Thursday, 24 December 2009

Kiss in Cities - "UR My Girl" single review

Kiss in Cities are a Manchester based duo made up of Laura Marden and Joe Cross who make "synth drenched power-pop". "UR My Girl" sounds as if it fell straight out of the 80s and in the current musical climate, this isn't a bad thing. It's a happy pop song that will take you back to your childhood whilst being a memorable song for the end of 2009. Good pop music is something music is missing these days, but Kiss in Cities could bring it all back.

To order the single click here.
You can check out Kiss in Cities at , and also their other band, Performance, at

Saturday, 17 October 2009

"We tried planting astro turf and gazebos into venues but they just weren't having any of it."

The Candle Thieves are two lovely chaps from Peterborough and I was pretty happy when I found out I had the opportunity to interview them. Their 'Sunshine EP' was released in early September and I had a chat with members Scott McEwan and Glockenshiels who aren't into your generic interview answers. On asking them to tell me a little bit about themselves, Glock told me this: "Hi! We both find our jokes worryingly too funny and we both love Domino's Pizza. Scott's even made up a name for his favourite selection of toppings." An interview that starts off like that is definitely going to be interesting!

Scott and Glock are the only members in the band and they play an amazing range of instruments, from the simple acoustic guitar, to the lesser known melodica, these guys are extremely talented but haven't completely ignored the idea of adding more members: "We kind of like it as we are right now, but definitely wouldn't rule out mixing it up a bit. Would love to do a show with a string quartet or doing a full on rock thing. There are no rules really." Scott tells me, with Glock adding, "Yeah, first rule in Glock club is, there are no rules!!!" Good to know!

This summer, instead of spending their time playing gigs in stuffy venues up and down the country, The Candle Thieves decided it would be a better idea to gig in their friends and fans gardens. Glock tells me, "We tried planting astro turf and gazebos into venues but they just weren't having any of it." To be honest, that's fair enough. "Ahhhh, of course we didn't!" Oh, well, then that's a bit more understandable. So what exactly did happen? "We did a 'Live in Your Living Room' tour last year which was so much fun that we wanted to do it all again but with a bit of a different spin on it. With 'The Sunshine EP' coming out too it felt pretty nice to be outside."

For those of you who've already heard 'The Sunshine EP' and are desperately wanting more, don't fret, because debut album, 'Sunshine and Other Misfortunes' is just around the corner: "It was recorded by Andy Dawkins and Cameron Jenkins is mixing it. It's nice to have a full length to get a few more of our sides across." Scott tells me. Glock also decided to let me in on an interesting fact about the recording of the album: "If you look back into the figures, for those couple of months we were recording, there was a soar in sales of Ginger Beer and Monster Munch in the Leeds/Headingly area." And those two items are definitely good ingredients for the making of an epic first album.

You can find out more about The Candle Thieves at

Nic Dawson Kelly - 'Old Valentine' album review

The first time I heard Nic Dawson Kelly the first thing that came to mind was Tom Jones, and now I have no idea why because the more I listen to him the more unique and brilliant he sounds. From working with musicians like Jim Barr (Portishead) and Marco Nelson (Primal Scream, Young Disciples), 'Old Valentine' has taken on a country/folk/generally quite alternative sound and each song leaves you wanting more. Songs like (first single off the album) The Musician, Marilyn and All The Pretty Bullfighters show a slow, peaceful side to Nic, with use of harmonicas and his unique shaky voice putting images of campfire songs and cowboys in our heads. But Old Valentine, Ex-Lovers and Old Friends, and Thursday 3-23 are alive and upbeat, with even a bit of a 60's/70's feel to them. Nic sounds nothing like any of the predictable folk artists who are doing oh so well in the charts at the minute, and it appears that his love of country has made 'Old Valentine' something completely new and exciting for the skinny-jean-and-tight-t-shirt-wearing youth of today. But I'm pretty sure that everyone should give it a listen; you won't regret it.

