To Bear Sir – Hold Yourself Tight

TBS_RingMasterReview

Hold Yourself Tight is the debut album of To Bear Sir, the solo project of someone who has already, like for so many others, made a major impact on our ears and passions. The creative provocateur constantly stirring up the imagination is Welsh songwriter/vocalist/musician Russell Toomey though you might know him better as the creator/frontman of My Red Cell, Innercity Pirates, and Denim Snakes; three bands which all made a striking impact on the UK underground scene with their individual sounds and characters, each deserving far more attention and success than found.

It is a height of recognition which just might be sparked by To Bear Sir. Each of Toomey’s bands has even with some strains of similarity been wholly unique propositions to each other and indeed any band around them but To Bear Sir is a gulf away from those before it and just as impressive.

Debut album, Hold Yourself Tight reveals bare intimacy not knowingly heard in its creator’s work before, the songs giving greater meaning and echo to the name of the project. The diverse array of tracks and styles breeding its songs come together to create one of the most haunting, emotionally open, and generally irresistible propositions heard. From its first breath, the release bewitches, its heart akin to the listener’s sharing melancholy and despairs mutually known and felt.

Produced by Todd Campbell, Hold Yourself Tight opens up with Mother I’m Sorry. As solemn strings rise to share emotive fingers on ears, that heartrending air is swiftly inescapable, only thickening as a lone guitar strum takes over with its own shadowed melody. Toomey’s distinctive tones soon follow bringing a dark blues haunting and seduction with it reflected in the sounds hugging his presence. Funereal in gait, compelling in regret and touch, the song is sheer melancholic beauty.

art_RingMasterReviewIt is a stunning start quickly matched by Medi-Monster, a slightly livelier affair in energy with brooding shadows to its wiry melodies. Vocals are a wonderfully dispirited incitement, magnetic and mournfully introspective but luring full participation with the song’s almost disturbingly catchy chorus. It is impossible not to get physically and emotionally involved with either of the first pair of proposals or with the albums title track which follows. Its rhythmic shuffle has a touch of Fatboy Slim to it making a kinetic canvas for the dark folk serenade of voice and melody. A blend of contrasting textures, the track seduces hips and thoughts with ease even if not quite matching up to the lofty heights of its predecessors.

The new single from To Bear Sir is next, a song which could not be a better teaser for project and album if it tried. The Begging Ends Here is superb, rhythmically shamanic whilst cinematically and indeed emotionally so dark that it throbs with drama. It’s predominantly minimalistic body is enriched by flames of guitar with Toomey’s earnest croon inciting greater intensity in the heart and raw rock ‘n’ roll of the song. People are rightfully drooling about the new ex-Reuben frontman Jamie Lenman’s new single Mississippi, a song actually in similar vein to The Begging Ends Here and just as stirring and thrilling is Toomey’s essential treat.

Strings again lay their suggestive hands on ears as the sorrowful, hope searching Too Late closes in next, its sentiment and sad grace raw potency. It is an essence intensified even more in Loves That One Thing, an emotional incitement of voice and piano trespassing on personal truth and fresh wounds.

The Walk has a low key country scented breath next, a flavour bring new hues to another increasingly alluring mourn and disquieting charm whose persuasive elements conjure 3 Years to similarly enjoyable heights with keys and voice once more an enticing union as darker hues cradle their engaging solemnity. Each of the two pulls ears and thoughts into their world before the bluesy dance of It’s Not Over Until I Say So makes its energetic play. It is a track which did not initially convince as fully as others within the album, though its bursts of scuzzy delta blues guitar quickly had the appetite licking its lips, but lingered maybe more than most to persistently tempt and subsequently seduce.

Hold Yourself Tight is closed by the rueful yet accepting and occasionally hopeful Dream, a captivation echoing the heart of the album in its brief absorbing minutes. There were certain expectations waiting for this album because of past triumphs and not one of them was fed. To Bear Sir is a whole new unique adventure from Russell Toomey, a bold and personal one which is really rather special and deserves your intrigue at the very least.

Hold Yourself Tight will be released the first week of May.

 

Upcoming live dates:

20th of April – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff with Palace and Willie J Healey

3rd of May – Riverside Tavern, Newport

10th of May – The Monarch, Camden

https://www.facebook.com/tobearsir/

Pete RingMaster 04/03/2017

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Denim Snakes – Self Titled

Denim Snakes

Rock ‘n’ roll obviously comes with constant variety of unique riotous tendencies, and each twist of rock music has a pioneer and driving force which recruits equally impressing cohorts to their direction within the expansive scene. There are few bands though which manages to weave a tapestry from a healthy scoop of all that vast flavouring which is something new and in itself wholly individual. Step forward Welsh rockers Denim Snakes and their debut self-titled album. It roars rock ‘n’ roll with every note, syllable, and second of its resourceful stomp. It makes no demands, has no delusions of grandeur, but instead rampages through ears into the passions with a fresh sound which recalls and revitalises essences which have ignited a million hearts and inspired just as many imaginations.

