26 December 2012

Grey Hairs - Damn You Christ Covers Party 2012 (Full Set)



Grey Hairs at the 11th Annual Damn You Christmas Covers Party at The Bodega, Nottingham on Saturday 22 December 2012.

Set List:
Lithium by Nirvana
Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? by Rod Stewart into You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate with Ali Rep on vocals
Parklife by Blur with Ali Rep on vocals

Grey Hairs: http://greyhairs.bandcamp.com/
Nottingham Damn You Christmas Covers: http://www.facebook.com/groups/184336387595/?ref=ts&fref=ts
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3 December 2012

Grey Hairs - Crush With Eyeliner (REM cover)




Grey Hairs with 'Special Guest' Alarming Repercussions covering Crush With Eyeliner by REM at my 30th Birthday Party at The Navigation on Saturday 10th November 2012.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grey-Hairs/264148570291886
http://greyhairs.bandcamp.com/
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Grey Hairs - A Forest (The Cure cover)




Grey Hairs covering A Forest by The Cure at my 30th Birthday Party at The Navigation on Saturday 10th November 2012.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grey-Hairs/264148570291886
http://greyhairs.bandcamp.com/
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Grey Hairs - 1979 (Smashing Pumpkins cover)




Grey Hairs covering 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins at my 30th Birthday Party at The Navigation on Saturday 10th November 2012.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grey-Hairs/264148570291886
http://greyhairs.bandcamp.com/
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1 September 2012

Gringo Records

One of the UK's most successful, consistent and influential DIY record labels turns fifteen. Based in Nottingham, they will be celebrating with a huge two day party at Nottingham Contemporary on 8 and 9 June featuring loads of acts they've been involved with over the last decade and a half. Paul Klotschkow caught up with label boss, Matthew Newnham.

Gringo Records
Gringo Records turns 15!
Did you ever think the label would be going this long?
I don’t think I ever gave it any thought. I actually didn’t start Gringo Records, some of my friends started it. Tom, Joe and Jason started it in Colchester and I was at University in Southampton. They wanted to put out a record by Tom and Joe’s bands, Lando and Teebo. I wasn’t around, so they started up the label, and then I quit Southampton University because Southampton is possibly the most depressing place on Earth. I came back to Colchester and weedled my way in, I think because, aside from Jason, I was the only one who had money saved! We did all put a share in to that first record. We didn’t sell many copies. I’ve still got boxes of it in my basement.

Where did you sell it?
We wrote to labels we liked and asked them how they sell records. We didn’t get any distribution for it because it was really badly put together; it didn’t sound very good, it wasn’t mastered correctly, so we just tried to sell it by mail order. We sent copies to John Peel and the NME, but no-one was really interested in it. It sounded awful. It wasn’t the songs, just the production and the transfer to the vinyl. You can still buy it! It is a apiece of rock history.
 
How many records have you put out?
The one that I’ve just sent off to get manufactured will be catalogue number 49, but there is one catalogue number that’s missing, because we were going to put something out but it never happened. It was catalogue number 7 and was going to be a band from Birmingham called Calvados Beam Trio. We were also going to put out a Bob Tilton record at one point, but that also never happened. Neil strung us along! We did some fliers advertising the new Bob Tilton 7”, but it never happened. I learned a lesson from it, which is to never suggest you are going to put something out unless you are actually given the music. Bands are full of well-intentioned but badly organised people!
 
Do you get involved in the recording?
I leave it to the band to make the record and put the artwork together, and I just say if I can afford to do what they want. If the band records the album and I don’t pay for it, then they still own the rights and can take it elsewhere if they want to. Most of the bands I deal with record themselves as well, but I will always try to cover their costs if I can.
 
What goes in to actually releasing a record?
It’s not very difficult, really. I don’t really have to do anything apart from give someone some money, it’s great. All I have to say to the band is where to send the music and upload the artwork. Then when they have done that, if there are any problems I let the band sort it out!  All I have to do is give the money over when something needs to be paid for. That’s pretty much all I have to do. The bands I work with are all pretty self-sufficient. It’s not like they hand over some music and expect me to sort everything out. The harder work is trying to sell the record.
 
How difficult is it trying to sell a record?
It is difficult, but it all depends on how active the band is. Someone like Hookworms, who are really popular through nothing that I have ever done, their record sold out within a couple of months because they are really good and people have heard of them through word of mouth. Then there are some bands who aren’t quite as active as them or perhaps not have many people have heard of them. It can be very difficult to get press, especially being a regional record label. Sometimes we’ll pay someone else to do it. It is hard to get people to write something good about music and I don’t think poorly written reviews have any impact. I think people hearing music is still the best way to discover music and that is why record labels have to embrace the internet as it levels the playing field.
Gringo Records 15 Birthday Party
The Gringo Records 15th Birthday Party

What’s the most popular Gringo Records release?
I’ve re-pressed a few records such as the Wolves Of Greece record. The first Souvaris album was very popular. Bilge Pump’s first album was re-pressed. I think the Hookworms 12” would have been the most popular release; it sold out of 500 copies within a couple of months and if we re-pressed it we would still be selling it.
 
How has the way you sell music changed?
Now, probably a third of what we make is on digital sales. That’s through Bandcamp or any of these online places that sell digital music, like iTunes. Although you don’t make much money from iTunes. Spotify is the worst though. We sell a lot more stuff online. What has changed for the bands is that someone like That Fucking Tank can go on tour to a country like Slovenia and everyone will know the songs, but clearly no-one has bought the album, so they’ve all got hold of the music somehow! Some people could look at this un-favourably because a load of people have got hold of music that no-one has paid for, but on the other hand, the band have got to play to a load of people in a foreign country who really like them and know their songs; you have to embrace these things rather than run away from them. What’s the point in making music if people aren’t going to hear it? I’m pretty realistic and Gringo is never going to make a load of money and I think the bands understand that they aren’t going to make much money being on the label, but they will get a record put out and there will be a lot of care put in to it.
 
Do you make much money?
I do make money on some releases, and the profits are always split evenly with the bands, but it is increasingly difficult at the moment, so breaking even is always the target. The best way to hear about a band is for them to go out and play a lot, but the nature of many of the bands that I put it out is that they have jobs and kids and they can’t go out and play 5 nights a week. I think they have a certain amount of realism and understand that we will do as much as we can to promote them.
 
Where do you run the label from?
Wherever I’m living at the time! I’ve just bought a house and all of my boxes of records are in the basement. Some of the boxes are mouldy, but I do check that there isn’t any mould on any of the records before sending them out.
 
When did you move to Nottingham?
I moved in the autumn of 2000, so I’ve been here for nearly twelve years. I moved up to live with Chris who is currently in the bands Grey Hairs and Kogumaza, Neil of the band Kogumaza and Tom from Hirameka Hi-Fi. When I moved to Nottingham that’s when I ended up running Gringo by myself. I thought it was an amicable split, but my Gringo partner, Jason, turned out not to be very happy about it. I thought it was left that he could return to the fold whenever he felt more into it.
 
Do you still speak to him?
No, not at all unfortunately. When we had the 10th Anniversary I invited him because he was an important part of it, but he politely declined. He’ll always be part of it. I think he felt a little left out of it because we moved to Nottingham and he didn’t. He’s doing stand-up comedy now, so you might see him at Just The Tonic in a few years. I wish him all the best. It’s a shame really as a friendship ended.
 
