James Elkington, finally touring his solo album in Europe

James Elkington, finally touring his solo album in Europe
James Elkington, photo by Tim Harris

James Elkington used to be the frontman of the much-loved The Zincs. There is simply no way you could not have come across his work – he contributed his stylish guitar work (and other musical touches) to countless works of artists and bands alike or played with them live. To name but a few: Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn, Laetitia Sadier, Tweedy, Brokeback, Eleventh Dream Day, Tara Jane O’Neil. The list is indeed endless.

The year 2017 finally saw him getting around to put the finishing touches to his first solo album “Wintres Woma” (Paradise Of Bachelors). On the occasion of touring with this album in tow almost a year later on the continent, James Elkington kindly gave Offbeat an interview before a tremendous gig at the King Georg in Cologne, Germany. After visiting Europe he will open for The Sea And Cake in the US in May.

Grab the opportunity to see James Elkington live by all means, check out more info here and here and enjoy the interview below:

Offbeat Music Blog: Thank you so much for taking the time, James! To start off really heavily: Steve Gunn called you one of the best guitarists (if not the very one) of this generation and said, you can play anything, anything at all.

James Elkington: That is…untrue. He is a very supportive person, Steve, and we are good friends. But it is not true that I can do anything. As anyone who is coming down to the show tonight is probably going to find out (laughs).

OBM: Your masterful guitar playing then, does it stem from talent, is it genetic or immensely hard work or a combination?

JE: I am glad you are asking about that because I was talking to an elderly man called Charles in Overpelt (B) this morning on the train about that. And he was saying that he never played a musical instrument because he assumed you had to have some sort of innate talent or ability. Two things I have to say to that. Firstly, when I was learning how to play guitar, I was the slowest student. I mean, anyone else, anyone I studied with or played with, they all got better than me a lot quicker. I had to work twice as hard or at least twice as long to do the most basic things. Later in my life I was teaching guitar for a while, so I got to see people learning a lot and what I realised was: What we think of as being talent is just those people who for whatever reason happen to have the right muscles in the right places to be able to make those sounds. But for most of us, you just have to put the hours in. I think what we sometimes mistake as talent is just kind of luck or something. Maybe there is something innate that gets passed on but not in the terms of the technicalities of playing. I think you just have to put in the hours or even more hours if you are me.

OBM: So did you come from a musical family?

JE: My Mum was a singer in a choir and my Dad played the spoons to a high level.  People were impressed, other spoon players. But no, ultimately no, not really, There was no-one in my family. People were musical but they weren’t musicians.

James Elkington, finally touring his solo album in Europe
James Elkington

OBM: You eventually joined bands in the UK and then had your own band The Zincs and took them over to Chicago?

JE: Well, actually I started The Zincs in Chicago. I played in other people’s bands. I hadn’t really done anything of my own until I moved to Chicago. It took me moving to Chicago to have the confidence to start my own project completely.

OBM: The music of The Zincs already sounds very influenced by all kinds of American music.

JE: I had been mostly listening to American music during my late teens and twenties. I also moved to Chicago because I wanted to be near to where some of this music was being made. But also when I was a kid, I grew up listening to The Smiths and Orange Juice and things like that. All of this stuff was beginning to mix together for me. I was trying to synthesise something that was partly what I was at the time and also what I had been into as a kid. I was already thirty or in my late twenties then. So I was beginning to be interested in the stuff that I was listening to as a kid and reconnecting with that. So that band was sort of about that. But the weird thing is that I wrote a few songs…I had already sort of started my guitar style. It started around then. It wasn’t particularly technical but it had the foundations of it. I played a show one time and a friend of my bass player said: “This actually sounds like English folk music. Does James like to listen to much of that stuff?”. The fact is that I had not really listened to it since I was a kid. I don’t know if you had this too, but there was country dancing when I was a kid. (OBM: Nooo.) No, no (laughs). I mean, it was awful. We were exposed to a lot of this music and it always seemed to be around in some shape or form. It seeped in somehow but I was not really conscious of it. It was around that time that I was making more of a study of the sixties and seventies folk band stuff from England. I found that a lot of things about it really resonated with me. It set me off on this new trajectory. The Zincs were the beginning of that. I was even thinking about some of those older songs. They are not that dissimilar to my songs now but they are just wearing different clothes or something.