For a debut the album is irresistibly impressive and striking, though maybe that really should be no surprise as Denim Snakes is led by vocalist/guitarist Russell Toomey. The former frontman of the criminally ignored sonic punks My Red Cell and the inexcusably overlooked garage punks Innercity Pirates, Toomey has a knack of twisting songs into insatiable predators of the psyche whilst leaving a lingering temptation others can only dream of in their music. His new band as evidenced by their first full-length is no different in that ability, songwriting as expressive and intrusively seductive as ever, and an instinctive rock ‘n’ roll ravaging.

Formed in 2013, the Barry quartet of guitarist Jake Ellis-Scott, bassist Matt Clarke, and drummer/backing vocalist Tom Hall alongside Toomey, soon explored and whipped up a sound to ignites ears and imagination, first single 21 earlier this year the proof of something exciting brewing from the depths of the “ghost-town pleasure park” from where he band emerged. It sparked an exploratory interest and appetite for the band which second single The Guard in September soon ignited again. Now the band’s debut album is primed to wake-up the nation and such its potency and sheer thrilling adventure there will be calls of a conspiracy at play if Denim Snakes is allowed to slip away as those previous bands mentioned.

The release opens with The Guard, bulging beats lighting up ears before a raw blaze of riffs and a throaty bassline joins the emerging rugged sonic dance. In no time the song is leading body and emotions on a virulent stroll, Ramones bred Denim Snakes coverhooks and grooves flirting with the passions as the distinctive tones of Toomey’s voice similarly and mischievously colours the contagion. A healthy whiff of garage rock and surf pop is brought into the mix of what is insatiable pop punk of the old school kind, whilst a classic rock spicing clasps the solo and melodic enterprise of the sensational opener.

The band’s first single 21 is next and instantly provides a different creative hue to the release. With a caress of harmonica leading to more melodic scenery vocally and musically, the song sways with folk rock glazed adventure. It is just as catchy as its predecessor, though it has a gentle presence and persuasion which at times is part Weezer and part Late Cambrian, and whilst it does not set a fire in feet and instincts as the previous protagonist, the song emerges as a warm and increasingly tempting offering showing why it made such a strong impression earlier in 2014.

The following It’ll Be Alright also moves with a mellow and breezy charm, though there is a devilry which is never far from its surface. It also finds a forceful prowl in the bass and beats which come more to the fore leading to and in the anthemic chorus, it adding a muscular spirit to another unique slice of melodic pop. In its reserved passages there is a definite Kinks influence which instantly sparks the imagination into greater life whilst it’s punchier exploits rings of Innercity Pirates, though that was always inevitable at some point. It too is a slow burner which grows into something formidable and addictive, the opposite on offer next with Party Hard. This is a song wasting no time in gentle persuasion, instead swiftly gripping ears and thoughts with spicy chords and hungry rhythms before venturing into a hook laden lure of busy riffs and vocal revelry. My Red Cell toxicity teases throughout the song to further colour the fiery rock ‘n’ roll canter, but as across the album though you can pick out similarity of previous exploits, song and album is something openly new.

From the lofty heights of the song, Denim Snakes take another step up in temptation and brilliance with The Runaways. Sinews flex in every aspect of the track from the first breath, riffs imposing and rhythms cantankerous as Turbonegro like punk causticity initially smothers ears. The track is soon exploring its infection drenched melodic side too though, another ridiculously contagious proposition leaping at the passions as riveting twists of guitar and rhythmic endeavour toys with the imagination. A core of hard rock drives the explosively enjoyable encounter, another slither of rock ‘n’ roll variety exploited for something enthrallingly new before the pair of She’s A Woman and Making Money step forward. The first of the two stalks the senses and thoughts straight away, a dark and heavy footed bassline aligned to jabbing beats challenging ears before the effect spiced vocals of Toomey lay their predacious tempting in the web of intrigue. A classic rock breeding smoulders throughout the sultry drama of the song but yet again flavouring is varied and fluid as it almost growls with impressive potency before its successor brings out the big guns in predatory riffs and thumping beats as blues grooving spreads through classic rock devilment. Though not a favourite amongst the pack on the album, the song increasingly convinces and is a sure fire appetite pleaser for fans of bands such as Aerosmith and Alice Cooper.

Don’t You Want Me finds seeds in similar beds but only to lay a canvas for the blues and acidic flames of enterprise erupting over it. Electric Woodland meets My Red Cell meets The Stooges; the track roars and raucously simmers with sonic ingenuity and incendiary expression. It is a fire of anthemic seduction inducing another wave of greedy hunger for the album, which the raunchy tone and energy of Happiness has boiling over with its maelstrom of classic, hard, and punk rock. The song also finds room to drift into a hazy melodic landscape of rock pop, unpredictability as prevalent as imagination and mischief.

Closing with the similarly bred but openly distinct Sex, Denim Snakes has uncaged a slab of rock ‘n’ roll which manages to provide something for everyone in each individual song without leaving one overwhelmed by the intensive brew. The final song is a salacious temptress which simply sums up the whole of the outstanding album. Fans of Russell Toomey’s past works will maybe not be surprised at the craft and invention running over in Denim Snakes but there is no denying the band has tapped into a new depth and maturity in songwriting and sound which is matched by the impressive qualities and imagination of its members. Quite simply it is a must have release for all rock ‘n’ roll fans.