You can find out more about Nic Dawson Kelly at

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Stagecoach - 'We Got Tazers' EP review

Stagecoach formed in Surrey as a two-piece and "opted to add a new member every year until they felt they could comfortably rock a stadium." Now with just the right number of members (five, to be exact), Stagecoach released the "We Got Tazers" EP on October 5th and it's proving to be pretty damn good. All six tracks are as intriguing as each other and pull you in to listen more - First track, We Got Tazers portrays their happy nature, Break shows us their slower side and Ice Age is a bit of a indie cliche. You even get a remix of We Got Tazers thrown in there which adds to all the fun that this band clearly embody. If you like a bit of indie, a bit of electronica and a bit of confusion then this band are definitely for you. If not, you should still make sure to give it a listen.

You can purchase a copy of We Got Tazers at the Alcopop Records store ( and you can find out more about Stagecoach at

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Candle Thieves - 'The Sunshine EP' review

Peterborough band, The Candle Thieves, are just coming to the end of their 'Garden Party Tour' where they "played up and down the country, ransacking the gardens of their fans for an evening and putting on shows consisting of great music, inflatable sharks, teddy bears and chocolate". Their music is described as "a warm blend of sunshine drenched melody, punctuated with sometimes melancholic but always astute song writing made with instruments straight out of Toy town and thrown into a melting pot to produce mini pop symphonies." First track on the EP, The Sunshine Song, is full of happy little melodies, the use of synths to keep your feet tapping and with lyrics that are enough to make the heart of any conscious female melt. Second track, My Love Will Clap it's Hands for You, starts off simple before building up and becoming even more intriguing. Final two tracks, The State that I'm in and Lonely, Lonely, Lonely show us a more down beat, slightly darker side to the band but they still keep up the simple melodies and heartfelt lyrics that make their music so appealing.

The Sunshine EP is available from today on Alcopop Records ( and you can find out more about The Candle Thieves at

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Paramore - 'Brand New Eyes' album review

This album is amazing. Paramore's talents get ten times better with every record that they make and they've come a long way since the days of 'All We Know is Falling'. 'Brand New Eyes' is full of big, punchy songs like opening track, Careful, and Brick by Boring Brick, but it also has a few quieter tracks, such as Misguided Ghosts, that prove to us that these guys are definitely not a one trick pony. First single, Ignorance, is pretty much on the same level as Misery Business and is bound to be a crowd pleaser on their UK tour later this year. The album has a bit more of a religious feel to it in parts, with Hayley clearly feeling comfortable enough to make it clear to their fans that they're Christians. Decode, the official Twilight soundtrack, is also featured on the album, but maybe should have been put somewere in the middle than right after the song that displays Paramore's full potential. However, I don't have any complaints other than that. Even if you aren't a fan of Paramore, you should definitely check this album out. I promise you won't be dissappointed.

You can check out Paramore's music and what they're getting up to at

Bethany Dillon - 'Stop & Listen' album review

Within Christian music it can sometimes be hard to find artists who sell music because they are good at what they do, rather than the fact that they are just Christian, but Bethany Dillon is one of few who are actually amazing at making music. As expected, the album is full of hope (something Bethany does brilliantly) and opening track, Get Up and Walk, is full of major keys and perfectly sung notes. First single, Everyone to Know, brings back memories of The Kingdom and Dreamer and shows us how in love with Jesus Bethany really is; and it's not cheesy or cliched like a lot of Christian music can be. The album is full of honesty and beauty in songs like I Am Yours and Deliver Me and shows how this wonderful artist has matured and gained so much wisdom since the days of Beautiful when she was fifteen years old. Her wonderful acoustic pop music is enough to make you smile, even if you don't agree with what she's singing, so I suggest that everyone makes sure to give this album a listen.

You can find out more about Bethany Dillon at

The boys are back in town

So you probably noticed the lack of updates on Belfast Calling over the summer, but this is all about to change! We'll be going back to the normal schedule of reviews, interviews and news updates as soon as I get my act together and contact people and sort out the myspace page! The inbox really has filled up... so, first, you can expect a few album and EP reviews including Paramore, Bethany Dillon and an EP by a brilliant band from Peterborough called The Candle Thieves. So chums, keep your eyes and ears open for many new updates! AND if you would like you're a band, filmmaker, photographer, writer, artist, or do anything creative send me an e-mail at telling me what you do, what you'd like to see featured, and I'll make sure to get back to you!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

"It's like, I paid good money to be here tonight...amp me up! Make me feel alive!"

