New Noise: Holy Esque

Prepare to be lured in by the all-encompassing, expansive stadium-filling sound of Holy Esque.

Holy Esque

Originally published for Wonderland.

They may have only been together for a couple of years but Glasgow four-piece Holy Esque have quickly wowed crowds with their unique sound and enthralling live performances. Since the release of their first EP last year, the band have received regular airplay from Radio 1′s Ally McCrae and Huw Stephens, all of which resulted in their first ever Glastonbury performance on the BBC Introducing stage this summer. Wonderland spoke to frontman Pat Hynes ahead of the band’s upcoming mini-tour at the end of the month.

How did you all meet and decide to form Holy Esque?

Myself and Keir had been speaking of starting a project for some time. We met through mutual friends: Hugo worked in a bar with me and Ralph went to art school with Keir, so it all fell in to place fairly smoothly.

Your latest single ‘St.’ was released in March, so what have you been up to since then?

A whole lot. We came out of March with that single and SXSW behind us. Since then we’ve doubled our back catalogue, recorded new material and played a few festivals, including Glastonbury, so we’re on the right track.

You’ve had a lot of praise since the release of your EP but you’re still unsigned – has it just been a case of not finding the right label to fit and just taking your time with it so you know you’ve made the right decision?

Everything in music is a mystery within a mystery so it takes a great deal of time to see through that and make sense of simple situations. I’m sure when the time is right everything will be clearer for you and us.

How do you deal with all the attention – are you one of those bands that thrives on it or do you try and detach yourself from it and not really think about it?

I wouldn’t say we thrive on it or detach ourselves. It’s never been a thing that we try and focus on. Obviously when you’re given praise for something it’s natural to feel good about it but I think it’s very easy for bands nowadays to get caught up in a storm of their own self-importance, in turn forgetting what they’re actually there for in the first place. That being said, I think it’s healthy not to over think attention.

 

 

It’s very difficult to come across bands with a truly unique sound anymore but a lot of people talk about the uniqueness of your music – how did you come across and develop your sound?

There was never a set plan or blue print for Holy Esque when we began. It was more like a garage band to begin with, in the sense of noise in an empty space but it’s progressed so much since then. I can’t explain it, I guess it’s the result of four people getting together and literally seeing what happens.

You just played Glastonbury for the first time on the BBC Introducing stage, which I can imagine is a pretty big moment for a band – how was it?

Glastonbury was amazing. It’s not like any other festival I’ve been to. Ally McCrae at Radio 1 was kind enough to put us forward for the BBC Introducing stage and I think we made the most of it. Hopefully we’ll be back next year.

Have you been working on putting together an album at all?

We’ve been recording a lot of new material recently which sounds really good. It’s all quite progressive. As far as albums go, who can say – the songs are there.

You worked with Kevin Burleigh (Glasvegas, Simple Minds) on the EP and on ‘St.’ – do you have any plans to work with him again in the future? You seem to make a pretty good pairing.

We share a mutual understanding over what the band is trying to achieve. It can be very difficult to find a producer who simply ‘gets’ the band and when you find someone who can truly bring out the best in a project it would be careless to look elsewhere at such an early stage.

You have a few live dates coming up quite soon – will you be debuting any new material at these shows?

There’s a big possibility that the next set will be dominated by new material.

Holy Esque play Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London on 29th August. holyesque.com

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Watch: The 1975 – Sex (Acoustic Wonderland Premiere)

Ride-or-die rockers The 1975 sing about doing the dirty in the sweetest, gentlest way we’ve heard this year. Watch their acoustic take on new single ‘Sex’ here.

Originally published for Wonderland.

Following the success of recent singles ‘Chocolate’ and ‘The City’, which received massive amounts of radio airplay, and support slots for Muse and The Rolling Stones already under their belts, Manchester-born The 1975 have solidified themselves as one of the year’s biggest breakthrough acts.

To herald the August 26th release of their new single ‘Sex’, the band have kindly provided Wonderland with an exclusive acoustic video of the song. The stripped back version is a much more delicate take on the original, with Matthew Healy’s vocals only accompanied by wistful guitar melodies. We’re saying this right now: the fangirls will love it.

The band are set to release their self-titled debut album on September 2nd, which was recorded at the Motor Museum in Liverpool with, Arctic Monkeys collaborator, Mike Crossey, who co-produced it alongside the band’s front man Matthew Healy and drummer George Daniel. If the singles have been anything to go by, the album is expected to be packed full of incredibly catchy indie-pop songs about being young, free and reckless (with frequent mentions of sex, duh).

