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Interviewed: Anxieteam

16 Sep

Anxieteam release their double A-side single Let’s Eat Soya/Lonely In The Digital World is out on 20 September on Hello Thor Records

Interviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

Anxieteam is Jim Avignon and Jon Burgerman, both internationally renowned artists in their own rights, who decided last year to put down the pens and paintbrushes for a bit and team up to start making some music. What resulted was a musical style all their own – blippy, beepy pop full of ukulele strumming and Burgerman’s unique, dead-pan vocals – that both reflects their respective artistic styles and works as an extension of it, as can be seen in their wonderfully interactive and engaging audio/visual live shows…

Care to introduce yourselves?
Jon: My name’s Jon Burgerman, I draw pictures and colour them in, and more recently I’m in a band with my friend Jim. I play ukulele on some of the songs, mumble a bit and shuffle around the stage and get in the way. And I live in Nottingham.
Jim: I’m Jim Avignon, I’m the other half of the band, I’m also an artists, more of an old school painter than a doodler like Jon. I do the arrangements and the electronic stuff in Anxieteam.

So how did Anxieteam come about?
Jim: I used to be a one man band [Neoangin], but after doing that for ten years I though it was a bit lonely on stage so I asked Jon if he’d like to make a band.
Jon: The first time we met was a joint exhibition we did in Brooklyn at the beginning of last year. We spent a week painting together, I’d do a bit of the canvas, then Jim would do a bit more, and so on. It felt very intuitive, and I think the way we work in the band is a reflection of that.

Jon, did you play much music before last year?
Jon: No not really at all, I’m the complete opposite of Jim who’s a very seasoned musician and has been playing gigs for years.
Jim: In the beginning I asked him to record his voice to see if it would work, and everyone liked the way it sounded, then I had an old ukulele at home so I convinced him to try it because ukulele is the one instrument everyone can learn, and it ended up working out really well.

How would you describe your music?
Jon: Kind of electronic, lo-fi, very melodic – Jim really crafts the melodies. And I hope the lyrics are interesting and conjure up nice imagery in your mind.
Jim: I think the special think about our music is that it gives people a lighthearted feeling, it kind of cheers them up.

So how do your songs come together?
Jim: Well I’m the one who does the arrangements, Jon writes the song lyrics and chords, then I take the chords, rearrange them and come up with something completely different! I think that a good song can’t be destroyed, say if another band covers it, because the composition is so beautiful in itself. I really try to do that in our songs, simple compositions, simple melodies. We’re not perfect musicians, but I try to be perfect in the composition itself.

Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics? They can range from wanting to be a cat to munching on soya…
Jon: They’re reflections on our modern day lives, but from a very particular viewpoint. I write about things that I know about and what I experience. Like being part of this generation, being very connected to things but at the same time feeling very disconnected. It’s always from little domestic things though.
Jim: Explaining the big, through the small.

How does your art influence your music?
Jon: It’s an extension of our art, I think, just in a different medium.
Jim: We always have a backdrop to our shows, combining art with music. One thing about comparing art and music for me is that when I do art there’s a lot of thinking involved before I start painting, with music it’s the opposite, I just play around until I find something I like. Personally, I prefer making music – art for me is more like a job, but music is more surprising.
Jon: I think the way Jim approach music is the way I approach art, and the way I tackle songwriting is the same as him with art, I spend a lot of time thinking about it. Somewhere in there though there’s a yin and yang that makes us work – if we were similar we might step on each other’s toes.

Tell us the stories behind the songs on your single…
Jon: Let’s Eat Soya is a bit of a seedy love song, between two people finding a common ground in their culinary preference. It doesn’t take itself too seriously as you’ll hear in the analogies in the verses.
Jim: Lonely In The Digital World is more about, say, having a thousand Facebook friends and not knowing any of them, and Jon came up with the story about the invincible video game character making his way through a game, and how lonely it must be.
Jon: You know, you can go to all these amazing worlds and places to connect to, but if you’re not doing that with some other human input then it’s very lonely.

