Tuesday, 23 December 2008

New Found Glory - 'Listen to Your Friend' single review

New Found Glory's more recent material (mainly Catalyst and Coming Home) hasn't been bad, but it's been different and has turned a lot of fans away from them. However, 'Listen to Your Friends' could easily bring those fans back. Even though these guys have been together for ten years now and are definitely no longer the youngsters they once were, this song is full of all the teenage-angst that made us love their early material, especially fan-favourite, 'My Friends Over You'. While it is less punk rock than New Found Glory used to be, their pop punk side shines through and makes this one of the most catchy tunes of 2008. 'Listen to Your Friends' gives great hope for their new album, 'Without a Fight', to be released in March 2009 on Epitaph Records, and will hopefully bring back the old fans as well as gaining the band many new ones.

You can check out New Found Glory at www.myspace.com/newfoundglory

"I consider myself to be a dance orientated act."

It's not often that young musicians are taken seriously, but 17-year-old Oli Sabin of Unicorn Kid fame is definitely someone you should check out. Making amazing electronic dance music that instantly catches your attention he's not something to be missed. "I consider myself to be a dance orientated act. When composing I take a lot of influence from house and hardcore dance styles, I try to create those sounds whilst still maintaining the chiptune aspect of my music." According to Wikipedia, chiptune is "music written in sound formats where all the sounds are synthesized in realtime by a computer or video game console sound chip,
instead of using sample-based synthesis." Taking many other styles into account Unicorn Kid is full of blips and bleeps that probably shouldn't work, but that make something completely out of this world.

As good as Oli's music is, does coming from Scotland make it harder for him to get heard? After all, when you think of Scottish music the first bands that come to mind are probably something more like Biffy Clyro and Glasvegas than any dance artists: "Scotland actually has been home to several other chiptune artists before me,most notably Sabrepulse and Firebrand Boy, who I played with in Summer 2008 on the Chiptune Alliance Tour." If Unicorn Kid's version of chiptune is anything to go by, these guys are probably worth checking out aswell;
chiptune seems to be one of the happiest styles (if you can call it that) of music and something worth keeping an eye out for.

Oli has a double B-side single coming out in January called 'Lion Hat': "[It's] my first release through a record label... with 'Lion Hat' and two B sides 'Goodbye' and '8 Bytes'. The tracks were produced entirely at home by myself." A lot of artists are into self-production these days as it means having an extra skill and also making a little more money on the side, so it's always nice to know when someone who makes such good music can do this as well. It is slightly more predictable for electronic artists to do this but it never ceases to amaze, with the amount of time and effort actually put in."The digital release is due out January 8th and the physical CD will be out February 2nd." You can also look forward to a video being released along with the single: "I shot the music video for 'Lion Hat' in East Kilbride at Popmorphic Studios. It was filmed using
polymorphic technology, a groundbreaking new method of filming. It allows the user to edit variables such as the angle you view the video at, which band member you look at, and the graphics shown. You can see examples of this at www.popmorphic.com" Unfortunately, Oli can't tell me any more about the actual video so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for it in January.

Dance music seems to get a bad reputation sometimes, but Unicorn Kid might just be able to change your mind.

You can check out Unicorn Kid at www.myspace.com/unicornkid

Monday, 22 December 2008

You, Me and Everyone We Know - 'So Young, So Insane' EP review

You, Me and Everyone We Know seem to like giving away free stuff, which isn't something that a lot of bands do very much, but this is the second time they've done it so there's no way I was going to turn it down. In traditional You, Me and... style, 'So Young, So Insane' starts with a brilliant opening track that makes you want to get up and dance. "I Can Get Back Up Now" is a
fun-loving track that pulls you into the EP, making sure you won't give up on it any time soon. Second track 'Could It Be Sunstroke?' has almost the same effect, with a great rhythm to ensure your feet start tapping. However, the key change at the end of this song makes me cringe a little - it can only remind me of awful mainstream pop music. Third track, 'A Symptom' is less
up-beat and it's tone seems to bring a negativity to the album and reminds you of a slow night in a metaphorical diner - not really something you want to hear after two very upbeat songs. But the vocals on this are brilliant,very 1950s-esque. Next two tracks, 'Colourful Language' and 'Sometimes We Have Too Much Fun'bring back the fun side of You, Me and... and we see their obvious passion about making great melodies and positive tunes to make you smile. Final track, 'Happy Birthday' starts off slow but, soon enough, we hear those brilliant You, Me and... vocals, amazing melodies and foot-tapping rhythms that we know and love. This EP is brilliant. I would suggest that You, Me and Everyone We Know start selling their EPs, as they could probably make a lot of money out of them, but then we wouldn't be getting epic music for free, would we?

You can check out You, Me and Everyone We Know and download the EP for free at www.myspace.com/youmeandeveryoneweknow

Pop punk at it's best

Paige are a 5-piece pop punk band from Hertfordshire who've been together for about two years. "It started off with just Lewis and Alex as an acoustic band but then they got more members so the band could play shows. So far we've played all over the UK." Paige are definitely a band you should listen to. With influences like Relient K, Jacks Mannequin and Hit the Lights, they make happy pop punk that has great rhythms and awesome melodies.

"[The fact that pop punk is getting a lot bigger] is good. [we've] always loved it and it's never got the respect [we] think it deserves, but people are slowly starting to listen up, which [we] think is amazing." the band tells me. With bands like Paramore and You Me At Six getting more coverage these days it's no wonder pop punk is getting more respect. The bands who play good music are getting heard so, finally, the lesser known ones get a foot in the door. Paige are a good example of these lesser known, epic pop punk bands as the passion they radiate is obvious in all of their songs.