Was it a deliberate decision to not just focus on ‘local’ acts?
I’ve never really focused on just the place that I was living in. I will always support the Nottingham bands that I really like, but if there is nothing going on that is floating my boat I won’t deliberately put something out just because it is from Nottingham. There are always Nottingham bands that I really like, but sometimes they are doing things with other labels who I also really like. I really like Fists and would love to do something with them. I wouldn’t want to piss off another label, especially one of similar stature such as Hello Thor. I’m always quite conscious of not fucking over other small labels. If you’ve worked with a band for a while and then they decided to put out a record with someone else it does sting a bit. The only rules that I have are that any release that I put out will always be a band from the UK. I will do split records with someone from overseas and someone from the UK, but I’ll never do a record with someone not from the UK. I don’t know why, it’s just something that I have decided to do.
Gringo Records - Where it all began
Where it all started: The first release by Gringo Records

Do you get approached a lot by bands?
It’s weird because in the last few months loads of bands that I like and people I know in bands have asked me. I don’t know whether it’s because I am the last man standing and there is no-one else left to put a record out, but I’ve been asked quite a few things! I’m getting offered more stuff that I can actually do, so I’ve got to listen to a few things to decide if I want to put them out.

Have you had any missed opportunities?
I did get asked to put out the pre-Foals band, they were well in to Gringo. I do believe that Yannis from Foals bigged-up Gringo on The Beat. Blood Red Shoes have sent me demos. Bloc Party are really in to the ‘Gringo sound’, they’ve done a few playlists where they have included Chris Summerlin’s old band Reynolds. Chris probably plays on every second Gringo release! He gets more credits than me!

What was it like having the support of John Peel?
It was amazing. When I think of all the music I love and that has any merit, John Peel will have played it, and often at the wrong speed. He played a Gringo release at the wrong speed; that is what I’ve always strived for! He called me up at my mum’s house to ask me how to pronounce the title of a Seachange track. It was bizzare that John Peel just rang me up. I think Gringo definitely misses Peel; 6Music isn’t the same at all. Peel just played anyone and clearly wasn’t a twat. You know that there are people out there who would like our music if they heard it; the challenge is getting those people to hear the bands.

What are you personal highlights and favourite achievements with the label?
Definitely hearing something on John Peel’s show and having a fax read out by him asking him why he never played a song we sent to him, which he then never played. Always selling a record is an achievement, it’s really nice when someone buys something. The 10th Anniversary gig was great and hopefully the 15th Birthday will be the best time yet!

Do you ever think about when you might stop running the label?
There are times when I realise that my enthusiasm has dipped, but then I will go out and see a band and it then reminds me of why I was so enthusiastic in the first place. Like, ‘wow’, this is totally why I do this. There has always been one band who always do that for me. It used to be Sleater-Kinney and more recently it was Wild Flag who I saw at the start of the year.

Tell us about the Gringo Records 15th Anniversary show...
Lots of bands that you have probably seen before or haven’t heard of! Gringo is a bit of a family, but not the sort of family where everyone is very insular, but more like an open family. It’s a community of people who are very open and usually very drunk, but not me. I think people will enjoy the music, and if they don’t, they will definitely enjoy the spirit. That was a bit cheesy.

What are your future plans?
What I wanted to do this year, but it never happened, was a release for Record Store Day. The idea was a reaction to the getting Nottingham to Number One business, which is fine, but I don’t understand it. For me Nottingham is a great place to be involved with music and always has been. Chris Summerlin’s article in LeftLion probably sums it up better than I can articulate. Anyway, what I wanted to do for Record Store Day was a vinyl release of a lot of the great things that have come out of Nottingham that have never got to number one and mix it up with newer Nottingham bands. I didn’t get my shit together, so maybe next year and get some bands together like Heresy and Bob Tilton, just some of the good things that have come out of Nottingham with no mention of Su Pollard. Nottingham is my home and I’m very proud to be part of Nottingham’s musical history and current scene.

The Gringo Records 15th Birthday party is taking place in The Space at Nottingham Contemporary on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th June 2012. Click here for further information.

Check out Gringo Records on Bandcamp and listen to this fine Gringo Records sampler.

Gringo Records website 

Originally for LeftLion.
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LIVE: Dot To Dot Festival 2012

The weather may have forgotten that it's summer and decided to drown the city, but that didn't stop Paul Klotschkow from dragging himself around Nottingham's premier multi-venue music festival.
Dog is Dead Fans at Citeh - photo by Stephanie Webb
It’s early doors at Rescue Rooms and Nottingham’s self-proclaimed ‘Robot Funk’ band are whipping up a funky electronic storm. Playing a mix of tracks from their recent Reykjavik EP along with what now can be called ‘old favourites’, Yunioshi show why they are always a fun and engaging live draw. Rob Yunioshi raps and thrashes his guitar around, whilst his band mates whip up a frantic brew of hyperactive and dancey beats pushing the microchips in their synths to the extreme. They make sure that we shake our rain soaked bones dry.

Wanderlings - photo by Stephanie Webb
Upstairs in the Red Rooms and one of the singers in Wanderlings is dressed like Buffalo Spingfield-era Neil Young - a look I’m very supportive of. Musically they seem intent on splicing together the dreamy twang of Foals with the more blissed-out grooves of fellow dream poppers Memoryhouse. With a clear pop sensibility that harks back to the 80s, it bodes them well for the future. Even though they are still a little rough around the edges, you sense that their is something magical lurking beneath the surface. The packed room falls for their hypnotic charms, a sure sign that they are already doing something right.

Kagoule - photo by Stephanie Webb
The most exciting new band in the city, Kagoule offer the first real rush of blood to the head of the day. Still finding their feet, they seem to be getting heavier and harder with each and every gig. When they aren’t pummeling you with the creamiest riffs this side of Siamese Dream, they are lulling you in to a false sense of security with some gorgeous and tender moments, before letting rip again and pile-driving riff after riff into your head so hard that it feels like bits of my brain are falling out of my nose. By the end I’m left trying to shove what’s left of my grey matter back up my nostrils. An exceptional band who are just getting better and better.

Hot Japanese Girl - photo by Stephanie Webb
Staying in Jongleurs, Hot Japanese Girl strut and thrust their way through a set of gold standard glam-punk stompers. The band are as serious about their big riffs as they are about making sure that the audience have a good time. Despite looking more restrained than usual behind the barricade that separates the stage from the audience, the band give it their all, with the mascara dripping down frontman Ali Powers’ face by the end.
 
 Next up are Grey Hairs containing members of Kogumaza, Fists, Cult of Dom Keller and Fonda 500. From Chris’ first drop kick to James’ last howl, this is clearly a band who play with as much heart as they do ear splitting volume. Band manager Ali Rep from Ali Rep Management introduces the band decked out in his now traditional ‘Grey Britain’ shell suit top, before they launch in to 30 minutes of glorious garage rock that sits perfectly poised in the place where Nirvana, Husker Du and the Groundhogs all meet. They dedicate a song to Kagoule too, a touching moment that makes them okay in my book.

Jake Bugg - photo by Stephanie Webb
It’s weird to think that just a year ago I saw Jake Bugg playing to a sleepy afternoon crowd on a Sunday at The Maze, and now here he is living the dream of many local Notts musicians and playing the Rock City Main Stage to a packed out room. Although with the amount of chatter going on around me, I’m not too sure how much of the crowd is paying attention. Still, recent singles Trouble Town and Lightning Bolt make the audience take notice, and Jake’s muscular graveled voice means that even though he looks a little lost up on that grand stage, his presence is still felt.

2:54 - photo by Dom Henry
2:54 are mid-way through their set back in Jongleurs and have got the sizeable crowd under their spell with a bewitching cocktail of brooding dreamy rock, that drifts along like mid 70s Fleetwood Mac with a hangover with or the more sulky cousins of Warpaint.

