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Interview: Intercontinental band, Maven Grace

You think it’s a challenge having two musicians collaborate from across the world? Try four musicians in four different places, scattered all over the wold. Maven Grace is a collaboration between four musicians in Ireland, Hong Kong, Rome and London. Regardless of the incredible distances between them, they create incredible music and I was lucky enough to get Jason and Henry to answer a handful of questions for me! First off, check out their new single and accompanying music video:

 

 

It is my understanding that Maven Grace unites members from Hong Kong, Ireland, Rome AND London. How on earth did you all find each other?

 Henry: Jason and I have actually known each other since we were children. Jason spent some time in the UK as a child, and we were drawn to each other at school because we were both obsessed by music.

 Jason: And we both had terrible shoes.

 Henry: Mary and I have also known each other for ages. Our paths used to cross on the gig circuit, and we always said that one day we’d end up working together.

 Jason: Mia and I met in Rome as teenagers. She was the coolest girl in town, and it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. So, even though we’re scattered all over the world now, our ties to each other go way back. That makes everything much easier to deal with.

 

Touch on some of your individual projects before you came together as Maven Grace.

 Henry: I was in a band called Psychid that ended up supporting Radiohead at a big homecoming show in Oxford. I was so excited and then reality struck when I hit the stage – endless rows of people looking at their watches. By about the third song, a Japanese girl right at the front of the barriers had had time to create a big sign which she waved at us. It said “How long are you playing for?”

 Jason: I’ve always wanted to bridge the gap between east and west and after going to college in the US I ended up back in Beijing putting on a big festival. The Beijing Pop Festival was the first of its kind, and it was pretty insane introducing acts like Nine Inch Nails to a Chinese audience. Although it’s probably a good thing that they didn’t want to put Fist Fuck in their set.

 

Do you work together in one place or remotely?

 Henry: We work all over the place. Often we end up having to work remotely, but it’s great when we’re all in the same place. Mia just got in from Rome this morning for a rehearsal, and she was practising her parts on a small keyboard during the flight.

Jason: Writing at a distance can have real advantages, too. I love coming up with an idea in Hong Kong and winging it through cyberspace to the other side of the world.

 Henry: Because of the time difference, I have more time to work out how to say ‘I don’t like this’.

 

Tell me about your songwriting process. 

 Jason: Every song is different. Innocent Dreams all flowed from that opening line – ‘Innocent dreams don’t disappear’. Henry and I were just sitting there together playing guitar, and I don’t even remember why those words came into my head. But we just developed the whole song then and there from that opening idea.

 Henry: It’s great to have lots of different writers and processes all going on at once. The only constant is that we all rely on each other to get things finished.

 

How and when did music become part of your lives?

 Henry: My mother is a singer, so I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a central part of family life as I was growing up. And she loved everything from Bach to The Beatles. She actually sang with the Rolling Stones on the Let It Bleed album.

 

Who were some of the most influential people musically, be it friends, family or celebrity?

 Jason: I’ve always loved Springsteen and that classic strain of American songwriting. But as a kid I was also into some fairly extreme metal, actually! So my influences were all over the place.

 Henry: Let’s be honest – they still are.

 

What is the story behind the band name, Maven Grace?

 Henry: I’ve always loved the word ‘grace’. It has so many interesting and powerful connotations, so I knew that if I started a new musical project Grace would have to be in there somewhere.

Jason: The word Maven just feels like it belongs in front of it, though. You can spend forever analysing these things, but when you’ve got it right, you just know.

Name a few musicians/bands out there today that you really respect and who are doing things musically that are inspiring and important to you. 

Jason: Funnily enough we’ve just been thinking a lot about the artists in Beijing who mean the most to us, and I have to mention Howie Lee. He’s like the Chinese Aphex Twin and his videos are insanely imaginative and beautiful. Dead J is another Beijing-based musician I can’t get enough of. They’re not so well known in the West, but you should definitely check them out.

Henry: Whatever you think of their beards, it’s impossible not to respect ZZ Top. Next year will be their fiftieth anniversary without a single line-up change. That is truly inspiring. As someone once said, bands often form by accident, but they don’t stay together by accident. And when we need a shot of something coming from a completely different universe, Hot, Blue and Righteous off their Tres Hombres album works every time.