For as long as I can remember indie, punk and anything alternative has been the main favourite in the Northern Irish music scene, so what do a band like Team Fresh do when they come into the scene with hip hop and want to make a name for themselves?

“I think when word started spreading about us and people who'd seen us live tried to describe us, it turned a lot of people off.” Slaine Browne tells me, “The problem is that whole nu-metal era which we never paid attention to. We all just grew up skateboarding together and listening to the music on skate videos, which was mainly underground, bouncy hip hop and positive punk tunes, and it seemed natural to us to put those two together.” While the indie scene is currently prominent in Northern Ireland, there was a time before that when all everyone wanted to do was skate and listen to music that had a good beat. Since then it’s as if people take music too seriously and all they want to do is be successful. But it’s easy to see, with bands like Team Fresh, that if you write what you love then you’ll have just as much success.“Another thing was we were bored of going to gigs and watching 'clichéd indie' bands. People who were scared to look at the crowd or would stare at their shoes while saying, "uh, hi... we have a record for sale at the door... buy it, or don't. Your choice... this next one’s about my ex-girlfriend”. We wanted to start a band that made people have a good time; that made them go home feeling fired up. You know? It's like, I paid good money to be here tonight, don't make me feel depressed, amp me up! Make me feel alive!”

However, once Team Fresh got started it didn’t take long before they were getting gig offers all over Belfast: “We set up our MySpace and people seemed to find us quite quickly. We played Rathlin Island around 6 months after starting the band and when we got home and checked our e-mails we had offers for gigs in The Empire and Queens in Belfast. I think a lot of folk from the Belfast music scene were there and liked us, liked what they'd seen. I guess we were just extremely lucky.”

So while you could go and see the next big thing in indie, why not do something a bit different and check out Team Fresh? Here’s to Northern Irish hip hop! Because I, for one, am sick of clichés.

You can check out Team Fresh at

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

"It definitely still sounds like The Almost"

For a while we didn’t hear much from The Almost but now they have signs plastered all over their MySpace page about a new album later this summer and Belfast Calling is pretty excited about the prospect of a second album from this alternative southern band. “Everything is done on our end. We actually just got a couple of mixes back.” Dusty Redmon (guitar) tells me, “We've got two different guys working on the mixes, and so far we're stoked on what we've gotten back!” And what about the sound? Will it be that typical “complicated second album” that sounds nothing like the first, or is it a progression of something amazing? “Looking back on the writing process with Dusty, I remember the both of us making the conscious effort to write what we liked without worrying what the final product would be.” Jay (guitar) tells me, “When the new record finally took shape, we were stoked to hear that The Almost had taken a big step forward.” It’s good to know that we won’t be handing over our money for another copy of Southern Weather. “It definitely still sounds like the Almost,” Dusty adds, “As a fan of the last album before joining the band, I think I can say that what we've got is a pretty cool, natural step forward. Jay and I murdered the guitars. I CAN say that.”

I asked Dusty if the album had a name yet, and got this unfortunate reply: “We DO have a title for it. I'm just not sure if I'm allowed to say yet or not!” So we’ll be waiting a little longer to discover what the guys have decided to call the album. And I’m sure you’re also wondering if The Almost will be in the UK any time soon, right? “We've been hoping to make it over to the UK for a while now. I guess the last album didn't get a proper release over there, so we're working hard to figure out a way to have this one come out. If that all works, I'm sure we'll get over there!” Dusty tells me. “We talk about touring the UK often, so our fingers are crossed in hopes that the response to the new record is positive! If not, Dusty and I will just come as tourists!” Jay adds. We’ll make sure to give them a warm welcome, whatever way they get here.

You can check out The Almost and get updates on the new album at

Monday, 20 July 2009

Owl City - 'Fireflies' single review

Since the summer of 2008, Adam Young of Owl City has certainly been making a name for himself. He's currently touring with Kate Havnevik and Unicorn Kid and has just had Fireflies available for free download on iTunes, as well as making an accompanying video. Fireflies definitely has the electronic Owl City sound to it, but there's something much larger about it. With synths and melodies, Mr Adam Young is certainly outdoing himself. The lyrics speak of hopes and dreams but settle straight back to reality and things everyone can relate to. This is definitely a song that everyone needs to listen to.

