Monday, 20 October 2014

My Reaction to 'Spider-Woman's Big Ass is a Big Deal'

I finally got around to reading The Best Page in The Universe's appraisal of the Spider-Woman cover controversy, which had been recommended and derided to me in equal measure over the last few weeks. On reading it, I got exactly what I expected. To catch up, if you haven't already, you can read a rather more measured appraisal of the Spider-Woman butt controversy on The Guardian.

Parts of it I actually agree with. I definitely concur that once the internet furore among the feminist blogs got blazing, a lot of the criticism of the cover lacked the anchor of the image's context within the rest of comic art. But I consolidated that with the fact that sometimes an issue just needs a 'straw that breaks the camel's back' like this particular cover to bring it to wider attention. At the time, I certainly wasn't ready to take sides and, as with anything on the internet, tried to enjoy and learn from the intelligent debate around the issue, and ignore the ignorance.

But after reading the Maddox blog, I was left in the odd position of agreeing with him but utterly troubled by his means of making his argument - the shaming, blanket generalisations and attacks against people who object to 'this kind of thing' that I've seen time and again. If anyone vocalising unease with certain aspects of entertainment being too misogynistic, homophobic, racially provocative or whatever is going to be lumped into a group of grey, borderline-fascist do-gooders then I've got a few generalisations of my own about the way that a certain type of men on the internet tend to react to reasonable criticism. I've seen many of these arguments on my own Facebook wall recently when I voiced concern about a misjudged joke on a cartoon or bemoaned the commissioning of a TV show by a comedy actor who uses aggressive, sexualised insults on complete strangers. Frothing-at-the-mouth, PC bastard I am.

Dapper Laughs
Knock knock. Who's There? Moist.
 First is that argument about 'don't like it, don't watch it', that simultaneously skirts - and misses - the issue. Just as an American who uses the expression 'Freedom of Speech' to justify deplorable views will quickly be reminded that with that freedom of speech comes our freedom of a suitable response, you don't have to subscribe to a comic or own the DVD box-set to participate in a critical analysis of its content and influence. We have the freedom to watch what we want, just as we have the freedom to respond to it. The irony of the 'don't like it, don't watch it' brigade is that people who use that defence are so often the same ones to argue about how much influence the media - read, too much - has on the West in terms of our outlook, attitudes and lives in general. So why is it so hard to join those dots? If something misogynistic, racist, or homophobic is within our mainstream media, people object to the issue of its influence and effect of 'normalising' certain behaviour. You can minimise it by calling it 'taking offence' or 'being PC' if you must, but it can't be dismissed with 'don't watch it then' because, just like blaming drunk women for their own rapes, the culture it creates affects us all whether we like it or not.

Secondly, I think the straw man 'initiative' of drawing every image of Spiderman as Spider-Woman is the typical internet hardcore-gamer mentality; dodge the issue, move the goalposts, jump on the attack and use a technicality to belligerently, but entertainingly, shame the argument of the opposite party. Instead of listening to their opponent's points and creating a coherent retort, they frame a nuanced argument as a 'game' in which they can use their Photoshop prowess to 'win' rather than a debate where you can learn from each other. Changing Spiderman into Spider-Woman uses a lot of smoke and mirrors but ultimately proves nothing - whether I agree that the Spider-Woman cover crosses a line or not, I can clearly see the difference between that and Spiderman in terms of the sexualisation of that image. I can't believe I'm having to explain it, because we all know it's there. There's a kinetic dynamism in the Spiderman images. There's a sexual slither in the Spider-Woman image. It's the work of a great artist that can bring that out. And I'm not saying I ultimately object to a sexy female comic character in context... but spare me the bullshit that it's all the same thing. I've read super hero comics since the age of four. While you might be able to draw Spider-Woman in a pose that looks the same as Spiderman, that doesn't make women any more equal or make you 'right'. Engaging and sharing your views about the issue, standing by your point while conceding ground, compromising and teaching... that's what makes you 'right'.

Spider Woman's Ass
The 'image game' can work both ways.
I don't want to tell people how to think. And I don't always agree with the leftist, liberal 'voices' he wildly generalises about in this article - but I'm really fucking glad they're there. And while you're going to get people like Maddox that dig their heels in, if the 'Social Police's influence is a drip-drip-drip of producers thinking twice before going with the lazy over-sexualisation of women in comics, or hiring people like Sam Pepper for TV shows, then I for one applaud them for their vigilance and pressure. Ultimately, the entertainment aspect of mainstream media is more interesting and enjoyable for all of us if women aren't lazily characterised as sex objects or damsels in distress. Paradoxically, Marvel's progressive use of female characters in many of their lines is one of the main reasons why their comics have been consistently kicking DC's arse critically for the past decade. Whether, depending on your perspective, it's a scandal or a non-issue that they chose to run this particular cover, what it has demonstrated, once again, is that a certain section of males are still shamefully unable to deal with valid accusations in a reasonable way.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Sun Urges Brits of all Faiths That Wear Union Jack Hijabs to Stand up to Extremists.

The Sun's cover yesterday saw them rallying their friends in 'all faiths' that wear hijabs to stand up against ISIS. So, that's erm, Muslims then.

Tell you what, if I was a British Muslim, I wouldn't waste time 'uniting against ISIS' to appease a bunch of blowhards demanding 'whose side are you on?' In fact, if I was previously planning on publically denouncing Muslim extremists (where and specifically how to do the denouncing, The Sun doesn't explain) I sure wouldn't do it now. The Sun's crass cover image and self-righteous bullying in the guise of 'friendly urging' certainly isn't a fair way to encourage anyone. It looks a lot more to me like a fait accompli to justify the unpleasantness that will be unleashed upon the brown people of Britain if they don't do as we say. It gives a new meaning to the phrase 'veiled threat'. It's that drunk guy at the pub that asks you why you've got them tunnels through your ears, or starts slavering over your girlfriend, but thinks it's OK because he's smiling when he does it. And after beating someone up he wakes up in the morning as says 'well, I was just having a laugh, but he had to get lippy'.

If I was a British Muslim, I'd feel pretty unwelcome in my country over the last few years and damn sick of the white 'silent majority' going on about me, not quite silently enough that I can't hear. I certainly wouldn't be waiting for them to tell me what it is they want me to do for them, in order to disprove my allegiance to a terrorist organisation I never pledged allegiance to. The fact that this is 'expected' of Muslims by The Sun and its white readers - on their own utterly arbitrary terms - is typically pig-headed of a newspaper whose lack of credibility or self-awareness has been exposed time and again... and yet for some reason people still draw comfort from its bile. These are people who have shown no friendship, empathy or tolerance of Muslim communities before this and have no real frame of reference for their culture or faith, other than what they contrive and distort. And now it's all 'we're mates right? We've always been mates. Well here's what I need you to do'.

A person of all faiths
A British person of all faiths, yesterday.