Is it really as fun as it looks performing together?
Jon: For me it’s still a huge novelty, I feel almost like I don’t deserve it because I haven’t grafted for years working my way up. But I really enjoy it, even though it makes me feel sick beforehand. But there are moments when it clicks and it feels really joyous.
Jim: We try not to let it become a job, we’d hate to be one of those bands that repeats the same shows all year. It has to be as exciting for us as it is for the audience, so we don’t know what’s going on all the time and we can react to the crowd. Plus, I want to dance when I hear our music so I do!

Jim, what do you make of our fair city?
Jim: Well Jon has been working hard to show me all the touristic highlights! But I’ve been here before many years ago. I got lost in the one way system somehow, and there was a camper van behind me following me the whole time. Then suddenly he started flashing at me to stop, and I was thinking are these gangsters, undercover police? Then the guy says “you looks a bit lost, can I help you out?” So my only real personal moment with Nottingham was very nice.

So how did you get involved with Hello Thor?
Jim: We decided to start looking for a label when we finished recording, but then three days later Jon went back to Nottingham and called me saying he’d got one already. At the beginning of July we had no idea where we were going with the music, and less that six weeks later we have a single out! We’re very happy to be on the label.
Jon: It was through Pete from Fists who’s a friend of mine, so I knew the label and I’d been to their gigs. It’s been really painless, we couldn’t hope to work with nicer people.

Any plans for a full length release?
Jon: We’ve certainly got enough material, we’re still working on new songs and we’ve got lots that we’re already happy with.
Jim: I’d like to concentrate on how we want the album to look and sound, so it’s not just a collection of singles but something a bit different. But at the moment I could see other songs of ours being released as singles, I’d like that. I love the single format with the picture discs, when the label sent us a picture of them with the records I felt so proud.

Any other news you want to tell us?
Jim: We’re going to have a nice, beautiful website soon – Mr Burgerman has been slaving for many nights on it.
Jon: Well, not just me! We’ve been working with some web developers called The Neon Hive, it should be live in the next few weeks

Where can people get hold of the single?
Jon: From hellothor.com, mainly, and our gigs. You might find it in a few record stores too.

Any last words?
Jon: Listen to the radio! We’ve been really lucky to be on Radio 1 and XFM, and we’re going to be on 6Music next week. And there’s only 500 copies of the single, and I think Jim wants to buy about 100 to send to all his friends, so get in quick.

Nottingham Pride 2010

4 Aug

Nottingham Pride took place on Saturday 29 July 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

Now in its eighth year, Nottingham Pride’s annual celebration of LGBT culture and diversity this year was far and away the best way to propel the festival into the future. Having well outgrown its previous home at the Arboretum, the decision to move Nottingham Pride to the Forest was controversial but one that ultimately paid off as the festival was bigger, brighter and more comfortable in its new, roomier location. The event is organised solely by a committee of unpaid volunteers, who work tirelessly all year round to fund-raise for, organise and create the one day that we know and love.

The celebrations began at 11am with a march snaking down North Sherwood Street from the Arboretum before tackling the ascent up Mansfield Road to the Forest. This was my first ever Pride March, and being decked out in enough rainbows to make me look a little like unicorn poop (because everyone knows that unicorns poop rainbows, right?) I felt right at home in the midst of the fantastic turn out – around a thousand people by most estimates. Led by the Nottingham Tartanaires Marching Band, accompanied by whistles, chants and whoops, the march stopped traffic and attracted a rabble of bystanders along the route who all received cheery waves from the marchers. I was sandwiched in between Robin Hood, Maid Marian and the wonderfully dolled-up ladies of NG1, who somehow managed the march in 4 inch stilettos.

At the end of the march, with everyone involved covered in smiles and laughter, at the turning into the Forest there was a small group of homophobic protesters, supposedly representing Islam. Suffice to say that not only did they not represent the Muslim faith, spouting opinions that fly in the face of numerous Muslim LGBT groups, but they certainly didn’t get what they came for. They were looking for confrontation and headlines, and all they got was a one or two fingered salute from us, and a severe drowning out. Less than 20 voices of ignorance against a thousand campaigning for tolerance? On yer bikes, boys. Oh, and a special mention for the police, who did a stellar job of guiding the march and general policing around the park. They got right into the spirit, parading the rainbow-emblazoned Notts Police Force flag on their van and posing for pictures with drag queens, whilst quietly and effectively keeping everyone safe.

