Saturday, 27 March 2010

Review: Ellen and the Escapades

Location: The Conservatory Cafe
Date: 26 March 2010
Stars: *** (and a half)

It was fresh to see some out of town talent who fit so perfectly in the red rooms of the Conservatory Cafe. Straight from Leeds, and the Glastonbury audition stages, the tender tunes from Ellen and the Escapades got quite a respected response from pub loungers and music listeners. With so many instruments accompanying them on stage, and the noise they could make with them, the quintet surprises you with something completely unexpected, charming, enchanting and alluringly delicate. It has to be said that some of the tracks were samey, but in the best way possible.  Yours To Keep stood out among the melody of songs. Coming Back Home was another magnificent track which is to be their new single, due out in May. Their folk sound is nostalgic but by no means out of date, as identified by appearances in NME, and interest from Q editor Paul Rees.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Gecko - Leading the life of lizards

Their dreams concede of headlining the mother of all UK festivals, Glastonbury. Bristol fest is fulfilling their need to play for the moment, but the way Gecko is handling their cards this could all change in the future. The Wotton-Under-Edge trio are making a name for themselves with matching pinstripe trou’s and a convenient charm that has be-fanned the likes of BBC Radio 1’s Mike Davies and The King Blues. I caught up with them to talk about life in general, and their latest EP ‘Stop, Look, Lizard’. The most important thing, it seems, is that it’s yellow. I was curious as to where the reptile obsession came from; “It’s always been there, really, we don’t know.” Expecting something a little more inventive I was reluctant to tell them that “It just kinda’ happened” didn’t cut it. “We’ve had the Beatles, we’ve had the Eels...let’s take it lizard, It’s an evolutionary scale” was what they finally came up with.   
"This is our first steps with a producer, which is really good!"
Despite London introducing its self as a new muse for the record last year, Will, Simon and Nathan headed back south to record their EP in Devon under the control of popular music producer Peter Miles, who has previously worked with Sonic Boom Six, Failsafe, and The King Blues to name a few. The advance from having home brewed their earlier albums, to countryside camp site surroundings was a big achievement for Gecko, who identified recording the EP as one of their career highlights. Front-man Will explained with smug accomplishment; “I’ve got a lot of the album’s he’s produced so working with him was pretty exciting.”
“The two old albums have been totally self- produced. The first one was literally done in my house, and the second one, all but drums which were recorded at a studio in Bristol. This is our first steps with a producer, which is really good.”       
"Stop, Look, Lizard is Latin American rhythms, reggae, sort of ska-ey, a bit of African guitar, skatty singing... We fit a lot in" 
To launch the late August, and very yellow release Gecko embarked on a ten show ‘Aint That Like a Lizard’ tour, which kicked off on the 7th.  They played shows from Plymouth to Edinburgh, and on their travels were able to sing along to opening track on their EP, What you gonna do? on the radio. “Hearing it for the first time was good, second time you got a bit complacent, and third time (in utmost cliché) was a charm!” Pre tour the three were rocking it up at pub festivals around the country, and played to their largest crowd on the main stage at Bristol Festival. To top it off, Gecko performed with new pals The King Blues, and the Blockheads at the vegan faire. More rewardingly, was lending them-selves to a good cause by headlining Exeter’s Leukaemia fund charity show in October.
Where do they want to be in five years time? Well seeing as a duet with reggae legend Bob Marley isn’t feasible, headlining Glasto is their ultimate dream. “Or”, Simon piped up; “You know you’ve made it when you have an island named after you.”...  Keep the dream alive, Si!  
Although their songs provide the motivation needed to dance in a drunken-like way, the witty lyrics are fuelled by current happenings in the world, with underlying meaning that might surprise you. “What you gonna do?” Will clarified; “is a call to live life for the sake of living it”. The lyric “Cos' you can't live a life without having the pictures, I just threw down the camera and kissed ya” relates to the constant and somewhat unnecessary documentation of people’s lives on social networking sites. I mean, what would I do if I didn’t know my neighbours neighbour was watching Jeremy Kyle on a new leather sofa? On a more controversial note, Falling Down unexpectedly picks up on religion. The tropical vibes and dark lyrics underlined with hope, relate to many people’s mixed feelings on the matter; “It’s basically saying I don't know if there is a God or not, but if there is I reckon that he/she'd be pretty decent and understanding that I don’t know who to believe.” 
 Stop, Look, Lizard is four of the band’s latest songs, two of which were written after London sparked inspiration in singer and songwriter Will following his move there. As well as referring to living life, What you gonna do? is a positive song written about feelings of excitement, and opportunities that allowed the band to prosper after the move. With all appreciation flowing, he continued “The song Woke Up was started on New Year’s Day, and was, in a way, a resolution to not take things for granted” 
Give Gecko a listen and you’ll soon discover they pack a punch, you can’t quite decide where to categorise them in the music world, and it appears that neither can they. Unlike most bands that enter the scene with a vision; “It’s singer songwriter dance music. Especially the EP, it’s got a bit of a carnival vibe to it. A lot of Latin American rhythms, reggae, sort of ska-ey, a bit of African guitar, skatty singing and I dunno’ what the bass lines are” He concludes; “I think we fit a lot in.” You think? Well it certainly highlights a hole in the market that a band like Gecko could fill, and I’d like to think that in the near future, on a bigger scale, they will.  