With new album, Ocean Eyes, soon to be available in the UK will Adam gain himself more fans or will he lose some? If Fireflies is anything to go by he'll be making it to number one before you can say "Hello Seattle".

You can check out Owl City and listen to Fireflies at
Photo by Pamela Littky.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

"We wanted a big sound with big songs, catchy hooks and lyrics everyone can relate to."

"Recently we've been keeping ourselves pretty busy booking a tour for the end of June and we are just out of the studio last week finishing off the final touches to the debut EP" Adam Carroll of Under Stars & Gutters tells me. The boys have come a long way since they started, and now with three music videos under their belt and plenty of gigs played around Northern Ireland, including the great AU sponsored St. Patrick's Day gig in Portrush, they have now almost completed their first EP.

"the EP is called 'Soundtrack To this City' and basically tells the story of the last 3 years in the bands life. I definately tried to make all the lyrics as personal as possible. We recorded all 5 tracks with Patrick trolan in broken studios in Portstewart in 2 different sessions. all along the aim of the cd was to make it sound HUGE, we wanted a big sound with big songs,catchy hooks and lyrics everyone can relate to."

So if you like the sound of that make sure to give Under Stars & Gutters a listen. I can assure you, you won't regret it.

You can check out Under Stars & Gutters at
Photo by Mark Douglas at

Friday, 10 April 2009

We're on Twitter!

Yep, just head on over to and click follow!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

"I think I got into photography on a bit of a fluke."

Everyone seems to see themselves as a bit of a wannabe photographer these days. Whether it be the “emo” kids on MySpace who take a million photos of themselves and their friends in mirrors, or people who have Facebook albums full of photos of beautiful landscapes. But it takes a lot more than that to take a good photo, and Colette McHugh is one of few gifted people who can take good photos. “I think I got into photography on a bit of a fluke but am very grateful that I did. I started taking pictures when I was about 15 as a hobby but never really thought I could take it anywhere professional. As much as I wanted to be I was never any good at fine art so by the time I got to university I found myself in a course with nothing to do with art, that I had no interest in. I had it set in my mind that I was going to leave when I found the University of Ulster was starting a photography course. Unlike others who went up for the course I didn’t come from a foundation art background so was extremely happy when I was given the chance and got accepted into the course. From there I really developed my love of art photography.”

It was the work of photographer Annie Leibowitz that really stood out the Colette when she was 15 and helped her realise her passion for taking photos: “I was amazed by the beautiful constructed images she created of glamorous people but also how she could use photography to document her own life. It seemed like the perfect vocation for me as it could include all my interests in one career that I could be passionate about.” And photography is just that; no matter what you’re interested in it’s always possible to include it. From fashion to art, there’s always some way to put it in a photo, and Colette’s inspirations are proof of this: “Every project I take on has different inspirations, from music and other art forms to everyday experiences, but I’m most influenced by the past. I’ve always loved the look of old movies from the styles of film noir to the musical production of the 1940s. This plays a big role in my current project which is mostly influenced by director George Melies and musical choreographer Busby Berkeley.”

Colette is currently working on fashion photography for Belfast hair and artist designer ‘Vintage Rocks’ and is hoping to start a website and create a book of work this summer, so make sure to watch this space and look out for her photos.

You can check out more of Colette's work at
All photos used with permission.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Kuhn formed after drummer, Sandra Kuhn, moved to Northern Ireland from Hamburg after a move to Birmingham not working out and only planned to stay for a year, but has now been here for seven. Kuhn didn’t form till spring 2008 and have been a cover band until now, as they have decided to work on their own material. They have a large list of influences including The Beatles, AC/DC, The Fratellis and Black Sabbath and have quite a rock ‘n’ roll feel. And the band name? Sandra tells me, “We cannot agree on a proper band name, we’re constantly juggling names!” as I’m sure you can see the connection. Kuhn are currently not gigging but focusing on writing their own material and have just started recording some of their songs.

You can check out Kuhn at

Monday, 6 April 2009

"There is only so much a band can do."

The Randals formed in October 2007 “after realising each others unhealthy interest in music” and were originally called ‘The Deadbeats’ and just played covers of songs by bands ranging from The Arctic Monkeys to The Pixies, but after gigging in Omagh for a while they decided it would be best to take a break and write their own material. This led to a change in the bands name and they became The Randals.