Denim Snakes is available now @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/denim-snakes/id835921265

http://www.denimsnakes.co.uk

RingMaster 26/10.2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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Zebras: Self Titled

Zebras

Though it came out midway through 2012 the self-titled album from sonic manipulators Zebras quite simply is an album you need to know about and hear. If like us you are just becoming aware of the band  then see this as the key to infernal rapture and if you already know the magnificence of the release than sit there nodding knowingly as we drool all over this review of one of the mightiest releases of last year.

Formed in 2007, the band from Madison consists of guitarist and vocalist Vincent Presley and synth player Lacey Smith as well as across its years featuring a mix of drummers. Musically the band is wonderfully indescribable merging the insidious aspects of punk, noise rock, post punk, doom, and industrial to name a few spices to their unique sonic infestation. Following on from their EP Parasitic Clones Under The Strong Arm Of The Robotic Machine, the new album is a two sided beast which consists of tracks recorded in 2011 on first side Impending Doom, with drummer Shane Hochstetler of Milwaukee band Call Me Lighting, and on the The Fate of a World Plagued By Soulless Shits side, tracks recorded in 2009 with Shawn Pierce on drums. The release is a breath taking collection of songs which shows the move in sound across the two years covered by the band and the giver of the richest rewards and pleasure.

The first quintet of tracks are those recorded in 2011 and are opened by the towering presence of The Dying Sea. Opening with coverthunderous beats and caustic guitar rubs the song is a brooding doomy weight loaded with the insidious tones of Presley. It is a venomous bruising encounter with a sludge thick energy which sucks the wind from the lungs and hope from the senses before later flailing the carcass with serpentine sonic lashings.

The stunning start is soon left in the wake of Mighty Bayonet, a snarling ravenous rampage of bulbous rhythms, harsh corrosive electronics, and psyche twisting riffs and guitar abrasion. It is a sprawling acidic aural licking with the vocals, a perpetual psychotic mix of Jello Biafra and Russell Toomey of Innercity Pirates/My Red Cell, a malevolent siren within the brief incessant furnace of intensity. In contrast the following Queeny Gloom Doom is a doom provoked arctic wrap of post punk discord bringing elements of Joy Division and Xmal Deutschland into the antagonistic dance of Alien Sex Fiend or Sex Gang Children. As compelling as it is exhausting the song is a darkly shadowed crawl over the senses and emotions with a deviant sexual whisper to its intimidating breath.

A Turd By Any Other Name and Black Cancer close off the first part of the release, both ingenious brawls of sonic intrusion and imaginative violence. The first is a tower of again greedy energy which rages like a hungry fire across the ear whilst the keys of Smith shoot flares of sonic irreverence and flesh spearing melodic weaponry out from within the engrossing wall of heavy aural malice. The other is a punk soaked slice of infection, a ferocious distorted mix of Dead Kennedys, Buzzcocks, and The Pixies which leaves a drooling grin on face and heart, though to be fair all the tracks on the album do achieve that with ease.

Stepping back a little in the evolution of the band the remaining sextet of songs are those from two years before the previous ones, not that you would know it in regard to quality and excellence. As soon as the best track on the release Field-Noise sets off its sonic alarm and the rampant thumping rhythms assault the ear the strongest rapture is fully engaged. Early Killing Joke fused with Mad Capsule Markets, The Melvins, and again Alien Sex Fiend, is the best way to describe the genius at play here, a moment of sheer brilliance and the best song heard in a long time.

Things are just as stunning through the songs Diablo Bianco with its blood thirsty rhythms and scattergun riffs, The Dirty Dice and its viral melodic wantonness and its devilishly discordant hooks, and Tension. The third of these is an acidulous burn of spiky vocals and sonics within a bedlamic presence of manic invention and sinister energy, oh and quite brilliant. The now entrenched treacherously seductive splendour is continued by the equally sensational Wiener Kids and the closing glory of The Serpent & The Pig, the former a riotous ball of mischief which incorporates all the goodness of Pere Ubu, early XTC, and Cardiacs in a twisted embrace and the latter an invidious bitch slap of bedlamic invention and tribal instinctiveness through the thoughts of one wicked set of minds.

It is the stunning end to a sensational album and one can only drool over what will come next from the band. Zebras have grabbed album of the year honours for 2012 with ease and the hearts of The Ringmaster Review.

Find out why by listening to future podcasts of The Bone Orchard.

http://zebras.bandcamp.com/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Zebras/143884414675

RingMaster 03/01/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

 

Darwin And The Dinosaur: Romulus

Darwin and the Dinosaur

A teasing and provocative dance for the ear, Romulus the new EP from UK indie conjurors Darwin and the Dinosaur is a tingly magnetic treat which leaves one smouldering in contentment. It is not necessarily the most immediate of pleasures, though has no weakness in persuading a willing acceptance of the good time it offers, but one which leads one back into its melodic arms far more constantly than other releases over reliant on easy lazy hooks.