Frank Carter used to be the frontman for Gallows, but with Pure Love he’s decided to stop being a punk and has formed the ultimate Mud tribute band instead. Everything about them is a little contrived, from Frank standing in the middle of the audience to his every-man style sloganeering. Whatever anger Gallows had in their music has now been replaced by the dull plod of a low-rent pub rock band.

The last time I saw Wavves was a few years ago back when The Bodega was called The Social. They played an underwhelming 20 minute set on a Friday night that left the audience feeling a little awkward. It was around this time that Nathan William, the man who the band are based around, went totally bonkers at Primavera and had a breakdown on stage. Since then Nathan has sorted himself out and it clearly shows. Tonight, the band are clearly having fun on stage, and their noise-pop is tight and fizzes with joyous abandon. They’re a much needed shot of fuzzy energy as I start to feel myself flagging after almost 12 hours of live music.

Pulled Apart By Horses - photo by Dom Henry
Pulled Apart By Horses are determined to smash Jongleurs a new one. Their post-hardcore squall jilts and jerks as if it the band are unable to control their own music. They manage to cut straight through my drunken fug and hit me hard. Thwack.

My attempts to see Pond at The Bodega are ruined by a number of arseholes who seem to have taken it upon themselves to spoil it for me with their brattish behaviour. I take this as a sign that I should call it quits and head home. So I do.

As I sit at my kitchen table drinking a cup of tea and eating a kebab, I stare out of the window and it dawns on me that local acts I saw today - Yunioshi, Wanderlings, Kagoule, Hot Japanese Girl, Grey Hairs and Jake Bugg - easily held their own against the national and international acts in the bill. Nottingham, once again, you have done yourself proud.

Dot To Dot Festival took place at various venues in Nottingham on Sunday 3 June 2012.

Dot To Dot Festival website 

Originally for LeftLion. 
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Fists

They've just completed a tour of the East Coast of America taking in five cities in five days. Not bad consideting they didn't play a single note in public in their first 6 years together. Meeting-up in their local pub, Paul Klotschkow had a pint with Angi Fletcher and James Finlay, songwriters, singers, musicians and lovers from the band.

Fists Interview
What were the aims of the band when you were starting out?
James: Angi studied Textiles at Nottingham Trent and I did English Literature. We both did music before, but on a very minimal scale. We just wanted to create something, make our own culture.
Angi: I don’t think it was a conscious decision to make music, we just did it.
J: For years and year we just did music, we didn’t have a name.
A: For a long time I didn’t say...Well, I still don’t say that I am a musician. I said that I do music. I found that really irritating, when people say they “do music”. For me, it’s quite hard to say that I’m a musician.
J: It is quite literally a lifestyle choice. It’s just something that you do.
A: When you think about people who you admire like Mozart. He’s a musician. I just don’t see myself like that.
J: In terms of making our own culture, we were aware that people like the Damn You! guys were doing stuff and we were like “this is amazing”. So we started to do our own thing and we started promoting, but always in the background we were making music.

Why did you start promoting?
J: First and foremost we wanted to to be inclusive in the local scene. We did a residency at The Social for a year. We originally started off at Junktion 7. It was called Supernight and we did it with the people who now run Hello Thor.

How did Supernight then turn in to you doing Fists?
J: We were always making music. We met Theresa through her brother Joe. Joe and Theresa lived in this massive student house, and they had this totally set-up music space and I thought it was mind-blowing. We were going for years. Not as an actual band but just making music. It was probably about 6 years before we did a gig.

Why did it take so long? Were you scared to play?
J: I used to do stuff as a student and that is how I met Angi. I don’t know why we didn’t play. Maybe it was fear.
A: We never thought that anyone would want to hear us.
J: We just assumed that no one would like it. Through the promoting we decided to do a set. We would only play for 15 minutes at the very beginning of the evening. It was a really galvanizing experience as people actually seemed to like us.

What’s it like putting yourself out there on stage?
J: It’s like being in the eye of a hurricane. I do a thing where I will never look at the crowd at any point. You have to get in to your ‘mode’. It’s like a mental thing. I don’t have any faith, but at the same time have absolute total conviction and faith. Why do it if you don’t have any faith?
A: I get quite scared, but the only way for me to deal with it is to get in to the mode of the song. If you step out of that then things can fall apart mentally and musically.

You always get called ‘ramshackle’, but you actually aren’t...
J: As a DIY band you tend to do all of your own press. When there’s a gig someone will often ask for a promotional blurb. You write that yourself. So I used the word ‘ramshackle’ in a description about ourselves, because at the time we were totally ramshackle. We were doing 15 minute sets and it was weird skiffle stuff that was all over the shop. And that description has just stuck with us.
A: I think that it’s quite a nice description of the feel of the music.
J: The thing is, is that we aren’t. We’ve got the tightest rhythm section in Nottingham. Maybe not in all of Nottingham, but in the indie-rock world, Tez and Biggs are totally locked-down. I think we are as tight-as-fuck.

It must be an amazing feeling to know that you can fill a room with people wanting to see your band?
J: Literally, even if only two people came to the gig, we wouldn’t question whether we were doing something wrong. We were always surprised when anyone turned up to our gigs. We were surprised when Joey Chickenskin turned up to our gigs.

Has promoting gigs helped you with managing the band?
J: Absolutely. You see both sides, you get a 360 perspective of the whole shebang.
A: It really teaches you how to do it. If you are a new band or people don’t know you, you learn to put on a gig and you rally people to come and see it, and you can put on whatever you want. People like the fact that you do that, they are galvanized by it. That’s the root of the whole DIY ethic. You just give it a go.

Do you consciously sit-down to write song or do songs just come to you?
A: I can be quite scatty and if I’m in the mood for writing a song then I have to do it and get on with it. When that happens I can’t control when I’m in the mood. On the other hand, sometimes you do have to just sit down and do it. When I wrote Cockatoo I remember saying that I can’t do it and thinking that it was shit. I was told to stop moaning and to get upstairs and just do it. So I went upstairs and made the effort.

What are you looking for when you write a song?
A: I’m not looking for anything, I just mess around. I think it helps not to force yourself or to put restrictions on what you are doing. Just have a go and see what happens. You will go through a lot of shit before you find something that you like. I like drawing and with drawing you draw about 5 pictures before you get anything good. So you might write a lot of shit, but you don’t need to play that for anybody.

What’s your favourite song that you have written?
A: I’m not too sure. It’s important to say that I might come up with ideas, and some of those ideas become songs or are songs and some just stay ideas. I’m not taking credit for the songs, they are by Fists. I like Roll Back My Eyes. Stag is probably my favourite song. I like one of the new ones, but I don’t want to say it, because it doesn’t have a name. If I didn’t like any of my songs, I wouldn’t dare let anyone hear them.
J: When you are listening to a song, what makes it a good song? You often seem very sure.
A: All of the bits have to have a place, they all have to be in the song for a reason. If you have fluff, get rid of it. All of the bits of a song have to have a purpose and if they don’t, kick it to the kerb.

How do you name the songs?
J: Literally as it is about to be pressed on to vinyl.

Are you surprised about how much you have achieved doing everything yourself?
J: We are absolutely mortified and shocked all of the time. Comparing ourselves to similar bands we have done loads. We have played a lot of festivals and we were really embraced by 6Music. It’s just shock that people paid an interest in us.
A: As a band we all believe in what we are doing.
J: We might not be doing well financially, but we are doing well in terms of getting shows and festivals and chatting to other bands. Chatting to them you realise that they are exactly the same as us. More importantly, the fact that most people in bands are just normal people. It’s easy to glamorise it. You see these people who are legends and then you just realise that they are normal guys feeling the same way as us.