The festival was officially opened at midday by the Lord Mayor, who reminded the crowds in his speech how important it is to support the cause and how lucky we are to be able to attend events like this freely and in safety. He asked us all to spare a thought for others who don’t have the same luxury in their countries, and highlighted the reasons why Pride is still such an important voice in combating prejudice and injustice.

The mix of people in attendance was hugely diverse; from boys who knew all the dance moves to Lisa Scott-Lee’s rendition of Steps classics, to Robin Hood’s posse, to fabulous drag queens in 6 inch heels and feather boas, to entire families enjoying a fun day out, to the man and woman who got engaged on the main stage whilst being presided over by compere Babsarella, to people like me, out to support a worthy cause and have a smashingly good day to boot.

The music on the main stage was varied to say the least, mixing saccharin pop from the likes of Lisa and Andy Scott-Lee and a Pink tribute act, with the rock stylings of K9-Feline, Kenelis and Brooklyn, NY’s Betty. Not quite something for everyone, but a good mix of acts that didn’t play up too much to the twee pop stereotype of Pride events. That being said, the event was closed by the Cheeky Girls. But you know what? They were perfect for the purpose, they got everyone dancing at the end, and who doesn’t want to see two tiny Transylvanians dancing around in their underwear? Especially as they were preceded by the Dream Bears, a dance act hot off the stage of Britain’s Got Talent who live by a similar mantra: who doesn’t want to see three tubby blokes from London dancing around in lingerie and nipple tassels whilst gyrating to Lady Marmalade? Err… No comment, actually.

In all, it was a day of fabulous sights, sounds and attitudes, underpinned by a fierce passion to bring tolerance and understanding to the wider society. As if destined to have that point proven, I encountered something whilst waiting for the tram that really hammered home the reasons why Pride is still important. Two young lads walking away from the festival came face to face with a piece of dirt homophobe who called them f****ts. Not wanting things to turn to violence, I did what I never seem to be able to do – fuelled by a full day of campaigning and partying – I stepped in. Not only did those lads get the bastard to fully apologise – on camera, no less – but they learned that although there are battles still left to fight, the only way that they can be won is by fighting them with words instead of fists. It’s the only way they could have won – and when they did, well, it felt so damn good.

Interview: Maniere des Bohemiens

2 Jul

Maniere des Bohemiens released their debut EP in June 2010

Interviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

Maniere des Bohemiens have been causing quite a stir in the city over the past few months, with their unique gypsy-jazz inspired sounds rattling the walls regularly at Nottingham Contemporary, Fade, and a whole host of other venues. Their gigs have been described as ‘the perfect place to rave with your granddad’, they’re guaranteed to get your feet moving, and they’re usually making it all up as they go. They’ve also just released a spanking new EP, so LeftLion popped down for a beer by the river and a chat with violinist Rob and bassist Mark.

Hi guys, what have you been up to this weekend?

Rob: We’ve had a busy one, we played for the Great Nottinghamshire Bike Ride on Sunday. we were invited down by Dean Jackson from the BBC to entertain the cyclists as they rode past. Lots of fun, I can’t really think of anything better to do with a Sunday morning. We also played at a pub in Lincholnshire, and we played at one of our favourite venues too, The Hand and Heart.
Mark: That one was great, it was our first gig with Matt back, he just got back from India, so it was nice to have the band back to its full outfit. And with three guitars, well that’s always going to be a plus.

Who are we missing? There’s a few more of you in the band…

R: We’re missing my brother Roger, who’s our rhythm guitarist, Matt’s brother Jonny who plays accordian, Elliot our lead guitarist, and Matt who plays rhythm/lead guitar.

How would you describe Maniere des Bohemiens for those who haven’t heard you?

M: Well we go for a gypsy jazz vibe, mixing 1930s French music that was popularised by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, with a lot of Romany music, Eastern European stuff. Rob, Roger and I all have Eastern European roots so it’s nice to be able to pay homage to that.

What’s the best gig you’ve played recently?