Tell you what The Sun, How about we urge Brits of all colours to stand up to racists? How about ridding ourselves of the 'Britain First' culture that reacts to abhorrent behaviour from a Muslim with a racial slur, then reacts to the same behaviour from a white person with the word 'chav'? A culture you and the tabloids exacerbate, aggravate and profit from? Then we can have an adult conversation about Islam, warts and all. Without us having to tolerate these printed hypocrisies day in, day out, people might be able to distinguish the signal from the noise. The we can begin to talk through the specifics of what place misogynistic, illiberal and violent perversions of Islam have in this country without tripping over ourselves to keep things tolerable for the thousands upon thousands that go about their day, run their businesses, eat their tea, and worship Allah. I look forward to that day.

It goes back to the very simple statement I made to people complaining about the 'kid gloves' approach to Muslims in the Rotherham situation; without racism, there is no anti-racism. The reason legislation and political correctness puts ugly red tape all over this country is basically an attempt to redress the the balance of a system historically rife with prejudice, bigotry and, yes, flat-out racism. And that Catch 22 is significantly perpetuated by tabloids that rake this muck up out of everyday people's bins and serve it back to them in the morning. This situation is the utter mess we're left with. This is why we can't have nice things. Not because of Muslims refusing to denounce terrorists we've erroneously and arrogantly assumed stand for 'them' in the first place.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Music Guidance. Thinking About... How You Look

This article originally appeared on the blog at

In this special weekly guidance series we’re going to be exploring three key aspects of your band’s existence and encouraging you to consider these elements of your act with as much thought and deliberation as you write your songs. Simply expecting the inertia of creativity to steer your ship into the right direction is rarely enough; your band’s command of who you are, what you do and how you come across are all hugely important to consider. Across the series, Barney will use some real-world examples to illustrate how important these factors are and help you to apply these concepts to your own band.



You've identified the original and unique mix of styles with which your band is going to explode onto the musical landscape. You've found every last webzine to pursue, each blog writer to email and sussed out all the happening underground hotspots for your particular style. But what do you look like? And not just what do you look like but what does the band look like? Visually, what does your art evoke? A consistent aesthetic across all your output, from your clothing to your artwork to your interviews is ideal. Your average metalcore band's music is very different from that of an indie-folk act, and so it makes sense that their attire, promotional material and artwork looks different too. If it's representing you visually, it's worth thinking about how it defines and adds to your brand. And there it is, that dreaded marketing speak! But brand is something that all successful acts have a handle on, even if they do their hardest to pretend they've never even considered it. And there's nothing that gets some bands more defensive than talking about that dreaded little word... image.

The Specials, a band with a strong image, across all their content.

Some bands balk at the very notion of discussing image. Some bands detest the idea of their appearance affecting their art. But a successful band without a decent image is very much the exception to the norm. By image I don't necessarily mean that you need to look ostentatious, showy or even fashionable. And while I understand the sentiment behind the cliché that 'people have paid to see you, so you should make some effort', that's really not always the case. A grunge band might look just great in ripped jeans and second-hand lumberjack shirts. But if three of the band members dress like that and the drummer dresses in sports gear, it's just not going to look right. By image I simply mean a consistent look across your band's appearance that relates to your music. There's no hard and fast rules to this and great band images vary wildly. The Police simply each bleached their hair blonde. Your image could even be that you all look completely different. As long as you've discussed your image and have decided what it is, you're on the right track. Certain members in any band are inevitably going to be more stylish than others, so if you're not one of those, consider swallowing your pride and let them help you dress. Franz Ferdinand and Blur were always bands where it looked somewhat like the singer dressed the drummer, but they were both bands whose image was a great part of their appeal. The really tricky part is making it look effortless. Bands like The Specials and The Ramones are some of the most credible bands around, but they also have two of the most iconic band images in history. It’s hard to imagine those groups of people discussing their wardrobe and haircuts. But the evidence that they must have is there, be it matching leather jackets or pork-pie hats, in every promo shot.

If image is something you're struggling with, it's worth thinking outside the box. In my band, image was something that we knew we had really lacked in our past attempts at being in bands. We decided that it was hopeless to try to dress the same because there was a range of styles within the band itself (a contrast of styles we actively drew upon in the music). Faced with the impossible task of streamlining our wardrobes, we decided to simply wear whatever we were comfortable in, but match the colours across our outfits. Red, Black and White was the, on reflection slightly unpleasant, combination I chose, but there it was, and we stretched the scheme onto our CDs, website and merch. We knew we were never going to set the world alight in the fashion stakes but we at least we had something that pulled us all together. Over the years, we’ve changed our colour schemes many times but we’ve always stuck to this strategy.

 The Ramones. Just happened to all dress exactly the same.
YOUR VISUAL BRANDThink about some adjectives that describe your music. They could be words like abrasive, dark and menacing. Or words like tender, fragile and comforting. Now consider if the visual assets of your act, from band photos, to logo design, to record artwork, express these words too. Pop and rock music are art forms that have a strong visual element. It isn't just your band image, your visual brand is part of everything you do, even your stage show. Fluorescent sticks and ultraviolet lights were staples of the live shows of bands in the new rave scene back in the early noughties, bringing the scene's luminous artwork to life onstage. It's simply worth remembering that how you look, both in person and represented by your assets, has a huge effect on how people perceive your music. If that makes you uncomfortable, instead of thinking of it as having to use your image and assets to lie about your music in a way that's dishonest and showy, it might be more useful to consider how your imagery can support your music and the ideas and emotions that you want it to evoke.

First and foremost, think about your band photographs. Once you've nailed a consistent look across the band in terms of your clothing, all the style and philosophy of your music may also be expressed elsewhere in these images. While it's an extreme cliché to have an old-school rapper stood in front of graffiti on an urban wall, it's a fairly clear example of this concept. Just as we discussed how important it is that your music represent where you're from in PART 1 of this series, the setting of your photographs can relate this too. Record artwork is another great way to express the character of your band and the ideal place to start in terms of brainstorming approaches to capture the aesthetic of your music in a visual form. Perhaps nailing the right artwork for your band is the jumping-off point you need to then go back and re-assess how you present yourself in terms of image? You can continue this through to your logo design and the way that you present your website. If you're a cool, quirky, tropical indie band, your logo and web presence should look completely different from that of a dark dubstep act. After all, the emotions that your respective music styles evoke when people listen to them are completely different. The key is to consider the characteristics of your music that are evocative and choose imagery that reflects those characteristics.

Aphex Twin's imagery is cold, unsettling and complex, just like his music, and supports his music across all his platforms.

How a band looks can even go beyond the visual. Any text related to a band is a great opportunity to push the band's brand and express your philosophy, image and style. If you're a hip-hop act whose lyrics are deep, complex and intellectual, then any text related to your music should have the same attention to detail and character as your lyrics. Use your biographies, social media and blog output to express your character and write with the same tone as the list of adjectives that describe your music. I wrote a blog for our friends at the Unsigned Guide called the Top 5 Mistakes That Bands Make on Their Biogs that highlights the perils of going too far with this approach, but as long as you remain aware of the purpose that your writing is for, having some fun with the style of its delivery is a great sizzle on your steak.