Do you think bands, like yourselves, who have this DIY ethic find it hard to get beyond a certain level?
J: What we have to discuss here is what do you mean by the whole notion of ‘DIY’? What DIY means is people not getting a massive pay cheque from a major label. So essentially most people are DIY. The thing with Fists is that it’s all internal and the only concern is developing a formula that allows us to write consistently. Develop a system where we can churn out music. It would be nice if it was funded and we didn’t have to pay a single penny. The other thing is getting a network of people together that would be willing to put out our record. Just being able to have a couple of songs that we really like and getting them out there, just constant 7”s or whatever. Obviously there is no money in the music industry, no one will just under-write a band who puts out 7”s every now and again. But ultimately, we just want to consistently be able to put out records.

Is it still important to you to have the physical release?
J: Absolutely. It’s the most enduring format, the physical product. Rather than a file on a computer, an actual physical thing in someone’s hand.

Will there ever be a Fists album?
J: The reason why we’ve not done an album, is that I feel that you just have to get in to a studio and spend two weeks and it has to be a really intense flurry of activity. You have a bunch of songs and you just get them down. The only reason why we haven’t done that yet is due to logistical reasons. Every member of the band will have to have time off work and you have to pay for it.
A: We could record an album. But the way we want to do it in a studio will require some funds.
J: We are looking in to doing it in little bits. We’ve written 7 or 8 songs for it. The idea was to have the album done before the US tour, but it costs loads of fucking money so we’ve not done it.

The Guardian published an article last year on the Nottingham music scene that you weren't mentioned in. Did that bother you?
J: No not at all. I felt that the article was mostly concerned with Nottingham’s lack of commercial success and whether a few local artists, some of whom have recently signed to major labels might be able to break the dry spell. We don’t really consider ourselves a pop band in that way and we don’t really have much interest in trying to achieve those sorts of things, so I don’t think we would have been appropriate for the feature. I enjoyed reading it though. It was nice to see some of our friends getting a bit of shine.

Has anyone every approached the band to manage or sign you?
J: We don’t need a manager. We did get a few emails from people, but I think that they were aware that we know what we are doing. And we do know what we are doing. We don’t know how to monetise what we are doing and turn it in to a profit. But we do know how to push forward and make contacts.

How does it feel when you get a song played on the radio?
J: It’s a bit weird. This may sound horribly arrogant; but when we first started and we were doing those 15 minute sets, we had a song called 6 5 Special that got played on a segment on 6Music about Nottingham music. I think Dean Jackson sorted it out. That was the first time and that was a really intense moment, like, “Fucking hell, we are on the radio”. But we have always done alright in terms of getting radio play. When we get radio play it’s always off our own backs.
A: When Cerys Mathews played us she commented on the song.
J: She was really in to it. She thought it sounded weird, she noticed a dropped beat and thought it was imperfect sounding. She said that it was really refreshing, because everything is usually really pristine sounding. That was amazing. I think she’s really sexy as well.

I like your BBC 6Music Roundtable story...
J: We heard from the production team that we were going to be discussed on the Roundtable. And Dog Is Dead were going to be on the same show. So I was live Tweeting Dog Is Dead going “Fucking hell, two Notts band, this is great”. They got played, but Fists got dropped from the show. Typical.

You have reached a privileged level in Nottingham where you can pick and choose your shows...
A: I think we have always done that. When we have been asked to play we haven’t always just done any old gig.
J: Actually we have, we have done loads. We’ve played all sorts of shit. The reason why we now pick and choose gigs is because we’ve put on shows. We know what works and how it’s done well and how it’s done bad. For example, this guy has offered us £10 and there are these bands playing and you just know that it’s not going to work. We are going to have a horrible time doing that and we aren’t going to get paid any money. If you just accept anything that is offered to you because it is offered to you, that’s desperation. You don’t have to be like that. You can chose a local pub that has a licence to put on live music and put on your own show.
A: When bands complain that no one ever shows up or that they never get asked to play. It’s like, how many bands have you shown support to? How many shows have you put on? Actually, it’s those people who don’t go and watch bands and then they wonder why no one ever goes to see them.
J: The whole LeftLion ethos is to integrate yourself in to the local community and basically reflect them. Be a mirror of that community, write about the culture. It’s exactly the same for us. We were a tiny bedroom band and we wanted to be a part of the local community of musicians. We had stuff that we aspired to like Damn You!, and we just went out and did it. We booked a tiny venue and did our own crude posters. It’s not even a big deal. All you have to do is under-write a certain amount of money.
A: And if nobody comes, think about why they didn’t come. Don’t feel sorry for yourself.

Do you think bands can oversaturate themselves if they play too much in the city?
J: I think that people are always totally saturated by Fists all of the time.
A: We say that because you are at risk if you play a lot in your own city. But we haven’t played a lot recently. Right now I don’t think we can say that.

Is it important for you to play out of the city?
J: Yes, but the only reason why is because it’s just fucking fun. Obviously we live in Nottingham and we have done loads of shows here and the crowds are great. But what about going to Sheffield or somewhere and doing a gig there, and meeting a totally different group of people who are doing the same thing? It’s really interesting to do that. You meet other bands and you are creating a spiderweb of connectivity.

You’ve just come back from supporting Obits on a tour of the East Coast of America. How was it?
J: People seemed to take to us from the off. I don’t know if it was because we are English and a bit of a novelty, or because they recognised all the Breeders songs that we’ve ripped off, but they totally got it. They bought lots of our merch too!

What was it like playing to audiences who had no idea who you were?
J: I reckon we still mostly play to audiences who have no idea who we are unless it’s Nottingham. Playing to US audiences was peculiar. The US is obviously similar to the UK in lots of ways, but they do everything just differently enough for it to still feel a bit alien. At shows in the UK audiences that are new to us tend to be a bit more self conscious and likely to skulk in the shadows leaving that massive depressing gap at the front of the stage, whilst they figure out whether they like us or not. In the US they were a lot more comfortable coming straight to the front at the start of the show to see if we could entertain them. They were more willing to engage with us too which was cool. It works both ways though and I had to learn how to engage back a bit more and just generally be less apologetic and British about being onstage. It was a good experience for me.

How has the band come away from the experience?
J: We found out that we’re not necessarily going to hate each other if we cram into a minivan and drive thousands of miles together on a few hours sleep. That we need to eat vegetables regularly. That the world is massive but in it there is an audience for our music and that it can be a shit load of fun trying to work out the best way to get it to people. That we want to tour again asap, preferably with Obits who we adore as people and as a band. That we really need to finish our record.

Any plans to do anything else with Obits?
J: We’re hoping to do a ‘thing’ together but we can’t really say anymore than that at the moment in case it falls through! You will obviously be the first to know if we pull it off.

What other Notts music do you like?
J: Kogumaza without a doubt. Not just in Nottingham, but that album is just one of my favourite albums of 2011. A total slayer of a record.
A: I like Hot Horizons.
J: Kagoule. There are loads of options here. We could big up loads of people for various reasons, but we want to be as honest as possible about what we actually like. I like Kirk Spencer.
A: Origamibiro.
J: Can you put in early-Bonsai Projects?
A: Sleaford Mods.
J: Can we stop this now?

Fists play with Cantaloupe and Kagoule for LeftLion's Record Store Day show at Nottingham Contemporary on Saturday 21 April 2012.