Formed in 2008, the Norwich quintet of has earned a strong adoring following and firm acclaim through their sounds, shows, and previous releases including their debut album and a pair of EPs, the last self-titled quartet of songs from September of last year taking the praise and recognition for the band to greater heights. Romulus is set to elevate things further with its seven incisive sharply crafted gems and take Alan Hiom (bass/vocals), Alex Ware (guitar/vocals), Ben Piper (guitar/vocals), Steve Larke (guitar/vocals) and Joe Mears (drums), to a new level of deserved recognition.

Musically the band forge a melodic post punk and alternative rock fuelled sound with eighties whispers and sonic tinkering which is darwinandthedinosaurs-300x300compelling and absorbing. It teeters between the more psyche sounds of bands like We Are The Physics and Innercity Pirates and the subtler tender caresses of a Radio Friendlies or Young The Giant, dipping toes in both wells with accomplished craft and skilled expression. As soon as opening track Mow Mow lies down a canvas of jangly guitars with shaped emotive tones, attention is keen to delve deeper especially as the following eager and jabbing rhythms bring another level of potency to the track. Not for the first time on the EP, the bass of Hiom is a stirring and irresistible lure alongside his own plain but compellingly expressive vocals backed by strong group harmonies. It is not a song which makes an instant anthemic companion but one which lingers and coaxes strong attraction to its stylish charms.

The following Liebe holds a similar gait with an additional gentle wind in its sails and enchanting breath to its emotive whispers. There is always a steely spine to the songs of the band though which within this track holds a firm direction to allow the sonic tenderness and reserved swagger to wrap around with skilled invention. Neither of the first two songs offers startling hooks to hang the memory on but both make for engaging and impacting companions within their presence.

October enters on a melodic swing accompanied by again great infectious basslines and rapping rhythms. As the track continues into its hearty depths, senses picking guitars add a teasing spicery to the stance of the song whilst the vocals and harmonies continue to bring a captivation throughout. It is a rich mixture which for personal tastes only lacks a snarl to match some of the suggested punk airs across the song. The track is one of the brighter sparks on the release which reflects almost negatively on its successor Stupid Is As Stupid Does, a song which in the shadow of the first three lacks a strong voice; despite that it is still a brief slice of fiery emotion and refined craft which makes for an enjoyable time.

The release leaves its greatest moments to the latter half of its stay starting with the thirty second growl of the pop punk bruise Lady Die.  The track has the bite which one is searching for elsewhere and just ignites those old punk passions whilst weaving lashes of melodic pop to make a tasty brew.  F**K You And The Horse You Rode In On continues in the same vein though with a full body to its creative intent. It recalls elements of the Television Personalities with its self-deprecation and uncluttered expanse of sound and again pulls a greater adoration its way than in the earlier songs.

Closing with 16s, a punchy sizzling stretch of incisive energy and flaming imagination, and the best track on the EP such its combative attitude and powerful presence of smouldering melodic flames, Romulus is an impressive release which places Darwin and the Dinosaur as one of the more promising indie bands in the UK. Not quite flawless but wholly enthralling, Romulus is a first marker for 2013 for bands to aim for.

https://www.facebook.com/darwinandthedinosaur

RingMaster 12/12/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Spineless Yes Men – Better Side of the Bar EP

Formed in 2009, UK rock band Spineless Yes Men has grown with their vibrant imaginative sound into one of the emerging bands ready to explode into national recognition. A fusion of rock and punk with refined melodic veins, their sound has captured the affections of an ever growing legion of fans and with their latest EP Better Side of the Bar, the band is poised to engage imaginations far and wide.

The line-up of vocalist Tommy Towers, guitarists Chris Doughty and Chris Keats, bassist Jack Doughty, and Bernie O’Reilly on drums, have raised their bar over the past six months, the band playing a flurry of headline shows around London and sharing stages alongside the likes of MxPx, Nothington, Our Time Down Here and Apologies, I Have None. April of this year saw them enter Animal Farm Studios to record Better Side of the Bar, a release consisting of three dramatic and mischievous songs which engage the heart and invigorate energies.

The release starts off with the band anthem Poem, Poem, the fan favourite which has become the aural signature of the band. Re-recorded for the release the song instantly charms the ear with its knocking rhythms, tingling chords and the expressive vocals of Towers. The song lingers in its initial restrained yet compulsive gait, creating a building presence before stretching into its full stride and igniting the passions through surging riffs, attention grabbing beats, and the wonderful moody bass sounds of Doughty. The middle of the song fires up a sizzling blues tinged breath from the guitars to throw flames across the ceiling of the song. Boisterously infectious and openly urgent the song pushes inviting choruses and fiery melodic plumes through the ear. It is irresistible, so much so that if you manage to resist joining in someone would be checking your pulse for life.