OBM: But being a frontman was not really your thing?

JE: Yeah, it was. I quit was what basically happened. The Zincs had been the first band that had been purely mine.  I worked really hard on it and I took it very seriously. I took it way to seriously. What I realised in retrospect was that part of me actually needed it to be a success to make it all worthwhile. However you quantify success, in sales or people coming to shows – I really wanted those things but I hadn’t admitted it to myself. When those things did not happen and they don’t happen to most bands…

OBM: Critically they did…

JE: Critically, yeah, some people seemed to like it but it did not really go anywhere and I needed it to go somewhere. I thought it was not really worth my while or I did not really have the temperament for it. So I stopped for a couple of years and I was just teaching. It was around 2010 or 2011 that a friend of mine, Jon Langford asked me to come and play a show with him. Jon has a band called The Mekons and The Waco Brothers and he has been around making records for over forty years now, I guess. I did not really know anything about his music but I took my guitar and he showed me a couple of songs. I played the songs with him and  I had a great time and I realised that what had been missing from music for me was or what it added to music was that expectation that it would go anywhere instead of doing it for the sake of doing it. I had a complete rethink. I was like, okay, I just want to play in other people’s bands because it makes me happy to do that. And it frees me up from any expectation of anything. I can concentrate on the music which is all I have ever been interested in.

OBM: Also, no responsibility?

JE: Oh yeah, that’s another one. I mean, I am not really a natural leader. I never had a gang or anything. I was more worried that my band was having a bad time. or there was not enough money. Being in other people’s bands was a way for me to play music and be completely absolved of that responsibility. That made me happy to the extent where when I had some free time, I actually started to write songs. But it was purely as a kind of…you know, I always liken it to when people were on the phone, or when they used to be on phones that had cords, they would stick it under their chin and they would draw little doodles. The music I was coming out with was like my little doodle that I did when I had time off from touring. It was really just for me and not meant to be anything. But I found after a year of these doodles that I had of what amounted to a collection of songs. I very slowly recorded them and stopped, thought about it for a while and play some to people and stop. I was sort of edging my way back in but it was very important to me that it wasn’t like before and I was doing it for the right reasons, just that it made me happy to do it. That’s how it worked out.

OBM: The artists whose work you contributed to or played with cover a wide range of genres. Is that part work for you or does it reflect different sides of your musical character?

JE: Sometimes when I would be playing with people it would be more of a technical exercise for me to see if I could do it.  The thing is though, with playing in different styles of bands, my style of playing remains the same in all of those bands. The fun for me is to figure out where I fit in to something. I played with Jon and that was fairly straight rock stuff with a country tinge. But then I played with Kelly Hogan for a year and she has almost more of a soul thing going on but again, I was still playing my style, my sound, but her songs. Usually I can find some sort of combination that makes me fit. That’s why I don’t really think of myself as a session person because if I came to play with you and you wanted this to sound like Nile Rodgers, I don’t know if I’d be able to do that. I can only do the thing that I am going to do. Fortunately for me, the people I played with have asked me to because I do a certain kind of thing. But I am certainly not a master of all styles.

OBM: Is that a technical thing or would you say, your heart is not in it?

JE: I think I made a decision when I got back into music that there is a lot of people playing guitar, a really tremendously huge amount of people playing guitar and to try and play like someone else, it’s just a dead end for me. I don’t think it’s worth pursuing for anyone. Because there are a lot of them out there. By finding your own voice on the instrument, the interesting things happen. But that’s what I have been able to concentrate on. But I have also been very lucky. It’s a Chicago thing too because Chicago has a wide and very inclusive musical community. People play across genres all the time. The folk guys play with the jazz guys who play with the experimental rock guys. It’s always been that way.

OBM:  Doug McCombs (Tortoise, Eleventh Dream Day, Brokeback) himself is already combining all the genres.