 

Is an EP for full length in the future for Maven Grace and when can we expect another release from you?

 Jason: We’re planning to get another song out there before the end of July. SEE “Something Strange” above! 

Is performing live/touring something you all would like to do and how difficult will that be to achieve given the distances between you?

 Henry: We’ll be performing live and touring, for sure. In fact, we’re playing a great festival at the end of the month, Standon Calling, alongside Goldfrapp, Bryan Ferry and Gaz Coombes. Rehearsing is a bit of a challenge when we’re thousands of miles apart, but nothing worthwhile is ever that easy, is it?

Jason: And I don’t really need to rehearse as much as the others anyway. I’ve got it all down.

 

Big thanks to Lewis Fromberg for setting this up and for the band finding time in their busy schedules to answer my questions! You can follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

Interview: Brother-sister duo, Good Girl and the Bad Times

Jenny and Eli are brother and sister. They grew up writing music together in London but are now separated by 3000 miles of land and water: One in London and one in NYC. They  have released a decent amount of music under the title, Good Girl and the Bad Times. Now they are set to release a new record soon that, according to them, was created in a mad rush and on a low budget. I have to say this came as a shock to me because I fell immediately for their first single, “Love’s Lost”, and could never have guessed it was rushed or low budget. The duo calls their new found style, “underwater disco.” Check out “Love’s Lost” and read more about Good Girl and the Bad Times below:

 

 

MFL: How long had a brother/sister act been in the works before it came to fruition and when did it officially begin?

 Good Girl and the Bad Times (GG): We’ve been playing and writing together our entire lives. It’s always been fun for us and often we’d get swept up in some utterly ridiculous project like writing a series of fake Christmas #1 records from the 90’s, or scoring the music for an imaginary children’s tv show.

However, since around 2004 there were always actual, full time musical projects constantly underpinning that silliness. I recorded 2 albums in New York and Austin and would bring Eli in whenever possible. Over time it just became obvious that nothing was more fun than making music as a duo. It just took a while before we were brave enough to concentrate on taking that seriously. I’d say that we’ve been ‘officially’ a duo going on 5 years now.

 

MFL: How far apart in age are you two and how did you end up so geographically distanced?

 GG: We’re 6 years apart. I came out to the states to study music at Berklee when I was 19 and then moved to New York. Of course now we wish we could be closer as we’ve stumbled on a sound we really love and desperately want to gig it.  We’ll get there!

 

MFL: Do you ever get together to record or does every aspect of Good Girl and the Bad Times happen separately?

 GG: Previous recordings had a much healthier budget, so Eli would fly out to NY to participate and we were able to employ some amazing musicians and co producers to help us realize our ideas.

However, the record we are hoping to put out next was done on the scrawniest of budgets and as a result is our most honest effort. Essentially I saved enough to quit my job, fly out to London and crash in Eli’s house for the summer. He’d managed to borrow lots of synths and gear from friends and built a little bedroom studio, which we hardly left. Over the next 5 weeks we wrote and recorded 8 songs (we could have done more, but time ran out). Then when I flew back to NY I recorded all the vocals.

Occasionally, circumstances dictate we work transatlantically, but to be honest both of our confidences crumble a bit when we do it alone. I feel like you can hear it’s not as fun.

 

MFL: What is the concept of your new album and when can we expect it?

GG: The sound unites it more than a concept per se, although my lyrics tend to lean towards melancholic loves gone wrong. It’s quite dark in places and very layered but also has a kind of tender, nostalgic element to it. It’s the first record we’ve made that we feel really fits together as a piece – probably because of the way we wrote and recorded in a bit of a mad rush.

 

MFL: Tell me more about ‘underwater disco’, the words you use to describe your musical quality.