Another tremendous opportunity to put across your philosophy, image and style, are interviews. With the amount of internet blogs being written about bands right now, it's inevitable that you'll be asked to do one sooner or later. Remember, just like when you are writing your biography, an interview is a chance for you to put across your band in words and not a dull exercise where you literally answer the questions. If the questions are bad, nix them and answer the interviewer with what you want to say about the band. Steer the questions towards what you want to express that is interesting about your band. I recommend that bands "use the biography to highlight the music’s truth, not relay the literal truth" and I feel the same about interviews. Finally, it doesn't hurt to have stock answers to a range of questions that you, as a band, sit and hash out to keep the whole band 'on message'. As well as meaning that there is a consistency in your story that way, it provides a great opportunity for you as a band to touch base about your philosophy, bounce around ideas about your art, and refresh your memories and vision of where you're at and where you're heading.

THANKS AND GOODBYE FOR NOWI hope you've enjoyed this series as much as I've enjoyed writing it and the ideas presented have enhanced your grasp of who you are, what you do and how you look. To re-iterate my point from the introduction, "these blogs will be most beneficial if used as a jump-off point for discussion between you and your band members. The whole idea is that you, as an emerging band, get on the same page about who you are, what you do and how you look. If you have a unified vision, it's half the battle. Organise a band meeting, hash these things out and I guarantee you'll be making a positive and productive step for your band."

This is my last guidance blog for Songeist. If you've enjoyed my advice and writing, please keep up with my band HERE, my blog HERE and follow me on Twitter HERE. Thank you to everyone that's read, commented and shared these blogs and thanks to Songeist for the opportunity to write them.
The Specials shot courtesy Walt Jabsco's Flickr used under Creative Commons License.
The Ramones shot courtesy Sean Davis‘s Flickr used under Creative Commons License.
Aphex Twin Logo courtesy Richard Roche's Flickr used under Creative Commons License.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Music Guidance. Thinking About... What You Do

This article originally appeared on the blog at

In this special weekly guidance series we're going to be exploring three key aspects of your band's existence and encouraging you to consider these elements of your act with as much thought and deliberation as you write your songs. Simply expecting the inertia of creativity to steer your ship into the right direction is rarely enough; your band's command of who you are, what you do and how you come across are all hugely important to consider. Across the series, Barney will use some real-world examples to illustrate how important these factors are and help you to apply these concepts to your own band.



When many young bands see their idols headlining festivals it's natural to want to emulate them. Many emerging bands see, say, Foo Fighters up there and want to do the same, so they start a band that sounds like Foo Fighters. But it's vital to remember that Dave Grohl started out in a van in a cult hardcore band called Scream and built up his career from there. Queens of The Stone Age didn’t start as Reading-headlining rock titans; the seeds for the band grew from Kyuss and the stoner rock and desert music scenes. For Metallica it was the bay area thrash scene. For Green Day and Blink 182 there were scores of compilation appearances and toilet punk gigs. For every huge indie band like Foals, there are a hundred arty underground gigs played with like minded-bands put on by DIY promoters under their belt. For every 'overnight success' story like Royal Blood, there are always years of van mileage, local line-ups and band names in their wake. You can’t, and shouldn’t want to, skip this essential part of a band’s development.

For guitar bands, EDM acts, hip-hop artists and practically anyone other than the kids on Pop Idol, throwing yourself into the culture and activity of the underground scene of your chosen genre is essential. Not only does it provide a gigging circuit, an audience and that vital context for your act, it provides an opportunity to learn from a thriving culture that informs and influences the mainstream. Every successful band that I have ever seen live before they exploded, from the aforementioned Foals, to So Solid Crew, to You Me At Six, to Gallows, I saw in the context of an underground, grassroots show, showcasing similar acts as part of an underground scene. Many more of today's stars, from Dizzee Rascal and Chase and Status to Frank Turner and Enter Shikari began as big fishes in small musical ponds before making that coveted leap to the Main Stage.

Josh Homme: I Remember When All This Was Just Deserts...

The wisdom of starting your band at the grassroots of your chosen style is not unique to one band or scene, these ideas can be extrapolated across all styles of music. Take any hugely successful rock or indie or dance act and the majority have a history within an underground gigging circuit. So your approach to gigs should be studied and specific and this is what so many emerging artists playing mixed bills, looking for A&R in their local venues, forget. The lifeblood of any underground scene is the gigs and this cannot be understated. Grassroots music scenes work through friendships, not strength of demos, and the difference between being shunned by a scene and being immersed and accepted into one is often about what you put in. Returning favours and being an active participant at live shows will reap rewards for an emerging band that your songwriting might not. Fundamentally, there is no point playing the kind of gigs where a promoter ropes together miscellaneous local bands with no thought about style or customer, just to open the bar at their venue. Ultimately, the crowds at those gigs are made up of friends and families of the bands, who leave as soon as their artists have finished their show. Even worse are the ghastly ‘pay to play’ shows put on by promoters who ‘showcase’ whomever they know will sell tickets to their circle of friends, at no financial risk to themselves. That’s not a promoter of music, that's a promoter of a bar. Those gigs are pointless and don’t attract A&R. For all the reasons I have already outlined, no matter what the promoter might promise, A&R don't randomly cruise around local shows looking for bands; they wait for bands to begin to make ripples in their own scene before they come to them. At best, local mixed bills are an opportunity to play live, but that can be done D.I.Y with just a little hard work.

When I started my band, one thing we got right due to previous bad experiences was our resolution to never, ever play a 'pay to play' show, a battle of the bands or a miscellaneous mixed-bill on a local band night. We didn’t look at Manchester any different from any other British city and we were not vaguely interested in being a ‘big’ local band. We decided we would forge the path ourselves to become part of our chosen scene and those other things would come on board as we went along. We identified the touring bands that we wanted to play with that were within our reach and then booked those that were affordable to play the venues ourselves. We then put our band and other like-minded and stylistically appropriate local bands in support. After putting on several gigs, favours were returned and we were invited to other cities to play and that lead to strong relationships with other bands. When the bands came back on tour, I let them stay at my house and we became friends and part of the circuit. Pretty soon, we were getting booked all over the country and once we had a record deal we were seasoned enough at playing live to go on tour. But we’d had to take the risk of putting on our own shows and all those steps to build relationships with our peers to make that happen. It sounds calculated, and it was, but we had great fun doing it and made some wonderful friends and I recommend that hands-on approach to gigs to all emerging acts.

Dizzee Rascal. Exploded with his debut album, but began in the grassroots pirate radio grime scene.