JE: To be honest, the way Doug’s whole career has gone…I play in a band with Doug…even just watching him, developing the different things he was doing, was part of led me to move to Chicago anyway. You could go and play different kinds of music but that does not necessarily mean that you are like a dilettante or that you are somehow insincere. I think, if you have a style or a sound and an approach, then it is actually an interesting synthesis to be playing in different styles. When I lived in London, I did not find that people looked at music that way so much. It seemed to be much more segregated. That did not appeal to me so much.

OBM:  I do think your style is very distinctive. I was listening to James Toth’ (Wooden Wand) wonderful “Clippership” album and during the song “Mexican Coke”, I thought “That sounds like James Elkington in there” and I looked it up, yep, it is.

JE: That’s the best compliment anyone could give you, thank you! Or did you go: “Hang on a second, this does not sound that good. I bet Jim is on this.” (Laughs).

OBM: No, no, it wasn’t that way at all. You do not only play guitar though, you are a multi-instrumentalist.

JE: No, I play the drums. The drums were my first instrument. And I love the drums but the drums do not love me. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I just don’t get very good on the drums. So I sort of stopped doing it. I loved it though! The again, it is just for me. I play drums on a couple of records. Doug’s band Brokeback – not on the last record, the record before, I was the drummer. And I played drums with Laetitia Sadier as well. Both of them will tell you (laughs), it’s not my main thing. I play a lot of piano on people’s records, too. And I am a terrible piano player.

OBM: Oh stop! On Joan Shelley’s record for example?

JE: Yes! There’s some terrible piano playing on that record. But no-one else wanted to do it. (Laughs out loud).

OBM: Ah, I wouldn’t believe that. It says here on the blurb for tonight’s gig on the website you are the master of the open tuning. Did you always use open tuning? I did not think that.

JE: No, I didn’t. Actually, I play with this guy, Nathan Salsburg, and he really is the master of the open tuning, as is Steve (Gunn).

OBM: Yeah, he is trying everything and so is Nathan but I would have thought that you stick to the classic one.

JE: Yes, I do, especially when I play with those guys, I just need a stable reference. I need to go with what I know. But again, the record that I put out last year, my solo record (Wintres Woma) is all in this tuning called DADGAD. That was part of the doodle. In my spare time, instead of just going to sleep or wandering off to a record shop or something, to sit down with this tuning that I did not really understand, I got that feeling back when I very first started to play the guitar. I did not know what I was doing. I was kind of wandering around.

OBM: You were out of the comfort zone?

JE: Yeah, and that’s were all these songs came from. I was finding all these little surprises in this tuning. But I am too lazy to change the tuning. So I went, this is all just going to be DADGAD. I never change it, so I am by no means an open tuning master.

OBM: So the album was based on the tuning DADGAD, you had that and you took your time to do it. It took some convincing to get on with it (JE laughs), so I have heard. But did you also have in mind, well, not in the sense of a concept album, but a certain atmosphere that it was going to convey?

JE: I had already been involved in a couple of records that were made in the Wilco Loft recording studio and I knew that the sound that they have there was going to marry well with the way the songs sounded. “Wintres Woma” means “The Sound of winter” and I wanted it to have a sort of, not cold sound, but sort of sparseness to it. I had quite detailed demos already. I have a project studio at my house. I pretty much mapped out exactly how I wanted it to be. It was never going to sound great. It was just a kind of a road map. I work with this guy in Chicago, Mark Greenberg, who is very good at reading maps and being “oh that I think what you mean is this” and then makes it sound great. It was a combination of me having a strong idea of what I wanted and Mark is just an amazing facilitator at that sort of thing. I kind of go into making records with kind of a strong idea in mind of what I want it to sound like. Sometimes it doesn’t really end up like that. Most of the time it doesn’t end up like that. I don’t even like to go into the studio without knowing. I am a little uptight like that (laughs).

James Elkington, finally touring his solo album in Europe

OBM: I have seen pictures of The Loft and it must be guitar heaven.

 JE: That’s it. It’s insane.  I could use whatever I’d see but there are so many guitars there, there isn’t time to try out everything. So I limited myself to the – literally – five guitars that were within eight feet of where I was sitting. And that’s the whole record. It’s just those guitars. Of course they are all fantastic and they all record really well. I’d love to have all of them.

OBM: What would a guitar you would like to play have to be like (other than like in that case be in the proximity). How would it have to feel or sound?

