Posts Tagged ‘Punk’

Christopher Nosnibor

So I’ve been following – if that’s quite the word – Suburban Toys since the early 90s. Vicky McClelland is (I think) the fifth female front person I’ve seen them perform with, and I’ve missed some in between. She’s strong. She’s fiery, but also understated, and gets on with singing songs and sometimes playing guitar without fuss. She sounds good, and is good to watch.

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The Suburban Toys

They showcase some new (to me) songs, still solid pop-tinged punk with dashes of reggae and cues from ‘The Passenger’. The throw in a ripping rendition of ‘Identity’ by X-Ray Spex mid-set. It suits Vicky’s vocal range and delivery. Older songs like ‘With You’ have been radically reworked (again), and this is probably the most attack I’ve seen them play with in all the years since the early 90s. They finish with ‘Sonic Reducer’ played at breakneck speed with bassist Vin on lead vocals. It’s good fun. And fun is important.

The kids – fans – are less than half my age and wearing threads that were all the rage when I was 10, 34 years ago. It’s alarming. The drummer’s facial hair is heinous and the guitar straps are so short they could strim the strings with their chins… But there’s an appeal to their raw, ragged choppy guitars and I get the impression that despite the cheap sunglasses and quirky fun elements, Perspex are a serious band with some neat post-punk and 90s alternative reference points – think Pavement, think Trumans Water. And they’re technically proficient, nailing some tidy grooves and taking the set to an accomplished climax with some uptempo space rock motorik riffology. 6th formers on the piss. One girl’s got plastic beads and a very 80s blouse, while one of the sportswear cunts is sporting a Factory T. What hell is this?

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Perspex

I’ve seen Percy even more times than the Toys, and over a comparable time-span. The West Yorkshire Superheroes (who hail from York) have been around forever, and subscribe to the tradition of hardworking northern bands like The Wedding Present and The Fall, and Half Man Half Biscuit who just keep on plugging away, solid and dependable. They always look like they’ve just knocked off work and stopped off for a pint: singer/guitarist Colin Howard always has about 4 days’ stubble and they seem genuinely comfortable being middle-aged workers doing the band thing on the side. There’s a lot to be said for that, but I won’t say it here because I’ve other reviews to write and a day-job of my own, and it’s too much of a digression.

There’s actually a guy here in a Percy T-shirt, which is a measure of something. But they’ve not got the college cocks’ backing, sadly, and the room has thinned a bit. The benefit is that I’m less worried about having my toes danced on by some 6ft teenager.

Bailing in with the Fall-like ‘Hep’, they’re bring a clanging attack of furiously thrashed jangling guitars that are nearly in tune and provide the backdrop to sneering, spitting monotone vocals. And, like The Fall, they may have only recently released their first album proper 20 years into their career, but half the set consists of unreleased material. And, also like The Fall, they kick out a fair rockabilly ruckus and reference The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life.’

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Percy

‘Rubbernecking in the UK’, pushes the synths to the fore, and it’s exhilarating and also pure early 90s indie. Magnificently atonal guitar provides a skewed backdrop to sneered lyrics about the mundane everyday. Masters of four-chord chugs, ‘Unicorn’ is fierce and noisy by way of a climactic closer.

Having seen three decent bands for free and supped decent beer at £3.60 a pint I’ll say it again: pub gigs and small venues are where it’s at.

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James Wells

Having toured together, Parasitic Twins and The Carnival Rejects release a split EP. It makes sense, really: why not having shared a stage and an audience?

This is a bit of a mix, and rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraw. That’s no criticism: both bands espouse a credible punk ethic, and while so many contemporary punk acts preach it, they bot keep it real, with The Carnival Rejects’ three songs going in hard and fast and favouring energy over technical prowess. And yes, they may be a bit standard fare in some respects, with their three-chord thrashabouts and terrace-chant choruses, but that’s their thing, and there’s a substantia audience for three-chord thrashabouts with terrace-chant choruses delivered with passion.