Sex is out on 26th August on Dirty Hit/Polydor and you can pre-order their album herethe1975.com

Brand Buzz: Y-3 opens in Covent Garden

The Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas collaboration brand, Y-3, celebrates ten years with a store opening in Covent Garden yesterday.

Y3 Covent Garden_009LR

Originally published for Wonderland.

The collaboration between the award-winning Japanese designer and Adidas began in 2003 – and ten years on, the brand has become a favourite amongst celebs, including the likes of A$AP Rocky, Willow Smith and David Beckham. So if you’re rocking the balaclava-chic like A$AP or taking tips from a very cool 12-year-old, then Y-3 is the brand for you.

Inhabiting a renovated building originally built in 1838, the street-chic sanctuary is all futuristic, monochrome, mirror effects and mood lighting — pretty much how we picture Yamamoto’s bedroom to look like. It’s the brand’s second London store in collaboration with partner brand Hervia, alongside their flagship Central London store. The new branch will house the AW13 collection, carrying the full range of menswear, womenswear, footwear and accessories.

In keeping with Y-3′s approach, the store merges minimalist chic and techno-bling with a new lighting system that changes settings depending on the display — perfect for moody trend-setters and fickle fashionistas. But without getting too sci-fi, the store also keeps intact the building’s distinguishing Victorian features, such as its arch windows and steel pillars.

So why not head down to Covent Garden and hip hop into the new Y-3 store — if you fancy feeling like you’re in a sci-fi remake of American Psycho.

Y3 Covent Garden_006LR

Y3 Covent Garden_003LR

Charli XCX – True Romance review

Charli XCX - True Romance

Originally published for The List.

Charli XCX – True Romance  (4 stars)

The goth-pop vocalist’s debut combines pop sensibilities with emotional lyrics and electro beats

(Asylum)

Charli XCX‘s journey to pop stardom has been anything but quick. She got her first big break when she was 14, being invited to perform at a warehouse rave in east London, after the host had heard a few of her demos on MySpace, and by 16, she was signed to a major label. Fast forward six years, a series of singles and sessions with numerous producers later and we finally have a debut album. True Romance is packed full of energy, with glittering synths, hip hop beats and big pop choruses.

Working with several different collaborators – from major pop producers like Ariel Reichstadt and Patrik Berger to blog favourites Blood Diamonds and J£zus Millions – has given the album more versatility in terms of sound and pace. Half-way through and you begin to wonder when the album is going to reach a lull: from the dancefloor-ready ‘Take My Hand’ to the anthemic ‘Set Me Free’, each track shows that Charli XCX feels she has a point to prove. Her sultry vocals really shine on tracks like ‘Stay Away’ and ‘How Can I’ where they are not drowned out by the heavy, industrial beats. ‘What I Like’ is a certified pop banger, with its acid house-esque intro, fast-paced vocal delivery and infectious chorus.

While it may not be a pop album in the traditional sense, True Romance combines pop sensibilities with emotional lyrics and electro beats to craft Charli XCX’s signature sound – often dubbed as ‘goth-pop’. It is the album she had to deliver to silence the naysayers who had brushed her off as a ‘Tumblr-wave’ and is up there as one of the best debut albums from a pop star for a number of years.

Review: Tomorrow’s World – ‘Tomorrow’s World’

Originally published for The 405.

It was always to be expected that, coming from popular electronic acts, Jean-Benoit Dunckel, of French band Air, and Lou Hayter, former vocalist from New Young Pony Club, would produce an experimental album. What started off as a plan to work on a few tracks soon turned in to an album’s worth of material and so Tomorrow’s World was born. Named after the BBC’s popular science and technology show, which was cancelled in 2003, Tomorrow’s World resemble a cross between a 60s girl group and an 80s synth-pop act – kind of like The Shangri-Las meets Depeche Mode. Their self-titled debut is cinematic, grand and very dramatic.

Sometimes albums can be so elaborate, you have to imagine them in context to be able to understand them and not get distracted by all the grandeur. With Tomorrow’s World’s debut, I found it fitting to imagine it sound tracking an independent French film: one about passion and romance but with dark, sinister undertones – something a bit like The Dreamers, but without the whole creepy sibling threesome storyline.

Opening track ‘A Heart That Beats For Me’ introduces the story with a cheesy Shangri-Las-esque monologue: “He took her hand and then they flew / Beyond the impossible / In to the future.” Then, as the song progresses, there is likely to be a ‘day in the life’ montage following the female lead’s dreary, mundane routine – perhaps using time-lapse photography – with the drone on the track emphasising the monotony of the character’s life.