JE: It is kind of a difficult thing to quantify. We settled on this old guitar from the 30s, a Gibson that Jeff owns.  I sat down with it and immediately it had the kind of sound that associate with Davey Graham and John Renbourn even though none of these people played this guitar. This guitar is more synonymous with old blues players. But I played it and it sounded really good. Mark recorded me playing and when I finished he said: “You should come and listen to this because it sounds good when you stand next to the guitar but it sounds amazing recorded.” For some reason it sounded better recorded than just our ears. That ended up being the guitar for the whole record pretty much. Any other guitars I used just had to not sound like that one. Everything was built around that.

OBM: So you are not into a specific brand?

JE: No, no, the Gibson ended up being the basic guitar and if there was any other guitar, I made sure, it was as far removed as possible just to give it a different feel.

OBM: And are happy with the result of “Wintres Woma”?

JE: I think, yeah, I am. It’s the only time that I have been completely happy with a record I have done. Maybe even though I had a strong idea of how I wanted it to sound, I left ten or twenty per cent to chance and that’s where the surprises are. When I listen to it, I still like it. There are records of mine in the past where I really controlled every aspect and ended up with this boring…well, not exciting to listen to because everything sounds like something I have decided to do. This one has some random stuff in it. The mistakes are all left in. It’s pretty rough but I like it like that. It is like the music I like to listen to.

OBM:  You come up with the lyrics last and they are pretty abstract.

JE: Deliberately so. Sometimes my lyrics are genuinely random. Then I find out six months down the line that my subconscious has been talking about something. I just found out something about a song, discovered that a song that I had written a year ago was about a very specific thing which is extremely mundane so I would not tell anyone what it was. I always like the sort of lyrics where you are given enough information for your brain to do the last bit of work. I mean the listener has to think to himself: What does it actually mean? What does it sound like to me? Because then the listener is involved in the process. Their brain has to work a little bit. All of my favourite lyrics have that. They don’t completely spell it out. There is enough space for the listener to get involved. Even if write something about something specific,  I will intentionally cryptify it a bit to give it a space to operate in.

OBM: Or to make it possible for the listener to own a song – or totally misinterpret it, thinking the song is about a lovely man singing an ode to his sister….:-)

JE: Exactly. And yes, that just happened to me.  A year a go I was playing in Louisville, Kentucky. A friend of mine went: ” I really like that “Sister of Mine” song. I think that is my favourite song of yours. What is that song about?” I told him and he went: “Errgh. I don’t think I a like it as much anymore.”

OBM: It does cast a shadow!

JE: It does, I know!

OBM: But it is about all not being black and white and perspective and all that, but yeah, people are humming along and then comes that dark cloud.

JE: Yeah, I spoiled it for him. That’s my point. I blew it. So now and try and shut up as much as I can. Difficult for me though.

OBM: So what are your next plans?

JE: I am going to finish tour and then I have another short tour opening up for my friends The Sea And Cake on the East Coast. And then, I am going to make another record! But again I am being careful not to get too far ahead of myself. I had so much fun making the last record. And I really had no expectations for it whatsoever. It was really nicely received and this is my first tour and it is really wonderful of everyone to come out and see it. I am really having a good time. I’ve got more than I could ask for right now. In making another record, I just want to make sure that I go into it with the same perspective. Not really wanting anything other than having a good time. So I frequently pump the brakes as they say. I go: Oh, wait a minute. I can tell I am really getting concerned or serious about this particular song. And then I just stop. You know, I have a wife and a four-year old – I am happiest when I am just with them and cooking and so on. So I have plenty of other stuff going on and then I play with other people. This is just one thing that I do but I am keen to protect it. Its value to me is really for me to have fun.

OBM: Thank you very much.

JE: Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 – a feast of a festival

Much looked forward to, our annual family outing to one of the finest festivals I know is already over and done with again. Last Saturday saw us driving excitedly to the C-Mine in Genk, Belgium, a former mine building, now converted to part museum, part art exhibition centre and part very fine venues to enjoy this year’s Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 – a feast of a festival.