Parasitic Twins, Max Watt and Dom Smith are altogether gnarlier, nastier, and more abrasive. Their grind/thrash/metal cover of Babylon Zoo’s ‘Spaceman’ is killer: gritty as hell and with full-weight chug and raw-throated vocals, it’s utterly brutal and barely recognisable for the most part. But from amidst the rabid racket emerges a rendition of that chorus that’s worthy of Napalm Death

‘Feel Nothing’ is even more explosively raw, a snarking mess of distortion with drums and vocals and mangled as the guitars, the chords indistinguishable in a tempest of raging overdrive that sounds like it was recorded in a garage on a phone. And it wouldn’t work if done differently: it’s not pretty music, and it wouldn’t be right to pretty it up. Instead, putting its ugly, blunt force to the fore, it hits hard like a punch to the gut.

The two bands spin different sides of the punk coin, and jointly deliver something powerful, pure, and above all, strong.

PR EP

Hominid Sounds / Rip This Joint –10th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Do we need another sort-of semi-supergroup? When said collective features members of USA Nails, Death Pedals, It Often Takes A War, and Los Bitchos, we absolutely do. The label promises an album packed with ‘succinct slices of Jesus Lizard infused garage punk dealing with the big issues of our time from Brexit to Hollywood sex scandals’.

The lyrics aren’t always – or even that often – decipherable, but this is the kind of roaring guitar racket that you listen to first and foremost for sonic impact and the sheer viscerality. Then again, titles like ‘Biased Broadcasting Corporation’ give a fair indication of their anti-establishment antagonism. No messing: Dead Arms play proper punk, hardcore style, fast and incredibly furious: the rage burns and pours from every pore, every bar, every note. And yes, the influence of The Jesus lizard on their gritty, dirty, sweaty heft of noise is more than apparent even without single cut ‘Apocalypse Yow’ (which is straight out of the book of That Fucking Tank punning titles and is accompanied by a zero-budget video cobbled together from BBC footage from the House of Commons).

The howling mania and jolting, juddering, lurching rhythm and angular guitars are raw and primitive, and there’s nothing pretty about this. With the majority of the songs clocking in well under the three-minute mark, it’s a short album that achieves maximum impact through sheer brute force.

AA

Album Artwork

Vile Entertainment – 5th April 2019

James Wells

‘Vile Assembly Unveil The Most Controversial Video of the Year,’ shouts the title of the email which crashed into my mailbox to announce the arrival of the promo for ‘Last Century Man’, the latest from Liverpudlian punks Vile Assembly.

How do you possibly quantify that? Controversy requires debate, often heated, passionate, divided, and while it’s not hard to see why their clip, which intercuts images and clips of Donald Trump and The Pope, defaced with crosses, blood spatter, and swastikas, with images of Hitler are likely to spark indignation in some quarters, the fact hardly anyone appears to have noticed, let alone be talking about, the video, which was posted just over a week ago suggests that while it’s been ‘banned’ from two news networks, the controversy has so far been fairly muted.

It certainly isn’t because people don’t shock or offend anymore: if anything, people in the west seem more like to be more sensitive at this point in time than any in recent history. However, the well-worn approaches to provocation, particularly when the targets are so widely unpopular.

Similarly, VA may describe themselves as ‘a band for our times’ with the objective to ‘disrupt the status quo and interrupt the flow of mass indoctrination with a searing honesty designed to energise and unite,’ but ultimately, they’re just another punk band. They’re a good one, and Paul Mason has perfected a Lydonesque sneer, but retreading the ground of the last 40 years isn’t where the revolution starts in 2019.

AA

Vile Assembly

Christopher Nosnibor

Scheduled headliners Ming City Rockers have had to pull out due to a bout of laryngitis. I’m distraught, as I’d been itching to see them again. Thankfully, with Filthy Filthy – a band so filthy they had to name themselves twice – stepping up to fill the slot, we were treated to an alternative choice of middling band with an overreaching sense of self-worth. You can’t please all of the people…

Having headlined the venue not so long back, Weekend Recovery’s first trip to York of 2019 finds them in the strange place of propping up the bill on the night their new single is scheduled to be payed on Kerrang! Radio, after an airing on Radio X the night before. Yes, it really is all happening for the Leeds four-piece right now. And, over the last 18 months, the AA staples have evolved on a massive scale, and they’ve emerged as one of the most solidly consistent live acts around.