Paige are currently focusing on writing their debut album and will hopefully be
touring the UK in February.

You can check Paige out at www.myspace.com/paigeuk
Photo by James Ellis - www.jamesellisimaging.co.uk

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Get yo' butt to this:

Finally on Facebook!

Just search for Belfast Calling and you'll find me at the top of the list!

Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

This Years Confession - 'Meant to Be' single review

'Meant to Be' reminds me of many bands - Fighting with Wire, Funeral for a Friend, maybe a little bit of Biffy Clyro somewere in there as well - but this song doesn't sound like a copy of any thing these bands have done before. It lures you in and then grabs you by the neck and pulls you right into the centre of thrashing guitars and passionate vocals. To be fair, the lyrics don't stand out as anything shockingly new or different, with broken relationships beinga popular topic for the majority of songs, but the music itself is enough to make you forget the cliche of a broken heart and see the sheer talent This Years Confession obviously have. Second song on the single, 'My Habit', isn't the traditional second-song-on-the-single song - basically,you don't regret buying the single because of this song. It catches your attention just as much as 'Meant to Be' and has epic lyrics to go along with the music. 'Meant to Be' is definitly worth the money, and This Years Confession are definitly a band you should keep an eye on over the next year.
You can check out This Years Confession at www.myspace.com/thisyearsconfessionofficial

Sunday, 30 November 2008

New Found Glory, Glasgow Barrowlands, November 23rd

Support: Crime in Stereo, Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals

Due to having to wait for someone, I unfortunately missed the first two support bands, but this was compensated by the fact that Set Your Goals were epic. Not knowing this band I thought it would be a dull half hour, as it can be when you hear new bands for the first time at gigs. However, they proved me wrong in the best way possible. They created a brilliant atmosphere, the crowd going crazy for the whole set. They had so much energy for a support band – maybe someone told them that a lot of people were more into them than the actual headline act. Their set ended all too quickly before there was a short wait until New Found Glory came on. They started off with well known ‘Sticks and Stones’ track, ‘Understatement’ and then moved on to one of few good tracks on ‘Catalyst’, ‘Truth of My Youth’. For a gig that didn’t sell out they performed like there had been high demand for extra tickets, with more energy than most bands can muster on the first night of a tour. They played all their best songs, ranging from their self-titled first album to a couple off new EP, ‘Tip of the Iceberg’. Unexpectedly, they played ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ and of course had to throw in crowd favourite ‘Kiss Me’. As expected, and hoped, they ended with ‘My Friends Over You’, Jordan’s infamous “whiney” voice still sounding exactly the same as it did all those years ago when everyone was thirteen and hearing pop punk for the first time. Unfortunately the whole night went in far too quick and seemed to end too soon. It was like going back five years and remembering the first time you heard an epic pop punk guitar riff with heavy bass lines – something you’ll never forget, just like seeing New Found Glory play. I honestly don't understand why people have gone off this band since pretty much every album after 'Sticks and Stones'. They've grown and made a more matured sound and are singing about things that affect them now, not when they were young and falling in and out of love for the first time. So here's to one of the most epic pop punk bands who filled my teenage years with great music - I can't wait to see what they decide to do next.
You can check out New Found Glory and find further tour dates at www.myspace.com/newfoundglory

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Cutaways - 'START STOP! START STOP!' EP review

previously published

Before I listened to Cutaways I thought they would be thoroughly predictable but before the end of the first listen of ‘START STOP! START STOP!’ they had proved me wrong. ‘START STOP...’ could very easily be described as indie, but it also proves itself as great pop music with a little bit of electronica. First track, ‘Lovers are Lunatics’ catches your ear the second it starts with a catchy beat and melodic vocals, before moving into a more regular song style. Second track, ‘Weapon of Choice’ has a fast-paced intro before calming down during the verse and then picking up again – it’s pure foot tapping goodness. The chorus has a great melody and really catches the ear. Penultimate song, ‘I spilled your drink so you broke my heart’ may (oddly) seem to have a Fall Out Boy-esque title (in length, anyway) but it’s what makes this EP what it is – pure indie-pop brilliance. The vocals are intriguing, and then the catchy beats that keep popping up all throughout the song make you want to dance while the lyrics fit in well with the beat, the mix of “tick tock” and “start stop” being very interesting. Final track, ‘I Don’t Understand What You Don’t Say’ has exactly the same intriguing pop sound as the rest of the EP and is a perfect ending, with its good use of catchy riffs and strange electronic sounds. The only problem I seemed to find with ‘START STOP! START STOP!’ was that all the songs seemed to go in too quickly – but maybe that just shows how good it really is.

You can check out Cutaways at www.myspace.com/cutaways

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A Little Solidarity

A Little Solidarity will most certainly be remembered by most music lovers in Northern Ireland for a very long time. This mega-event organized by the ASIWYFA bunch truly was a celebration of unity and solidarity in the music scene of this country; a showcase of the best bands these shores have to offer and the success locally and nationwide most of these bands have managed to achieve in the past year, and let me tell you, whoever wasn’t there missed quite something! The line-up was perhaps the most ambitious possible, but in the end it was the strong point of the whole experience offering to everyone a different mix of styles and bands. There were many occasions for people involved in music making to get talking with promoters and record labels, with the chance of a demo drop-in. The atmosphere was positive throughout with a great aura of friendship surrounding the event.