The fun starts when you arrive: Plenty of free parking, a short stroll to the building that houses the venues, a friendly and easy entry procedure. This year there was an additional venue upstairs, the Compressorenhal, the newcomers were moved from the foyer to a separate room and then there were of course the standing only venue with gallery and the big theatre with seating. Everything as expected: Fine food and drinks at reasonable prices, super friendly staff and a line-up to die for.

Sadly the problem with overlaps of the performances that will make you miss quite a few acts you would like to see or has you rushing in and out of performances, still remains. I would say, it probably has become worse. It so happens that we never made it up into the Compressorenhal to see Wartaal, Bonfire Lakes and Holly Miranda. Especially the latter I would have loved to see but Holly’s set was at the very same time as Mercury Rev’s. Pity for the very talented musician to have everyone flocking off to see Mercury Rev.

It also means that you have way too little time to fully enjoy the bustle and the fine catering…well, a couple of Krieks and original Belgian chips had to do the trick.

On arrival we had a short gander at Bed Rugs from Antwerpen who delivered an engaged set of songs to unfortunately not yet many in the audience. I thought their music, though well-crafted and with heart in it, was a bit all over the place but was very happy with the last song we heard, a guitar-laden psychy tune.

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 - a feast of a festival
BlitzenTrapper

But then it had to be off for us, Blitzen Trapper from Portland, US, were starting their set. Americana in the purest sense garnished with typical country lyrics, in some songs not unlike The War On Drugs oeuvre, there was a very professional band who also seemed very down-to-earth and likeable. The audience was still not quite awake yet, sadly, but I think, Blitzen Trapper did not take it to heart and were enjoying their set and were way too polite to comment. I am only guessing here but given the day that was in it (warning strikes of the US, UK and France in Syria), people were probably expecting a bit of a political comment from this so very American band but Blitzen Trapper remained on neutral ground.

A short peek into Catbug‘s set on the newcomer’s stage…she was playing to a full room and entertaining with singer-songwriter compositions. Quick bite to eat and we were ready for Mick Flannery from Ireland.

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 - a feast of a festival
Mick Flannery

Even though – can you ever be ready for Mick Flannery‘s bitter, bitter songs about heartbreak and hopelessness? Yes you can if they are delivered with such wit and warmth and amazing guitar and piano playing plus the stories in-between. Mick Flannery probably would not think of himself as a stage person but his performance is very compelling. Could have heard a needle drop if the girls behind would have stopped chattering (in the best possible way, about the music, but nonetheless). Mick Flannery was attending his merch stand, selling, signing and talking afterwards and came across as not only a very gifted songwriter and musician but just a normal guy which we all were very impressed with. If you can catch him on his continuing tour through Europe and the US, do!

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 - a feast of a festival
This Is The Kit

I would have loved to see more of Douglas Firs from Gent in Belgium because I really like some of their more sombre songs but alas, we had to be in time for This Is The Kit who I had already missed once last year at another festival. I expected good songs, performed to a high standard but This Is The Kit’s gig left me gobsmacked, utterly gobsmacked. Those beautiful songs reach another dimension live due to the immense craftsmanship of each one in the band: Kate, Rozi, Matt and Neil. (We have Rozi Plain – please pay attention also to her fantastic solo releases on Lost Map – not in the picture, that stage is just too wide and we were too close).  Added to that their playing together in such a tight way was absolutely amazing. You could ask Kate for a song, she’d wangle it in and the band played it perfectly.

Kate’s and Rozi’s duo singing was bliss. Kate’s absolutely masterful on fingerpicking guitar, banjo and of course singing and even whistling a tune. The diverse and on the point drumming of Matt, the melodious bass of Rozi and to top it all off the guitar mavericks of Neil who was allowed to show off during the last two songs – I know….I am ranting but I am not exaggerating. The set even contained my favourites “Misunderstanding” and “Bullet Proof” and both had me in tears. The audience was oh so quiet (in a good way), so my whooping was of course making me stand out like an eejit, but hey. Kate later was at the merch stand with Ben and both were again so kind and friendly and witty. Ah, true musicians do not need to be divas, I know, but it is still very refreshing to see.