The other two songs on the EP are brand new and further show the expressive songwriting and inventive craft of the band. Dickens Would Have Made You A Gentleman stomps through the ear with a fresh punk energy and rock n roll contagious passion. There is a swagger to the guitars and again an expressive flourish to the tones of Towers which invites participation. As catchy as its predecessor, the song is a pulsating slab of punk n roll perfectly defined and shaped. The band again expand the song with inventive diversions and smart layers of harmonies and melodically driven aural winks to make it all unpredictable and thoroughly contagious.

The closing Raindrop Shadows is a beefier price of rock which holds back on the infectious intent to bring a more inciteful and muscular presence which evokes slightly different but equally positive responses. Whereas the first two songs have a Innercity Pirates and Max Raptor roguish quality this track is a smouldering almost bruising piece of rock with elements which has essences of a Social Distortion or New Found Glory spicing the original Spineless Yes Men sound.

Better Side of the Bar is a great introduction to Spineless Yes Men and one can only expect it to be the spark to the beginning of greater things from and for the band ahead. We for one will be watching very closely.

https://www.facebook.com/SpinelessYesMen

RingMaster 08/10/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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The Winter Olympics – Profit & Loss

With a name like The Winter Olympics you cannot escape thinking they might be another tepid and pale band to place alongside the likes of Coldplay and Snow Patrol, another band with dulled embers in their belly from an extinguished fire. A big mistake as their new album Profit & Loss shows. The quintet from London is one of the most exciting bands to emerge into view, the band having earned its destined success through years of determination and hard work, and their album a stunning and thrilling maelstrom of imagination, ingenuity, and heart energising pleasure.

The Winter Olympics create a storming riot of melodic punk n roll, though that is simplifying it. With strains of electro dance, post punk, and melodic rock as virulent as the eighties breath and insatiable energy which drives the band, their sound is unpredictable and inspiring rock n roll at its very best. Consisting of Martin Bowman (guitars), Andrew Wagstaff (vocals), Simon Oldham (drums), Neil Mackay (bass), and Agatha Mlynarczyk (keys), the band have released through Freakscene Records, an album in Profit and Loss which demands and receives nothing less than enthused attention.

Within seconds opener Regional Showcase rubs the ear firmly with coarse riffs and an instantly addictive post punk groove. That Joy Division tease is irresistible as it leads one into a fist pumping chorus with the melodic disdain of Pulp and punk arrogance of Max Raptor. It is a staggering ride which you can only leap on board with, coat tails flying in the urgency. The belligerent bass of Mackay glares throughout the song whilst the guitars dip into a Sisters Of mercy like stance before exploding again into an anthemic and rampant tempest of sounds, energy, and sheer pleasure.

I Prefer The Early Stuff opens with a churning clutch of riffs which have an early Undertones gripe to their approach before again expanding into an abrasive and completely compelling assault. The song soon employs classy melodic teases for a pop punk glow alongside the still intimidating under current, the mix another impressive and delicious slice of invention. An early single from the band, the song tells you all you need to know about them, their vision and ability, with the album as a whole further showing the quality of variation within their songwriting.

Latest single Fags and Girls once more takes a different tact, its sizzling electro weave underpinning the harsher tones and excellent harmonies from Wagstaff, an impressive vocalist throughout, and Mlynarczyk. It is a song to only light the touch paper to greater ardour towards the release which successor This is The Fourth Time (I Have Been In Your House) only stokes further. With a stern probing bassline the song entangles post punk whispers with burning guitars thrusts and punk attitude, the defensive angst and lustful loss of control lyrically and musically, wringing of the same mischief pool as Innercity Pirates. As the song ends with the addition of large melodically and sonically bold keys added to the already magnificent mix there is nothing to deny it taking best of honours on the album.

The electro based stompers They Launched A Probe and Attention All Departments both leave a breathless heart in their wake, the first a gentler but feisty romp whilst the second has elements of The Thompson Twins tied to the manic energy Baddies rushing through its presence, though with all these comparisons it must be noted the spices only flavour something quite original.

Further songs such as the electro pop I Miss The Nineties and A Prize Every Day keep things on a more subdued but equally satisfying stature whilst the closing pair of Feeling European and especially the thumping last track Heavy Metal Ending, ensure the album ends on lingering brawls of invention and energy.

Profit & Loss is a sensational release and thrusts The Winter Olympics to the fore of imaginative and innovative UK indie rock. We lost Baddies this year but this band easily feels the gap and more.

http://www.facebook.com/winterolympicsband

RingMaster 01/10/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Interview with Chris Aylett and Sam Nicholls of Scholars

The end of February saw the release of a single which with an eagerness and energy most bands flounder for immediately installed its creators as a band to swiftly check out and as ones to watch very closely. The band in question was UK rock band Scholars and their single Bad For Business a song which mesmerises whilst firing up the instinct to have fun and express oneself.  We had the pleasure to find out more about the band and their music withy the chance to talk to bassist Chris Aylett and vocalist Sam Nicholls.

Hi gentlemen and welcome to The Ringmaster Review.

For many you have just burst into view so could you please introduce and give a history to the band and its members?