 GG: At first we were describing the vibe as ‘Twin Peaks if the role of Agent Cooper was played by Prince’, but it didn’t really roll off the tongue as a genre. ‘Underwater disco’ matched the undulating murky groove we settled into better. Of course, prior to being mixed by the incredible Danny Reisch (Octopus Project/Other Lives) and mastered by Jeff Lipton (Arcade Fire/LCD Soundsystem) the sound more closely resembled a lumpy bowl of oatmeal and tears.

 

 

MFL: “Love’s Lost” seems to have a lot more of an electronic sound than your previous songs (based on my quick listen to the previous releases). What is different about “Love’s Lost” to you, if anything?

 GG: A combination of being broke and finally having the guts to make a record that matched what we love to listen to resulted in an electronic effort. Eli has been making gorgeous dance music separately for years now. At the risk of being crude we wanted to write music that our friends could fuck, dance and cry to. The stuff we made before was well written and arranged, but always felt slightly disingenuous. A bit of a pastiche. It took a constrained set of circumstances for us to feel confident enough to completely self produce. It’s less about us trying electronic music on for size, and more like this is the music we should have always been making.

 

MFL: Who are your musical influences or inspirations?

 GG: I mean we both listen to everything but with regard to this record there’s a lot of old disco influence, early Eurythmics, Prince, Kate Bush, Jai Paul, Yazoo, James Blake… we had a lot of fun listening parties throughout the process. There’s also a lot of stuff you would probably never pick out when you hear it like John Maus, Radiohead and Fleetwood Mac but they’re in there.

 

MFL: Where did you two grow up and what was the music scene like?

 GG: We grew up in London. We’ve both been pretty obsessive listeners our entire lives so we would gravitate to all sorts. As teenagers Eli was more into indie and folk whereas I would usually find myself at Garage raves at 8 in the morning. As we got a bit older we both started to get quite heavily into electronic music, techno and pop. Really it was only a matter of time before our own music reflected that.

 

MFL: Do you release music under your own label? If so, touch on some pros and cons of having your own label.

GG: Currently we release under our own label Good Bad Records. The beautiful thing is we can stand by a project 100%. We love this record, and no nasty suit has had his fingers in our creative pie. That being said, now the music is completed, we are open to signing with a better indie label as we’d love these tunes to get in the ears of more people and finance a proper tour.

 

MFL: What have your experiences been like performing live and what type of venues do you prefer?

 GG: Our recording experience is actually decades ahead of our live. We do love playing. We want more of it. It’s a bit of a slog getting there what with the 3000 miles that currently separate us. We had a couple of years together in London playing our older material as a duo (the stripped down set sounded like 60’s gloom pop). Looking back it was slightly mad though- we didn’t want to give up on these incredibly dense arrangements so we’d end up trying to play 4 instruments each at once! The new show should free Jenny up to dance around a bit. We’re in the process of trying to figure out how this record is going to work on stage which is really exciting.

 

Keep up with them on Facebook and Soundcloud! Photo credit for cover photo: Amy Gawtkin, photo credit for following photos: Jamie Paterson and Alix Brown.

 

Album Review: New album, “Empty Bottles, Broken Bones”, from London punk rocker, Wolfe Sunday

Wolfe Sunday is the endearing name Laurence Crow has given his loud, raucous, fantastically honest punk. A punk rocker from London, Crow has successfully, and quickly, made a name for himself across the UK and Europe. His latest release is due our March 25th and marks a major milestone for Crow: this is the first album he’s done with the help of others. Fully equipped with a studio to record in, producer and drummer, Empty Bottles, Broken Bones is a musical work Crow is truly proud of. My favorite detail about Crow and his musical past life, is that for his first album, he admittedly snuck into a radio station after hours to record it. This is a man who will let nothing come between him and his musical goals and aspirations AND it has worked in his favor.

Crow began writing Empty Bottles, Broken Bones after he finished college and his life was in flux. This time of flux resulted in him deciding to put music first. According to Crow, this is a concept album. He tells his own story of growing up, moving from place to place and exploring, all through the journey of a sailor heading out to sea.

The record starts with a prelude, finishing with the line:

Waves don’t make wishes, only fears.