Photo by Kaja Brockington

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Personal Playlist: Charlie Baxter

“I’m a one-man electro punky pop act from Cheltenham. Influenced by a variety of classic and contemporary electronic music I mix rock guitars with 80s synths and dance floor beats to hopefully create a fresh sound and some catchy songs”

Charlie has recently started his own independent record label, Pink Shoe Records, through which he has released his debut album Girls, Guitars  & Glowsticks.

On my playlist:

The XX- Islands

A perfect pop song, I can’t stop listening to it! Beautiful melodies, haunting vocals, great guitar sound. The simplest ideas work the best, it truly is a lesson in great song writing.
Duran Duran- Planet Earth
A guilty pleasure but I love a bit of 80s synth pop. It might be cheesy but you can’t resist it! People (including me) are still ripping this stuff off for good reason!
Ellie Goulding- Under The Sheets (Jakwob remix)
Absolutely huge dance floor track! This remix totally eclipses the original track. It takes the dubstep blueprint and messes it up in a delightful way. This is definitely my club choice!
Explosions In The Sky- Your Hand In Mine
These guys craft incredible, emotional songs with perfectly simple and euphoric guitar melodies. Put the EP on whilst driving back from a gig or night out, it’s relaxing and uplifting at the same time.
Klaxons- Golden Skans

Klaxons started the keyboards in rock music thing for me. Their debut album has been a real influence. Dig this out to remember how amazing it is and be inspired to release a new record!

Catch Charlie Baxter in Cheltenham, Bristol, Oxford and beyond as he looks to play more dates over Summer to support his new record, available on Itunes and at his shows.


Sunday, 14 March 2010

Welcome. To Brown Town.

"Well what can I say? I'm a singer song-writer with a forester accent"

Seventeen-year-old Tom Browning from the Forest has earned himself some limelight after landing management with local business Music Industry Services.

I managed to pry him away from his guitar with some questions and he responded as any well raised lad should, humbly, appreciative, and a little overwhelmed...

How would you describe your music?
Chilled and laid back, the sort of stuff you listen to after a bad day at work, or a good day to boost your happiness!

Talk me through your album 'Here Today'
The album took me about 8 months to write, from the day I started to about June. All the tracks I wrote and released are on there. If you listen to it you’ll probably notice a lot of changes in style. I like to add a mix to my music! The latest tracks on the page are from the new EP which has only been released on MySpace, the tracks can’t be bought anywhere but that’s soon to change what with Itunes exposure!

Great Things - This song is actually about a friend of my from my old school, he was a real nice kid and nobody saw it, they would use him if they wanted something and then abuse him when they didn’t. The song is written about people who are getting bullied, and telling others who are doing the bullying to do one.
Carry You Home - Probably one of my favourites, this song is written for my friends because it seems like I’ve faded away from them. This is to let them know I’m always going to be there no matter how far away I am.
Tonight I'm Yours, Always - This was written for a girl, suprise suprise. Well more about a childhood crush, usual young teenage drama!

What has the opportunity of management meant to you, and for all the other bands out there, how did you land it?
Well, what would it mean to anyone? The management is amazing, so much has happened in such little time and these guys have really boosted all that goodness that comes from the music. I had to go through a meeting with them to make sure I was up to standard and knew what I wanted, by Halloween they posted a 2 year contract to me, which I read, and re-read, and got others to read...and I signed it!