All the bands delivered first class performances giving 110% on stage. The memorable performances are many: like hip hop machine Team Fresh setting the crowd in a part mode at only 4pm, LaFaro setting the Speakeasy on fire and relentlessly demolishing it with their energetic performance, Tony Wright called on vocal duties by Axis Of for their Fugazi cover and Fighting With Wire with their Nirvana cover, indie rockers General Fiasco showing why they are one of the most talked about Northern Irish acts in Britain of the moment and masters of ceremony ASIWYFA themselves delivering perhaps the best performance of the week-end that truly was a nearly spiritual experience and sending the clear message that they are the best live band in Northern Ireland. But all bands in different degrees left their mark on this big music feast.

The objective ASIWYFA set out to achieve was to put on an event that would show the strength, harmony and cohesion in the Northern Irish music scene stressing how despite there may not be particular interest from the big players in music in mainland Britain, the scene here is as healthy as it has ever been and is on a constant growth. It feels like this event cold be in the long term a turning point for the music scene here, perhaps giving energy to this tide of excellent bands in order to put Northern Ireland back on the map of big players with a bang.
By Bob Biondo

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns review

If there was one word to describe this album it would be ‘epic’. A Hundred Million Suns shows us how Snow Patrol are just getting better as they go with more immense songs that almost jump up and down in your stereo and that bring tears to your ears. Opening track, ‘If There’s A Rocket Tie Me To It’ grabs your attention with the slow start and then the build up that Lightbody and co. always do so well. Debut single ‘Take Back the City’ fits in well with the rest of the album and slower tracks such as ‘Lifeboats’ and ‘The Golden Floor’ remind us of the older Snow Patrol days of ‘When It’s Over We Still Have to Clear Up’ but also add something a lot more new and fresh to the mix. ‘Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands’ kills any opinions that these guys are just another generic indie/rock band, with a punchy chorus and the excitement felt while Lightbody sings his heart out and the guitar riffs clearly drive this song. If you’re looking for another ‘Chasing Cars’, you definitely won’t find it on this album; but in its place you will find ‘The Planets Bend Between Us’. This song is what really makes this album so ‘epic’ – heartfelt lyrics filled with imagery and a slow but moving melody show how important music really is to this band. Sixteen minute long final track ‘The Lightning Strike’ is certainly something new and interesting for Snow Patrol but they pull it off well and make it the perfect ending to a brilliant album. The Snow Patrol boys have clearly put a lot of work into this album and they’re going to have a tough job when the time finally comes to start working on the next one - but we know they can do it.

You can check out Snow Patrol at www.myspace.com/snowpatrol
'A Hundred Million Suns' is now available on Polydor.

Monday, 27 October 2008

"It's simple music."

Some of you may remember the song ‘Goodbye (I’m sorry)’ by And Then I turned Seven. It was a song written to try and get inside the mind of a suicidal person and then letting people know they didn’t need to suffer alone. Do you remember it now? If so you might be surprised to know that lead singer, Dane Schmidt, now has a solo project, Jamestown Story. “That whole suicide thing on the bridge was put in because we didn't want people to hear the song and think it was ok to use suicide as a way to fix something, ‘cause it’s not. If that wasn't in there, some people would interpret it like that. Though I feel it was a weird thing to put in at that time, I'm glad we did ‘cause I've gotten a lot of responses from people who were on the verge and called that number and it made a difference. It's really amazing."

Nowadays, Dane’s music is taking a different path. With influences such as Blink 182, Dashboard Confessional and John Mayer the music he makes is simply described as acoustic pop: “it's simple music, most of it at least. It’s supposed to be more lyrically driven, making the lyrics stand out over the music I guess. Not that I'm an amazing writer, I've just always written that way.” Songs like ‘Don’t Say Goodbye’ and ‘I Miss You’ have beautiful melodies and heartfelt lyrics that will knock you off your feet and send you to a place that gives you butterflies in your stomach and shivers up your spine, while ‘Don’t Say No’ is easy listening pop music that brings a smile to the face.

With new EP, ‘Love vs. Life’, out on November 11th, where does Dane hope the future will take him? “I’d love to be doing what I’m doing in a few years, making a living off of doing what I love to do! Fortunately, that’s what I'm doing now, so I'm working my ass off to keep it that way!”

'Love vs. Life' is released on November 11th.
You can check Jamestown Story out at www.myspace.com/jamestownstory

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

"We're just here to hang out and eat pizza, and maybe drink a beer or two and talk about rock music."

“The Almost is a band that Aaron didn’t even think would become a band,” Dusty Redmon (guitarist) tells me, “He recorded the record and put a band of awesome dudes together.” The Almost, as you may already know, are Aaron Gillespie’s side project, and so far they’ve been pretty successful. You might think that the fact that Aaron is already in UnderOath would mean that the rest of the band get ignored, but this isn’t the case at all: “Aaron is definitely the most recognizable face in our band,” Dusty tells me, emphasising that it’s actually been beneficial to them, “I think UnderOath has given us a lot, with them being open to helping us out and letting us tour when we need to, and giving us a pretty established fan base from the get-go.”

By now, if you are a fan of The Almost, you will probably have heard their debut album, ‘Southern Weather’, so you might be trying to figure out who this band sound like, right? You’ll be hard pushed to find something, because even the band themselves can’t put their finger on any specific musical influences on this record: “I think the main influence on "Southern Weather" wasn't really any certain bands, but more so about a lifestyle and an upbringing in the southeast part of America. It's a killer summer-time record that makes you [want to] drive around with your windows rolled down. As far as the new songs go, we're just trying to write the biggest, baddest rock songs that Led Zeppelin and ACDC didn't.”