“With so many bands in the Northern Irish music scene it is hard to find a place to fit in and get noticed,” Stephen (guitar) tells me, “People say that to get something done right you have to do it yourself, but there is only so much a band can do, they need that extra help from promoters, and I’m glad to say that we’ve been promoted well in our town, and from it have been told that we have great live talent.” With confidence like that it won’t be hard for these boys to go far with their music. In any music scene it’s hard to get heard, and bands give up too quickly, but due to success in their home town (and there’s no place like home) The Randals have a belief in themselves that doesn’t show arrogance.

While these boys continue to work their way to the top, they aren’t just focusing on themselves, as they have a true belief that the Northern Irish scene has got something important to say: “We just think something more should be done about the talent in the North, because god knows good things don't last forever.” Amen to that.

You can check out The Randals at
Photo by Kirk Gilmore -

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

"It was a woman who bore me"

You might think that acoustic music can sometimes get a bit dull, but if you give Kitty and the Can Openers a listen your opinion could very easily change. It’s not often that you hear full acoustic bands but these guys pull it off really well. “We don’t try to sound like anyone else; we make songs that reflect who we are. We have a DIY ethos so we like to keep it acoustic as possible and prefer glockenspiels, melodicas and any other weird and wacky instrument that give unusual flavours. We do our own thing.” Ronan tells me. If you listen to Kitty and the Can Openers it won’t be easy to think of another band in the Northern Irish music scene who sounds like them right now. They’re one of few who aren’t afraid to break away from the indie cliché and make the music that they want to make. And what about that name? “Well we initially found it in an arts catalogue (like a cat out of a garbage can) and we thought it was quite playful and unpretentious. I had this surreal image of a very happy cat surrounded by giant tin openers holding musical instruments, which made me laugh. It is also a reflection of the old-fashioned tastes that we were enamoured to at the time. I think those fifties style names are underused, like Buddy Holly and the Crickets- ‘somebody and the somethings’, you know?”

Kitty and the Can Openers have been going for about two years and have only recently experienced a bit of attention from the Northern Irish press: “We're very grateful for that. It's important to be patient and persistent and to hone your craft and allow your sound to develop because sooner or later, if you're good and you work hard and you're honest in your writing, someone will take notice.” In Northern Ireland bands are either noticed very soon after forming or after a long run of gigging and getting publicity, and it seems even harder for acoustic acts who can’t instantly play the well known venues, so Kitty and the Can Openers definitely deserve the attention they’re finally getting. “There’s a long road ahead with ups and downs aplenty, I'm sure, but we're loving it and are so excited about all these songs we've got that are just dying to be heard.”

If you’ve paid attention to Kitty and the Can Opener’s lyrics you might have noticed that they’ve been written from a male perspective (I assume Ciara’s hairline isn’t receding, but you know what they say about those who assume...), so who is writing them and why isn’t he singing? “The song writing [is] Ronan's job,” Ciara tells me, “He has a way with words and all the songs have little characters and stories attached to them. He also has a great knack for one-liners. Some are written from a male perspective, some aren't, but we’re telling a story so it's immaterial whether a particular lyric is sung by a female.” I can’t really imagine a man singing for Kitty and the Can Openers. Even though artists like Dallas Green and Damien Rice make amazing music, there’s something about acoustic music that sometimes needs a softer voice.

“There’s always going to be a style that’s more popular than others at any given time but we’re still seeing musicians taking risks and displaying that independent streak, which is a local characteristic I think.” Ronan tells me his opinion on the current Northern Irish music scene, “One thing that the local DJs, [journalists] and promoters and bloggers have in common is that they are all genuinely passionate about the music, and there's still a sense of camaraderie there too, ego isn't really an issue here, thank God.” From listening to Kitty and the Can Openers it’s clear that Belfast life has a big affect on their music. They all have stories to them and feature people who songwriter Ronan has clearly encountered in his day to day life, if not known for years. “The other day a dishevelled looking fellow stopped us on the street and said “I have seven words that will change your life” he counted them out on his fingers-‘it was a woman who bore me’ then he walked away looking dead pleased with himself. He'll probably find his way into one of our songs someday.”