Then we are introduced to the character’s love interest, while ‘Think of Me’ plays – he is probably a tormented poet or artist, it is a French film after all. It is likely the two characters have yet to meet or speak and so the endless reciting of “Think of me” suggests that there is a bit of unrequited love going on here. However, the characters soon meet, with ‘Pleurer Et Chanter’ sound tracking the moment when the relationship is built and the two embark on their fiery, intense romance.

Then we reach the big twist – probably the result of some misunderstood situation which leads to a huge argument between the two lovers. ‘Don’t Let Them Bring You Down’ would accompany this scene, where everything seems to be going wrong in the protagonist’s life, so they go for a long walk in the rain and gawp at all the happy people around them before running home and crying – you know, like everyone else does.

The protagonist then goes on a bit of a bender, probably experiments with drugs, has a few random one night stands and even contemplates taking her own life (I said it would have dark undertones, remember). This would all be mashed up in to a seedy montage, accompanied by ‘Catch Me’, which contains some menacing talking bits, sultry sighs and the resounding chorus of “Dark angel / Take me away.”

But what’s a good romance without a happy ending? There is the big reconciliation moment before the film draws to an end with the lyrics on ‘Inside’ proving that this romance really is the real deal: “I love you on the inside.”

Rating: 6.5/10

Review: The Growlers – ‘Hung at Heart’

Originally published for The 405.

With Hung at Heart set to be The Growlers‘ breakthrough album, rumours were afloat of the band participating in recording sessions with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. However, it was quickly decided that things weren’t working out and the band went back to basics, recording it alone in Costa Mesa, California. The official statement from the label stated that Auerbach “tried his hand in the kitchen but when the dish ended up overcooked, the Growlers brought it back to the home kitchen, drank the juice and started over.” It is unlikely that the album would have the same compelling effect had Auerbach produced it, as I expect it would have ended up sounding too stadium-ready for the band, who clearly do not produce music on the same sort of scale.

Hung at Heart combines a number of genres which the band have become associated with on their previous efforts, namely psychedelic, garage and surf rock, but also draws influence from country and pop, highlighting the developments in their song writing. Lead single ‘Someday’ is not exactly telling of what to expect from the rest of the album but is an infectious pop song, telling a story of better days to come. It’s one of those songs that could make the gloomiest of days seem a bit brighter, with its surf-y melody and lyrics like “Well things ain’t so cool right now / Well, I promise they’ll get better.”

On the other hand, tracks like ‘Naked Kids’ and ‘Salt on a Slug’ show more of the straight psych-rock elements of the band and fall perfectly in to what I like to refer to as ‘sounds of the Mojave’ (i.e. my imaginary playlist of songs for my ever-pending American road trip). They are a showcase in what the perfect psych-rock song should contain: wistful guitar riffs, heavy organs, distorted vocals and plenty of reverb. The band continue their psych-rock experimentation with the use of Eastern instrumentation on ‘Burden of the Captain’, which has a brief but fantastic sitar solo.

The one thing that sets the album apart from your typical psych-rock record, however, is the sadness of some of the lyrical content. The country-tinged ‘Living in a Memor'” has some of the most poignant lyrics, with lead singer Brooks Nielsen baring his soul about an ex he is struggling to get over: “Help me forget her / Eclipse my heart from yours / Help me remember that life’s worth living for.” Melancholy may not be a theme typically associated with psych-rock but the inclusion of these songs give the album a bit more balance and show a different side to the band, which we haven’t seen much of previously.

It’s a little-known fact that most garage bands are heavily influenced by girl groups and the band make their influences pretty clear on ‘Pet Shop Eyes’, of which the melody is almost identical to that of The Donays’ hit ‘Devil in His Heart’ – you may be more aware of The Beatles’ version ‘Devil In Her Heart’. The similarity also comes as a result of the authenticity of the production on the track, making it sound like it could easily have been released in the 60s. It proves just how much the band have moved on in the production stakes from their previous albums, which was at times a bit rough around the edges.

With psych-rock revivalist bands cropping up on both sides of the Atlantic, The Growlers are just one of many having to prove their worth as ones to watch. They have managed to evolve their brand of psych-rock over the past few years and have produced a much fuller, more diverse sounding record in the process. It seems going back to basics worked out pretty well for The Growlers.

Rating: 7/10

Introducing: Vanessa Elisha

Originally published for The 405.