What inspires you to write songs?
Anything, everything and nothing! Literally, some days I have a bad day and can’t thing of anything. Others I write songs with catchy melodies and lovely riffs, which as soon as I play live has the audience singing along.

"I want people to drop all the bad times and live in the moment"

How did you feel hearing 'Lonely Hearts' on the radio?
I just couldn’t believe, I listen to the radio and hear things like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson playing hoping someday I might get a chance to be on the radio, and sure enough I was given that chance. it was such a good feeling!

What do you want your music to mean to people?
I want people to feel like they haven’t got a care in the world, just to drop all the bad times and enjoy the moment.

Do you have any pre-show rituals? 
It normally involves having a beer, jumping around like a looney and doing some singing warm ups!

... Any life motos?
I do yes, "when your life flashes before your eyes, make sure you've got something to watch!" This is that keeps me going through the bad times. I know the good times will come when they come! My less serious moto is "take you to brown town!"

The best thing about the music business for you is?
Hearing people sing your words back at you. Honestly, I think it’s one of the best feelings an artist can ever have!

How young were you when you started playing?
When I was about 10, my Grand dad gave me and my brothers a little guitar to play with, still got it today!

Choosing from anything, what would you say is your biggest achievement so far?
My biggest achievement is everything I’ve done so far! I’ve enjoyed every moment of the music I do, and never take it for granted. I’m really proud of everything I’ve worked for.

Friday, 12 March 2010


Gloucestershire band the Young Vinyls have taken it upon themselves to provide local gig goers with a free monthly club night at Cheltenham’s Frog and Fiddle.
     The last Friday of every month will see the band support touring acts from around the country, with other Glos bands opening the show in the popular bar. 
     Performers to headline have included Lunar Youth, who played the same month they were voted number 6 in NME’s Top 10 Songs of the week, in February. Wilner will take to the stage on March 15.
     “We want Autobahn as the place to be in Cheltenham for live music” Guitar and vocalist Chris Newman said, “And to put on a free night of really good bands for people to come and see. It helps raise the profile of Young Vinyls in our home town, which we love to come back and play!”

On the flip side... meet A Dott, Grime MC

Fuelled by an internet-earned success, MC A Dott is recording his second album due for release later this year. Featuring at least eleven self-written songs, and collaborations with other local talents, the record reflects the ups and downs of life and fights back against the stereotypes given to this generation’s youth; “I’m working with kids that do grime, to Rasta style singers, talented in different ways but aren’t successful yet. Some might not have ever been in a studio.”

“My music is grime, I can do hip hop and all that but my comfort zone is 140 bpm.”
Alongside his manager and producer he is now launching Something From Nothing Enterprises. A company offering charity work, and help to similar artists in the forms of studio time to music videos. Though the plans remain on paper at present, the trio have secured funding for the project and it will be their main focus after the album is finished; “I believe that people who are doing positive things should get recognised, but unfortunately there is a lot of negative music from our scene that promotes gang crime, and that needs to tone down”
“There’s too much negative music that comes from our scene”

Despite a history of hate mail and doubtful attitudes A Dott has stepped forward to prove everyone wrong; “My step dad at the time always told me it was pointless because I will never make enough money to live on, and my mum never took any notice until I moved out and she started hearing of me and my music. My friends just thought I was going through a faze and so I never had much support, but that way I felt like I had to work towards them acknowledging my music. I have a habit of trying to prove people wrong!” His passion for writing developed at a young age, helping him to get through difficulties in life and sparking a sense of achievement within him. “There are some things I haven’t told my friends or family, I feel writing about it in a song helps me to deal with problems. I love the affect it has on me; it’s helped me cope with life”

“The friends I met online were the friends who taught me how to write my first lyrics.”