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 - a feast of a festival
Mercury Rev

The Academic had started a fresh set in the standing only venue which seemed to be going down well but there we had to rush again: Mercury Rev were beckoning with a very different set. Celebrating the 20th birthday of the album Deserter’s Songs, the songs were played by Jonathan Donahue, Grasshopper and Jesse Chandler in an acoustic and intimate way with many a story told around the making of the album and the situation Mercury Rev were in at the time. Apart from this being very interesting, touching and funny at the same time – Jonathan is a great storyteller, the actual songs went straight to your heart. I barely moved through the whole set. The audience did get a good dose of electric guitar though from Grasshopper during the songs, fresh from his new Sterling Stingray!

It was amazing to see Mercury Rev live. Some might have missed the typical Mercury Rev big, embellished, dramatic performance but boy, this toned down performance certainly had me by the guts.

We finished off the evening by saying hello to the very courteous Jonathan, Grasshopper and Jesse at the merch stand (their wares were selling like hot cakes) and a short look-in to Slumberland who were entrancing with two drum kits and synthesisers.

We had a very special evening thanks to the artists we saw and heard.

Certainly want to see all of these acts again and thank you Little Waves, see you next year!

 

 

Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung – finally after a late and icy winter here. Just in time for some beautiful new music releases to accompany the sounds, smells and sights of the lushness around you. Hope you can enjoy some of the most optimistic season’s benefits and I can contribute to your joie vivre with the following releases:

Modern Studies

Spring has sprung
by Paul Marr

Modern Studies consists of accomplished musicians Emily Scott (vocals, organs, piano, double bass), Rob St. John (vocals, guitars, synths, harmonium, tape loops), Pete Harvey (cello, bass, piano – King Creosote and The Leg) and Joe Smillie (drums, mellotron, vocals – Call To Mind and boss of Glasgow’s Glad Cafe).

Their first album”Swell To Great” was released on Song, By Toad Records and later re-released by Fire Records and has given me a lot of joy plus made me very curious of what there was still to come. And there it is, the second album “Welcome Strangers”.

What will you find? Something very special indeed. Some might want to stick the label chamber pop onto the music and although true, this is by no means enough to describe the music of Modern Studies. Magical, haunted music awaits you, lyrically exploring landscapes, also internal ones, strings and brass and wonderful harmony singing by Emily and Rob and ever-changing moods.

A Creative Scotland grant enabled Modern Studies to hire a chamber orchestra and a remote village hall for recording. Everyone is taking part or as the band puts it: Sisters, wives, toddlers, freeform saxophonists and The Pumpkinseeds, an ensemble featuring violins, violas, cellos, trombones and vocals, brought together to play Pete and Emily’s collaborative string, brass and vocal arrangements.

On top there was further embellishing with analogue synths, tube organs, drum machines and mellotrons and also some very creative techniques. Discover it all for yourself on May 18th.

The Left Outsides

Spring has sprung
by Andy Martin

Alison Cotton (viola and voice) and Mark Nicholas (guitar and voice), a husband and wife duo, are also part of the somewhat wilder Trimdon Grange Explosion but this month they surprise with the long-awaited return of The Left Outsides, their very tender and melancholic musical side. Music to swoon to, to dream to and to be hypnotised by.

“All That Remains” is the fifth album by The Left Outsides and it is one of those albums which merits full album, in the correct order of songs headphone listening.  The classic way, so to speak. Because that is what this albums encapsulates: Despite all excursions within the music, “All That Remains” is a classical folk album that is inspired by its creators and imprinted with their unmistakable musical trademark. Out on 28th of May (yep, patience!) via Cardinal Fuzz Records.

The Room In A Wood

Spring has sprung
by Yvonne Marsden

Do you remember the GOOD 80s music? Yes, of course it existed. The eighties continued the punk year’s motto of everyone can do it and a lot of astounding and innovative music came from young kids all over the world. Certainly a hub for this phenomenon was – again – Liverpool in the UK. Shame on me, I had almost, really almost, forgotten among all the Liverpudlian bands, the very fine The Room. The Room split in 1985. And now, for the first time Paul Cavanagh and Dave Jackson of The Room have worked together again. No less than thirty songs were the result, filtered down to 14, three of which you can avail yourself now on the EP “Magical Thinking” by, yes, The Room In A Wood.