R: Well all three this weekend were fantastic, but when we played at The Social for Homemade Cafe’s 5th birthday, that was our first gig there since the Hockley Hustle which was when everything started taking off, so that was great.
M: The atmosphere’s great at the Social, at the Hockley Hustle we had people swinging from the rafters and dancing on tables, it was proper gypsy debauchery.

So what can people expect from your gigs?

M: High energy. I think the reason we enjoy such a nice following is because our music appeals to pretty much everyone. I think we got described once as ‘the perfect place to rave with your granddad’! It’s great though, we can go out to a different crowd every night and get people tapping their toes and dancing.

Tell us about Nottingham Contemporary’s Cafe Bar, you’ve got a residency there haven’t you?

R: Yeah, for us it’s a place where we can try out new ideas to a crowd that really appreciates that kind of music, the audience is always really good. We feel like there’s a bit of prestige getting to play somewhere like that.
M: Especially since we’re the only band with a monthly residency at the moment, we’re really lucky.

And you also host a jam night at Fade.

R: Yeah, it’s on the first Monday of the month, from half 8 ’til about 11. Anyone who wants to come down and have a go at playing some gypsy jazz, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, everyone’s welcome. If people want chord sheets beforehand so they can practice they can email on Myspace..
M: We’ve had some great instruments play with us, we had a tuba a while back! Not sure there are that many gypsy jazz tubas out there.

It seems quite important to you guys to get involved in the city’s music community and get people involved in what you’re doing…

R: Most definitely, we do want to get well known in Nottingham and I think it’s the best way to do it, to really get involved. We’re looking to do collaborations and all sorts; we just really, really love playing music and as well as playing as a band, things like the jam night are our favourite way of doing that.
M: I mean, the way we got started playing music was jamming at parties so it’s always had a social element to it for us. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed playing any other type of music as much as this, just because it’s got such a sociable attitude behind it.

What other Notts bands are you into, and have you got any collaborations planned?

R: Well I should really mention I play violin in Captain Dangerous, so I divide my time between the two bands. Other bands I’ve been working with are the Idolins, and Lisa de’Ville, and me and Mark will soon be working with Andy Wright [AKA We Show Up On RadaR]. We’re hoping to do a bit with Motormouf at the Riverside Festival coming up.
M: I need to return a favour as well, there’s a really talented singer/songwriter who’s done a lot of pushing for us called Sam Bennet, who’s part of a project called Navajo Youth, and he also plays with Sharp Knees.

Almost everything you play is improvised; is it difficult to pull off, did it take a while for you all to get in sync?

M: Well improvisation is an art, there have been thousands of people before us that we can learn from. As we got more comfortable as a band we can kind of predict what everyone’s going to do, and it’s amazing just having that free license to play whatever the hell you want and put your own touches on a song. It’s great to get everyone in the band improvising, because it means that every time we go out on stage it’s a different show, the audience can always get something new from it.
R: That’s what keeps us on our toes really, and what makes us really enjoy every gig because we’re not turning up each time and playing the same stuff we’re just making it up as we go along. It’s making music in its purest form, I think, it’s so much fun.

You jam on a lot of jazz standards and traditional tunes, any plans to write some of your own material?

R: I’m really starting to take it seriously now, I’m definitely going to write some original music. Obviously it’ll still be full of improvised stuff, but the tops and tails of the songs will be our own. Probably leaning towards doing some more European-influenced gypsy music, Romany Stuff.
M: The sort of thing that we tend to play at the end of a set, dance-y music. It’s kind of a wedding based tradition, that sort of music, the sort that you play later on when your gran’s pissed and everyone’s dancing!

I’ve recently got my hands on your new EP, which is sounding great. Tell us about the process that went into making that record, any stories from the studio?

R: If we’d been there a bit longer we might have a few more stories, we were only there for five hours! We recorded at Paper Stone Studios with Sam Brown, and personally it was the best experience in a studio that I’ve ever had.
M: Apart from that dodgy kebab we had half way through.. It was just really relaxed, we did the whole thing live, all sat in the same room where we could see eachother. I think he really captured the live element that’s so important to us, I hope that comes across in the recordings.

It does indeed. So any other releases planned after this one?

