Friday, 16 March 2012

Alligators, Transvestites & The best of British: An interview with Missing Andy

Very few musicians that go far in a TV talent show ever manage to shake off the tag of being just a 'TV talent show star'. Missing Andy are a mod/ska band based in Essex that are trying to do just that.

After starring in Sky One's 'Must Be The Music' the band have been trying to prove that they aren't just another reality TV band. And with two singles having broke into the top 40 in the UK charts and the top 10 in the UK indie charts, the band seem to be doing so.

I caught up with Alex Greaves, the lead vocalist of the band, before their show at Birmingham's O2 Academy 3 on March 14 for a quick interview.

Many people know you from the Sky series 'Must Be The Music' - what kind of effect did the series have on you as a band?

"It kind of did two things really. On one side of it we gained a lot of new fans from however many it was broadcast to, but on the other side you do get tagged [as a] reality TV show band which we're trying to steer clear of...we're just trying to shake that reality TV show stigma."

How are you going to shake that off?

"Well, just going out there and doing what we were doing before it and showing that we're not just one of those bands who've got a couple of songs and goes on there to make a bit of a name for themselves. We're a band who know what we're doing, we've been doing it long enough so...just make some noise."

What's the story behind the band name?

"Ah...well there was an alligator once in...I think it was west Africa. And he had a friend called Andrew...and he ate it."

How would you define your sound for people who aren't familiar with your music?

"It's quite hard to pinpoint. I suppose if you could sum it up in one word it would be eclectic. We take inspiration from loads of different sounds, loads of different bands. It's kind of molding the best of British together. So you know, we've got a bit of indie, a bit of ska, some pop, some rock in there...we never really set out to sound like one specific sound. It was just about writing good songs and the thing that ties it all together is the lyrical content."

Who would you say your biggest musical influence is?

"Once again it's all across the board, the only band we all 100% agree on is Madness. We've played a few shows with them, which is great. But we take loads of bits and bobs from early The Jam, The Clash, The Specials...bands that were really talking about stuff that was happening in the country - news bands really, and there's not really many of those around at the moment."

What are your favourite songs to play live and why?

"To be honest, I like playing them all live really. But if I had to pick a favourite it'd probably be 'Made In England', even though I can't hear the song...I can't listen to it. But as soon as we go out there and perform it and just the reaction from the crowd, I think that's pretty good. And 'Scum' is one of those as well."

What's your view on the current state of music?

"It's a bit tricky. We've found that it's a very chicken-and-egg industry. If you're trying to get plenty of gigs or tour support for a big band, you need lots of radio play. But if you want radio play you need to be supporting a big band. It's really hard to crack, and it's so overcrowded with the same kind of sound at the moment. It's so hard for something a little bit different; something original; something fresh to break through...but we're still knocking doors down and it should change it...let's hope tomorrow."

How are you finding your tour experience so far?

"It's good fun, but it's a bit tiring. This is the third tour we've done so we're starting to get used to life on the road now. It's weird; when you're on the road you get a bit tired and you just wish you could sit on the sofa or something. But when you're at home you just constantly want to be back out on the road again. We're very indecisive as musicians."

Has anything weird happened to you while you've been on tour?

"There's been plenty of things. There was one gig in particular that was strange. Our management booked us and they said we've just go to turn up to this place at this time. So we turn up and it was right out in the middle of fields in the middle of nowhere, in this forest somewhere and there was this chalet. We turned up and we were greeted by gimps and transvestites and naked was a kind of kinky party. So we went inside and asked "where's the stage", and they pointed to a dancing pole in the middle of the room. We asked about mic stands and they didn't have any, so they just offered this naked lady to stand there and hold the microphone while Steve and Rob sang into it...that was pretty interesting."

What kind of statement are you trying to make with 'Generation Silenced'?

"I wouldn't say it's really trying to make a statement; we never really try and force any opinion or anything on our listeners. We've always been about challenging people to think for themselves rather than preaching to them. If people listen to it and they feel the same way then brilliant, but it was just about writing music with substance really."

What were the recording sessions like for the album?

"Pretty easy to be was pretty flawless. We got in there, Elliot was the first person to put all his stuff down on the drums. He knocked them out pretty quickly and then everything was really fluid and it worked really well."

What are your plans for the rest of 2012?

"Carry on just trying to take over the world I guess. We got plenty of things coming up. On Monday we've got the album's HMV release; we've been writing for the second album...we've pretty much got that finished now so I guess we'll be recording that soon; plenty of other tours; festivals...all the dates are up on Facebook."

Missing Andy's first album, 'Generation Silenced', is available now on iTunes. It will hit the shelves of HMV on March 19. Preorder the album here.

The band are currently touring the UK. Details can be found on the band's Facebook page.

To listen to the interview, click here.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Michael Kiwanuka: 'Home Again' Album Review

Summary: A brilliant début of transcendental beauty.
Listen To: 'I'm Getting Ready'; 'I'll Get Along'; 'Rest'; 'Worry Walks Beside Me'
Avoid: 'Any Day Will Do Fine'
Get It: Here

There is something special about Michael Kiwanuka's music. The instrumentation manages to capture the magic of folk music while his voice encapsulates the raw emotion of soul music, with both combining together to produce some truly beautiful music. 'Home Again' is Kiwanuka's début album and it is one of the greatest of recent times.

This is an album that stands out because every track sounds complete. Often we will hear songs that fall short of their mark or fail to even identify a mark, but not a single song on here faces either of those problems. Songs like title track 'Home Again' show Kiwanuka's ability to craft a well-rounded song that reach a climax and then gently come back down to a mellow ending. Others, such as 'Rest' and 'Always Waiting' show a gentler approach - one that leads to a track of transcendental beauty from start to finish.

'I'll Get Along' deserves a special mention as one of the standout tracks. Characterised by breezy instrumentation and a melody that floats gracefully upon it, it stands out as one of the more accessible songs on the album. This track is the feel-good sound of summer 2012.

The only quibble with this album is the order of the tracks. Some songs feel a bit out-of-place and as if they should be elsewhere in the tracklisting. Plodding ballad-esque song 'Rest' is the best example of this, being the fourth track when it should ideally be much later. However, this does little to stop the flow of the album in the slightest.

Though this album will mostly appeal to afficionados of acoustic folk and soul music, it does have tracks of merit to a wider audience. These tracks, such as 'I'm Getting Ready' and 'I'll Get Along', have an accessible enough sound that they could break the mainstream. And this is what makes the album so great: its potential to make Kiwanuka a household name.
If angst and darkness are what you are looking for, you won't find it here. But you will find wisdom delivered by a smooth voice and a talented soul that has known sadness. This is definitely worth a listen.


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Eatmewhileimhot: 'Mushroom' Album Review

Mushroom is the 10-track second album by experimental post-hardcore outfit Eatmewhileimhot and it says a lot about the musical abilities of the band...but sadly it doesn't say a lot else.