From listening to The Almost’s album it’s clear, on songs such as ‘Amazing, Because it is’ and ‘Dirty and Left Out’, that they’re Christians, but do people completely ignore their music because of this? “I don't think our beliefs really turn away TOO many people. I'm sure there are stubborn people out there, but that's ok. We're cool with people who believe different things than us. We're just here to hang out and eat pizza, and maybe drink a beer or two and talk about rock music.” In a day and age when people very seldomly show the normal side of a religion and focus on extremes, it’s always good to see the people who don’t take part in end of the world cults or suicide bombing.

So what’s next for The Almost; a line-up change? “Kenny is getting married, and has decided to leave the band. He's just not into touring at all, which is understandable. We've all dealt with these types of situations for a while now, so we sort of saw it coming. Kenny's a cool dude, and we wish good things for him in the future.” But will this cause problems for the band at all? “We're lucky to have an amazing drummer as a singer in our band, so the song writing and recording process won't be hindered. For the live setting, we've got a few friends ready to help us out and get behind the kit... We're really excited about what's coming up, for sure.” And so are we.

You can check The Almost out at www.myspace.com/thealmost
Their debut album, 'Southern Weather' is now available on Tooth and Nail Records.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

"I want to impact the world but I can't do it alone"

I just watched The Rocket Summer’s new video for ‘Do You Feel’. If you haven’t seen it you can find it here but for now, please feel free to read this article. In 2005 To Write Love on Her Arms was established. TWLOHA is a non-profit organisation working to fight against depression, suicide, addiction and self harm; it has gotten a lot of bad press about it being for “emo kids” (even though they have helped people of all ages), and people generally not taking the problem seriously; but the world is slowly breaking apart, and there’s only a few people left who are trying to keep it together. While TWLOHA are doing an amazing job, they wouldn’t be reaching half the people they get through to every day if it wasn’t for the bands who support them – Paramore, Anberlin, The Rocket Summer, Between the Trees, Switchfoot, Copeland, Underoath and Hawthorne Heights (who greatly appreciated the help that TWLOHA gave them when their guitarist, Casey Calvert, sadly passed away earlier this year), to name a few.

If you know anything about TWLOHA, you’ll know it all started with one girl called Renee (her story can be found here ) - Between the Trees wrote a song about her story called ‘The Way She Feels’ and have also made a video for it. The impact of this song has been crazy – it’s honest and doesn’t try to hide what she went through. Because of TWLOHA people are becoming less afraid to talk about things like self harm, depression and suicide and this song makes it clear it’s something that happens daily.

But back to the start of the article – The Rocket Summer’s new video. Just like ‘The Way She Feels’ this song is true and honest with lyrics like, “I can’t help it, I got too many issues I own, so I cannot help I’m afraid. But keep on preachin’, preachin’ and healing the world, lip service makes us look great.” Bryce Avery admits to the selfishness that he is a part of while being blunt to the rest of the world, reminding us no one is perfect and that we’re “all talk and no action”. The video includes many people from different bands such as Paramore, Jack’s Mannequin and All Time Low, and also a few people you won’t recognise – these are the people with the stories – a girl who grew up with an alcoholic, a man who has lived in a van for 97 days, a young man who is the first in his whole family to go to college and a woman who beat cancer eight years ago – her smile brings a tear to the eye.

At the end of the video six hands are held up separately and they read, “I want to impact the world but I can’t do it alone.” Right now something is telling me this article is important, this music is important, this song and it’s video are important. This isn’t your average Belfast Calling blog entry and I’m not afraid to write these things. If you want to impact the world it’s easy to do – support TWLOHA, buy a t-shirt, tell your friends about them, add them to your friends on myspace. Don’t be afraid to talk about things, share The Rocket Summer’s video with your friends. There’s plenty of organisations such as Invisible Children and Keep a Breast who are working to make the world a happier place, to give hope in the dark times. Just listen to Paramore’s song, ‘We Are Broken’, share it with your friends as well.

The world is a broken, dark place, but music can change that – everyday, songs change people’s lives. This ‘every man for himself’ attitude that so many people have these days has got to stop. It’s true, we can’t impact the world alone – but you’re not alone anymore.

You can check out The Rocket Summer at www.myspace.com/therocketsummer
And you can find out more about To Write Love on Her Arms and get in contact with them at www.myspace.com/towriteloveonherarms

Thursday, 28 August 2008

"We're more into writing the best songs we can than fitting into any certain genre"

Are you a fan of pop, electronica, or anything alternative? If you answered yes to any of these genres then The Fold are definitely a band you should check out. While lead singer and guitarist Daniel Castady describes there sound as “Somewhere along the lines of Foo Fighters or Jimmy Eat World to the new listener” he also adds, “but we hope that we are something brand new for people once they dig a little deeper.” And that is definitely clear when you listen to their new EP ‘Stargazer’ – a mix of pop, acoustic, electronica and alternative all create something you will never have heard before.

“We've all been playing in different local bands our whole life, at least since high school,” Daniel tells me, “when we all tried our hand at college, we realized we had more music left to write, so we started a rock band!” It all sounds a little cliché – bands forming at university – but these guys don’t make the typical “party rock” that people like to get drunk to and four years down the line, all the members have beer bellies and spend their days at a boring desk job; The Fold stayed together and have released EP’s and full length albums.

So why the mix of genres; why not stick with just one? “It's not something we do on purpose - and I realize it may be to our detriment. I think it's just that we're more into writing the best songs we can than fitting into any certain genre. If you look back to the songs that lasted through the generations you're not really paying attention to the genres, you're just seeing what people connected with - that's what gave it the staying power. I'm not saying we've perfected it yet, but that's what we're after.” And he’s right – listen to The Beatles, Queen, The Clash, Joy Division – who really focuses on the genre of those bands anymore? They’re legendary and they made brilliant music, but people don’t appreciate them for fitting into a genre, they appreciate the music they made.