R: Yes we’re hoping to get an album out by the end of September.

So where can people get their hands on your records then?

R: The album, hopefully, will be available in most record shops if the distribution goes to plan. Everything else is on iTunes, or you can get in touch on Myspace, or just come and see us play and try before you buy!

Any upcoming gigs we should know about?

R: Yes, we’re supporting Quantic at Rescue Rooms on 8th July , we’ve got our regular slot at Notts Contemporary on 10th July and the Hand and Heart on 27th July. And we’re playing the Influx Waterfront Festival on 31st July down at The Canal House, that should be great, there’s fifty other bands playing all day. And then we’re doing the Riverside Festival on 7th August from 5:00-6:30, and we’re hoping to do some collaborations for that one.

Any last words for LeftLion readers?

M: Anyone who plays an instrument, come down to the jam night at Fade, first Monday of the month!

Preview: Nottingham Pride 2009

20 Jul

Nottingham Pride took place in the Arboretum on Saturday 25 July 2009. In 2010 the festival will take place at the Forest Recreation Ground on Saturday 31 July

Written for LeftLion.co.uk

For more than a decade Nottingham has held an event every year celebrating LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) culture and dedicated to the city’s diverse and vibrant LGBT community. It started as Nottingham Pink Lace and in 2000 became Nottingham Pride, providing one day a year when people of all backgrounds from all over Nottinghamshire and beyond can come together and share a day of entertainment, fun and community. But the significance of this yearly event goes far deeper than simply having a great day out; it is a hugely important celebration of one of the most successful and worthy civil rights movements of our time.

The modern Pride movement began in 1969 after the Stonewall riots, in which the gay community of New York first fought back against the homophobic government-sponsored oppression that was being suffered around the globe. Whilst it was a violent event, it gave gay people a cause to unite in and from this was borne countless activist organisations, lobbyist groups and the Gay Pride movement. Since that terrible day, charities such as Stonewall (named after the NYC club where the riot began) have worked tirelessly to achieve equal rights for LGBT people, and although the fight is far from over there has been a massive shift in public perceptions and political attitudes.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the events at Stonewall, and as such is an important landmark in the Pride movement. For the first time there will be a Speakers’ Corner at Nottingham Pride, where people can stand up and have their say on any issues surrounding LGBT culture, with the speakers including Nottingham’s very own gay sheriff. The event is, as always, family friendly, but with the addition of three local bars lending their support including a dance and live entertainment tent. On the main stage music will be provided by Kenelis and Kelly Llorenna among others, and the event itself will be hosted by Pariss, who is one of the East Midlands’ premier drag queens. There will also be Nottingham’s first ‘Pride Walk’, starting from 11am running from the Forest Ground to the Arboretum, which will feature a marching brass band, dance troupe, and local organisations. Bring whistles!

This is an event that stands for so much, and by simply turning up and having a brilliant time you’ll be showing your support and doing your bit for the advancement of the LGBT community, not only in Nottinghamshire but all over the world. This is not a celebration of difference, but a celebration of the diversity within our city, our community and everywhere else. That being said, expect a spectacular amount of colourful drag queens, rainbow stalls, beautiful gays and lovely lesbians, amongst a swathe of good food, great music and fabulous entertainment. See you at the Arboretum!

The Pirate Bay Verdict: A hollow victory for major record labels – heads up label chumps, the revolution is already happening!

17 Apr

The founders of torrent search engine The Pirate Bay have been found guilty of breaking copyright law, sentenced to 1 year in prison and fined £2.4 million.

What a crock of outdated, archaic shit.

I know it’s only an initial verdict and the boys at TPB will be appealing, but I feel compelled to vent my spleen anyway. Ranting, disjointed outburst coming up, apologies in advance..

I spend a large chunk of my average day finding music from all over the world by artists and bands who offer their work for free, and I do all I can to promote and spread awareness of the music that I love. Most of these artists and bands are unsigned, or at most signed to small indie labels, and they make very little money from their music – however, they’re doing what they love and making truly arse-kickingly awesome music. They save up enough cash to buy a day in a studio and record EPs, albums and demos, and then give them away – not only to promoters, podcasters and potential labels but to anyone who wants to listen. They upload their music to sites like Jamendo, Reverb Nation, and The Podsafe Music Network, they use Twitter to network with other music-heads – in other words, they use some bloody initiative to spread their work around, all whilst making little or no money. Such is the depth of their love for music, and the strength of their drive to spread their blood-sweat-and-tear-streaked recordings to any potential fans.