Use of the internet has help A promote his career as a Gloucestershire MC, and although record labels and national acts believe the rise of the net is bringing them down, for grass root acts, it’s a stepping stone into the business of music; “If the internet wasn’t around nor would my music. I’ve met people through the internet who’ve helped me. If I never had the net I wouldn’t have even started because the friends I met online taught me how to write my first lyrics”
Previous ventures have included a UK tour with American style rapper J-Jewls, in order to switch things up in the play of Macbeth, changing Shakespeare scripts intro lyrics; “I had the time of life on tour performing every day, building my confidence, and meeting people having interviews here, there, and everywhere! But there’s no better feeling than writing a song people like. Music is the only thing I feel proud of myself for”

Interview revelation

So I've been interviewing bands and general music people from the 'Shire, and talked my way onto the guest list for Cheltenham's Exposure music awards with a chance to interview the winners. 
One bad point about me? Sweaty palms, stuttering and a quite obviously intimidating dicta-phone might stand in the way of some smooth conversation.
Who'd have thought that interviewing local small town bands would give me the quivers. I was always shy when I was little, and when I got older... and even, actually, when I turned 22 last week. Not great.
But I enjoy it! Listening to my  nervous and nauseating voice is made up by usable entertaining quotes that make for some colourful writing. If I could front a band and play on stage every night , even to three people at the Frog, Slaks or Cafe Rene, I'd be one happy not-trainee journalist. Seeing as that is NEVER going to happen I may as well relish in the lives of people I envy. 
My opening interviewing techniques, as those inspired by Jancee Dun, American journalist for Rolling Stone are as follows...

  • Approach with caution.
  • Never open with a sentence that sounds parental "Well! Looks like someone had a late night!"
  • Pay attention to the drummer, this will get the other band mate's (particularly the singer's) competitive spirit in action.
  • Never use quotes from the drummer
  • Avoid reminding them of a fan
  • Never lead with the word 'I'
  • If things get awkward have a quirky fact they might not know about themselves, i.e total Youtube hits...ease the tension!
And if I had the confidence or grace to pull them off, all my stories would front page leads.

But they're not.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Review: A Genuine Freak Show

Location: Frog and Fiddle
Date: 4 March 2010
Stars: ****

Despite sound problems from the outset A Genuine Freak Show was packed with powerful sound walls throwing out positive vibes. On tour from their hometown in Reading, this seemed to be their best Cheltenham performance after unknowingly playing a Christian festival, and then to only a handful of people last year at Subtone. What fools the people of Gloucestershire was to miss them first time around!
Playing some orchestrated rock, a blend of tranquil and heavy tracks, dominated by the use of the violin and cello throwing in a unique edge over other bands to have performed here lately. Songs from their soon to be debut album Oftentimes, due for release in later 2010, went down admiringly with the crowd. A worthy eight song set, all of which were a healthy length, included highlights  Luckmoore Drive, I Can Feel His Heartbeats and finale She’s Got a Shooter.
They’ve got the sound to fill out an arena, and admittedly would need the sizable stage to suit the seven of them. Squeezing onto the Frog’s stage was visibly restricting them in their presence but this didn’t affect the music. We were lucky, lucky people to catch them rising to their peak. Club gigs might be a rare occasion in the future.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

On the flip side...

...To the alternative scene in Glos, I'm going to take a look at a few artists from the streets of Grime and the Electrical-trance style. Keep in mind that although a great place for bands such as The Echoes, Jim Locky and the Solemn Sun, Lounge Fly, Coxons Riot, and many, many more, we have urban vibes and voltage beats that remain under the radar and out of earshot to many of us.

Stay tuned to read interviews with big time rapper and mc; A Dott, and mix-em-up supreme Ted O'Shay. Both accomplished musicians with established writing skills.

Be part of the alternative.