The Fold have already been to Europe with The Plain White T’s: “it was amazing and it wet our appetite to really explore outside of the US more and more. We hope to get our music out in Europe as soon as possible (it's currently only available as import through EMI), and Japan and Australia as well.” While The Fold may be hoping to travel the whole way across the world, maybe they’ll make a stop in Belfast on their way.

You can check out The Fold at www.myspace.com/thefold

'Stargazer' EP review

The first song on this EP, ‘Spark Match Crush’ seems to have some weird mix of Santana style guitars mixed with The Spill Canvas’s lyrics and possibly some crazy Spanish instruments, but it somehow make’s something brilliant that is great for relaxing to. Track number two, ‘Good Goodnight’ is completely different – it’s more electronic with emotional melodies and clear pop influences. Next song up, ‘I Know You Well’ is again quite electronic, almost like a Shiny Toy Guns track, and the chorus sounds like something you would hear on mainstream radio but get strangely addicted to. Final track, ‘Little Girl’, is completely different to the rest of the EP, with an acoustic guitar and vocals leading the song. Their lyrical talent very clearly shows through here, while also emphasising the emotion that this band can so brilliantly convey.

The 'Stargazer' EP is currently available through iTunes, Amazon and many other download websites.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

"This whole thing started just with me leading worship for a few people in a living room."

These days, Christian music usually sells just because it’s Christian music. The majority of people who buy worship CDs aren’t buying them for the amazing musicianship or beautiful lyricism. However, when music is pretty much almost everything you do and you’re looking for some decent Christian music, it can be tough to be content with someone who can play four chords on guitar or a few notes on piano and only ever cover other people’s songs. But never fear, because this is where The Glorious Unseen comes in and saves the day. I had a chat with lead singer, guitarist and pianist, Ben Crist, on what these guys are all about.

“I have led worship at our church in Nashville, TN for about six years now. This whole thing started just with me leading worship for a few people in a living room,” Ben tells me, “As the group grew, we began to meet in larger areas – a local coffee shop allowed us to use their space on Sunday nights for worship. So at that point, I began to incorporate band members. Soon, I began to write my own worship songs. I had no intention of starting a band or getting signed, but eventually my self-produced album found its way into the hands of Chad Johnson, A&R at Tooth and Nail records.” While Ben is inspired by Christian bands such as Delirious, Switchfoot and Underoath, he also cites bands such as Keane, Modest Mouse and Coldplay as influences, and once you put these bands together, old and new material all accounted for, you can definitely hear their influence in The Glorious Unseen’s music: the beautiful piano melodies of Coldplay and Keane, the references to faith and a love for Jesus Christ of Delirious, and the emotional lyricism and enthusiasm of Switchfoot are all here, and they’re a perfect match.

‘The Glorious Unseen’ seems to be quite a mysterious name – so what exactly does it mean? “God is the glorious unseen. I wanted to name the band something that communicated the mystery of God – He is so much bigger than our minds can understand. He is glorious – I felt that the word ‘glorious’ communicated that majesty.” While these guys are clearly a Christian band, they’re definitely not just making music for Christians: “[We’re making music for] anyone [who’s] desperate to see the Lord work in their own life and in the world. This music has connected to people who have found themselves in desperate places – where they only have God to turn to.”

If you watch the video for The Glorious Unseen’s song ‘Close To Your Heart’, this whole song in no way sounds overly Christian. This is a love song – something pure and beautiful that fits with so many situations that many people will experience, while the video definitely isn’t something that you would expect from a Christian band. But was this done on purpose? “[‘Close to Your Heart’] is very much a worship song, it wasn’t written with any intention to try to be less Christian. It just so happened that lyrically, it doesn’t mention God as much.”

“The option to cover someone else’s worship songs didn’t even come up till’ the very end of the recording process,” Ben tells me when I ask why the band only has one cover on their album, “We felt that we should record a couple of cover songs just to see how they came out, and that one came out really well, so we put it on the record. We also felt that it could help us to connect to a wider audience if we included that one.” While it’s always good to hear the songs you know, it shows an amazing gift when a band can write worship songs like The Glorious Unseen can, and still manage to have such an effect on their listeners.

Even if you’re not a Christian these guys are definitely worth checking out. The music they make is different, beautiful and moving and will definitely speak to you in some way. Right now, the band is busy touring in America, but do they want to reach the rest of the world? “I would love to do so. At this point, we haven’t planned anything outside the states. Hopefully that will happen soon.” We hope so too.

You can find out more about The Glorious Unseen and listen to their music at www.myspace.com/thegloriousunseen
Their second album, 'Tonight the Stars Speak', is currently out on BEC Recordings.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Not just "another generic pop punk band"

British pop punk is finally on the up, with American bands such as Paramore gaining more listeners in the UK and further afield, bands like Youmeatsix and Kids in Glass Houses are getting more and more exposure on radio and TV – turn on any music channel and you’re bound to see their pretty little faces at some point. A new addition to the British pop punk scene are Tell it to the Marines: “[Having formed] in November 2007 we've been incredibly lucky with everything that’s happened to us, being able to play with some amazing bands and in some amazing places.” If you visit the band’s myspace page you’ll see they label their music as ‘pop punk/indie’ – where does the indie come from? “Timi brings a lot of it into the group. I think his vocals move us away from becoming just another generic pop punk band.” We’re all used to predictable American-tinged pop punk, even from some of the British bands, so if you like your music to sound a bit different you should definitely check these guys out; they’re bound to make something that you’ve never heard before, with influences ranging from I Am the Avalanche to Blink 182 to the Foo Fighters.