While Kitty and the Can Openers have some new songs planned for the website, what else will be happening with them over the next few months? “[We’ll be making] our first attempt at a DIY music video which hopefully won’t be an embarrassment. Actually scratch that- it'll be awesome. Over and out.”

You can check out Kitty and the Can Openers at
Photo by Phil O'kane.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

New Found Glory - 'Not without a Fight' Review

After ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Catalyst’, two pretty mediocre albums, New Found Glory fans were expecting something a little bit more exciting and they seem to have got it on ‘Not without a Fight’. First single, Listen to your Friends, takes us back to the days of ‘Sticks and Stones’ and is reminiscent of fan-favourite, My Friends Over You, while Truck Stop Blues has a great punk rock beat with melodies that catch your attention and Don’t Let Her Pull You Down and 47 remind us of teenage relationships and growing up. After all, New Found Glory were the band that got us into punk rock, with Jordan’s well known whiney voice being the narrator in our lives. Reasons is a bit different to what we’re used to but still has that New Found Glory sound with its foot-tapping rhythm and traditional punk rock melodies. Such a Mess has a strong intro that pulls you into the song and Heartless at Best is the song that everyone will learn to sing along to because of its catchy chord progression, while final track, This isn’t You, seems like a bit of a slow starter but picks up in the chorus and really does New Found Glory justice. So if you were worried that this would be another let down, there’s really no need. Jordan and the boys are finally back on track and they seem to be reminiscing as much as we are.

You can check out New Found Glory and some tracks from 'Not without a Fight' at

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Three bands to check out this month!

Ram's Pocket Radio
Pete McCauley used to drum for Ego, and if you ever heard them then you won't expect him to be making music like this. 'Boats' (which is available for free download at is something that Northern Irish music has been lacking for a long time and 'Dieter Rams has got the Pocket Radios' is almost slightly Dresden Dolls-esque. This is one band that you will kick yourself for not hearing sooner.
You can check out Ram's Pocket Radio at
Photo by Neil Kerr -

Glare of Rockets
These guys have already been plugged by the lovely people at To Write Love on Her Arms so they probably don't need much more publicity, but they really deserve it. Lead singer, Mariah, is only 16 but has a voice beyond her years that perfectly expresses the passion that these guys portray through their lyrics. Songs 'She Screams' and untitled 'track 8' on their myspace are two songs you should definitely give a listen.

You can check out Glare of Rockets at
Photo by Jared Scott.

This Will Destroy You
What's funny about this band is that their name in no way reflects the music they make. They create beautiful instrumental pieces that will leave you feeling pretty amazing by the time the three or four minutes that they last is up. If you listen to anything by this band I would suggest that you check out 'Freedom Blade'.
You can check out This Will Destroy You at
Photo by Mike Simpson.

Now on Twitter!

Yep, Belfast Calling is now on Twitter, so head on over to and follow me!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Doing Something Right

From personal experience, I can tell you that it’s hard to get recognised as a writer. While people seem to be more interested in music, film and TV than books or poetry, writing suffers and doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. While Gerard McKeown is a writer, he takes part in what is called ‘performance poetry’ and a lot of the time this is mocked and not taken seriously, so how does he feel on the matter? “I feel performance poetry can get unfairly looked down upon by people who want to judge it according to what they think poetry should be, but then when writers like John Cooper Clarke or Stewart Home come to Belfast and you get asked to support them you feel you're doing something right.”

While music may be taking over these days, Gerard has had many opportunities to incorporate it into his work: “The Lowly Knights invited me to support them at their EP launch. That all stemmed from meeting Michael from the band at a gig and finding out we liked each other’s stuff, which is always the best sort of recognition.” If you listen to Gerard’s work on his MySpace you’ll notice that he has put some of his work to music, portraying the fact that sounds are just as important to him as words: “One of the most important factors in choosing the words for my poetry is the way they sound. A poem has to work aurally before I'll consider it finished. I was originally attracted to poetry through music, for example, Bob Dylan referencing Rimbaud. So for me there's a strong link between the two. Poetry is music set to words, as the saying goes.” It’s not very often that music and poetry are mixed – a lot of people would say poetry is just words that are lost without music but when a band and a poet come together like this it’s easy to see how the two can work so well alongside each other, and how songs would be non-existent without poetry.

