“Greatest. Ever. Maybe?” – Interview with band Bad Waves

 

Bad Wave’s Tucker Tota is rather modest when it comes to considering the Los Angeles band’s appeal, a common attitude new bands have towards their success. When asked to describe the duo, his three-word response: “Greatest. Ever. Maybe?” is cheeky, certainly, but also indicative of the confidence he and Patrick Hart are afraid to possess.

The self-confessed tech junkies describe themselves as: “Run of the mill nerdy guys pretending to be musicians.” They’re hoping to use 2017 as a fresh start to their music: “We’re ready to take Bad Wave to a new level and try some new stuff, we started out last year in a really specific genre and now we’re just whatever we want to be.” The pair have recently released two new singles called ‘Time to Get Lost’ and ‘1955’ that both occupy a very different style to their previous efforts.

They offer something for both fans of Vampire Weekend and Joy Division, their sound is a fine line between vivacious indie-pop and gloomy synth-pop, a genre developed from the 1980s. Members Tucker Tota and Patrick Hart take influence from the ‘80s/’90s eras not only in their music but also in their aesthetic, from their single artwork: “Our inspirations come from a comic book or a painting that we like.” To their music videos, that are entirely directed and created by the song writing half of the band, Tucker Tota, who even admitted to tossing up between being a musician or film director during college.

Bad Wave, which coincidentally comes from the Chilean phrase meaning “bad vibes” did possess quite a cynical attitude towards their talent. Tota declared that calling music their career is a “push” after predicting no one would turn up to a UK show if they journeyed over here. So when did the cock-sure persona of the ’80s bands, like Pet Shop Boys and Spandau Ballet end and this doubtful, almost bitter attitude begin that a number of bands seem to have today? Many contemporary bands idolise these kinds of artists but are too afraid to compete against them and would rather just admire them from afar instead of getting stuck in and saying: “We’re the greatest ever, definitely.”

Or is it just that our generation has more to be cynical about? When asked about their motive for their lyrical choices, in specific their new very politically motivated track ‘Time to Get Lost’, Hart explained the catalyst for the song creation: “It’s like my political frustration, if people can relate to it that’s cool but I don’t think I aim to make a political anthem. I think a song about Donald Trump and a song about falling in love can be equally as powerful, it’s just about sharing human experience.

Bad Wave may not follow in the footsteps of classic stars in the way they carry themselves but admire them whilst still being cautious of being “too weird”. They are very aware of taking inspiration but dulling it down to appeal to people today: “We definitely listen to a wide pallet of stuff, our sound is cool cos it’s hip and happening right now but it’s not what we want to stay as, we want to experiment, it’s always about a balance of not being too weird but still pushing and challenging listeners and ourselves, which I do think comes from people from the past.” Synth-pop arose from the duller, ominous sounds and transformed into more exciting, fresh synth-pop. It was a time for experimentation in music through elements such as futuristic sounds that were probably considered “weird” at first but people had the guts to try it out.

The pair are rather dissimilar, Tota’s taste favours the singer-songwriter style whilst Hart’s is on the: “weird production side”. The duo believes this contrasting combination is what makes them appeal to a contemporary audience.

Bad Wave have many things left to prove if they want to continue to grow. What they retain in talent and flair, they lack in confidence. The music industry is highly competitive, but as artists you can’t be so open to rolling over to make space for your competitors whilst knocking yourself off the shelf in the process. Bad Wave, you suspect, haven’t yet found that conviction that will keeping them afloat rather than sinking in this competitive music industry.

Fleetingwood Mac @ The Talking Heads 03/02/17

Fleetwood Mac earned their place at rock and roll’s top table in the 1970s, with albums like Rumors and Tusk. They continue to explore new music, releasing original material as recently as 2013 – and older records regularly receive remasters. Evidently, interest in such iconic acts will never burn out – but are tribute bands, playing those stellar hits for significantly smaller crowds, such a good idea?

Enter Fleetingwood Mac, a tribute band exuding a breezy personality, steering clear of any tacky imitation with wigs and fancy dress outfits. Most of the men are sporting loud floral shirts whilst drummer Sean Kennneally adds formality with a waistcoat topped off with a piece of red ribbon around his neck.

Guitarist Paul Carunana leads with the bluesy track ‘Black Magic Woman’ from Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 album titled English Rose. The alluring song is brought back to life with younger vocals while still preserving its ‘60s smoky, rocky quality in the guitar solos.