Any scene will have its own webzines, perhaps even print fanzines, and so it shouldn't be at all difficult to identify the other bands, promoters and movers and shakers and jump right in. With the blogosphere and online promotion as huge as it has become, there is an immediate networks of blogs and taste-maker sites for practically all styles that are easy to find if you just put in a little effort. I don't want to make it too easy for you, but the list of links on Andy Von Pip's excellent blog is a wonderful starting place. Hype Machine should make short work of figuring out the blogs that relate to your style and the music that's making waves right now. Exciting and thriving though this network is, remember, it's there to help your band along and support good music, not to build your career alone. Only concentrating on your online music listens isn't going to cut it if you can't play live or create a presence in your scene. I've seen bands with quarter of a million online listens that couldn't draw double-figures at gigs. Although MP3 downloads and online plays might have replaced the rigmarole of sending CDs to club nights, the concept of getting to know the people who represent your chosen style at the grassroots remains. So while it's tempting to grab that list of blogs and send your EPK to everyone on there, it's actually better to simply choose a few that you know cover, and have a history of supporting bands that sound like you, and push it to them personally.

The famous story goes that Bloc Party were signed after they gave their CD to Steve Lamacq at a Franz Ferdinand gig. That wasn't an accident, it was a result of knowing the players and playing the game correctly. For my own part, on a much smaller scale, my band's initial approach to sending out our recording was the same as it was playing live. We weren’t initially sending our demos out to the big managers, agents and major labels. We made a rough and ready three track demo before we’d even started playing live and sent that out to all the ska fanzines and nascent webzines we could find. Fortuitously, one of the tracks was chosen to appear on a compilation by the UK’s leading fanzine of our style, which got our name out there very early in our existence. At Reading Festival I was handed a flyer with the name of a club night in London which displayed a list of bands that were spun by the DJ that had a great deal of crossover with my band's music. I sent a demo over to the club, addressing it c/o the club night’s name. A few weeks later I got a phone-call from the promoter inviting us to support a US band doing their only UK show in London. The promoter went on to put us in the studio to produce a professional demo (which ultimately got us signed) and subsequently he also went on to manage us for a number of years. These things never would have happened if I hadn’t seized the opportunity to send the CD to that club with a decent covering letter, based on a list of bands and a wing and a prayer. Just like Bloc Party, I had identified where we fitted in and the places that were playing the kind of music we were playing and it all went from there.

Bloc Party. Good mates with Steve Lamacq.
Next week, in the last blog of this series 'Thinking About... How You Look', I'll talk about another couple of things that you don't necessarily consider when you're getting your band together and those are image and interviews. For now, don't forget to let me know what you think of the blog and please share it! Thanks for reading.
Queens of the Stone Age shot courtesy NRK P3's Flickr used under Creative Commons License.
Dizzee Rascal shot courtesy michael dornbierer‘s Flickr used under Creative Commons License.
Reading Festival Bloc Party shot courtesy Mark Freeman's Flickr used under Creative Commons License.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Barney Interviews The Talks

This article originally appeared on the blog at

At Songeist we have no remit for the genre of emerging artists we promote; from classical to hardcore punk, our ears are open. However, we won't pretend we don't have our personal preferences and, for his sins, ska music is something very near and dear to the heart of Barney Songeist, to the point where 'Can't Remember To Forget You' by Shakira can often be heard emanating from our office when everyone else has gone to lunch. And so, it's his pleasure to be able to catch up with Jody, Pat and Iain from one of the great hopes of UK ska music, The Talks, whose rugged, rough-and-tumble ska and dapper British style has turned heads over the last few years, in both the UK and mainland Europe.

The Talks
B. Hey The Talks. Let’s get the formalities out-of-the-way. Can you give everyone The Talks in a nutshell; your style, where you guys met, what you guys have done up to now. Then we can move on and get into the details!

Jody. In a nutshell... The Talks are 4 lads from Hull that all met from playing in different bands together previously or studying music together. So far we have had one album out in 2011 and an E.P called ‘West Sinister’ which we released early last year and we are currently two singles in to our new album which will be released soon.

B. Cool! Your last two singles ‘Radio’ and ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ are streaming on Songeist now and feature on your forthcoming album ‘Commoners, Peers, Drunks and Thieves’. When did you record the album, who did you record it with and, most importantly, when is it going to drop?

Jody. We started demoing and jamming the album throughout 2013 but didn’t actually properly start tracking the album until early 2014. Luckily myself and Pat (lead singer) run a recording studio in Hull which helps, so this time all the album has been recorded at AOO Studios. Previously with ‘West Sinister’ we tracked the E.P in our studio but sent it out to a producer for mixing which made life easier. But with this album we are doing the lot, as some tracks were written in the recording process. Saying that, it did take a little longer than we'd hoped because at times we did found ourselves a little too close to the project; tracking, producing, arranging, mixing and mastering all takes its toll! So it did become a process of leaving it - to get some head space - before returning back to it, and continuing the session. It's a longer process but a good learning one!

Hopefully all being well, we should have it out in October.

B. One of the things that I love - and find very interesting - about you guys is that you’ve managed a nice balancing act between existing in the UK ska scene and getting mainstream attention from BBC Introducing and others. One reason for this is that you manage to achieve the live energy of the US ska-punk bands like Rancid that the underground circuit demands, but you manage to retain the identity of a UK band like The Specials or The Ordinary Boys that more commercial enterprises can get a handle on. In a scene that has often been stifled by the pop-cultural cul-de-sac of UK bands aping US ones, do you see your Britishness as a factor in the band’s character and consciously attempt to retain it? What do you think of UK ska bands that look and sound exactly like US bands?

Jody. I think it’s a case of knowing who and what you are; we are British and it seems that’s what people like about us and what sets us apart when we go over to play Europe. We are blessed that we have been left with a history of amazing music coming from the UK; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Specials... and it seems that other country’s artists are also influenced by the UK, so why would we look to be anything else when we've been left with such a legacy? So I suppose with us loving the British sound, it tends to sound more British naturally. But saying that, it's like you say, influence from the States with the energetic style, or anywhere in the world is always huge too. I guess if it's good and inspiring to us, we tend borrow aspects of it.

Any band from the UK that is playing ska music, American, European or British style, we support and good on them. It's all good for a possible re-emergence of the musical genre. We would never denounce a band for playing their own music and putting the work in.

B. It’s not just sounding-American that can hinder the progress of UK ska bands. Stylistically ska music doesn’t have a great representation in the mainstream and has a healthier underground scene in countries like Germany, which you guys tap into. On tracks like ‘Radio’ you have the sound of a fresh and vital band but underneath it all is essentially a ska band that the music industry, ironically radio especially, might perceive as being ‘retro’. Is your game plan to set your stall in the ska scene and hope that your songs, style and talent will bring you to success further afield or do you have an approach to avoid the pitfalls of getting stuck behind the glass ceiling of being labelled a ‘genre band’.