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Weekend Recovery

Tonight, they don’t seem to be quite firing on all cylinders, at least to begin with, and back-catalogue single  ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’ strikes as an unusual choice of opener, but things definitely pick up as the set progresses. Lori is jogging and lunging by the time they power into the grungey thrashabout ‘Why Don’t You Stay?’ and the guitars start sounding denser and meatier. They wrap up with new single ‘Bite Your Tongue’ and it’s not hard to glean why it’s been piquing radio interest: it’s got mass appeal, but rest assured, it’s not R1.

I’ll admit it: I don’t feel entirely comfortable here. After the whole Dream Nails shitstorm, I’m often self-conscious of being a straight white male in his 40s at the front of the stage taking notes and snaps of female-fronted bands. I’m by no means the only one tonight for either Weekend Recovery or Leeds foursome Purple Thread who’ve stepped in as last-minute additions to the bill.

Liz Mann owns the stage from the second she walks on, busting moves every which way, and leads the band through a tight set of what they call ‘funky punky glitter-drenched rock n’roll’ on their Facebook page, and which to my ears combines elements of classic 70s rock with sassy poppy punk in the vein of Blondie. And yes, there is a bit of a funk groove woven into their guitar-led workouts, but it’s so well executed, I’ll let it pass: they’re so confident and comfortable with what they do, melding the vintage vibe with a contemporary attitude, and they really do work hard. The one minor detraction s that the sound is a bit muffled and lacking in definition, although I gather they didn’t get much, if any, soundchecking in, which means credit is due to both band and sound man for pulling it together. There’s a gutsy swagger to closer ‘Back to New York City’ that says they’re a band well worth seeing again.

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Purple Thread

Filthy Filthy trade in old-school punk: four middle-aged dudes cranking out thudding four-chord riffs with enthusiasm, if not always an equal level of technical proficiency, and that’s fine: it’s punk in the well-worn style of Sham 69 at al, and it’s very one tempo, one attitude, one song. It has its place, but we’re in the territory of punk that’s essentially pub rock with attitude and the amps up, and it’s hard to get excited about it in 2019.

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Filthy Filthy

Still, it’s serviceable, and besides, two outta three ain’t bad.

Christopher Nosnibor

I keep seeing articles, usually shared on social media, about the plight of the small venue, how they’re struggling and their numbers diminishing at an alarming rate. Often, the emphasis is on how little venues are the lifeblood of the music industry, and without them, the industry would die, seeing as pretty much any artist starting out cuts their teeth in such places. I would also note another vital role played by small venues: they’re not all about the industry, or nurturing the talents of the next big thing, but cater to those who crave alternatives. Niche audiences collectively make up as great a proportion of the music-consuming, gig-going public as the more mainstream section.

I’ve just watched a beefy guy with a ruddy face and sweat pouring off him, screaming his lungs out while wearing only boxers and a pair of DMs. You’re never going to get that at an O2 Academy. But there’s undeniably a place, and an audience, for it. Yes, Manscreams make for an exhilarating and exhausting start to an evening – with free entry – that boasts a typically loud and varied lineup as curated by Soundsphere’s Dom Smith.

Their name describes their brand of grunged-up hardcore punk pretty much perfectly. And if the overtly masculine trio’s abrasive racket is superficially an excuse to air some testosterone, with Jon Donnelly’s performance making occasional nods to Henry Rollins, closer inspection reveals that for all the aggression, this is the tortured ventings of impotent rage. Exchanging words with a couple of the band afterwards, as Jon, dressed once more, retrieved his glasses and phone from his rucksack only confirms this: they’re pretty meek, ordinary guys for whom the music is their outlet, and their way of dealing with the fucked up shit that is life.

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Manscreams

Apparition showcase a fucked-up, massively overchorused guitar sound that’s straight out of 1984. We’re tripping onto obscure territory here, with the band landing somewhere between early Danse Society and Murder the Disturbed, and the songs are complex in structure, with accelerations, decelerations and tempo changes here, there and everywhere. They’re a barrage of treble, with two guitars, drums, synth and no bass, and assail the crowd with an analogue primitivism and angular aggression propelled by some thunderous drumming that’s centred around heavy use of toms and rapidfire snare work. There’s rough edges and even rough centres, and the singer is yet to fully master mic stand control, but this all adds to the charm and the sense of period authenticity, and I’m certainly not the only one in the room who’s totally sold on their style.