Attention to detail is noticeable throughout the gig. Lead singer Bethany Raine holds a silver crescent moon shaped tambourine with a delicate piece of black lace attached, subtly hinting at Stevie’s persona rather than copying it.

After some crowd-pleasers including ‘Dreams’ and ‘Isn’t It Midnight’, Raine ushers us forward for the jolly ‘Hold Me’ number, assuring us she doesn’t bite. This track feels incredibly nostalgic with the gentle twinkling lullaby introduction perfected and Raine throws in some Stevie-esque spins and twirls in her witchy, flowy black dress.

Over the rowing crowd, the set changes to a softer tone, ‘Landslide’ is introduced as “Just a little number Stevie Nicks wrote.” Only the lead vocalist and one guitarist fill the stage while the other members turn inward to watch. The first line, “I took my love, I took it down”, comes across with a real rawness, Raine’s voice cracking with emotion.

Fleetingwood Mac remained free from gimmicks and is a prime example of why tribute acts matter, they give those who once loved a band a chance to reminisce and others the chance to discover these bands. Fleetingwood Mac state on their Facebook page: “As much as we aim to create a genuine Fleetwood Mac sound, we can’t help but give it a modern edge, it’s just the way we are.”

 

Interview – Martin James

I am waiting outside former Music Journalist and Solent’s Popular Music Journalism Course Leader Martin James’ office for our 11:30 interview. Half an hour goes by and after shooting my head up from my phone every time I heard footsteps, eventually the face I was waiting for arrives. A flustered Martin comes flying around the corner, in his usual smart-casual attire of jeans dressed up with a tweed blazer. “Sorry my meeting completely overran, come on in.”

James chucks down his bags beside him as he tilts back in his chair. It’s clear the 53 year old Professor has had a long morning.  We are in his third of the office, it screams: “passionate music journalist”. James had worked on the editorial teams of some of the biggest magazines on the market plus also having written several published and critically acclaimed books, including biographies of The Prodigy and Dave Grohl. His corner of the room is cluttered with a colourful array of books and music posters, plus a few random star wars figures on the wall just to add to the chaos.

James grew up in Marlow, a town in the South-East of England. His father was a religious man, “He was going to go into the church as a lay preacher, so hats off to him for not forcing religion down our throats.”

I spot a few proud-parent photographs amongst the music prints on the wall. James tells me he had to quit his job as a freelance journalist when his second child Felix was born. “Music takes up your life, and I know a few people who have managed to balance it quite well, but I’m a bit obsessive”.

Is there anything about Martin James that isn’t already on the internet? “What a horrible question!” he says. “Iggy Pop pissed on me, Goldie punched me, but they’re things people know.” Eventually he tells me his real ambition was to be a fashion designer. “It was the post-punk new romantic time, with people like Boy George and Steve Strange, my best friend used to design all their clothes and I got really interested in fashion at that stage.”

Whilst trying to compete with the chatter of two other lectures with whom he shares an office, he tells me the most embarrassing story of his career. “I’m a feminist, but there’s something quite embarrassing at my own identity when I’m happily sitting in a strip joint with Cypress Hill, Ant and Dec and various other music industry people.”

He seems surprised when I ask him about his worse experience of his career. With a big sigh he says “Eminem.” Then suddenly he gets a call. Are Eminem’s ears burning? He had interviewed Eminem for his first ever UK interview. “I said to him, you don’t like women very much do you? Or is it your character Slim Shady as a misogynist?’ “And he stormed off, ranting about how much he hated the UK.”

For a man whose life has revolved around music since the age of 12 when he and a friend formed a Dr Feel Good covers band. Does he ever get sick of talking about music?

“I still love music, it’s driven me since I was tiny and it still drives me now. Drives me insane sometimes.”

The Magic Gang @ The Old Fire Station 04/02/18

Brighton quartet The Magic Gang, (who are regularly compared to 90s band Weezer) performed at the quirky Old Fire Station in Bournemouth last night.

The band have recently announced a March tour beginning in Birmingham on 22nd March, before calling off in Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Bristol and London. They are also going to be featured on BBC Radio 1 tonight at 7:30pm with Annie Mac with their new single ‘Getting Along’.

The men stroll onto the humble stage, holding out for a hello. After an unrecognisable track to open the show, the second song ‘All This Way’ grabs the crowd and causes a happy sing-song.