Compare this to the attitude of major record labels.

These are people who find bands that love to make good music, take them under their corporate wing, and proceed to ethically and financially bitch-slap them and their fans to within an inch of their lives.

Trent Reznor, a pioneer of the Creative Commons, independent music movement after ditching Universal in 2007, expresses this perfectly:

“One of the biggest wake-up calls of my career was when I saw a record contract. I said, ‘Wait – you sell it for $18.98 and I make 80 cents? And I have to pay you back the money you lent me to make it and then you own it?”

The fact is that the record industry is foundering because music fans are no longer willing to pay extortionate prices for CDs when they know that the artists themselves are getting jack shit – and they can get a copy off the internet for nowt. But the big labels have become so enamoured with making quick money from trendy bands who are hyped up to shit and only ever make one album before they disappear, that they’ve forgotten what it means to build a proper relationship with fans. And this means that to most independent artists, the thought of getting a major record deal seems terribly bleak and soulless such that no one actually wants one anymore! Musicians have become savvy; they understand that if they get signed to a major label they’ll get dicked around and eventually crushed, and most musicians worth their salt would rather get a nice deal with a smaller indie label and tour their music-loving arses off.

Because do you know what you can’t illegally download and torrent and pirate and stream? The thrilling exhilaration, excitement and joy of live music. And I know you can bootleg, film and stream gigs but I mean actually being there and feeling the bassline hit you right between the ribs. The whole point of indie bands giving away their music is to build up a loyal fanbase who will come to their gigs, buy their merchandise, and recommend them to friends who will do the same. The more people know about your music, the more chance you have of making money from it. And you can’t get people who’ve never heard of you to buy stuff straight off the bat, you have to make them like you first.

The point is, the future of music is priceless. It is a Creative Commons licensed, free exchange of EPs, albums, demos and promo tracks, distributed and spread by people who love the music enough to tell everyone they know. It’s a true thrill unlike any other to stumble upon amazing music that no one’s heard yet, whether on the internet, at a gig or through word of mouth, and it’s why I spend half my life doing it!

The major labels need to prick up their ears and take notice of how music distribution is operating under their radar, and maybe then they’re realise why no one’s buying CDs anymore and why The Pirate Bay founders shouldn’t go to prison for making music available to everyone. Because after all, copying isn’t theft – it’s making more of something that already exists so that it can be spread to new listeners and fans.

Free music is the future, whether they like it or not.

International Day of Awesomeness: My Tribute to Insomnia Radio

10 Mar

In honour of today’s special celebration, I have taken up the challenge of the day and chosen to write about something that I think epitomises the essence of awesomeness – the Insomnia Radio podcast network. (The fact that I occasionally do reviews for IR:UK has no bearing on my choice, I was a fan before I was a reviewer, honest!)

Not an obvious choice, as I’m sure you’ll agree. These guys don’t stomp around performing Chuck Norris-style feats of awesomeness (at least not as far as I’m aware), nor do they jump through flaming hoops on toy motorbikes, and they don’t have captions. What they do do is a much more subtle form of awesomeness – promoting some of the best and most underexposed independent music from around the world.

From all over the States across to the UK, New Zealand and even Turkey, these unpaid champions of the indie music scene work tirelessly to create shows of consistently kick-arse music for you and I to enjoy. And yes, you heard correctly – unpaid. These dudes take time out of every week to sift through a plethora of The Best Music You’ve Never Heard to find nuggets of aural gold for us to marvel at, and they do it out of the goodness of their music-loving hearts!

So I suggest you skip your way over to insomniaradio.net, check out the regional shows, subscribe to the IR Daily Dose (one shiny and juicy song every day, lovingly hand-picked by the IR team for your pleasure, for free!), and bathe in the awesomeness that is: free music encased in free podcasts, put together by people who genuinely love it so much they do it for nowt!