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

'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
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

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

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.