After the third song ‘Only Waiting’, from their 2016 EP, the band stop for a short beer break and chat with the audience. (Rhythm guitar and vocals) Jack Kaye asks how everyone is doing and queries if it’s okay that they play a few new songs for us.

The new track, ‘Getting Along’ (that is due to release tomorrow) is slightly heavier than previous releases, still The Magic Gang have managed to find the harmonious balance between rock and pop with a generous splash of soul.

The further into the set they get, it is clear to see they’re not just bandmates, but real mates. They all met when they were 16 or 17, Paeris Giles (drums) and Kristian Smith (lead guitar and vocals) were previously in a two piece band together. The band perform like they’re having the time of their lives, Smith and Kaye regularly chose to share one microphone and and face each other whilst playing, instead of the audience. The giggles and carefree attitude became contagious to the audience.

Succeeding the 8th or 9th song of the night, the band announce that they are going to treat us to some new songs (that haven’t yet been released) and reveal that we are the first crowd to hear them.

After a few new tunes and even more older crowd-pleasers, the band pay their thanks and inform us that the next song will be their last. They sing us out with ‘All That I Want Is You’, pints are no longer kept tight in hands and the youthful mob falls into a frenzy.

Like a lot of shows with loyal fans, when the band finishes the crowd finds it hard to accept. As the men left the stage a “one more song!” chant broke out, usually this tactic is unsuccessful but surprisingly the guys return to the stage, showcasing their loyalty to fans and perform their 2015 hit ‘No Fun’.

The venue (that opened in 1995) feels like the perfect spot for The Magic Gang to perform before setting off for their UK tour. Now living in Brighton, the band are all originally from Bournemouth and host a 90s-like persona (music and style). The Old Fire Station is a modest yet special venue, with its unique architecture and interesting decor, fitting to a band who are humble yet distinctive and captivating.

Princess Nokia – ‘1992 Deluxe’

Princess Nokia, also known as ‘Wavy Spice’ has just released a deluxe version of her 2016 album 1992. Nokia is evidently very fond of the 90s. “Growing up in the 90s was the coolest thing to me.” Says Nokia.

You’d be right in assuming that this is persistent throughout 1992. The first track of the album is ‘Bart Simpson’, an unusual song title that is going to intrigue listeners. The track begins with a delicate twinkle noise that fades into a school bell dissolving into Nokia’s rap. Lyrically it is full of attitude, being mischievous and feminism.  “I really like Marvel ’cause characters look just like me and women don’t have roles that make them look too sexually.” The tone of music could be compared to the likes of Kendrick Lamar, a tepid backing track with assured vocals.

She continues to challenge stereotypes and break down barriers, in ‘Tomboy’ the repetitive bridge “My little titties and my phat belly”. In recent interview with The Guardian, the New Yorker revealed that she was always a misfit – “not a typical clean-cut young lady, always a bit rough around the edges, always a bit messy.” (The Guardian, 2017)

The track ‘Goth Kid’, as the title may suggest, is ever so slightly sinister. It has everything you’d expect from the name, Psycho-esque violin screeches, mentions of Marilyn Manson and she likens herself to Wednesday Adams. The track is influenced by Nokia’s (real name, Destiny Frasqueri) childhood, she had a babysitter when she was younger who she has described as “the coolest person to be near” she remembered “watching her chain-smoke and listen to Rob Zombie.”

The album ends on a more playful note, the highly synthesized ultimate song on the album, ‘Chinese Slippers’ is catchy to say the least, due to chorus’ lyrics previously made famous by Fast Food Rockers years earlier, “Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut
McDonald’s, McDonald’s.”

Overall 1992 gives listeners an intense insight into Nokia’schildhood, from growing up in New York to being in foster care, it is presented with confidence and authenticity.

The Weeknd – ‘Beauty Behind The Madness’

I’m that nigga with the hair singin’ bout poppin’ pills, fuckin’ bitches, livin’ life so trill” insists the Canadian singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye. Beauty Behind The Madness is revealing with a charming honesty, for example the blunt line “I just fucked two bitches ’fore I saw yo ” (‘The Hills’) is fragranced by Tefaye’s angelic voice that keeps women admiring him, elevating him to No 1. By far his biggest album yet, featuring unlikely icons such as Lana Del Rey and Ed Sheeran where he manages to exceed them with his raw, virtually arrogant vocals.