But don’t get too attached to the current line up; their bassist, Thomas Kerr is leaving in September to follow his own dreams and go to university. However, Tell it to the Marines aren’t giving up just yet: “Our good friend Jamie Roberts is joining the band. He's an amazing musician so I'm pretty certain it can only lead to good things.” So while Tell it to the Marines could easily get swallowed up in the great mouth of the new pop punk craze, what do they think about the exposure it’s getting? “It's [really] great that pop punk is becoming more widely enjoyed. There was a time a year or so ago when things were looking bleak and everyone was listening to metal, but things have worked out. Let’s hope it stays this way for a long time.”

You can listen to Tell it to the Marines at www.myspace.com/tellittothemarines

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Colour System Failure

Right now, pop punk seems to be the “flavour of the month” down in Dublin, and when I heard about Colour System Failure I was pretty excited to find out a little bit more about them, so I had a chat with their lead singer, Alan. “We got together in February 2007 and since then we've had a number of line-up changes, but me, Adam and David have been ever presents. We gigged consistently all over Ireland, writing all the while.”

At the minute there seems to be a slight stigma surrounding heavier music that involves screaming so why did the band decide to make this sort of music? “I don't think we ever really made a conscious decision to make any sort of music. I'm not even sure ‘screamo’ is the right term for us; there’s bits of it in there, but some of our stuff would be a bit too heavy for that, and then we've songs where there'd be no screaming at all. We've always just written whatever music we thought sounded best.” It’s good to see that Colour System Failure never set out to follow any sort of trend or make a certain sound. There are too many bands these days, especially within genres like indie, that started out with a certain mind-set and don’t feel they can venture into anything else.

The pop punk scene down south is currently doing really well with bands such as Homestar Runner and Steer Clear, who are both signed up to Blastspace Records, being very successful. This could easily cause problems for other genres, as there may be few people left who believe anything else could work. But is it a problem for Colour System Failure? “Thankfully, no, we've few problems, but you're definitely right in the idea that pop punk is flavour of the month down here. We've always done well with gigs through both the independent and professional promoters but I can see how a band just starting out would find it a bit harder.”

So what are the band doing now? “We started recording our album in March 2008 with Neil Calderwood in Manor Park Studios, finished it last month and it is due for release on October 24th through Grouphug Records.” The new album is very strangely entitled, ‘The Tony Blair Witch Project’ – weird, eh? “Phil our guitarist came up with it and we thought it was hilarious so we stuck with it.” So no political undertones there then.

The rest of the year seems to be pretty busy for the guys in Colour System Failure: “We're going to be promoting loads up until the album comes out, then it'll be a matter of touring as much as we can, and doing whatever we can to get the music out there. We plan to start writing again pretty soon anyway. If we're together constantly gigging, we'll probably have more time to do so anyway.”

Here’s hoping Colour System Failure continue to bring something a little different to the Irish music scene.

You can find out more about the band and check out tour dates at www.myspace.com/coloursystemfailure

Monday, 11 August 2008

A Plastic Rose

If you live in Northern Ireland and you’re a Nirvana fan you’ll probably have heard about the ‘Nevermind’ tribute gig in the Oh Yeah centre in Belfast. Local band A Plastic Rose err more towards the heavier side of things, but one has to wonder if Nirvana were ever a big influence on their music? “I don't think we've ever consciously looked to Nirvana as an influence but having grown up as 'grungers' the whole ethic and attitude of grunge are definitely a big part of who we are musically and otherwise.”

Emerging in 2001, A Plastic Rose have put their stamp upon the local music scene over the course of a number of well received shows and demos. And what a heavy stamp it is as well, with their guitar crunch and pounding drums bursting more than a few heads at local gigs. Ahead of their new EP release, I had a chat with Ian McHugh, guitarist in the band, about what they’re currently up to. “We're just finishing up the mixing and mastering at the moment on what will be our third EP. It's provisionally titled 'Photographs in Black and White', taken from a line in new song 'Fade and Disappear',” he tells me. “It was recorded at Start Together Studios in the Oh Yeah Centre with Ben McAuley from Three Tales in June, between some hectic gigging on our first Irish mini-tour, and we're delighted with how he really helped us to get our own ideas across, to do the tracks exactly how we wanted. It’s quite a departure sonically from the previous two CDs. It's much sparser, live sounding and energetic.”

This is something that definitely comes through in their music – it’s different and unique and doesn’t care if it doesn’t fit in with what’s “cool” right now. “It's interesting covering someone else's song, especially one you have so much respect for, and it's really got us thinking about structure, arrangement and texture. I've always been fascinated by their chord progressions and sludgy guitar tone; how they crafted that dry nihilism into their sound.”

Wearing their grunge roots on their sleeve, A Plastic Rose clearly can’t be confused with a generic, laptop wielding indie band, their heavy sound and grunge aesthetic marking them out from their contemporaries. However, despite their outsider status, they have been well accepted among bands like Kowalski and Panama Kings. “In a way with so much talent around any difference you have will play into your hands. Coming from the south and moving the band up here has been a unique way of doing things, and I think that comes across in the music. Timing helped us too: I think ourselves and the likes of Kowalski would cite a couple of Saddle Creek bands in our influences, and there’s a healthy scene for that kind of thing in these parts at the moment.” It seems strange to put two such bands with such a disparate sound together, but somehow it works.