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Apparition

In many ways, there’s not a lot to say about PUSH: the full-throttle screamo punk duo (are they brothers? Twins) are on the attack from the first bar, thrashing out a fast-paced and frantic set. With elements to That Fucking Tank and No Age pushed to the fore and cranked up to eleven, if Pulled Apart by Horses had been a duo, they’d have probably emerged sounding like this. It’s all over in a loud, shouty blur.

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PUSH

Newmeds have totally nailed what they do. I had fairy low expectations given their presentation, mostly shiny new tats and black hoodies, but straight out of the traps, they’re a raging guitar-driven hurricane. Their stab at audience participation and encouragement to clap notwithstanding, their calls to move forward are met positively, enabling their front man to engage in some crowd surfing – which, given the height of the stage and the ceiling, and the size of the crowd, was no mean feat. But they emanate real energy and play with relentless power, and watching them rev up a small crowd like it was an arena show, it isn’t hard to see the potential. Maybe there’s something for the industry after all.

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Newmeds

The same is true of On The Ropes. I’ve known Jonny Gill for years, and seen him perform solo acoustic countless times, but never before with his band, On the Ropes. ‘I just run around a lot,’ Jonny told me before the show, and it’s a fair summary of his stage performance, most of which happens in front of the low stage.

I’ve been pretty venomous in my critiques of punk-pop acts over the years, and I won’t deny that OTR could easily be just another vaguely emotastic guitars and whines band. I also won’t deny that with the right PR, they’d be all over Kerrang! Radio in an instant. Whether or not it’s my bag shouldn’t detract from the fact they’re a cracking live act with some corking tunes. But more than that, being a cracking live act, I find myself completely drawn to them in the moment. Gill is a blur, and isn’t still for a second. It’s the energy, the sincerity, the emotional honesty, and the massive bass drive, and the way these elements come together to create a positive rush.

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On the Ropes

There’s much hugging and handshaking afterwards, and as much as I’m not a hugger or a handshaker or a fan of the kind of music played by Kerrang! the vibe is the key. we’re all here because we’re misfits together, and we’re all passionate about music, regardless of genre, regardless of, well, anything. This is the way it’s meant to be. Five bands for no money and beer at £3.60 a pint. It doesn’t get better.

Emerging in 2016 as a Paramore-influenced radio-friendly rock act, Weekend Recovery have come a long way in a short time, transforming into on altogether edgier, more fiery, grungy-punk outfit and slamming down a debut album and a follow-up EP, amidst a heavy live schedule in 2018. With a few days off between Christmas and New Year, I caught up with singer / guitarist Lorin to riff on feminism, finance and whipped cream boobs – and to reflect on both the highs and lows of an eventful and sometimes turbulent 12 months.

AA: 2018 has been a big year for Weekend Recovery – you’ve played a lot more live dates and actually started to look like a proper touring band, not to mention the fact you’ve released your debut album. How’s it felt for you?

L: It’s been and gone so quickly – like it’s weird feels like it’s been forever but also gone in a blink if that makes sense. For the first time since the beginning though it’s felt like a band. Like I’d kill for the boys – you know how you can talk shit about your family but no one else can – a bit like that!

Yes, I get that strange warping of time, too: and it feels strange for me having first seen you play in, what, February 2016? It was funny, because you arrived late after bad traffic, draped in a faux-fur coat… and if anything, while the band’s rise has been pretty remarkable since then, you actually seem more grounded as an individual. You seem like a completely different band now. What happened?

I think it was 2017? (I think [it was]) I think I’ve surrounded myself in bullshit for a long enough time to work out who actually wants the band to progress and I can say whole heartedly these boys do – I feel more confident in myself and have learnt the ropes (I think anyway) and also surround myself with good people.