Fists website

Originally for LeftLion.
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Kagoule

They're one of the most exciting new bands in Nottingham at the moment. So we were over the moon when they agreed to play for us at our Record Store Day gig at Nottingham Contemporary on Saturday 21 April. Cai from the band was kind enough to answer some questions Paul Klotschow put his way.

Hello, how are you?
Hi, we're good thanks.

How did you guys all meet and get together?
We all met through school a couple of years ago. Me and Lawrence used to jam together and after a while we decided to form a band. We got Lucy to learn to play bass and we've been a band for about 18 months now.

How does the songwriting work?
It normally starts with me coming up with an idea for a song on guitar and an idea of a melody for the vocals. I show the idea to the rest of the band and then we start playing around with it and coming up with ideas for the drums, bass and all that. When we have more of an idea of the structure of the song I come up the final lyrics. Any changes from there happen slowly through things not sounding as good as hoped live really.

How would you describe your sound?
Aah, that's a hard question to answer for any band. I guess like kind of 90's Grunge & Post-Punk with hints of Indie.

Tell me a fact about the band that you’ve never told anyone else before...
Wish we had one to tell you!

What was your first gig like?
Like most Nottingham bands it was a weekday slot at The Maze. Nobody apart from the people who we forced into coming and our family was there. Lucy had only been playing bass for about a month and none of us had ever played in front of people before outside of school. Our friends seemed to enjoy it and we got some good feedback from the people who worked there.

How have you found trying to get shows in Nottingham, especially when you were first starting out?
Not too hard at the moment as if we make sure we stay active and keep things fresh, then everything seems to be fine. At the start it was virtually impossible though. I guess people just expect you to be rubbish if you've not had much experience, so nobody ever replied to emails or offered us anything. In the few gigs we had I think people started to realize that we were alright and we started to get more and more gig opportunities.

What was it like playing the Main Stage at Rock City...
It was one of the best experiences of my life. It seemed like there was so many people there - or at least the light gave that illusion. It's something none of us will never forget. We hope to be able to play that stage again sometime.

What others gigs have you enjoyed?
We recently had one at The Jam Cafe which we all really enjoyed. The turn out was great and people actually moved to our music. It's a tiny little room which got cramped very quick so it was all very intimate.

Have you had any nightmare performances?
We haven't really been around long enough and done enough gigs to have had a 'nightmare' one. We've had quite a few bad moments though. Things like all of us forgetting our parts to the song on the encore and terrible crowds dressed up as Super Mario. That kinda stuff.

How do you feel you’ve developed as a band since you released the Son EP last year?
I think we've got a whole lot better in that time. It seems like we recorded that EP years ago. We have so many new songs that we can't wait to get out to people. We've all improved at our instruments a lot since then.

When can we hear some new recordings?
We are part way through recording an album at this moment. We're very excited about it and it's sounding amazing. Not sure exactly of a release time but it shouldn't be too long.

What other local bands do you enjoy?
There's loads of great Nottingham bands around at the moment, too many to name them all really. But a couple that I personally really like are Paranoid Travelers, Fists and Jake Bugg.

What can we expect from your gig for us at Nottingham Contemporary?
Things will be loud and crazy. We'll be playing a couple new songs. It should be a really great night and we'll put on the best performance that we can.

What do you do like to do in Nottingham when you aren’t playing in the band?
We all spend a whole lot of our time at college at the moment but when we have spare time we like to go see other bands that are around.

What is your earliest memory of music?
I'm not sure of mine but I know Lucy's was being played Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles when she was about 6 years old.

Any final words for the LeftLion readers?
Keep 21 April. It's going to be an amazing night! Hope to see you all down there.

Kagoule play with Fists and Cantaloupe for LeftLion's Record Store Day show at Nottingham Contemporary on Saturday 21 April 2012.

Kagoule website

Originally for LeftLion.
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Cantaloupe

Featuring members of the now defunct Souvaris and with their debut EP due to drop at any moment, LeftLion are excited to have Cantaloupe playing for us at our Record Store Day gig on Saturday 21 April at Nottingham Contemporary. Paul Klotschkow caught up with Simmo from the band.
Cantaloupe Interview

Hello, how the devil are you?
Very well, thank you! On Easter holidays. Yes!
 
Why did you decide to form Cantaloupe?
Geography, jobs, and the like meant it was increasingly difficult for us to rehearse regularly with Souvaris, so Aaron and I started playing together at his house to plug the hole in our lives. At first we didn’t have a plan but after a while some ideas for a band began to form. Around the same time, we got together in Souvaris and decided to call it quits. This motivated Aaron and I to start thinking a bit more seriously about what we were doing. We had a few ideas for songs but we realized we’d need another member to make them work, so we asked Dave if he’d like to join.

How do you differ from Souvaris?
The songs are a lot shorter! It’s more synth-heavy. There’s more focus on melody and rhythm rather than texture. It’s a lot stupider. We still don’t really know who we are or what we’re doing – but I’m starting to think that’s a good thing and we should keep it that way.

How does the songwriting work?
We have several different ways of working. Quite often, we begin with the drums – Aaron will record a drumbeat and we’ll use that as the starting point. Sometimes we come up with ideas through improvising live at our practice room; other times we’ll start recording loops and experimenting with arrangements at Aaron’s house; or other times still I’ll programme some beats or arpeggios or come up with a basic arrangement on my 8 track. So far we’ve been doing this about 18 months and we still don’t have a set way of working, which is really refreshing and exciting for us.

What are your hopes for the band?
My immediate ambition for any band I’ve played in is to have fun and share some of that fun with other people. I’m aware that this is the most accessible and poppy band I’ve been in, and It’d be nice to find ourselves in a position where we can tour outside the UK, release albums, experiment with more ambitious ideas like scoring films, and we’ll do what we can to push towards that – but the basic aim is always just to enjoy ourselves.

When can we expect a proper release?
Hopefully quite a lot! We’ve just finished recording our debut EP with Pete Fletcher at First Love. We’ve worked really closely with Pete and given him a fairly free reign to try out ideas and experiment with sound, texture and arrangement. The idea of having a producer - someone who develops an aesthetic for the music and contributes creative ideas - rather than just an engineer really appeals to us. We always recorded our past musical exploits ourselves, and whilst that gave us a lot of power and freedom, we also limited ourselves due to a lack of knowledge and experience. It’s a fucker of a job and it always becomes something of a trial. Handing that control over to Pete has been liberating – we can’t praise his work highly enough.

What has it been like playing live?
Great fun! Again, we didn’t really have any set ideas about how we would perform this music live when we began, and to an extent we still don’t. Because there’s only three of us, we’ve had to start using backing tracks on some songs, but we’re working hard on ways to retain a live energy to the performance and so far I think we’re doing ok. We really like the idea of there being a big difference between the songs when they’re performed live compared to their recordings, so we’re constantly working on ways to adapt the songs for performance and make them as engaging as possible.
 
I saw you play in a 1970s shopping arcade recently, that was weird...
It was a lot of fun! The excellent human beings behind The Music Exchange invited Hello Thor to take over their shop for a day, and Hello Thor in turn asked us to perform. We had no idea what to expect and half anticipated The Law turning up half way through the set to harsh everyone’s buzz. Instead, some grumpy guy from the Autograph Shop next door put a kibosh on the whole thing after fifteen minutes. Still, they were fifteen of the most fun minutes we’ve ever played live. It was really exciting to play in such an unusual context, and the expressions on the faces of random passers by were a joy to behold.