Chris: In a nutshell we’re a 5 piece rock band from Hemel Hempstead. We’ve been together for about 5 years now. Myself and Mike (drums) have always played in the same bands, since we were 11 years old – incidentally our first band was fronted by Frank Carter of Gallows and now Pure Love fame. Tom and Sam knew each other from school and both played in bands of good local repute. We were a 4 piece until last February, when the second guitarist we’d been searching for years finally appeared, in the form of Mr Cal Owen. We’ve recorded and released a lot of demos and we’ve just now reached the point where we’re happy we’ve got enough quality material to record our first album. How would you describe your sound again for newcomers to the band?

How would you describe your sound again for newcomers to the band?

Sam: I think we probably span a couple of different genres and we do try to blend a bit of everything that we enjoy. It’s mainly an alt rock basis but the songs are structured like pop and they’re high energy and often a little pissed off like punk rock. It’s a bit of a frankensound.

What are the influences which have shaped your sound inside and outside of music?

Chris: Musically, our starting point has always been balls-out rock and emo, bands like At The Drive In, Hundred Reasons and Million Dead. You can add to that your classic ‘indie’ bands like The Smiths, The Cure and Tears For Fears – really strong songwriting which pushed the envelope lyrically and musically. You don’t seem to get many bands these days that manage to combine mainstream appeal with genuine musical innovation. More recently we’ve started getting into more electronic music – LFO, Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus – which is starting to have a bit of an effect on our sound.

Where does the band name come from and does it reflect you as musicians?

Chris: I wish there was an interesting story behind the name but there really isn’t. When we started out we had a different singer and me and him threw a few names around based on what we liked the sound of. Scholars stuck. Does it reflect us as musicians? Loosely at best I think!

Hemel Hempstead is your home town, is it a big inspiration for you and does it have a healthy music scene for a relatively small place compared to a city?

Sam: There used to be a really healthy music scene in our town when I was a teenager. I used to go to our local arts centre every weekend to watch local bands. But now they’ve closed down almost all the decent places to play, it’s harder for kids to get into rock music in our town. We’ve actually put on some of our own shows in the past and we hope to do so in the future. They’re always a bit success because everyone is crying out for live music in our town.

Having recently reviewed your fantastic new single Bad For Business, we reflected that though unique you are in the similar high energy and infectious camp alongside the likes of Max Raptor, Innercity Pirates and Baddies, is this comparison you can see yourselves?

Sam: Well having played with and been blown away by both Max Raptor and Baddies, I couldn’t be more flattered by that! They’re very different bands but we certainly do have some overlap with them. Even if it’s just how much we love ‘going off’ properly onstage.

Your first single Tornadoes and Fractures was another great track. How do you feel you have evolved as songwriters from the bands beginnings to the new release though it is actually a relatively short time?

Chris: We’ve definitely refined the process. We used to spend hours upon hours tweaking one song only to realise after several weeks that what we had to start with wasn’t great and we were effectively polishing a turd. We listen back to demos of old and realise how overcomplicated they were – we’d throw in every good idea we had. I think we’ve finally learned that less is more. A shout out must go to our manager Mark who helped show us the way; you can’t overestimate the value of an informed outside perspective.

How does the songwriting process happen within Scholars?

Chris: It’s varied over the years. We used to jam together and see what happened, and although that yielded some good results they were a long time coming. These days we each bring semi-formed ideas to the table and ruthlessly go through them, picking out the choicest morsels to develop. In honesty, we now find that if the bulk of a song hasn’t come together within one rehearsal, it’s not likely to happen. Bad For Business came from one riff and was written in about 20 minutes at the end of a rehearsal, for example.

There seems to be a definite thought given to the visual content of Scholars as well as the music it seems, as with the sleeve design for Tornadoes and Fractures and I believe I read you co-ordinate but vary the colours you wear on stage? Is this just extra fun for you or does it have a deeper importance to the band?

Sam: I think it all comes from a desire to be a little unusual and it just has to feel right to us rather than having any specific significance. We used to actually dress ‘colour coded’ onstage but it felt a bit Power Rangers so it’s more subtle now. The whole team have input on how everything looks and it was actually guitarist Tom who came up with the idea for the origami sleeve for Tornadoes. He brought a prototype to rehearsal and it was just clearly the way to go.

What does a Scholars show offer fans, are they as high energy as your singles so far have suggested?

Chris: High energy is pretty accurate, we’ve always gone for it live. We quite like people to think that we’re slightly unhinged and that anything could happen. I think some bands forget that when they play a show, the audience are also watching what they’re doing and that’s 50% of the entertainment. It’s actually a bit arrogant to think that your music is so special and mind blowing that you just need to stand around performing it and that’s enough for 30 minutes. Basically, people are overwhelmed with entertainment options these days and unless you’re Sigur Ros you’ve got to do something a bit special to stop people playing Angry Birds while you’re on stage.

More and more bands seem to want to recreate a live sound close to their recordings rather than the other way round these days but I get the impression you guys just go for it in your gigs, it is about having and giving a fun time and show primarily for you?.