WR1

The company you keep can make all the difference. And there seems to be an awful lot of bullshit, even at the lower levels of music-making. It seems ironic that feminism seems to have been a major source of friction on the scene of late – I had some major grief at a gig earlier this year, which subsequently turned into a virtual riot on social media, simply because I was a bloke reviewing a feminist ‘punk’ band – and you’ve had some pretty rough treatment too….

Yeah – it’s been an interesting few years – I think there are a lot of rose coloured bullies in this industry – and what annoys me is it’s so sugar coated people are fooled by it, or worse they know but continue to idol worship as I call it… Thing is the good bands aren’t the nasty ones – ‘cos they don’t have to beat others down to rise up – they rise up cos they’re great.

It seems strange that there should be infighting and animosity between artists: everyone’s struggling as it is. Where does this kind of division come from? And how do you actually manage to operate financially as a band? It seems that these days, even bands with an international profile are dependent on their day-jobs to subsist. It’s something that Pissed Jeans have made a band career of documenting.

I have no idea honestly – thing is with anything subjective there will always be an element of competition which creates friction – the band I have issue with (or rather she does with me) I don’t see as competition because they’re everything I’d hate to be. Financially, fuck knows – even the bands at the top work day jobs haha! Merch sales I guess are the way forward.

You’re pretty on it with the merch and design generally – and everything is your own, from concept to execution. Do you have any background in either marketing or graphic design, or are you just a control freak?

Haha! I have an A-level in it if that counts? And a foundation degree in fashion design haha.

But yes, I am a control freak, lol.

Fashion… you do are a fairly distinctive look, and you change your hair more often than your underwear. What’s with?

Changing my hair – it’s a trying to find myself kinda thing – I got accused of copying someone’s style – so I had a bit of crisis like oh does that look like her or does that – every time I put on a dress I’d look in the mirror and be like fuck that’s too much like her – pathetic right? also I get bored haha!

I wish I had time to get bored! So would you say you have a short attention span? More importantly, around having a crisis and people focusing your appearance and image – do you think it’s something that’s a problem more generally for women in music, particularly in ‘rock’ (if you’ll excuse the phraseology)? Do you feel like how you look carries more weight or gets more attention than the music?

I think look is super-important, like you want to walk in the room and people be like ‘oooh she means business’ BUT I don’t think you have to dress a certain way to achieve this, it’s an air – I think if the music is good the rest will follow.

WR2

I know you’re a huge fan of Katy Perry, and that her work resonates on an emotional level – although clearly her image also plays a part – but do you think her wider appeal is about the music or the look?

I think she’s the whole package – I’m not a fan of her more recent stuff but if you go right back to the start she’s very much an artist in her own right before the crazy hair and whipped cream boobs – but you know music is a business if someone can make music, sell GHDs, perfume, jewellery and pop chips then even better!

So would you do whipped cream boobs or similar to shift units or to raise your band’s profile?

Haha! I’m sure there’s some integrity in it but I don’t think I would.

Wuss! Joking aside, what are your limits, and do you think that some so-called ‘feminist’ bands are exploitative in terms of sexuality?

Well I’ll do anything for a dare so the bar is quite high…. I think feminism is about equality (don’t get me wrong there are some wronguns out there and the light should be shone on them) I’ve never experienced anything adverse luckily but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen. But you can’t tar everyone with the same brush everyone has the right to feel safe at a gig. But my dad for example is a really cool guy who isn’t about pushing people and making nasty advances when it’s unwanted. Feminism is great, man-hating is not.

I think when it’s done incorrectly it almost makes people not take it seriously, if that makes sense.

Yes, there seems to be a current within feminist musical movements right now that seems to be staunchly anti-male. To my mind, this isn’t feminism, but perpetuates the same shit women have been facing for years but pitched against men, which is just sexism thrown the other way. You say you’ve never experienced anything adverse in our career to date… there are some bands who are your peers, who may also not have problems, but clearly appeal to a certain male, 40-50 demographic. How does that sit with you, and what’s your demographic?

I think if people are there for the right reasons it shouldn’t and doesn’t matter their age, if they’re there to look up people’s skirts mm maybe they need to have a look at themselves…our demographic is quite broad I think.

Do you think there are people who turn up to gigs to look up skirts? And do you think maybe some artists encourage that? Obviously, your primary thing is the music – and we’ll come to that next.