A cauldron of musical genres gelling into something very special. The blues is there, glam is there, postpunk is, and folk too. I even find some lovely psych there. All in three lovey pearls of songs.

Digitally the EP “Magical Thinking” will be available on April 20th. Then another 11-track album is to follow on vinyl, CD and digitally (A Turntable Friend Records). A wonderful spring indeed!

Backmask Records, Haley Heynderickx, Dropkick & Fox Food Records

The “beast from the east” is blowing but that should be no excuse not to venture outside and enjoy the beautiful winter weather for me but alas as I was reading in my favourite armchair, my body was reclaiming lost sleep. The least I can do now is to put pen to paper (or so) and share with you some new discoveries. The following I would like to introduce to you today: Backmask Records, Haley Heynderickx, Dropkick & Fox Food Records.

Backmask Records

Backmask Records, Haley Heynderickx, Dropkick & Fox Food Records

Early this year the wonderful musicians and friends that are Dark Narrows launched their very own record label called Backmask Records in Baltimore. Of course you can obtain not only Dark Narrow’s music there including their latest album “Visitation” but two more artists have already joined the label: The wild Anarchist Drum Machine and Plasticstatic whose music has been creating some fine headphone moments for me lately.

Here are some appetisers for the artists on Backmask Records:

Have a browse and listen, you will also find Backmask Records on all the usual social networks.

Haley Heynderickx

Backmask Records, Haley Heynderickx, Dropkick & Fox Food Records
Photo by Alessandra Leimer

Contact point for a lot of American music (and also music closer to their native shore) are Rola Music, an agency from Austria with subsidiaries all over the world and a special connection to Portland/Oregon. Generally the discoveries are manyfold and wholesome but this new year Rola Music have been particularly busy and amongst others shared this gem: The music of Haley Heynderickx.

Haley Heynderickx will release her debut album “I need to start a garden” on 2nd of March via Mama Bird Recording Co. An album where she asks questions in search of calm in these unturbulent times, not necessarily in a religious manner mind you but not opposed either. Haley straddles multiple cultural identities and hence tends to question and introspect.

She is being celebrated as the latest hope for folk music and the story-telling is there, so is masterful guitar playing and a gift for song-writing. However, it is her voice and her style of singing that really reaches out and touches and has nothing to do with any genre. A good dose of Sharon van Etten in Haley’s music and that to me can only be a good thing. Haley Heynderickx shares and it feels like you are sitting with her in a small room singing songs that evolve on stage, that are forever a work in progress. She leaves the songs open to evolvement too. For her debut album she found the right people and the right studio to hold on to that feeling she had when writing the songs which is a hard thing to do. It sounds as if she succeeded!

I urge you to listen to the whole album as there is a multitude of emotions and moods in the songs so the one below is not necessarily exemplary.

No, sorry, I have to share my favourite Haley Heynderickx song with you too.

Dropkick

Backmask Records, Haley Heynderickx, Dropkick & Fox Food Records

A short but urgent note to inform you on a new album release by Scottish band Dropkick. The very band who have an uncanny knack for hooky melodies and an almost unbearable but so so good amount of melancholy in their songs. March 23rd will the see the release of “Longwave” and it will be available on Pretty Olivia Records (Spain) and as a CD via Sound Asleep Records and of course digitally on Dropkick’s bandcamp site.

Fox Food RecordsBackmask Records, Haley Heynderickx, Dropkick & Fox Food Records

I first came across Fox Food Records as the home for brilliant Dana Gavanski whose song “How Much Is Enough?” of the album “Spring Demos” was one of the highlights of last year for me. Many many times after whenever had the pleasure of hearing something really delightful and looking at the label behind it, it was, of course, Fox Food Records. GRNDMS, Fazed On A Pony – they are all there. And lately the awesome Monarch Mtn…Fox Food Records were founded in 2014 in Mirfield, UK and this is their credo: “An independent record label specialising in handmade, limited edition releases of music we love.” This is exactly what they do and I am very happy that I happen to share that taste in music and they share with all of us. Fox Food Records founder James Smith is a musician himself and releases music as Good Good Blood, his latest release being the utterly beautiful album “Everlasting Light”.

Here are some examples of the songs released by Fox Food Records: