vocal sound which features heavily in that song. We used to be purely instrumental and that song’s so different that we thought it best to post that as a kind of warning. It sounds really different to us and we wanted to clue people in to what we’ve been doing.

You're re-releasing People like People like You. How did you get snatched up by Ninja Tune Records?

One of the guys in their office who bought our record was playing it to Peter Quicke who does the A&R for Ninja Tune and it turns out he liked it enough to come and see us play. Fortunately the show went really well and they offered a deal immediately after. Like most people we own a lot of records from that label so we were really happy to sign. We originally put out People Like People Like You ourselves with very little money so we’re really glad more people will be able to hear it now.

Will it be pressed and pretty and for sale by the 20 March gig?

It’ll be released on 6 April and should be out in the US shortly after that. While we’re on tour we’ll be selling our original limited edition pressing. It’s going to be exciting to see the counter version in shops and everything.

Looking forward to heading up to Scotland?

Ruth and Johnny have a lot of family in Scotland so it’s just like going home for them - we all love it. I think audiences can tell when you genuinely want to be there and that leads to a great response. Our equipment blows up without fail every time we go to Glasgow so we’ve got something to prove next time. Edinburgh’s been good to us though so we’re just going to play the best show we can and try not to break anything!

What was the last gig you went to?

I don’t actually get to go to many unless we’re playing it these days but I saw Silver Apples not long ago and he was amazing. I also met Peter Broderick when he played in Manchester last which was great. If you don’t know his name yet then you will do soon.

Spokes play Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh Fri 20 Mar and Halt Bar, Glasgow Sat 21 Mar.

Also on The List