What has been your favourite gig to play so far?
Probably The Music Exchange show, or if not Gulliver’s in Manchester as part of A Carefully Planned Festival. We had lots of dancers there. The more dancers, the better the gig.
 
And any nightmare performances?
Have you ever heard of a Bose L1? It’s a PA that looks like a hat stand, designed by people who hate music. If ever you arrive at a venue and it takes you half an hour to actually find the PA because it’s six feet tall but only six inches wide, our advice is to turn around and head home.
 
What can we expect at your gig for us at Nottingham Contemporary?
A new song or two, lots of fun and some terrible dancing.
 
What other music coming out of Nottingham do you like?
Nottingham has a fertile scene of men and women hurtling towards middle age who’ve given up trying to be down with the kids and have instead started the band they’ve fantasized about since the heady days of their youth. Fortunately, they’re all excellent. Fists, Kogumaza, Grey Hairs, Moscow Youth Cult, Forever Sound (now officially relocated to Berlin, but still found parading the streets of Nottingham often enough). The oft-overlooked Savoy Grand are marvelous, although unfortunately not too prolific. Then there’s a wealth of fine music being unleashed upon the public by excellent Nottingham-based labels – Gringo, Low Point, and of course Hello Thor.
 
Cantaloupe play with Fists, Kagoule and Selectadisc DJ's for LeftLion's Record Store Day show at Nottingham Contemporary on Saturday 21 April 2012.

Cantaloupe website

Originally for LeftLion.
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Slowcoaches

LeftLion first saw this Leeds/Notts band a couple of years ago at an all-dayer at The Bodega. Since then they've had a bit of a line-up change and have just released one of our favourite EP's of the year. Paul Klotschkow got the low-down on what they've been up to recently from bass-player and singer, Heather.


Slowcoaches Interview
Hello, how are you?
Alright, yeah.
 
How would you describe your sound?
I guess we play pop music, but we play it badly.
 
I first saw you a couple of years ago with a different line-up. Why the change and how did the new line-up get together?
Our friend Callum used to play guitar but one day he called us up said he couldn’t be arsed anymore. So we were left in a bit of an endless bummer and it really sucked. Then Sam was round Matt’s house and a little while after and said he’d play drums. Matt used to drum for us so he plays guitar now and it’s much better. Callum writes evil folk songs.
 
How does the songwriting work in the band?
Me and Matty split it. Not intentionally. Normally we write the songs on our own. Like send each other ideas then next time we’re together, we play them. It’s pretty straight forward. Don’t sit around together trying to write lyrics and stuff. That’s boring and generally doesn't workout. It’s more of an instant thing.
 
Can you tell me a fact about the band that you’ve never told anyone else before?
Matt and Sam had to stay in a room where there was a threesome going on after one of our shows. Sam slept through the whole thing. Matt was awake and heard every sloppy noise..
 
Your new EP has just come out, can you tell me a bit about it?
Yeah it’s six tracks and is called We’re so Heavy and it’s being recorded and released by Tye Die Tapes, which is a tape label based in Sheffield. They’ve released some really good stuff, like the Fawn Spots EP that just came out. Two of the guys who run it are also in a band called Bhurgeist, who are awesome.
 
Why have you decided to put it out on cassette?
Tye Die only do cassettes. It’s way cheaper too. It’ll be available to download off the Internet as well.
 
What’s been your favourite gig to play in Nottingham?
We played with Shonen Knife at the Bodega. It was Sam’s first gig. It was so busy I think he was really scared but he forgot his contact lenses so he couldn’t see anything anyway. Tried to explain to Shonen Knife how excited we were but their English isn’t too good.

Have you had any nightmare performances?
I won’t say where it was yeah? But we had a show with some band from Texas and a French band and we showed up it turned out that the promoter had gone mad and been sectioned. There was no-one there and these shred god bands started having a stress at us and then the promoter showed up at like midnight saying he’d escaped from the mental hospital or something. But we got to drink some of this free “stuff” that the “secret place” sells that’s supposed to be like home brewed cranberry and pear cider or something, but I swear it’s actually just frosty jacks and blackcurrant. It makes you go mental, like your brain melts and you can’t move your limbs and then it makes you sick. Great gig.
 
What’s going through your head when you are up on stage?
Normally looking at people thinking what the fuck are they doing. Like when we played this Vice show in Brighton there were these two girls sitting on the stage taking photos of themselves while we were playing. Couldn’t even think about how to play guitar. Was just staring at them like, What is wrong with you? Matt thinks about Sam.
 
Are there any bands coming out of Nottingham that you like at the moment?
Guilty Parents. And It’s not a band but our friends John and Tom Turrell who just filmed our video for the pre release of a track from the EP. They are from Nottingham and they make really good films. They’re adorable and pretty much sick at the same time. We’ve done some songs for another film they’re making as well. It’s called Tummy Bug.
 
What do you like to do on a night out in Nottingham?
Play a gig and go round Josh’s house. He has a microwave with like... cooker hobs on the top. And he makes White Russians. There is always interesting listening too.
 
What’s your earliest memory of music?
Sam’s is listening to Josephs Technicolour Dream Coat in the car. He can sing the whole thing it’s horrible. Matt’s is listening to ‘New Woman’ 90’s compilation in the car. Mine is dancing in my parent’s living room to baggy trousers and knocking myself out and going in ambulance.
 
If you could play with any other band or musician, who would it be and why?
Bhurgeist. They’re really loud and we like them better than anyone else.
 
What was the first record that you ever bought?
Kill ‘Em All. Matt’s was Mmbop by Hanson. Sam’s was that 3 lions on a shirt thing.
 
How can people find out more about the band?
There’s a Tumblr and music stuff on the Internet. We’ve got a video pre-release track coming out soon so you can see us drinking alco pops and eating burgers.
 
We're So Heavy the new EP by Slowcoaches is availble now.

Slowcoaches website

Originally for LeftLion.
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LIVE: Blackout at the Broadway

Paul Klotschkow went along to The Broadway for a club night with a difference - it all takes place in the dark.

Blackout live at The Broadway
Blackout at The Broadway
In his recent interview with LeftLion, Sam Potter (Late of the Pier/Swimming) stated that the intention of his series of his Blackout events, “is a chance for people to experience music on a higher level, free from any other sensory distraction or preconceptions. It's also a chance for anonymous musicians to play free from expectation and with complete creative freedom not granted in ordinary gig scenarios.”

We may have got a stripped down ‘club’ version tonight without the bands at The Broadway, but as people queued to get in to Screen 2, there was a sense of anticipation in the air that we were going to experience something extraordinary.

After a pre-recorded introduction about how music can affect the senses the music starts. It squelches and bleeps between blissed out electronica and odd-ball Komische type psychedelia. It’s the type of music that sucks you in with it’s mutli-layered sound and the way the tracks tend to drift along from A to B in an expansive manner. It’s the perfect soundtrack for losing yourself in.

Sitting there in the dark with nothing to focus on expect what is coming out of the speakers, it’s a wonderful opportunity to listen to music away from the distractions of the modern world.  Nowadays, many of us use music as background distraction to our every day activities - eg popping your iPod in to go on the bus or walk to the shops. So to be given the opportunity to just be able to switch yourself off and drift-off whilst listening to music, everyone should experience this. It was like therapy for our modern, busy lifestyles.

As I walked out and chatted to friends, handful of people mentioned how they saw images flash across their eyes - things had got a bit pyschedellic for them. Unfortunately, they didn’t for me.