Sam: I don’t know exactly how it started but we discovered somewhere along the line that putting everything into your live show just feels really good and I’ve honestly never felt more right with the world than when we’re playing live and really nailing it. It just feels like that’s what I was born to do. So there would really be no point in us meticulously crafting and polishing songs on record and then struggling to play them exactly the same note-for-note live. It’d lose all its appeal for me. I’d rather go the other way around and try to bottle the sound of the live show when we record. It’s a challenge though!

You have shared stages with the likes of Hundred Reasons, The Computers, The Xcerts, Don Brocco and Gay For Johnny Depp, any gigs that have stood out or been a highlight so far?

Sam: Certainly the last night of HR in Nottingham for me, but mainly because I got to do guest vocals on ‘If I Could’ (my teenage self would never have believed you if you’d told him that was going to happen). The whole Don Broco tour was a huge laugh. Shows with the Gays and The Computers are always great but also hard work because they’re ferociously good live bands. We have to seriously step it up so as to not be eclipsed by their madness.

And any you would rather were lost from the memory?

Chris: Yep! We’ve had a handful of absolute shitstorms. We did a round trip of nearly 10 hours in a hired van to do a festival only to have the event shut down seconds before we were about to start playing – we’d set up and were ready to go. On another occasion we had a row with a pissed up soundman whose wife threatened to knock Sam’s block off. In a way the terrible experiences strengthen the bond between you and make the good shows all the better so we tend to laugh them off.

Do you have a focused direction for Scholars in music and sound ahead or do you just let things evolve organically?

Sam: It would be difficult to try and have a solid plan for our sound I think. We’re always trying new things so it’s always changing but we’re also quite good at reining it in, I don’t think we’ll accidentally end up as a funk band or anything.

Is there an album on the horizon, or more singles first?

Chris: There is indeed an album on the way – we’ll be in the studio in April. We’ve got plans for a few singles leading up to it too.

As still a young and upcoming band how hard do you find it to get strong gigs that will elevate your stature compared to those that are great but at a level you have played for a while?

Sam: Well we’re really grateful for all the help and support and great opportunities we receive at the moment. Shows are rarely disappointing for us even if they aren’t necessarily stadium support tours and main stage festival slots. The big break for us would be to get out on tour in support of someone awesome. I’d just like to let Biffy Clyro know that if they’re ever short of an opening act… well y’know.

What is next for the band over the coming weeks?

Chris: We’re filming another video in the next couple of weeks…we’ve got a crazy idea for it and it should be a mental couple of days. Otherwise we’re going to be getting our heads down finishing off songs for the album and starting pre-production.

Many thanks for taking time to chat with us, good luck with your excellent single.

Would you like to end with words for the world?

Sam: Thanks very much. As a wise man once said… Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’.

Oh and lastly how about a dark shameful secret about another band member?

Chris: I’ve been racking my brains for about half an hour and I can’t really think of anything. We’ve all listened to some dodgy bands and had dodgy haircuts in our time but that’s all par for the course. I can give you an interesting fact – Tom (our guitarist, also responsible for recording many of our demos) works for Jeff Wayne of ‘War of the Worlds’ fame and has in his time recorded artists as diverse as Dani Filth and Rhydian off X Factor.

The RingMaster Review 05/03/2012

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Swound!: Into The Sea

Missing some fun and mischief in your music? Do not worry as UK rock band Swound! is back to fill the gap with their second album Into The Sea. Full of whimsy, delight, and infectious tunes the album is a strongly enjoyable romp to put a smile on any sour face. The four Staszkiewicz brothers originally from the Isle of Man follow up their debut Hello Future Our Name Is Swound with a release that refreshes and reminds us that music should be fun and simple, an uncomplicated pleasure and a wicked tease for the senses which only the likes of Baddies and Innercity Pirates along with Swound! seem to have kept in their creative arsenal.

     Into The Sea is a thoroughly engaging and pleasing frisk of the senses though there are a couple of things that have to be said just to balance the unbridled eager words to follow. The album shows the continuation of the maturity to the bands songwriting first indicated with the previous single Predator 3. What has seemingly happened though is either the band has moved on from or forgotten the distinctly quirky and imaginative ideas that frequented previous releases. The unpredictability and downright eccentricities to their songs has been tempered into almost expulsion by the growth of their writing skills. You will not find the spectacular diversions within a Bust-A-Move, Whats Your Poison or We Are A Danger among the songs on the new album and as great as the new material is this lack of inventiveness does leave a tinge of disappointment. This change has also left a kind of similarity across the album, a singular pace and structure that is not as varied as one would have expected, but for all of that the album is simply great and destined to be a constant on ours and many others daily playlist.

The band release the album on their own The Grelmin Corporation label with sounds that reflect the quartets influence and love of the likes of Weezer, Nirvana and other nineties guitar bands. Self produced and mixed by Chris Sheldon the release leaps into the ear like an eager child, excitable and bursting with temptation. The album takes first breath with the excellent Your Kids Are Gonna Love It, with punchy drums from Lloyd and prowling bass from Tom to the fore. A Buzzcocks like hook adds to the fun as vocalist Joe begins the songs announcement and alongside Rowan their combined guitars jangle warmly as the rhythms continue to ignite ones inner beat. The influence of the previously mentioned Manchester band continues with a melody right out of Everybody’s Happy Nowadays to complete a vibrant and hypnotic opener.