When asked on what he thinks about the Northern Irish music scene compared to the scene down south Ian tells me, “We've found that the presence of a tight scene in Belfast means that other bands have been really supportive rather than competitive, and people are always looking out for new bands to see.” So despite the current musical climate being absorbed by jagged guitars and dance beats, today’s indie fan seems to be more accommodating than first appearances would suggest,

“But what will A Plastic Rose be doing over the next year?” I hear you cry! Calm it. I’m about to tell you: “We're off on another mini tour starting in Whelan's in Dublin on August 11th, taking in Cork, Limerick and Galway with the Panama Kings and finishing up at 'VibeFest' in Enniskillen on the 16th. The EP launch will be in the Stiff Kitten in September and we're putting together some seriously exciting bands for the night. I can say no more, as they say, but we'll be confirming the line up in the next week or two on the website at www. aplasticrose. com .”

And don’t fret of you live further afield…they could be coming your way soon: “Over the rest of the year we'll be doing some dates in England and Scotland and hopefully a showcase or two in London.”

So, in a world where the right haircut, the right clothes, and the right stance seem to count for so much, it’s refreshing to see a band that are simply ‘all about the music’. Taking to the stage at the Nevermind Revisited event in the Oh Yeah building, we can only imagine that Kurt Cobain would approve.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

"A garden party in the stars"

“Owl City was an idea I had in late July of 2007. I don't remember what initially sparked my interest and inspired me to start the project; it was out of boredom more than anything,” Adam Young of Owl City tells me. “I've always been interested in electronic music. Synth, samples, loops, programming... it's all pretty intriguing.”

Whilst there is a proliferation of generic guitar bands grasping for our attention, electronica is swiftly moving closer towards the mainstream and getting more exposure than ever before. Every so often you’ll hear of a band who uses a laptop for their drums getting insults thrown at them – so why create music that has none of the typical instruments at all? “As a genre, electronica is pretty limitless. You can go a lot farther into a specific sound and really shape it into something personal and concrete.”

Adam’s inspiration for Owl City is just as unusual as his musical setup: “It sounds terribly corny but there's a video game called Wave Race 64 where you ride jet skis alongside dolphins in beautiful, ocean environments. Something about the mood of that game stuck with me and I wanted to translate that same optimistic, ‘idealist’ imagery into music.” So by now you must be wondering what Owl City actually sounds like? “It's like a garden party in the stars.” Make of that what you will, but make sure you listen before judging. Owl City doesn’t make your predictable teeny-bopper music; there’s a maturity to his style of electronica, with thought-provoking lyrics filled with imagery and metaphors.

Whilst electronica is gaining greater exposure in the UK, with more and more people seduced by it’s beguiling textures, what about in Adam’s hometown of Owatonna, Minnesota? “It's become a bit more accessible over the last several years. Electronic music is certainly not what the Midwest is known for and that makes it all the more interesting to me.”

Adam is the only member of Owl City and the whole idea of an alias may seem a little strange to a lot of people, but he has a good reason for it: “Owl City holds a lot more imagination and emotion than a person's name ever could. I would definitely rather listen to a band called Owl City than Adam Young. (laughs) Adam Young sounds like some horrible smooth jazz musician from the 80's or something.” Adam definitely isn’t a ‘horrible smooth jazz musician from the 80s.’ We hope. So what does the future hold? “I'm really more concerned with the present than the future in terms of the band itself. As long as I'm having fun with it, I'll keep making it regardless of where it takes me.” Here’s hoping it takes him far.

You can check out Adam's music at www.myspace.com/owlcity

Friday, 25 July 2008

Myspace update

Yes, we now have a myspace!
You can check it out at www.myspace.com/belfastcalling
Feel free to contact me there or at belfastcalling@hotmail.co.uk

No More Bruises

I bet you remember The Mascara Story. I bet you remember when they won the Kerrang! competition. And I bet you remember their front man – Daveit Ferris. Not to say we’ve all forgotten Sean and Jay, but they don’t seem to have carried on with music like Daveit. “Five years ago I would never have guessed that I'd be doing a 'solo' angle full time, because back then I was all about the 'rock, man'.” Daveit has gone solo – and it’s looking (and sounding) very good.

Daveit seems to be working harder than a lot of artists these days. While it’s easy to get some money together and get someone else to produce your own music, he’s done it all himself, and total creative control is one of the main goals on the agenda. Acoustic sounds mingle with overlapping vocals, creating a sweet, but moving power-pop sound. “When I’ve been producing my own stuff in my own studio, I’ve had no one to answer to, and no one to reinforce and reaffirm my ideas. Whatever I decide is what happens. It's an angle I’ve always wanted to work from.”

“I haven’t done a single live show to promote 'Daveit Ferris',” he continues, “Despite the fact that I’m just about to release my 3rd, 4th, and 5th solo albums next month. That's proof of my love for making music above anything else.” And he’s right. These days it seems there are so many bands that are just in it for the fame and the money, but to have released five albums and never really promoted what you’re doing seems crazy, but also completely understandable. Not enough people shy away from fame anymore, and it’s nice to finally see some real modesty.

When asked where he thinks he’ll be in five years, he remains quietly confident. “I'll still definitely be doing music. I'll be somewhere in America, still writing/recording/releasing music, and will probably have started producing bands. I would strongly doubt I will ever want to be signed by a major, as I’m a complete control freak and it'd just never work. My vision for projects is too strong to be pushed into doing things I didn’t want to do.”

It’s difficult to imagine Daveit being played on Radio1 – he deserves to be one of the rare gems you stumble upon and eventually fall in love with while searching through the ether. “Music is my only true passion in this world. And without song writing I honestly don’t know if I'd have a point being here. It's the blood that runs through my veins.” You might remember The Mascara Story, the day they won the competition and the hype that surrounded them. But I guarantee you’ll remember Daveit Ferris.