Personally, it wasn't as fully immersive as I had hoped. Perhaps I'm easily distracted? But the on-going rustling, coughing, fidgeting, and sometimes laughing from people in the auditorium took attention away from being able to completely submerge myself in to the darkness. Perhaps using headphones next time would be an improvement, the way Swimming do for their spectacular 'Headphones Only' shows; but then maybe that would take away from the communal listening experience?

Those few gripes aside, this Sam and his Blackout team have created a truly unique listening experience and one that I hope returns to Nottingham very soon - and hopefully with bands in tow...

Blackout took place at The Broadway on Sunday 2 April 2012.

Blackout on Facebook 

Originally for LeftLion.
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Fists in America


Paul Klotschkow joined Fists as they toured the East Coast of America supporting Sub Pop band Obits. 
Fists in celebratory mood after their first US show at The Blue Nile in Harrisonburg, VA
Fists in celebratory mood after their first US show at The Blue Nile in Harrisonburg, VA
Fists are Angi (vocals/ guitar), James (vocals/ guitar), Pete (vocals/ guitar), Dave (bass) and Tez (drums) and have been playing for around the past five years after forming in Nottingham. I can't remember when we all met, there's been far too many pints drank since then, but the first time I remember seeing the band play was in October 2007 bottom of the bill at a charity show at The Maze. After that moment I persistantly stalked them until five year later I found myself on a plane making a trip alongside them as they toured the US.


Tuesday 13 March - Brooklyn, NYC
After meeting Fists at the apartment that they’ve been staying in the Prospect Park area of Brooklyn, we make our way to Obits’ rehearsal room, which is situated close to the Brooklyn Bridge in an area that wreaks of industry - the sights, smells and sounds of the kind of thing that Bruce Springsteen would write a song about.

Obits, who invited Fists to join them on the tour after a friendship between the bands was struck up a couple of years ago when Fists put them on in Notts and played with them in London and Bristol, are letting them use their backline and have loaned them some guitars for the tour. If they hadn’t have done, shipping over their own equipment would have driven Fists in to even more debt than they probably will be in once the tour is over.

We meet Obits and all help get the equipment out of the huge rehearsal space that is situated in what seems to be an old warehouse. The involves lugging huge amps and heavy cases along a corridor, in to a rickety old elevator, through the front doors and in to Obits’ van outside.

All of the members of Obits are old hands at this and probably have a fool-proof system of packing their van. But being the warm and accommodating gents that they are, they don’t seem to mind a bunch of bumbling Brits helping out, even though we are all probably getting in the way.
Philadelphia Obits and Fists gig poster
Philadelphia Obits and Fists gig poster
 
As soon as everything is packed away we start to follow the Obits van out of New York and on the way to the first show in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The thing is New York City doesn’t make it easy to leave. As soon as we go over the first bridge we are greeted by an irate policeman shouting “STOP” repeatedly at the van, his face twisted with fury. Pete (who is driving) stops. The policeman asks Pete if he saw the stop sign and that if a policeman is asking you to stop, you stop. The thing is, there wasn’t a stop sign and the only stop sign was next to the policeman, which we would have stopped for. So it seems that this man in the uniform was just a grade-A prick who wanted to take his anger out on something, and that something was us. 
 
As Pete was being berated, Dave who is in the navigator's seat leans forward to get the paperwork out of the glove compartment. It turns out that this isn’t what you do when you are being shouted down at by a cop. He quickly snaps at Dave and tells him that was a stupid thing to do. Dave cowers in his seat. Pete explains how he is new to driving in the States and that he was ‘disoriented’, which is the only decent excuse he could’ve come up with as I don’t think any type of reasoning would have worked. He makes a swift getaway. The whole car audibly exhales and I’m surprised that the seats hadn’t changed colour.

The drive to Harrisonburg is plain sailing from here. There’s a bit of confusion at the first gas station we stop at over how to actually use the petrol pump, as it’s not just a matter of picking up the pump and pressing the trigger. I'm sure there are sniggers when I ask for help. Everyone is in an excitable mood on the long drive, which makes the six hours fly by. We drive through an Amish community and it was totally bewildering to see these people living a lifestyle that was in complete contrast to what was happening only four hours away in NYC.
The Obits and Fists in the USA
Obits and Fists in the USA

We arrive at the venue in Harrisonburg to find that it’s an Ethiopian restaurant with a bar downstairs where they often host gigs. It’s a small college town, so I guess that bands and promoters have to use whatever space they have at their disposal. There’s enough free time for the band to have a couple of drinks outside and relax before their show.

The person in charge tonight explains that drinks and food are on the house, which totally throws Fists sideways. In fact this is a trend for all of the venues that they play on this tour. All of the venue managers and promoters are accommodating as can be and make sure Fists feel comfortable and welcome.

Gigs seems to start later over here than in the UK, so after what seems to be an eternity and sitting through a group of local kids who are the support, it’s time for Fists to make their US debut. They seem visibly nervous for the first few songs, which is only natural considering the long build-up to this moment. They loosen up by the end and throw their all in to Stag to end the show.

People come up to Fists at the end of their show and tell them how great it is that a band from England has played their small town as no-one from the UK has ever played here before.
Accommodation after shows is sorted out on an ad hoc basis. Basically if there is someone at the show who is willing to put the band up, they’ll stay there, and if not they will book a motel room.
Tonight one of the guys from the local opening act offers to put the band up. It’s a proper student joint, with a musty smelling carpet, a pull out bed that is covered in all kinds of detritus that its best not to think about and a toilet so filthy that I have to look away when I take a piss. But it’s somewhere to crash for the night and it’s very good of the people who live here to put up this strange band from overseas.

 
Wednesday 14 March - Washington DC
The next day we wander in to town to find a vegan cafe that has been recommended. We find the place called The Little Grill. It’s run by a guy who turns out to be a complete Anglophile and even lived in the UK for a bit with his English wife. He seems over the moon to find a group of dazed Brits in his cafe and tells us how just that morning he had been catching up with the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2. Nuts.

After breakfast we have a wander around the town and visit a pawn shop and a music place before finding the car and heading for DC.

The route to DC isn’t plain sailing, and Dave takes us off-road through rural Virginia. It might not be the most direct route, but it’s a good opportunity to see small town America. You have to see the positive in these things,

We arrive in DC in the blazing hot sun and James wants to go for lunch at a place called Ben’s Chili Bowl. This place is a bit of a landmark in DC due to it’s peaceful role in the 1968 riots as a place that both rioters and the police could eat together in peace. Inside it is a hectic diner and a sign behind the counter states that the only people who can eat in there for free are President Obama and Bill Cosby (both of whom who have eaten at Ben’s) and everyone else has to pay, whilst the walls are covered in signed photos of iconic black customers.

After eating, a little bit of record shopping at Soms Records, and a swift drink at a bar next door to the venue, the band get to The Black Cat. Obits have already loaded in by the time we get there, so the band are shown to their dressing room and sorted out with drinks for the rider and we are asked to choose food from the venue’s menu to eat later. Again the hospitality of the venue is overwhelming, and they even have a shower and give us towels if we want to use it. In fact, James does take them up on the offer later on just to say that he’s had a shower at The Black Cat.
Sitting around in the Black Cat dressing room
Sitting around in the Black Cat dressing room
Sitting around in the dressing room before the show the band find it difficult to put together a set list that has the ‘right’ sort of flow to it. Angi comes up with a setlist that everyone at first agrees on. But after some deliberating, the band then start to agonise over it. The band play a different set every night and it’s to their remarkable songwriting that they do have a pool of songs that they can pick and choose from each night, and that they are able to change the set depending on how they feel. 
 
