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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.

Live review: Anxieteam

16 Sep

Anxieteam played live at Cafe.Bar.Contemporary on Saturday 28 August 2010

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

What happens when you take a German contemporary pop artist and a doodle artist from the Midlands, and give them a synth, some sample pads, a ukulele and a projector? Well, one of the most fun, light hearted and engaging gigs you’re likely to have been to in a while, for starters.

Jim Avignon and Jon Burgerman, both internationally renowned artists in their own rights, have decided to put down the pens and paintbrushes for a bit and team up to start making some music.

The evening started with support from the intricate and rhythmic guitar of Matthew Stephen Cooper, who surprised the crowd with his strong, growling voice and dark, bluesy tones. During the break between sets I chowed down on an Anxieteam-themed cupcake from Star Bakery, and I also snuck over to buy a copy of the single – a glorious vinyl double A-side picture disc, both sides lovingly designed by Jon and Jim themselves.

Before they started, the two of them went around the crowd handing out hand-drawn balloons, which they made “just in case nobody showed up, so we could still have an audience”. Thankfully, the turnout was super and things just got better from there. With Burgerman tackli

ng vocals and ukulele and Avignon on electronics (read: everything else), Anxieteam created charming and wry songs full of lyrics with far more meaning that you first realise, simple uke strummings, bleeps, bloops and ridiculously infectious synthy pop beats.

In their own words, Anxieteam “talk about the very big in terms of the very small”, and that’s just what came across as they jumped about the stage, dancing with broken umbrellas and donning angry Pac Man masks. The whimsical, lighthearted nature of their shows masks a deeper level to the whole endeavour – you get the feeling that they just want to make the world a little better in whatever way they can, and if that means singing about soya and video games, well then so be it. It certainly made me happy!

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!

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.

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.

Reviewed: We Show Up On RadaR – A Loaf Of Bread, A Container Of Milk, And A Stick Of Butter

1 Apr

We Show Up On RadaR (AKA Andy Wright) released his second EP in early 2010

Reviewed for Issue 34 of LeftLion Magazine

If you need some convincing that there is still some good in the world, look no further than this record. With the follow up to last year’s single ‘Mountain Top’, Andy Wright (the man behind WSUOR) has lovingly pieced together an EP from such gloriously uplifting elements that it’s impossible to come away from listening to it with any less than a contented smile and a tingle on your arm hair. It is a trickling stream of experimental folk-pop with an undercurrent of electronica and an unmatchable whimsical charm. The subject matter spans love, relationships and heartbreak; stories told almost as if through the eyes of a child, with Wright’s classically English, endlessly delicate voice lilting through every song like a comforting, sage character who explains the ways of the world in the gentlest possible way. For me, the lyrical feel of the EP is encompassed in a line from ‘A Spider on a Thread’: “When I said I didn’t need you, I might’ve lied a little bit”.

Musically, the record is led throughout by acoustic guitar, intricately intertwined with synths and keyboards, unusual electronic clicks and pops, vocal harmonies and tuned percussion to create a unique fusion of simple folk and contemporary electronica. To say that this is a carefully produced record would be an understatement; you can hear the love and time that has been spent creating each one of these tracks, building each one into a mini aural marvel. Buy this EP and treat your ears and mind to some charming, unique and just ruddy lovely treats.