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