As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been doing some work for New Street Records. Last week my position as Head of Graphic Design was confirmed for next year, which is great because it means I can spend more time messing around with fonts and crayons and calling it work.
I was lucky enough to collaborate with the brilliant Versatyl & Pilgrim on the artwork for their new single, Lessons/Underground Sound, which is out today! You can find it on iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Beats Music, so there’s no excuse not to give it a listen; I’ll even embed the video for Underground Sound right here:
I had great fun working with the guys on this, and they were full of ideas. They have strong roots in Birmingham, but rap about global issues, and wanted something to reflect this.
The final design took the form of a mixed media digital collage. The skyline in the top left incorporates some of Birmingham’s most distinctive buildings, including the Bullring, the BT Tower, the Custard Factory, and of course Old Joe. Surrounding the globe are social justice hashtags selected by the guys themselves, reflecting recent worldwide campaigns for change. The logo text is modified from a piece of street art produced for V&P by GraffitiArtist.com. We created two versions – one for each track.
All elements of the design (apart from the text in the bottom left corner) were hand drawn to “keep things organic”, in the words of Pilgrim. I had so much fun working on this – and the tracks themselves are great! If you want to hear more from V&P, you can find some of their previous releases here, including their Wax N Facts mixtape from last year. They’re one to watch!
In an effort to keep up with whats going on at the University of Birmingham while I’m on my industry year, I’ve got involved in a really cool project thanks to their Circles of Influence campaign. I’m really excited to be the head of In-House Graphic Design for New Street Records, a brand new student-run record label in Birmingham. We will be seeking out a range of student artists, and help give them the springboard that they need.
Keep an eye out for more news hear soon about our first signings, but in the meantime, here’s the poster for the launch night THIS THURSDAY:
If you’re in Birmingham, I highly recommend you head along – it’s set to be a great night. In the meantime, you can find out more about New Street Records on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
The Basel music scene doesn’t compare to Birmingham very favourably, so I was super keen when I found out that electro-folk dream boy Patrick Wolf was coming to town! I snapped up a ticket as soon as the posters showed up around town, and was lucky enough to get the last front row seat.
The evening was a benefit for World Aids Day 2014. As such, it started with a speech which appeared to be at once both funny and moving. I say, “appeared to be” because, as regular readers may remember, my German isn’t up to much. Following this we were ushered into the venue where I quickly found my seat at the front. I proceeded to excitedly send pictures of my view of the empty stage to politely interested friends before realising that the place was packed out. Basel may not have a whole lot of live music, but people show up for it when it happens!]
Patrick Wolf took the stage alone to applause from the house; he clearly has a fan base here, and after his first song it was clear why. Those who know his work will be familiar with his distinctive voice. And for those who don’t:
It’s fair to say that live, his performances are on another level. A solo performer, Wolf makes great use of loop pedals to reimagine his studio works using violin, harp, piano, and guitars to build the tracks up piece by piece. However, relying on technology like this comes with risks. After a fantastic arrangement of Wind In The Wires, he started getting some pretty major feedback, and the sound team weren’t able to fix it. The rest of the set was unfortunately plagued with technical problems, but Wolf was more than able to charm his way through with talk of Virginia Woolf, Ghostbusters, and why he would like to be a pigeon for the day. His open and understated presence gave the concert a very intimate feel (following the ballad Enchanted, Wolf mused “I wrote this song at a time when I was drinking two bottles of Baileys a day”) which more than made up for the issues with the tech.
I was told that I couldn’t miss this show by my long suffering bff Drum, who’s seen Patrick Wolf before and likens it to some kind of glittery electro-folk religious experience. I was not disappointed.
Hi there! Sorry for the lack of updates lately – despite exams being over, I’m still managing to be super busy. Six days after finishing my last exam, I was straight back into the labs for a “boot camp” in preparation for my industry year in Switzerland. Between these sessions I’ve been trying to sort out my visa for Shanghai, so all in all, not the chilled out few weeks I wanted! I’ve found time to finally play Red Dead Redemption though – been wanting to get hold of it for ages. I realise how late to the game I am with that one, so of course I don’t need to tell you how super-fun it is (you can lasso people!)
That aside, I did get a chance to head over to University of Birmingham’s Valefest yesterday with the lovely ladies Anna of ALMSEE and Rosie (who has yet to get blogging..), both of whom finished the same day as me. Despite a pretty grim weather forecast, we donned the obligatory raincoats, glitter and flower garlands and headed over to the Vale.
Valefest is a yearly music festival run by students at the university, and this year was it’s tenth birthday. With loads of tents, stages and stalls featuring bands, DJs, comedy acts, and workshops, there was something for everyone. We turned up in time to catch Temple Funk Collective, an 8-piece brass section from Oxford, who managed to coax the sun out with their jazz-funk rearrangements of modern tracks. If this sounds like it might be up your street, give their “Drum and Brass” medley a listen:
When these guys had finished, the sun was shining so we sat out on the grass and watched Battle Reenactment Society do their thing. This is exactly what it sounds like (think chainmail, axes and shouting) and after seeing them open the Miscellany Gala earlier this year, I was keen to see them again. They did not disappoint.