You may not have heard about Vanessa Elisha yet but you’re likely to be hearing a whole lot more about her this year. The 21-year-old songstress hails from Queensland, Australia and her debut single ‘Blur’ has been causing a massive stir across numerous music blogs recently. The combination of her smooth, alluring R&B vocals and Jrdn Gxnius’ production make the track sound reminiscent of the female R&B icons of the 90s and early 00s.

With her debut EP scheduled for release in February, big things are expected for Vanessa Elisha this year. We caught up with her to discuss the hype from the blogs, the music scene in Australia, her music career so far and her plans for the rest of the year.

Your debut single ‘Blur’ has generated a lot of excitement amongst the bloggers, who predict that you’re going to be massive this year. Can you tell us a little bit about how your music career has unfolded so far – has it been quite gradual or pretty quick?

The blog support so far has been crazy and totally unexpected! I’ve wanted to do this for as long as I can remember and have been writing for years. I think it’s all happened because I’m finally at a place where I feel like I’m ready for everything that comes your way after releasing your music, whether it’s the praise or the criticism. I wouldn’t say it’s been a fast road to get here, I think everything I’ve done has led up to this and I think 2013 is my year.

Your vocals along with the production on the track reminded me a lot of the R&B slow jams from the 90s. How much did you think about what you wanted to sound like – did it just work out that way or did you make an effort to sort of revive that classic R&B sound?

I’ve never really “thought” about my sound. I think it’s important to be organic. I’ll listen to a beat or I’ll hear a melody in my head and I’ll go with it. It’s never really planned out. But I also think that the 90s sound has influenced me heaps; Monica, SWV, Jon B, Jagged Edge, Lauryn Hill, these are the people that taught me how to sing.

Who would you say are your main musical influences and have they developed or changed much over the years?

Right now, I’ve gotta say Drake, 40, Jhene Aiko & the Weeknd are the artists that I’m crazy about. I love their sound and I think I’ve finally found a place where my music fits in. I’ve always loved simplicity in melodies and beats and these guys are bringing that back to life.

‘Blur’ was produced by Jrdn Gxnius, who’s mainly known for his Hip-Hop production. How did that collaboration come about?

Haha ohh Gxnius. Well, we were introduced to Gxnius by a friend, he came over to the house said hi, sat down at the keyboard and started playing… He’s basically lived with us ever since, can’t get rid of him! But in all honesty, he’s an amazing talent, that’s where the name ‘Gxnius’ came from, we were shocked when we met him – he’s something else.

Why did you make the decision to sign with Down With the In Crowd? And were you concerned at all about being an R&B artist and signing with a management team mainly associated with electronic acts?

Wow, you really did your research! My manager, Matt, has known me since I was a kid. He might manage a lot of electro artists but his heart has always been in R&B and Hip-Hop. It was kind of a natural progression, we have a little team; Me, Matt, Gxnius and Cviro – we all sort of just assumed that Matt would manage us. He used to always say to me when I was younger, I hope you’re ready to be famous! I would just laugh it off and call him an idiot, but I feel like I’m in good hands on his team.

We don’t often hear about many Australian R&B artists. What is the music scene like there and is there much of a market for R&B acts like yourself?

Well, there are a few Australian R&b artists, but they tend to be more pop than R&B. It’s tough, because there’s a strong local music scene, but it’s dominated by electronic and rock acts. There’s no real R&B radio format here – it’s just pop and alternative. For better or worse, I think R&B music doesn’t really fit in either. There’s a few successful artists, but their music tends to be more of that “hands in the air” electro music, which is really the sound of pop music right now. And it’s definitely not me!

Are there any Australian artists you love that you think more people should know about?

One word – CVIRO. I think everyone’s going to recognise the name soon enough. His EP should drop in the next couple of months. He’s a new artist but I think he’ll find a name quite quickly for himself. Between writing my EP, I’ve co written every track on his project. I guess that makes me a little biased, but the music speaks for itself! I’m obsessed with every song!

Your EP is scheduled to be released in late February. Has it been completed yet and how is it sounding?

It’s not 100% completed yet. We have a million things going on at the moment and we really want to perfect the sound. I think more than anything though it’s about having a consistent feel throughout the EP. It might have been done unintentionally, but if you listen closely the lyrics are a story.

Have you made any plans for the year yet in terms of touring and promoting your music worldwide or are you just taking things one step at a time?

I think the plan is to take it one step at a time. I’m just focusing on getting my music out there, seeing what people think and hopefully pick up some fans along the way! As long as people are discovering and enjoying my music, I feel like I’m on the right path. If all goes well, a trip to the U.S. is looking good for the future.

You can visit Vanessa Elisha by heading to vanessaelisha.com