Perhaps it’s because of the city that we are in tonight - this is a city with a strong underground music history - but both the band and the crowd seem more into it. Fists are more relaxed and watching them it dawns on me how bizarre this situation is. I’ve been watching this band play in Nottingham for the past five year, and now here they are in America performing to a bunch of people who have no idea who they are and they're winning them over. And I’m here to witness it! They also make a killing on the merch front selling over a hundred dollars worth of EPs, singles and CDs. This is money that helps pay for the petrol and toll costs. It also help to pay for the motel room the band has to book as we can’t find anywhere to sleep tonight. 
 

As the band and Obits pack away at the end, Sohrab from Obits excitedly tell us that Ian MacKaye from Minor Threat/Fugazi was there tonight. Words can’t describe how amazing this is. Sohrab tells us that Henry Rollins is in Philadelphia tomorrow night for a spoken word show and that he’s going to speak to him to see if he wants to come to the gig afterwards. Unreal!

As we are stood around saying our goodbye’s to Obits, Rick Froberg (Drive Like Jehu/ Hot Snakes) Obits’ frontman and songwriter starts to speak to Pete about the amp they both play through on stage. Rick asks Pete what he thinks of it. Pete says that he’s unsure about it and that it keeps making a ‘farty’ noise. Pete keeps on repeating ‘farty’ at an uncomfortable rate as he speak to Rick. Rick replies that it is is favourite sounding amp. Time for us all to leave, I think.

The motel that we’ve booked for the night is in a small town called Silver Springs over in the next state, Maryland. It’s actually a Travelodge and Dave swears that the receptionist is a speed freak due to his twitchy behaviour and missing teeth. The room is a double for four people, so the six of us sneak the equipment and ourselves in. It wreaks of smoke and the yellow walls were probably once a pristine white, but it is a bed for the night and more importantly it has a working shower and a clean toilet.

Thursday 15 March 2012 - Philadelphia
Fists in the USA
Dave shows us what he thinks of the parking ticket
Something that has become a repetitive feature of this trip is us spending a huge amount of time driving around a little bit lost, looking for a parking space. For a country so obsessed with driving and road, it is remarkably hard to find somewhere to park your vehicle.
Once we find somewhere we hunt out a diner that had been recommended to us by Obits. Breakfast at this diner comes served with a ‘healthy’ side of grease. In fact, three days in to this tour and the lack of fresh food has started to make all of us feel sluggish and over tired and we are craving something something fresh that came out of the ground or grew on a tree.

When we head to the the car we discover that we’ve been given a parking ticket for facing the wrong way. This is a bit of a bummer and it means that the band have to use $60 of their money to pay for the ticket. What’s frustrating about this is that there aren’t any signs telling you that you can only park facing a particular way and it’s clearly just a way for the local council to raise some extra revenue.

The drive to Philadelphia is a short one, and we even manage to squeeze in watching Trading Places on the way. We get to the venue before Obits. Tonight Fists are playing at a place called Johnny Brenda’s and it is an amazingly beautiful venue. Very ornate looking, but also warm and inviting, with a raised stage and a balcony overlooking the room. More importantly, it has one of the best selection of beers that I’ve seen so far. I take a liking to one called Dreamweaver that becomes the thing of nightmares the morning after.

Again the venue provide Fists with some beer and give them some money to buy some food. There seems to be a bit of grouchiness between some of the members before the show. Perhaps this is down to spending so much time together and being over tired. Either way, it doesn’t affect their performance. Fists are on it tonight. They seem much more comfortable up on stage and it shows in their most confident performance of the tour so far. They play with a spiky, punky energy and it’s a thrill to watch.

At the end of the show James says how great it is that we’ve all been getting on together and how the tour has been so much fun, and that if we were all on ecstasy we would be hugging each other and saying how much we loved one another. In short, the band are obviously having the time of their life and it has just been topped off by the gig of the tour.


Sohrab sorts us out with a place to stay for the night at a local musician’s house and we manage to get a few hours shut-eye before shuffling out the next morning for the long drive to Cambridge, MA.
 
Friday 16 March - Boston
Before the long drive to Cambridge we want to take the opportunity to try and see something of Philadelphia. Due to the long drives between cities, we haven’t been able to take in many sights. We’ve been waking up in the mornings, finding somewhere for breakfast, driving to the venue and by the time we get their there’re only a couple of horse before the show starts.

Yesterday, Dave said that he had “The Rocky films in his blood” and was determined to pay homage at the infamous ‘Rocky Steps’. So we drive in to downtown Philly in the morning to visit the steps. As luck would have it, we find parking space in the car park of a Whole Foods supermarket. Whole Foods seems to be some sort of liberal mecca for fresh, organic food. It’s just want we need after days of fast food and we stock up on salads, fruit and fresh sandwiches. Tez (drummer) is so overwhelmed by the sight of fresh food that she is sent in to rapture and ends up with a twenty dollar salad.

The venue in Cambridge is TT The Bear’s, and it's a bit like The Bodega - a no nonsense gig venue. A big room with a stage one end and the bar the other.

Everyone is feeling tired and sluggish with the tour starting to physically taking its toll. Angi show us a few yoga positions that we could try to help boost out energy levels. I decide to struggle with the wifi on my phone.

It’s Friday night and it’s clear that the Bostonians want to let their hair down and drink. The gig is fun and loose with James’ “how you doing” greeting met with loud whoops and hollers from the audience. For a unknown support band, Fists have been getting an overwhelming positive reaction from the audience. Whereas in the UK many audiences would greet an unknown band with shrugs and folded arms; over here people just seem enjoy going to see music and aren’t afraid to show their appreciated. After the show a lady tells the band that they ‘crushed it’. I couldn’t put it any better.

 
Saturday 17 March - Manhattan, NYC
On the way to their final date of the tour in New York, Fists have been invited to film a live session for a Boston based blog called Extraneous Noise. The filming takes place in a small studio located in an old warehouse type building. It takes a few hours, but it’s a pleasure to hear the band live and loud in a tiny room. From what I can tell from the monitors the session will look bang on, and a professionally filmed session will be a great document of the tour.

Fists in the USA
Getting ready to film a live session for Extraneous Noise
It’s a long drive to the the Lower East Side of Manhattan where the Cake Shop is - the venue for tonight’s gig. Once we get there loads of familiar faces and friends start to show up, amongst them Joey Chickenskin, Katy from Kogumaza (who was also at the Philly show) and Hello Thor.
In total there are probably around 20 people from Notts here to watch the show tonight. It’s remarkable and testament to the band’s talent and level of support that they’ve built-up that so many people are willing to make the trip overseas to see them play. Support even comes from another Notts band, Rattle.
Fists in the USA
A packed Cake Shop in NYC as Fists play on stage
Obits totally smash the venue a new one, and it’s been a pleasure to watch them close up every night. The night ends with everyone little blurry eyed, yet elated. Hugs are exchanged and Obits present Angi with the guitar she had been borrowing for the tour. It’s a touching gesture and there is talk of more joint Obits/ Fists action in the near future.There’s an end of tour celebratory feel in the air and Fists give it everything they have to make sure they go out with a bang. Towards the end of the show Nick from Hello Thor makes his way to where I am stood at the back and tells me that he was completely overwhelmed with emotion. So am I.
 
Fists toured with Obits on the East Coast of America from 13 - 17 March 2012
 
Fists play with Cantaloupe and Kagoule for LeftLion at Nottingham Contemporary on Saturday 21 April 2012.
 
Fists on Facebook

Originally for LeftLion. I have loads more stuff from this tour that I should try and post and some point. 


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