Pat. Yeah, it can be a bit of a drawback being labeled by some radio and media as being retro sometimes, but most people listen on and realise it is progressive as well.  Ska is a great style and we love to play it and try to progress it in our own way as much as we can, but there does come a point when it stops being familiar in its feel and then of course it's harder for a lot to identify with. The new digital distribution doesn't allow for crossing genres as much either. The iTunes buttons to identify genre like a nice neat 'Ska' or 'Rock' or 'Indie' or whatever it is. But saying that, no musician or artist wants to be cornered into one style. So we are, and have been, pushing the boundaries when writing. Sometimes it works and sometimes not, or maybe not for now anyways. The hope is once a band is established people are open to hearing what else they have to offer I think. That's certainly how we feel anyway.

The Talks, pushing things forward.

B. On the forthcoming album there’s a track that features Itch (ex-The King Blues) which has a strongly anti-war lyrical bent. How did your collab with Itch come about? Do you feel that it is important for bands to express their political opinions through music and which artists inspire you to do so?

Pat. The track 'Ceasefire' was born of just seeing so much mayhem going on in the world. I guess it's always been one of our things to say what we see and hopefully convey a message. Many of our tracks have that kinda of angle. It was a pretty natural thing to ask Itch to get involved as I feel The King Blues had a similar style in speaking out, as do many of the bands in the punk and ska scene. I've always loved Itch's style and the fact that he loved the track enough to do it was brilliant. We've always enjoyed working with people we admire the style of and hopefully there's gonna be more to come.

B. Across the forthcoming album, and indeed your back catalogue, there are forays into many genres, from new wave pop to dub to tracks with more of an experimental, jungle-influenced sound. I see this as being in the tradition of The Clash, who always attempted to bring other styles into their sound while retaining their own aesthetic. What is your philosophy on bringing other styles into The Talks fold, and how do you retain your own identity while playing music ‘outside’ of your box?

Pat. I absolutely love bands that try diversify their sound and I always felt there is so much greatness in so many musical styles; so much so you feel like a kid in sweet shop when you're jamming out new ideas with the band. I guess it can get a little out of hand and we have to rein it in a bit and keep a sound that doesn't become too unfamiliar. We intend to keep trying new things, there's so much diversity out there, and there are a lot of great bands that have managed it, so that always gives us confidence.

B. How important is the city of Hull to The Talks? The city has had its share of social and economic adversities and yet manages to win City of Culture and have a tremendously close-knit and thriving music scene. Events like the Songeist-sponsored Humber Street Sesh and the work of Warren Records and venues like the Adelphi, Welly and Fruit give the scene a real sense of community, with bands of all different genres associating together. How do you feel this has happened and why do you think live music is so important in Hull? Other than the awesome Counting Coins, who else should we be checking out in Hull?

Iain: Hull is extremely important to us. Like with most bands, their home town is the place where they met, where they took their experiences and moulded them into songs, where they learned how to perform, the place that gave them life, and this is exactly how we feel about Hull. To be granted City of Culture is a great accolade, something to really work towards and show the rest of the world all that we have to offer. Bands don’t really segregate themselves stylistically here, we all appreciate just how hard each other works and are equally supportive of the scene. I think it works this way partly because of the recent social and economic upheavals; it’s a city on the up with everything to gain. We’ve been hit pretty hard in the past and not too much has been expected, so no one’s really living in anybody’s shadows. There are loads of great bands to check out, just to name a few: EndofLevelBaddie, Life, Young Jack and Black Delta Movement.

B. The video for ‘Radio’ takes place in a record shop and has scenes of people digging through the crates for vinyl. You’ve also released vinyl in Germany yourselves. Do you feel an affinity for the physical product and the album format? How do you think that acts can keep the tradition of the LP and record shop alive in a digital, playlist-orientated world?

Jody. Absolutely, with the vinyl its like it's a real, real product... a real piece of art and that's what I love about vinyl. Also I think by releasing a record it shows that you are investing in your band - as they are not cheap to manufacture - but people who collect vinyl know that and that's why they're still a bit special to this day. The download code does help towards this... but ultimately bands need to release more vinyl and inspire people to hear how it sounds rather than some hacked MP3 that has had the tits compressed out of it through some extra fake bass-boosting earphones that they picked because they were cheaper and more colourful, physically and sonically. Ssshhhh...

But what I think is paramount to a bands growth, is keeping the album format alive, whether that's digitally or physically. It seems that most bands release single after single to maintain momentum which is fine, but with an album it's more personal, taking the listeners on a journey through your music and the way you agonise over which way to take them through the album and where to break it up with a slight change in style or feel. This, I think, is always gonna bring your crowd closer to you because they have had that journey with you. They know the album tracks that everyone who bought just the singles doesn't, and that can't be a bad thing. Of course this is just our thoughts on the process and I guess time will tell once we have had 'Commoners, Peers, Drunks & Thieves' out for a while.

B. You’ve been playing a great deal of festivals this summer and getting The Talks sound out there across a lot of different countries. How have you found the reaction of fans in Europe? Do they need more time to get engaged than a UK crowd or are they even more up for it?

Iain. The European reaction to the band has been wicked. We’re lucky enough to have entered a lot of territories with good billing on some big festivals, which has really helped boost things. The audiences in Germany, Belgium, Holland and France are equally as up for it as those in the UK, if not at times moreso. They seem to engage instantly and latch on to the vibe. They really seem to get the vibe of the band live. In Germany for instance live music seems to have a heightened level of importance and going to a gig is a real event, not just going to the pub for a pint and as a by-product there’s a band on. Live gigs seem less saturated so they are better organised, promoted and more of an anticipated happening.

B. Finally, let us know what you guys have coming up and where we can keep in touch with you guys?

We're just finishing up with the festivals and then we release the album in November. We hit the road straight after, with three weeks in Europe and then a few weeks in the UK in November touring to promote the album. After that we will probably hate each other for a while, ha ha.

Give us a like on our Facebook or Twitter and you can keep up to date with us that way.

You can stream tracks by The Talks on Songeist HERE.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Music Guidance. Thinking About... Who You Are

This article originally appeared on the blog at

In this special weekly guidance series we're going to be exploring three key aspects of your band's existence and encouraging you to consider these elements of your act with as much thought and deliberation as you write your songs. Simply expecting the inertia of creativity to steer your ship into the right direction is rarely enough; your band's command of who you are, what you do and how you come across are all hugely important to consider. Across the series, Barney will use some real-world examples to illustrate how important these factors are and help you to apply these concepts to your own band.



Within four months in my current band, we managed to make more headway then we had in four years in our previous band. Within a year we were firmly established in our scene, being regularly played on BBC Radio 1, taken on a package tour with our heroes and signed to one of the biggest independent punk-related labels in the UK.

While playing the same songs we'd played in our old band.