Maybe and maybe. People will always have their justification for both things I guess, I know accusations get thrown around a lot for example oh you’re bands only popular cos you have a hot girl in it (not my band I hastingly add!) But I dunno, maybe people will always deny it though if that is the intention.

So, while the popular take is that the internet has opened up the world to bands without labels, I still get the impression that it’s playing live to new crowds is the most effective way to build a fanbase. Do you think that’s a fair assessment?

I think so, but getting people there is difficult they’ve got to really like you ‘cos no-one has money nowadays and it’s expensive not just entry but travel beers etc.

Yes: it’s a competitive market, and under austerity, people struggle just to pay the bills. So how do you lure people?

By hopefully playing good music, I know that sounds old school and telling people I don’t think there’s any shame in saying hey I play in this band come check it out if it’s your thing great if not nice to meet a new person

There’s nothing wrong with old-school! And there’s a bit of an old-school feel to your sound now. What influences are you currently drawing on now the band’s sound’s evolved beyond the earlier Paramore etc. template?

Mmm… Marmozets, The Blinders, Metric are the bigguns at the mo.

And in terms of lyrical inspiration, how close to home are yours?

Very on the EP. ‘I’m Not That Girl’ was super personal, we’ve just started writing for our album and the lyrics are super hard hitting for me. It’s a bit like Paramore’s new album after laughter it all seems happy but if you read the lyrics away from the music they ate deep.

What drives your lyrics? ‘New Tattoo’ seemed to ache with anguish – and you have a substantial and expanding array of tattoos yourself. Any significance?

Well ‘New Tattoo’ is about seeing someone you really like to find out they actually have a partner already and were screwing around so it’s like a skin deep kinda thing, a tattoo is like a scar and relationships are often scars as well cos they stay with you forever in whatever form. I love all my tattoos everyone I have has a meaning and often designed by someone who means a lot to me.

You’ve just spun my head there! Relationships and meeting people is complex and difficult… do you think that being in a band changes how that works or makes it more difficult? Or do you feel like you’re just the same as everyone else on that front?

Yeah being in a band makes relationships really hard. Like really really hard. Either you’re with someone who isn’t in one and they don’t get it, like how you can spend so much time on something (because if you don’t it doesn’t work) or you’re with someone in a band who gets it but it’s difficult because you’re both so busy. It’s hard to balance everything I came out of a relationship not long back and he was convinced the band was more important than him, which wasn’t the case it’s just different like you wouldn’t make someone choose between going to work and a relationship so why bring in a band is any different I don’t know, it’s a business at the end of the day. There’s Lori who’s the front women of weekend recovery and there’s Lauren who eats chocolate pizza and drinks 6 cans of coke a day. It’s hard to balance sometimes but if the person you’re with doesn’t understand then they aren’t right , or maybe you aren’t right for them.

It’s relatable: reviewing music and being a writer means being holed up for hours a night. It’s not being unsociable or absent as a partner, so much as it’s juggling two careers. It’s more than just work / life balance. Des it feel like there’s a psychological pressure there, too? I’ll put this on the table first: I find it really difficult at times being a writer, a 9-5-er, a parent and all the rest: there just aren’t the hours in the day. Giving up anything isn’t an option, and cracking up quietly feels like all there is.

Yeah, I hate to feel like I’ve failed but sometimes there’s so much to do it seems impossible but it works.

WR3

What distinguishes success and failure for you? You don’t just do the songwriting and lyrics but all of the band’s design and promo, yes?

Yeah. I do everything I think failure is giving up.

Does that mean you’ll still be plugging away at 40? Also…. you’ve got a solo release in the pipeline, right?

I dunno. I know my limits. I do super exciting that should be out and about around June time.

How would you describe the solo stuff? And why do it?

I had some bad news after my tour back in 2017 so I just needed to get some stuff off my chest like big time! It’s electro poppy kinda Foxes, Kyla la Grange, or Sia inspired.

Do you ever stop? What’s the plan for 2019?

Writing an album, record album, more gigging, some exciting support slots on the pipeline and release my solo stuff too. Oh and crack on with my degree, haha!