 

From here, Crow guides you through salty seas strewn with broken hearts, empty bottles and broken bones. The first song is the in-your-face track, “Sick to the Bone” which takes off with a bang and doesn’t look back. The dynamics of this record are expertly crafted and the tracks are laid out perfectly. The listener isn’t forced to engage in overly loud punk rock track after track. Most of the upbeat and higher volume tracks are followed by something a bit on the softer side.

Songs that err on the softer side musically aren’t necessarily lighthearted lyrically, however. “Lith & Limb” is a simple acoustic track that’s blackened lyrics make for an introspective and heavy song. It’s a song of being lost at sea and lost in life and a moment on the record where I feel, Crow truly bears his soul.

When the ship sank, I sank, too

When I drowned, I thought of you.

 

But, fear not as Crow’s poetic and clever lyrics aren’t always so dismal. He has a bit of fun weaving stories of fictional characters in “Dead Benedict”, for example. This rip-roaring song will surely set crowds on fire at live shows.

 

 

My personal favorite is “Sleepwalking.” It’s ridiculously catchy but simultaneously, absolutely unpredictable. The volume rises and falls, Crow’s voice whispers and screams. You never know what you’re going to get from one second to the next.

Empty Bottles, Broken Bones is a triumphant record for Wolfe Sunday. It clearly displays Crow’s ability to tell stories through his music, both instrumentally and lyrically. It was recorded at Pioneer Studios in Essex and features Crow on every instrument except his fellow musician, Will Cummings, played drums. You can pre-order the album on Bandcamp now.

London singer/songwriter, Freja, releases debut EP: “Ghosts”

20 year old singer/songwriter from London, Freja, has created a beautifully delicate debut titled Ghosts. Crystal clear, subdued and simple melodies cradle Freja’s flawless voice which carries a sense of vulnerability but simultaneously, the lyrical content has a sense of maturity. Ghosts is a bare boned, brave and brilliantly minimal set of tracks sharing stories of love, loss and Freja’s youth.

The EP opens with the track “Ghosts in the Snow”, where you meet Freja’s fluttering voice for the first time and discover her ability to tell stories in song of melancholy, reflection, and love.

Freja’s simple melodies and song structure leave many stones unturned for her which as a 20 year old releasing music to the world for the first time, is a wonderful place to be. The only way is up.

The EP is now available now on Amazon and iTunes.

Easing into Friday with “My Kinda Swag” by Emmi

Emmi is originally (and by originally, based on her brief auto-bio, I mean she bounced around and settled in Perth) from Perth, Australia but is now based out of London but is managed by LA group, Redlight. She admits to “secretly” writing music for quite some time but now she’s finally (lucky for us) sharing her music with the rest of us. Her quick autobiography on her website rapidly swirls you through her up, down, right, left life. She dabbled in dance, medicine, and acting until it dawned on her that music was her “mouthpiece and her legacy.”

Her first single, “My Kinda Swag”, is a perfect kick off to the weekend:

This is as fresh as it gets: “The Sun Rising”, newest track by London group, HÆLOS.

I’ve been living in an alternate universe for the last few days visiting New Orleans for a conference. This track shook me back to reality and reality is beautiful, as is this track. Masterfully mixed and flawlessly fresh, “The Sun Rising” is a 5 minute musical trip that everyone needs to go on. At about 3:45, things converge, quiet, but then it all builds up to an even better place than it started.

HÆLOS is Arthur Delaney, Tom Goldsmith and Lotti Bernadout.

HAELOS_DAVEMA_8341-MIDGRAIN-2

Photo credit: Dave Ma (courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR)

They all found each other in London and together, they create clean, pure and electronic sounds that wash over the body and soul. I hear pain and sadness in their music but it doesn’t bring me down, it lifts me up. This is unique and something I don’t think many can achieve. To layer darkness, love desperation and power in one musical piece is HÆLOS’ way. According to the band, “Our songwriting process can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful,” say the band, “but we want to write evocative music that captures the spirit of what it means to be alive and human (quote courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR).”

Only one track is available on iTunes currently, “Earth Not Above”, but you can you hear more at their Soundcloud page and can follow them more closely so you don’t miss a beat at their Facebook page and their official website. They are a young band and have incredible potential. Keep listening.