After this we wandered over to the food court – there was a good amount of choice, although I was sad to see that purveyors of “gourmet toasties” The Jabberwocky, were absent. They were there last year, and their “4 Cheese Supreme” was one of the highlights of Valefest 2013 for me. We grabbed some sizeable burgers (Quorn! yey!) from the BBQ stall and ate them in the sunshine by the main stage. The Sons of Pitches were playing, who I’ve heard a few times and who are always good fun. An acapella group of uni students, these guys have quite a following. It’s not hard to see why – it’s hard not to smile when you hear them:
After The Sons of Pitches, we were treated to a set from Fresh Dixie Project. The self professed “crossover swing” band were perfect for the festival, and welcomed in the warm evening with their upbeat original tracks.
(Their cover of “I Wanna Be Like You” from the Jungle Book was a standout track for me, although it doesn’t seem to be around online. Anyone who’s heard Paulo Nutini’s version will know where I’m coming from, though.)
Next we wandered over to the Macmillan Stage and caught Signals‘ set. Math-pop/rock always makes for an impressive live show in my opinion, and Signals were no exception. As an act they were tight, and their clean harmonies were a breath of fresh air amongst the plentiful ska/funk bands we heard over the day. Their audience was unfortunately a little sparse to begin with, but after a brief shower drove lots of people into the tent, they had a lot more listeners. The new, bigger crowd was only in part thanks to the weather, though; the sun soon came back out, but no one left. Their song “Constructions” was one of my favourite tracks of the day:
They were followed by Ghouls, a lively band of “alt-gypsy-punks” from London. This was the headline act for the Macmillan Stage, and they certainly went out with a bang. Never stopping to lower the tempo, Ghouls got the crowd going with song after song of short punchy tracks – think Reel Big Fish meets The Meteors:
Finally, closing the whole festival was the Electric Swing Circus. I had heard a lot about these guys – as locals and ex-UoB students, they play a lot of shows near me, but until now I had never made it to one. They more than lived up to the hype. Fusing 20s swing with electro-house beats, the group put on a fantastic show, complete with smoke machine(!). Vocalists Laura Louise and Bridget Walsh had the air of seasoned performers, all twenties dance routines and unbridled sass. They even found time in their set for an electric double bass solo, which is pretty much all I want from a live band. Their new track, “Minnie”, tells you all you need to know:
So, all round, Valefest 2014 was exactly what the doctor ordered – live music, good food, and a few drinks in the sun with friends. Not to mention that all the proceeds go to Macmillan Cancer Support and Trekstock. What’s not to like!
Were you at Valefest? Have you made it to any other great festivals so far this year? Let me know in the comments!
Ears still ringing slightly, I thought I’d tell you about a gig I went to last night (all in the name of avoiding revision, of course!)
Playing at the O2 Academy in Birmingham last night were Blood Red Shoes with support from Slaves and DZ Deathrays – all three bands being two-pieces. Edgy.
First on were Slaves. I’d already looked these guys up so I was keen to hear their 15 second epic, “GIRL FIGHT” done live:
For anyone who first heard Blood Red Shoes as part of the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Soundtrack (cough), it’s hard not to compare Slaves to “Crash & the Boys”. Not all their songs are < 20 seconds long, but these guys really don’t mess around. A self-described “garage punk band from kent”, most of their songs were prefaced with some kind of explanation for the ensuing wall of noise. It was impressive to see a two piece that seemed too large and loud for the stage they were on, and as an opening act, they really got the audience going; I’ll be keeping an eye out for more chances to catch them. And “GIRL FIGHT”? It did not disappoint. (Incidentally, I saw I guy down the front with a “girl fight” t shirt on – if anyone can tell me where I might purchase one of these…)
Next up we had DZ Deathrays. They really had the grunge/garage aesthetic down, and it was a lot of fun. The guitarist had an orange stack which was making a nice sound, but for me last night it felt like that was about all they had to offer. There was the odd catchy riff in thrown in there, but all in all I felt like I was listening to the same track throughout their set. Technically their sound wasn’t as good as the other two bands – the sound team seemed to be running into trouble all night, and there was a lot of waiting around – so maybe this was what let them down. Listening now to their studio stuff, it seems like they just didn’t really deliver as a live band on the night. Maybe that’s one of the limitations of being a duo – below is a great studio track from them. Definitely worth a listen.
After more waiting (apparently “the sound desk was broken or something”), we were treated to a great set from Blood Red Shoes. They came out all smoke and lights, and set the tone for a show that didn’t dip in energy from start to finish. Most of what they played was from their new self-titled album, which is full of not only their most mature tracks yet, but also some riffs that sound really great live.
Their stage presence was understated (guitarist Laura May shyly admitted at the end of their set that they couldn’t match the in-your-face charisma of Slaves) but suited their moody sound, and played well against the lights show, which was delivered by a slightly strobe-happy technician.
As with the other two bands, Blood Red Shoes had ample energy to really fill the room. Overall it was a great night, and everyone in the audience left grinning and sweaty. (Although, at £4.40 a for a pint of Carlsberg, stone cold sober. This isn’t London, O2!)