I’ll be honest. We didn’t do this by suddenly being the best band around or by having the best songs and the best singing voices. Learning to write good songs and play great live shows and all those other things arguably(!) came later and, like all bands, we’re still learning. In fact, all we did was disband one band and start another with a small shuffle of members six months later. But this time we had a clear, defined, and mutually understood philosophy of who we were, what we did and how we looked.

 Even Kurt Cobain had to think about these things.

By considering the factors that I will discuss in these blogs and tweaking your approach accordingly, you too may be able to go from languishing local band to being an established part of the national gigging circuit with no considerable musical change. If my last series From The Garage To The Stage was about thinking about everything that happens on stage other than the music, this series is about everything that defines a band other than the music. And these factors are actually just as important as the songs you write.

These blogs will be most beneficial if used as a jump-off point for discussion between you and your band members. The whole idea is that you, as an emerging band, get on the same page about who you are, what you do and how you look. If you have a unified vision, it's half the battle. Organise a band meeting, hash these things out and I guarantee you'll be making a positive and productive step for your band.

What's that coming over the hill? It's a band that know WHO THEY ARE.

First things first. Who are you? What are you giving to people that they can't already get? They're questions, whether consciously or not, that every successful band can answer. The first, and most important, thing to do is to define yourself. What are you giving to music? Where do you fit into what is going on? In terms of members, each band is as unique as a fingerprint. The make-up of no two bands is exactly the same and the music can reflect the various influences, personalities and talents of the people who make it up. Of course, that doesn’t mean switching genres every single song to account for your different tastes. It means that you figure out what unique sounds this distinct combination of musicians can create together and can slot into what is happening in music now. And then focus on that.

Sounds obvious right? Well, you'd be surprised how many bands get together based on liking similar music and 'jam' to 'find their sound'. All well and good, but then they forget to sit down and identify what it is. Just one aspect of your act that's unique is enough make you memorable. Even now, speak to anyone about Welsh indie-rockers The Automatic and they'll probably say 'is that the indie band with the screaming guy on keyboards?' Of course, what sets you apart doesn't have to be something as visceral as a screaming keyboard player. It can be anything that makes you a band that are doing something distinctive among the other bands out there that aren't. What is distinctive could be anything from your vocal accent to using a certain instrument or just a new twist on an old idea.

I can feel some of the purists out there raising their eyebrows... perhaps this feels contrived and gimmicky? Maybe this seems contrary to the creative process? But why is it a gimmick to identify something that came naturally to your group of musicians and set out to explore it in the hope of creating something truly original? The simplest way to look at it is that if you’ve invented yourself, even if people don’t like you, they remember you. You'll always be that band that did that thing. And that thing will work in your advantage as long as there are other bands out there to give a context to what you do.

Radiohead. Blowing Genres To Smithereens Since Kid A.

'Inventing yourself' doesn’t mean that you need to concoct a new genre of music from the ground up; as long as you can creatively frame what originality you have with other contemporary music and it makes sense - be it one step more extreme or one step towards a different style - then you are a unique snowflake in the musical sky. Very few artists are as pioneering as say, The Streets, who appeared, apparently cut from whole cloth, with a truly unique sound. But even The Streets' influences rang so loud from every song on ‘Original Pirate Material’ that the context of where he fitted into the pantheon of British dance and pop between The Specials, The Prodigy and everything else was obvious to all. Conceptually, you, me and the majority of bands out there are actually just steps away from another.

Think about those old Rock Family Tree diagrams. Now, instead of the act's line-ups and histories, think of those Rock Family Trees in terms of genres. Most successful acts in any genre are really only small steps away from each other in style and tone. Consider Muse's chart-friendly pomp-rock distillation of Radiohead's prog excess and back to Imagine Dragons' latter-day facelift of early Muse. Like it or not, pop and rock music exists in a place and time and the zeitgeist is a crucial element of commercial music. Attempts to ignore these road-signs, or even kick down the traffic cones, are ill-advised for an emerging band. Sure, Radiohead now straddle entire genres of music, but it's important to remember that didn't happen overnight. For years they were a British guitar band navigating their way through the alternative rock landscape before blowing everything to smithereens with Kid A. I see emerging bands out there attempting to make their premature version of Kid A, expelling all their influences, talent and passion without a vision or context to hold it all in place.

Enter Shikari. Master of Context.


With bands like Klaxons, Friendly Fires and Enter Shikari actively blurring the lines between what it is to be a guitar act and a dance act, popular music has never been so stylistically open. But while it seems like those acts are just throwing together their record collections and making music, it's crucial to understand that the mechanics of those band's genre-crossovers are deceptively sophisticated. They expertly blend a prescribed mix of styles that make sense for their audience and fit within the lineage of the bands that have come before them and the scene they're in. Even though they flirt with dance music and DJ culture, they utilise these ideas as rock acts that understand their crowd's distinct tastes and frames of reference. If you know, like these bands, that your audience can contextualise, and enjoy, the specific mix of genres that you can uniquely provide, then hey... there's your context. But remember that, by design, these guys make it look easy and one man's record collection is another man's jumble sale.

As well as the context of the musical landscape, it's vital to think just as deliberately about your cultural context. Successful music generally relays an authentic truth about the culture of the people in the band and the place they're from. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have a strong cultural context as tattooed, perma-tanned funk-rockers from Hollywood. It's hard to imagine a band from Grimsby, tattooed and perma-tanned or not, having the same success with the same songs. The cultural context of a band is a part of its strength. Think about bands like Oasis and Pulp and how the identities and cultural context of Manchester and Sheffield are indivisible from their music. Ask yourself, does your music say something about who you are and where you are from?


Thanks for reading. Next week, in 'Thinking About... What You Do' I'll put across my argument about why success for emerging bands doesn't start by aiming for the stars at all... but by aiming for the roots. For now, don't forget to let me know what you think of the blog and please share it!
Playmobil shot courtesy Xurxo Martínez‘s Flickr used under Creative Commons License.
The Automatic shot courtesy beana_cheese‘s Flickr used under Creative Commons License.
Radiohead shot courtesy Taras Khimchak‘s Flickr used under Creative Commons License.
Enter Shikari shot courtesy Natalie Aja's Flickr used under Creative Commons License.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Barney Interviews Echotape

This article originally appeared on the blog at

Next Tuesday, September 2nd at the Sebright Arms in London we have three of the best emerging bands in the UK taking the stage; Echotape, Lion Bark and FARO music. Headliners Echotape play a distinctive, impassioned brand of indie-rock that's been electrifying crowds, and online music listeners, over the last year. With the guys dropping new single 'Whiskey Bar' this week, Barney caught up with Mike from the band to fill us in on what's been going on with Echotape and their thoughts and philosophies on their ascent.

Echotape Echotape

B. Let’s get the basics out of the way. Give us a potted history of Echotape; previous bands, where you’re from and what you guys have done so far.

M. Well, we’ve all know each other since school and college days and been in bands around the area (yes, they all had dodgy band names, Donny Whistle was one of Dan’s old bands). Marc and I are brothers so we have known each other a bit longer! We all live together in our band flat in the depths of Hampshire. Echotape formed a few years ago and decided we’d just enjoy it and have fun. A couple of highlights have been playing in places like The Viper Room in Hollywood on a US tour, and Moscow Stadium in front of 8,000 people. It’s definitely fun!

B. ‘We Should Feel Like We Are In Love’ has been an emerging artist success story in terms of its online popularity and has really got a lot of eyes onto Echotape. In order to kick some knowledge down to other Songeist users, was there anything unique about your approach to publicising the track that you think helped with its success or do you feel that it was simply good tune and video = good response?

M. It’s all been completely organic. Obviously we’ve tried to promote it by setting a release and starting a promotion campaign with a tour around the single release but there’s no special technique we’ve used. We knew it was a great song but have been overwhelmed by the support it’s had. It’s easy to pick up the lyrics and relate to so I think that’s definitely helped.

B. The song also signifies a crystallisation of Echotape’s sound, with you guys bringing a passionate, heart-on-your-sleeve style of indie-rock that’s really unique. Having heard older songs by you guys that were clearly steps on the road to the quintessential Echotape sound, can you speak of this stylistic journey? How did you decide to take your sound the way it went? Was it something completely natural and unspoken or was it something you guys planned and discussed?

M. Thanks for the kind words; glad it comes across that way as that’s what we hoped. It was definitely planned, but it was a natural progression to get there. You have to have a certain sound so people can hear a track for the first time anywhere and be like ‘oh that sounds like Echotape’. Once we found the sound we all knew that was it. 'We Should Feel Like We Are In Love' has become our signature sound and with the success it had its sort of become a yardstick. When we’re writing new songs, if it’s not up to that standard it doesn’t progress. So yeah, it was all planned with how we wanted it to sound! The new single 'Whiskey Bar' is in the same vein as 'We Should Feel Like We Are In Love' so I think we definitely do have a signature sound.

B. The video for ‘We Should Feel Like We Are In Love’ is remarkable for its incorporation of live audio at the start and the way it viscerally presents the band’s live show. It gives off the DIY spirit and personality of the band the way in which a biography or review never could. Was it your idea to have the live show the theme of the video, or did you simply get the right director, at the right time?

M. We try and keep everything as real and honest as possible so decided just to throw a party, invite all our friends round and just film it. We knew we wanted to showcase the live onstage energy we have, and show everyone having a great time, without it looking staged of course. The best way for that was to just have a party. We had our friend Chris Warsop film it for us, who’s helped out with other projects we’ve done and Dan edited it. We noticed it sounded cool with the live audio at the start so tried to blend that in with the recorded audio. I think the vibe of the party comes across and it makes you want to be a part of it. Which people are more than welcome to be!

B. You guys have covered a whole smorgasbord of classic rock; Springsteen, The Small Faces, George Harrison, Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie songs all make appearances. In these days of Live Lounge cover culture - where bands scramble to cover the latest pop tracks in order to get online hits and, the more cynical may say, appear hip - was it a conscious decision on your part to reject this or are you simply rocking the tunes you love? How do you compare classic bands of the 60s, 70s and 80s to current bands?

M. There are a lot of acts on YouTube that cover recent songs, but it seems they do that as it’s the thing to do as it will get them more attention, so I agree totally with what you’re saying. We just wanted to have a bit of fun with it, so picked songs that we think are good and would enjoy playing.

I think it’s hard to compare bands from certain eras as it’s all subjective. There are so many great bands throughout the years that are all completely unique. Hopefully we can help fly the flag for the new generation of bands coming through.

B. Sky News did a feature on you guys, focussing on the DIY aspect of Echotape. Is the DIY culture of jump-in-a-van-and-do-it an important part of Echotape’s ethos? With stories of you guys jamming with Carl Barat, one wonders how bands like The Libertines, and the homespun London indie scene of the early noughties, influenced Echotape?

M. We’re always working and trying to do something to help promote the band. There’s so many bands out there to swim up against and if you’re not working hard you’ll just sink. It was nice for Sky News to pick up on the stuff we’re doing ourselves. There’s still a way to go but we know as long as we keep working at it we’ll get there!

It was a surreal moment playing with Carl. He had a chat to us after and was really complimentary. He’s from Whitchurch which is the town just down the road from us so we had a local connection. He wants to try and help us out too if he can so it’s great to have someone like that on your side. The Libertines are definitely an influence on us. Their shows are always like one big party, which is a vibe we try to create too.

B. You’ve got a new single ‘Whiskey Bar’ dropping this October, streaming on Songeist HERE. Can you let us know a little about the new single and your progress in terms of a full-length album? Do you have a producer on board?

M. It was all recorded in our studio here where we live. We have our friend Undy who lives here too and is our resident producer. He’s pretty much the fifth member of the band. He does the sound for all the live acoustic videos we do too. The single is out on 13th October and have been getting some great responses so far from only having it online a few days. At the time of writing it’s currently top of the indie rock chart on SoundCloud and has been trending with thousands of plays flooding in. We’re hopeful it will do well as it’s another feel-good song.

We’re currently recording and writing our new album with an expected release date early next year so look out for that. We were recording drums last week in a huge wooden shed, which was great fun!

B. What can we expect from you guys at our Songeist Showcase on September 2nd? Any naked stage invasions planned?

That invasion wasn’t planned but everyone attending is welcome to! It’s our singer Marc’s birthday that night too so we’re making it a big celebration night. We’re planning to perform a brand new track in the set too that we’re all excited about. It will definitely be a great show.

B. Did you ever find out what happens to moths when it rains?

M. Yes! We got told they have really strong wings and can deal with the rain easily. For anyone reading this, we asked the question at the start of one of the acoustic videos we did! Thanks for taking the time out to ask us some questions Songeist!

You can stream and purchase tracks by Echotape on Songeist HERE.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Barney Interviews Felix Pallas

This article originally appeared on the blog at

More often than not on Songeist, we'll hear the name of our featured acts on the UK live circuit before we ever see their profile on the site. Other times, we'll simply be perusing the list of new, unfamiliar acts that have recently joined and be blown away by the sound that comes out of the speakers. This was the case with Felix Pallas's 'Too Sad For Tea', a massive track that recalls the epic indie-rock of Coldplay and Keane. We found out that this Belgian band have been working on their debut album with renowned producer James Sanger (Keane, Dido) in the Normandy countryside so we caught up with bass-player PJ who gave us the low down.

Felix Pallas

B. It’s tradition on my Songeist interviews to start with the obvious question. Who are Felix Pallas? Please give us a bit of background on the history of the band, how you met and what you’ve done over the past year and a half?

PJ. There's a little bit of history behind Felix Pallas. Basically, at the core of the band there is Simon and I. We are brothers and have been making music together at home with a piano and an acoustic guitar, for a very long time. Simon wanted to start a band at the end of high school and found it necessary to put his 'team' together because he entered a music competition starting the next week. That's where Xavier (Guitarist) and I came in. We called ourselves Breathe The Sound and composed three songs. We quickly learned our voices blended together smoothly and our musical compositions could mean something. A month later we won the competition and had to play in Sweden. After a couple of years of moulding our own sound, we decided to add a drummer, Ziggy, to the band. The configuration of the band still hasn't altered, however we changed the name of the band. That's where the story of Felix Pallas started at the beginning of 2013.

We decided to take our music to a higher level and looked for a producer, Belgian or foreign, it didn't matter, who'd shape our music into a more polished sound. We found the brilliant James Sanger and stayed at his Vibey Studio's for three months. Located in the beautiful countryside of Normandy, this was a place where nobody could distract us from doing the one thing we were there for; creating music, day in, day out. After our French adventure we tried to find a way to perform our songs live. That took us a long time, but it gained the interest of our fans in the meantime. We started off live with a UK tour in different pubs and clubs in London, Brighton, Manchester, Worthing and more.

Right now we're finishing the last bits of an upcoming EP, which we'll be releasing in September.

B. At the moment, you’ve only got a few - admittedly amazing sounding - songs out there including ‘Break The Silence’ and ‘Too Sad For Tea’ on Songeist. How has the reaction been to the material so far?

PJ. It's different for the both songs you mentioned. 'Break The Silence' is a song full of energy and happiness, therefore widely appreciated by many fans. But with Too Sad For Tea, frequently written as 2S4T, there was an instant impact on earlier fans and close friends. While writing it in Normandy, with every step the song evolved, we knew this was a new sound and atmosphere we were really liking. 2S4T, therefore, is a perfect example of what we want our songs to be: mysterious yet melodious, dark yet sweet.

The great part of sharing the new songs with people is not only putting them online, but performing them live. People clearly like the way we sound live, especially because they didn't expect us to play the new songs that way - loyal to the original, yet with more guts.

B. While retaining your own Belgian identity, your sound recalls the indie rock of UK bands such as The Verve and Coldplay. Are you influenced by bands from the UK and if so, which ones? How do you manage to maintain your Belgian individuality while taking influence from bands from different parts of the globe?

PJ. We believe most pop or indie music nowadays doesn't have to be limited by where it comes from. Everybody's making music and in every country there are great bands, singers and instrumentalists. Western music is getting so polished - that's also what we wanted to sound like - and is influenced by so many pioneers of different styles of music, that music is breaking the boundaries of countries and styles. It makes it more difficult to stand out, but the bands who do are 'hot' and 'authentic'.

If our music recalls the great British indie rock, we can only be grateful, because you've really got many talented musicians. I think it's because James Sanger warned us about sounding too American, when it comes to singing. We really tried to sound distinct, whereas other bands who aren't native English speakers all sound similar. That's one way of trying to stand out. At least you've noticed!

Sounding Belgian isn't a real label, I guess. We're just sounding the way we do, because every individual of the band has a different background, varying ideas and distinct tastes. We just didn't want to 'sound' Belgian, because then we'd be limited.

B. In the video for ‘Break The Silence’ you’re seen playing live in London and you’ve also completed a UK tour and been back several times. You guys sing in English and are getting support from Amazing Radio among others. Do you see the UK as a big potential market for Felix Pallas? How was the reaction at the Islington 02 Academy show you played?

PJ. The UK scene was a real eye-opener for us. We've never anything like that before. You guys are spoiled when it comes to venues and opportunities fornew bands to play. Also the vibe in those venues, pubs and clubs is very positive as if everybody in London, for instance, is looking for new talent and enjoying live music. It's different than in Belgium. So yes, the UK obviously is a big potential market. But we don't think it's any easier for the fact that there are more opportunities. However, it keeps the good vibes up.

The show in the O2 Academy was booked slightly after our first UK tour. We had a blast. We came over from Belgium in the afternoon, so we didn't have to find a sleeping spot the night before. Xavier and I drove together, but we were delayed. It was a race against time: we just parked our car somewhere outdoors, rushed in, tuned our gear and started the set exactly on time, without sound-checking. Luckily the rest of the band and had set up all our gear and instruments. It was an amazing evening and we established some good local contacts.

B. In the same video, you’re heard doing a stunning live acoustic take of the track. You also mix acoustic sets in with full-band sets across your live outings. Do you feel that playing stripped-down is a good proving ground for the quality of musicians and vocalists, especially in these days of backing tracks and pop miming?

PJ. Generally, we love playing with a backing track. Not because it's safe and keeps you in time - which is an advantage for sure - but because the sound we want to deliver to the audience has to be the full sound that we believe the songs should consist of. Otherwise it's like playing a Brian May solo on a glockenspiel. Then again, we loved busking on the streets of Notting Hill and Guildford. We just want to play our songs to as many people as possible. We want to be heard. I think that's the best possible answer to your question.

B. How has the port city of Antwerp shaped the sound and ethos of Felix Pallas? Does the city’s melting pot of Dutch, Belgian and French influences make its way into the sound of the band?

PJ. As mentioned above, we don't think the location nor the melting pot of languages has a direct influence on the music we make. Of course, we can't deny that living in the beautiful city of Antwerp - with it's typical habits, language, food, people, industries, atmosphere etc. - must have had some underlying affect on the music we create. We really like to see ourselves as a band from Antwerp. We all live and create here and went to school in the suburbs. Antwerpians tend to have a really close bond with the city. If there's one city we would make a song about, it would be Antwerp, definitely.

But more than Antwerp, Normandy's countryside and it’s wet and ice-cold winter days, has given us the atmosphere in which the songs are drenched.

B. We’ve heard about a forthcoming EP from Felix Pallas. Who have you recorded it with, how is it sounding and when is it coming out?

PJ. It's coming out very soon. We recorded it at James Sanger's Vibey Studios, apart from for some extra stems we did at home. Colm Ennis, who was an assistant in Normandy, and thus lived with us for three months, did the final mixes. We are mastering it at Metropolis Studios, where we know Alex Robinson, another assistant who worked for three months with us in Normandy. We felt that they understood how we wanted the music to sound.

B. Are there any other great Belgian or mainland European bands we’re missing out on in the UK that you think are worth us checking out?

PJ. I think the biggest revelation this year must be Stromae, the bilingual producer / artist / dancer from Brussels. He is probably the most authentic musician we've seen growing in Belgium and beyond and is a sort of a modern version of Jacques Brel. We are also liking Balthazar and Netsky.

B. What’s coming up over the next year for Felix Pallas?

PJ. Only time will tell. We hope that we can convince many people of our sound and songs. Hopefully Songeist will give the first kick-start. We are grateful to anyone who's putting in effort - no matter how small it might be - to believe in our music. Thank you so much for featuring us!

You can stream and purchase tracks by Felix Pallas on Songeist HERE.