As songs like the rock flavoured Big Trouble, the current single In My Head with another delicious grouchy bass manipulation from Tom and a chorus with more infection than the common cold, and the definite Weezer toned If Only I Could, ride the ear with a impish glint helping the album feel like one is going out with old friends, destined silliness and unbridled fun guaranteed.

The centre of the album holds the best songs starting with the grunge lined swagger of Everybody Hates Her. It is actually almost on the reserved side with the band utilising a simple and uncluttered approach to build a compulsive song which if you are not drawn into participation by mid way the recommendation is to check your wrist for a pulse. Within a couple of songs the punk spiced Oh No! erupts with a Ramones like crash of guitars spaced by voracious melodies and hungry bass groans. Though the song never explodes into life it has an appetite to rile up the senses and does just that by its end. The third song is the best on the album. Ghosts rumbles and strolls along with a swagger and attitude that is irresistible. It taunts and skirts around the ear before taking hold to spring wonderful hooks, insatiable rhythms and sheer warm pleasure.

With the likes of the catchy Physics Makes Us Strong and the Smokey Bastard like folk fun of Mean People Suck adding to the album, Into The Sea is a wholly appetising treat to relish and sure to put a grin on your face far beyond its actual stay. Their sound may have changed a little but the pleasure and satisfaction they give is just as endearing and thorough.

RingMaster 01/03/2012

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Johnny Get The Gun – Never Far From What We Know EP

Recently Essex rock/pop punk band Johnny Get The Gun released their new single containing two tracks that came from their Never Far From What We Know EP released earlier in the year. Because of the quality and overwhelming infectiousness of all songs concerned we are going to look at the EP to kill both birds with one review. In a year that has seen the glorious rise of rock lined pop punk infused with additive melodies, incessant riffs, mesmeric hooks, and sing-a-long choruses with the likes of Top Buzzer, Innercity Pirates and Max Raptor, the quartet of Johnny Get The Gun stand to the fore with music that gives something extra not only to the ear but the day, their sounds igniting impulses and the heart.

The band started in 2007 instantly gathering eager support and acclaim for their energetic and impressive live shows and even greater attention once their 2010 self-titled mini album and this EP unveiled their charms to a wider array of ears. With an album in the pipeline it is only a matter of time before the band explodes in to a bigger arena and further infatuation from a swelling mass of new fans.

The EP starts as it means to go on, revealing songs of anthemic ease, beckoning hooks, and compulsive melodies all wrapped in an eagerness and originality that cleverly is fresh and at the same time recognisable, like unknown friends turning up to brighten the day. Good As It Gets strolls in on a confident beat and throbbing bassline backing the instantly magnetic vocals of Wayne Lightowler  before exploding into a furnace of passionate riffs and emotive energy. As he proves throughout the release Lightowler is a stunning vocalist that employs and delivers all the emotion of the lyrics and energy of the music with stunning effect. The song is pop punk at its finest, a track that pulls one in eagerly to become part of and join in with the addictive chorus.

Hills & Knives takes over with a less instantaneous pull but as equal in quality and engagement. The guitar of Jack Lawson less crazed but more soulful and sensitively creative lies well amongst more great basslines from Joe Williams and the ever strong and powerful drums of Jamie Abela, the drummer able to play with unbridled aggression or a more delicate attack with equal skill and ability. The song is an impressively structured piece of songwriting with again Lightowler and his vocals taking a great track up a level, his voice finishing off a fine song with a glorious topping of emotive attachment.

Third track Lead Hearts follows on with more passion preferred over a direct punk attack though with driven riffs and enthusiastic energy it rumbles with a deliberate intent to excite the ear. The change of pace within it is smooth and as touching as the vocals, both switching seamlessly from stoked energy and back again to end on a stirring climax.

The final two tracks are the ones that make up their glorious recent single. In The Middle is a deceiving track, it reels the listener in with more infectious hooks and sweet sounding melodies that accumulate in another greedy siren like coaxing of the senses. What it does not make clear despite its delicious sound is how it will stay and linger long after it finishes, days in fact, the chorus and melodies repeatedly playing in the head to open the day and end its light. With a mix of Jimmy Eat World and Dommin sound wise the song is a triumph, a success similarly attained by closing song Take It.

Dynamic and consuming the track is not afraid to openly show its intentions to tease and entertain. With a voracious appetite the crashing and frenetic guitars uncork their pumped urgency as each member leaves nothing in their creative tank. The song is a non-stop burst of energy that leaves one spent by its end though the band do help out with a melodic respite for the listener to take a deep breath before the explosive ending.

Johnny Get The Gun makes music that flaunts its addictive melodic wares wantonly whilst inviting investigation of its deeper creative veins, the band melodic puppeteers of the finest nature. With their album planned for release early 2012 now is the time to sample their contagious pop punk sounds.

RingMaster 17/10/2011

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