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!

Reviewed: Hot Fiction – Dark Room

7 Jun

Hot Fiction released their debut album on 7 June 2010

Reviewed for The Justin Wayne Show

Hot Fiction

UK two-piece garage rockers Hot Fiction released their crunching, lo-fi debut album ‘Dark Room’ today, which, whilst sparse in instrumentation, is rich in riffage and chock full of bluesy soul. Comprised of school friends Andy Yeoh (vocals and drums) and Simon Miller (guitar), Hot Fiction’s sound paints a picture of two lads who, upon discovering their dads’ record collections, fell in love with the great masters of rock and roll and made it their lives’ ambitions to build upon that legacy. There are flickers and glimmers all over their music that point towards their influences, from classic rock and blues as well as the more contemporary heralds of back-to-basics lo-fi rock, but none so much that they come off as easily pigeon-holed. Some might delight in reeling off a comprehensive list here of those influential flickers and glimmers, but not me – I’d rather leave the comparisons up to you, dear reader, when you listen to the record, that’s much more fun.

The album kicks off with an a cappella wail that sounds borne of the banks of the Mississippi, then settles into the steady, fuzzed up groove of Start it Off; this track sets the tone for the rest of the record – sparse, riff-orientated, heavily punctuated rock that’s steeped in blues, with a modern edge that sets it off down a road of its own. From there, the record undulates through fields of upbeat 12-bar blues jams (My Girl Dances), dark and slightly sinister down-tempo grooves (All My Love in Vain), riffs that make you want to strut you way down the street (I Just Want Your Body), driving rock and roll (Truly Dark), and ends with a shockingly catchy number, considering how musically scant the track is, in the form of Creepy Disco – it will keep spinning in your head like a stuck vinyl for days. And in between all them lay many more delights to find for yourself.

All of this is overseen by Yeoh’s raspy, fuzzy vocals, which nestle in the songs next to the guitar like a third instrument, and are dripping with vaguely melancholic cool. Yeoh and Miller create an interesting sound for a two-piece, getting driving rhythms and distorted licks fully down and locked, and although I usually have issues with singing drummers (see: Phil Collins), these lads have nothing to worry about as they definitely pull it off.

One thing that shines through from this album is how well Hot Fiction’s songs would transfer to a live setting; the rough-edged recording does do justice to the DIY feel of the band, but I can’t help feeling that I need to hear these tunes in a scummy pub’s back room where my feet stick to the floor. In that vein, keep an eye on their website as they’re playing the hell out of London and a few others over the next few months.

Dark Room is imbued with just the right kind of nostalgia that will have you reaching fondly for your old LPs after listening, but not before a thoroughly enjoyable listen to a record that is in equal parts an homage to the band’s heroes, and a rough and ready, fresh take on garage rock.

Reviewed: Liam O’Kane – Happy Days Sad Songs

1 Jun

Liam O’Kane released his debut album in early 2010

Reviewed for Issue 35 of LeftLion Magazine

Is there anything more happy and summery than a simple acoustic reggae backbeat underneath simple, honest lyrics? If there is I think you’d be hard pressed to find it, and as the opening to Liam O’Kane’s debut release, on ska label Do The Dog Music, it stands the record in promising stead. But listen a little closer and the title track to this album reveals itself to be quite a lyrically sombre number, with cheery upbeat music masking a painful tale of a broken heart.

O’Kane has a simple songwriting style that tells honest stories about every day life – sometimes mundane, sometimes heartwrenching, always delivered with charm – over an folksy acoustic backdrop of ska-laced roots rock, with the occasional lick of melodica and ukulele. They are stories that every one of us can relate to; trying to be upbeat when you feel like crap, trying your best and still getting it wrong, a lover leaving, feeling frustrated in the face of politics or missing the last train home. But amongst the sadder themes are a few happier ones, like getting a cab home with a nice driver, or the importance of being polite. Forgive me for getting a little deep here, but this record reflects the mask that we all put up when we feel down and out – a cheerful facade to hide our feelings, like the upbeat melodies that conceal the saddening lyrics of this lovely album.

Under construction…

18 May

I’ll be doing a lot of tinkering over the next few weeks to make this site nice and shiny, adding different sections for different things and whatnot. Thing is, I’m quite clueless as to how to sort this stuff out, and it will probably end up looking a bit shitty for a while, so feel free to pretty much just ignore any weirdness that may occur here up until the first episode..

Overhaul in progress – Miss Morrison’s Mix podcast coming soon!

14 May

This blog will soon become the home of my soon-to-be monthly music podcast. Still the same excellent independent music from across the globe, still the same fanatical promotion and album reviews, but now in a handy mp3-shaped snack!

Stay tuned for updates…

p.s. For anyone who came here via the wordpress.com address, I now own a bit of the tubes! Type in missmorrisonsmix.com. Go on, I dares ya.

Live review: 65daysofstatic

10 May

65daysofstatic played live at Rescue Rooms on Friday 7 May 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

After a day of looking more down in the mouth than a toddler who’s had her balloon taken away, having seen my idealistic political dreams pretty much stomped on for the past 20 hours and facing the prospect of a shiny-faced ex-Etonian, hater of skint folk and bullshitter extroardinaire, running the country in a few days time – without a doubt the best cure for my malaise was a hefty dose of very, very loud music.

As luck would have it, 65daysofstatic – generally credited with the ability to immerse their listeners in a sonic bath of sweeping aural landscapes whilst they beat your troubles over the head with a large stick – were in town and playing at the Rescue Rooms, and were clearly the perfect remedy. The set began with the stuttering, juddering beat of Drove Through Ghosts To Get Here, which felt as if it were dragging itself through mud with sporadic beats and jittery melody, as the band trickled on to the stage, before materialising into the familiarly solid flow of soaring post-rock that would continue throughout the next 90 minutes.

Seamlessly melding electronic elements with organic, they powered through a relentless powerful attack that took the audience from tempo-defying favourites like Radio Protector, to tracks from their new album ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’ which has taken them to dancier territories with elements that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pendulum record. But just as you thought they were teetering on the edge of sounds that would sound quite comfortable next door in Stealth, they punched you in the ears with some guitar-led madness that threw you right back into a rock frame of mind.

The highlight of the night personally, was the epic Retreat Retreat; the track has long been my ‘everything’s going to be all right’ anthem (as I’m sure it is for many others), and I don’t know if it was me just being the sad git that I am, or the discourse of the past couple of days, but I must admit, it made me a tad misty-eyed.

For 90 glorious minutes that felt all too short, my worries were kicked into touch and drowned out by the epic, engulfing sounds of 65daysofstatic’s unique mix of rich textures, crazy beats, powerful guitars, hope and promise.

Memo to the British public: No matter how shit things get, never underestimate the power of great live music. If things look bleak, sack it all off and eff off down town to see some music – the floors will be sticky, the beer will be over priced and warm, but you’ll feel the bassline right between your ribs and for a short while everything will be amazing.

Looking for the Miss Morrison’s Mix podcast?

5 May

This is where it’ll be!