You can have a listen to Daveit's music and buy his EPs at www.myspace.com/daveitferris

Monday, 21 July 2008

Day One

Welcome to Belfast Calling - a music blog based in Northern Ireland, but not just about Northern Irish bands. I'm basically starting this to hopefully give some more exposure to the music that doesn't seem to be getting a fair amount of publicity these days - a lot of pop punk, ska, metalcore and all the alternative genres that fit in here.

First up we have an interview with Adam Carroll of the eagerly anticipated Under Stars and Gutters. He discusses his bands - old and new - and what he thinks of the music scene that he has been a part of for so many years.

Tell me a bit about how you got into music and about your first band, Reluctant.
I started writing music with Jake Woods back in 2000. I originally was going to take up drums, my brother Matthew would play bass and Jake would play guitar but that all somehow changed and I ended up getting my first bass. And what do you do when you get an instrument? Start a band. So here we were, three kids not knowing anything about music, starting to write songs with [our] drummer Phillip Braithwaite who also was only picking up his instrument [for the first time]. We were really into Epitaph bands, then amazed by the Southern California punk and stuff, such as Blink 182 and Green Day, and we also had a little grunge influence at the very beginning too. Reluctant was fun; it was like jumping into the deep end. Not one of us knew how to write a catchy hook or how to book a show but we picked it up as we went along. We only played twelve shows and recorded two EP's. A lot of fun times were had in Reluctant and a lot of near death experiences too.

Near death experiences?
Yeah, well there was a time in Ballymena when I was accused of being in a paramilitary organisation and was chased by two guys. Or there was the time when our friend Shay had joined the band and all five of us were travelling back from Newtonards along the motorway in a Ford Ka. Five of us with all our equipment is a pretty tight squeeze! The roads were icy and we were driving pretty fast and we nearly smashed into this big lorry. We thought we were dead and for like four minutes after it happened the car was in silence. It was scary because we were being sandwiched through this tiny gap between a massive lorry and a car at the time.

How come Reluctant ended?
There were arguments within the band, kind of a power struggle to see who would write songs and everything. Jake and I had enough one day before a show and started walking home from our practice room in the middle of the countryside. But it all officially ended after the Anchor gig in Portstewart where Jake and Shay quit on the same night.

So was everyone just kind of glad to get out of it? Do you have any regrets?
Well Jake and I went on to form Gunther. I wouldn't say I have any regrets, I had learnt a lot from that band. We were all growing up and things change when you grow up. I have no regrets at all. It was a hell of a lot of fun.

Tell me a wee bit about Gunther.
We were a band.

Hah. Really?
Nah, Gunther was more than a band for me. It was my teenage years. It was me and my best friends playing music we believed in and using it as an escape or a way of fuelling emotions. Every show was high energy; every moment in the band was a good time!

Did you grow out of it, or grow from it?
Well with Gunther, Jake and I grew musically in different directions. He's now in a great band called Mornings. Have you heard them? Tom is still with me in Under Stars & Gutters. Gunther was the start of a learning curve for me with promoting bands and shows and putting on your own gigs and really understanding how hard a band has to work.

I have heard Mornings! I saw them play once, and I was like, "is that Jake?!"
Yeah, it's Jake. I don't think there will ever be a day when he stops writing great songs!

So next up was Hovercraft Pirates, right?
Yeah. Hovercraft Pirates... God, I've been in a good few bands haha.

Are you annoyed that you missed out on playing at the Warped Tour? Or do you feel that leaving was the right decision to make? Why did you leave?
Well Paul and I were the ones who applied for the Warped Tour, never thinking we were going to get it of course, but in the end we did. I was annoyed at the start obviously, 'cause Warped Tour has always been a dream of mine to play, but I'm proud of the boys. They're doing very well for themselves at the minute. I left for a lot of reasons, I felt it was just my time to go.

Your new project, Under Stars and Gutters, no one's really heard anything yet and it all seems a bit secretive - maybe a little bit angels and airwaves-esque? Hmm?
Well I'm not God or Jesus or whoever else Tom Delonge also claimed to be. It is quite secretive though, we've been locking ourselves into a rehearsal room and battering out some songs that I truly believe in. We are definitely the most honest band I have ever been in. The songs are great. I don't think anyone will expect what is going to come from us. It's different to anything I've ever done. We are going to start thinking of studio dates soon though after we play a few shows.

What do you think about the Northern Irish music scene right now? Does the music you're trying to make have a place in it?
I believe a lot of the scene is thriving; I've a lot of faith in a lot of bands round here recently. Fighting With Wire, And So I Watch You from Afar, Daveit Ferris,Axis Of,mornings and Steer Clear and all are doing very well. I'm going to be honest, I'm not a big fan of the whole 'indie' NI scene. I believe anything that stands out will always have a place in the scene and I think that we are different enough to have a place. We will also be playing throughout other scenes in the UK & Ireland too so we'll find our place.

What about the scene down south? Do you think they're open to more variety?
The scene down south is a great scene, [there's] some incredibly good bands there too, such as Little Nightmare, The Upgrades, Home star Runner and The Shower Scene. It seems to be more punk related though with a lot of pop punk, "emo" and ska bands. I think that down in Dublin especially there is a great scene.

Any last words?
Spaghetti. Horse. Goldfinger. Sega Megadrive. Gameboy ...No actually, I take Gameboy back!

You can find out more about Under Stars and Gutters at www.myspace.com/understarsandgutters