The low down on Lounge Fly

On the road to mainstream success

Female fronted bands pose and automatic edge, and since the addition of Laura, it can’t be denied that this band is fiercely attractive.
Taking influences from the likes of Juliet and the Licks, Garbage, and Goldfrapp, Lounge Fly are in their own against Gloucestershire musicians, and are the ones to watch out for.
Described by NME as ‘FM buffed trash-rock’ – in a good way, it seems a feminine touch means a lot when coming to compose and deliver songs that are brassy, brave, powerful and intense.
I caught up with the pleasantly gritty six to talk about their souring success, having started out just over a year ago, with 2 EPs and a catalogue of on-line and on-air radio plays in New York, Australia, Germany and England, they have a constant rising reputation.
Feeling that they are now settled in their format as a six piece, they have plans of new releases, management, and plenty of gigs. Feisty front-woman Susannah Moffat  explains their new found line-up; “We' had a bit of a change around, our drummer left and Trev at the time was playing guitar. We auditioned unsuccessfully for about three months before Trev decided to play drums, and we offered Gaz the job on guitar.”
Laura joined them in July, providing backing vocals and taking over keys to give their front-woman a stronger onstage presence. The new addition has allowed Suz to adopt a vigorous onstage authority, connecting with the audience and offering bigger, energetic performances; “I think the general rule was that I couldn’t jump up and down onstage” she laughed.
Since Seven Simple Sins Lounge Fly feel they have swapped electronic noises for a punkier sound. “We were a bit pop rock in the first album, this is more straight rock. We might go in the direction of more electronic on the next EP” Suz clarified. Lap it up is the new five track EP, packed with attitude, from Lounge Fly who are already receiving praise and lapping up some well deserved attention.
Gaz added that they might tilt back toward the keys sound to exploit their full time keyboardist; “It’s nice because we’ve had time now to play live together and get used to it, you get a more organic feel as we know where each other’s coming from.”

“It’s not like we sit around waiting for ourselves on the radio” - Gaz

The six were modestly smug about their growing popularity in the airwaves, and recalled listening in to their first time on air as a disaster! “We had a band brunch barbecue in the summer, and the worst thing was the show was three hours and we were on about ten minutes before the end. We had a power cut, and the cooker turned off”, but Gaz was insistent that they didn’t wait around for themselves on the radio...
“Planet rock has been our main one, Rick Wakeman picked us up and played us over the summer, we’ve just sent off the new EP to him actually so I’m hoping he will do the same with that one!”
Gloucestershire’s own Rob Champion described their sound as “Edge and grit, and an attitude that bites” and invited them back to record an unplugged session last November after hearing their stuff.
One of their latest endeavours was devouring plenty of pizza while working a ten till ten day to record the video for new single ‘Lap it up’; a comment on celebrity culture and reality TV, how it all happens overnight and what happens when it goes wrong. They were all in agreement that it was a long but proud day! “It was recorded in the Daffodil restaurant in Cheltenham, we ended up with a lot of live footage which we liked, but the song was a last minute change” Songwriter Trev revealed; “We were going to do a different song with more of a restaurant theme"

Seven Simple Sins and Lap it Up is available for download on Itunes or Amazon
Check out their video at

Monday, 8 March 2010

Badlands Brothers Celebrate!

Cheltenham’s record store Badlands has been voted the UK’s best independent record trader, topping a total of 300 shops.

     The award, set up by the Entertainment Retailers Association through their new site made to support the remaining UK indie record shops, left Badlands brothers Steve and Philip Jump honoured that their customers had voted them number one. Steve said; “We were very pleased and flattered to have won the award, we didn’t have the opportunity to set up elsewhere, but who’s to know, we could have been in London, but there’s more competitiveness in London.”
     Dedicated customers and Gloucestershire’s wealth of people involved in its music scene have managed to give the popular store a well deserved title. The brothers and their eight staff celebrated with the £200 on Saturday evening.
     A high level of customer loyalty and their excellent knowledge on music and online selling have pulled them to the top of the bunch. They regularly email customers with updates and new titles; “People like customer service and they like specialist. Not everyone likes the high street where, every shop is the same; every high street looks the same. It’s not a very good shopping experience” Steve added.
     Unique side projects such as a travel agency offering trips to see big bands such as U2, and The Rolling Stones, and an unofficial Bruce Springsteen fan club has pulled trumps on supermarkets and mainstream shops; “In the tough economic times you have to be resilient and initiative, introducing new lines help. Things are always changing and businesses’ have to be dynamic.”
     Badlands, based on Saint Georges Place, doesn’t only support the big names, and are known for aiding gigs to promote the local talent; “We like to support local bands, and when bands come in with their music we are always happy to stock and sell it” Steve said.
     Steve and Philip will also be celebrating their 25 years of trading at the end of the year.
     ERA Director General Kim Bayley said; “We have been overwhelmed by the public reaction to the site which has revealed the genuine affection music fans feel towards indie shops. Badlands is a very worthy recipient of this honour.”
     The brothers trust that Gloucestershire’s commitment to backing local independent retailers is a strength that won’t fade in the coming years. They thank everyone for their support and trade since their opening, and hope to continue their selling success in the future.