But it’s not all about the serious side of things. While it’s easy enough to sit down and read a sombre poem, you might not want to listen to the same thing when you’re out at the pub with your mates and Gerard takes this into account with his use of comedy: “as much as I will draw from music I will draw from comedy. Comedy works well for performance poetry because you can often perform to people who've been drinking. They like to laugh and it more often than not fits the mood of most pub gigs.” But it’s not all jokes, the things Gerard makes comical are topics that he feels need to be discussed, Humour is a good way of introducing these topics, without coming across like you're talking down to people or telling them how to think (which for a lot of people is boring).” It’s true; no one likes to be preached at, no matter what the topic, and so disguising opinions with humour seems like something that should be done more often.

So next time you see a poster advertising a performance poetry night, maybe think about checking it out before you judge it.

You can check out Gerard's work at

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Under Stars & Gutters - MySpace Songs Review

Under Stars & Gutters have a great pop punk mentality about them. First song, 3167, is energetic, fun, passionate and has the some of the typical gang vocals that a lot of punk likes to include, but it's not predictable or cliched - music-wise. Lyrics-wise you can't really expect much more than either a long song or a bitter song of revenge about a girl who broke a heart. However, it's not overly obvious and this song is definitely worth listening to. Second song, If You Met Drama, again has the passion and the energy that you expect from pop punk, and as we think back over Adam Carroll's musical past it's good to see how the bands he has been in have really progressed and matured.

"All we can do is work hard and be patient."

Jumping Orbit are an alternative indie rock band based in Mid-Ulster/Belfast who formed one night when Ciaran (lead guitar) drunkenly asked Matthew (lead vocals/rhythm guitar) if he wanted to form a band. You don’t hear of a lot of bands based in Mid-Ulster so Matthew agreed: “I had been playing guitar for a short time at that stage but the thought of being in a band and doing something different to everyone where we live really excited me, so of course I had to be in the band.” The guys had their ups and downs before finding Francis (drums) and Anthony (bass) and have since recorded their first demo and gigged as much as they can.

Jumping Orbit aren’t your typical indie band, because as you listen to them you’ll hear a heavier side come out. “I think the heavier side comes from me as my favourite band is Biffy Clyro, but this combined with The Strokes, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Kiss provides a strange mix. All four of us are largely influenced by Derry’s fighting with wire. Everything they have done to date has been a big inspiration for everyone involved in music here.” Fighting With Wire are one of few heavier Northern Irish bands and clearly a big influence on the growing heavier music scene here so it’s understandable that Jumping Orbit would be inspired by them.

“We have high hopes for 2009. Although we are only new to the scene we have turned a few heads so far,” Matthew tells me, “We really want to play the big bars in Belfast i.e. the limelight, the speakeasy, stiff kitten or even the empire. At present we are writing and rehearsing new songs which we wish to record in the coming months, so hopefully we will have an EP on the way. We have already spoken to paddy Glasgow about playing at the festival (Glasgowbury ‘09) in the summer but all we can do is work hard and be patient.”

You can check out Jumping Orbit at

"I think only in imagery."

In Northern Ireland being a cinematographer /director/photographer/writer must be a tough occupation, right? Not for the man in question, Matthew Alexander Patton. “[My work is] all visual, even the writing. I think only in imagery, so whilst I'm trying to express ideas and feelings using different mediums - to me, it's the same.” While music is still a growing phenomenon for a lot of people, the other arts tend to be ignored, but not by the few who are skilled enough to actually use them to create something. “A lot of what I'm doing I've fallen into. I was actually an IT consultant for a few years after I left school, and I have always loved interest in film making came first, then writing and finally (by complete accident) photography.” For Matthew it was as much an accident, discovering what he was good at, as it was for any musician to discover how good they are at their chosen instrument.

As I’ve already mentioned, this sort of work might seem tougher than most jobs in a country as small as Northern Ireland, but is this really the case? “I don't think Northern Ireland is small at all, I think the general mentality is small, we've grown up with that mindset. I've been constantly told by friends in the film industry that I should be based in London, and eventually move stateside - but I have no interest in that. My enthusiasm for film making in particular is directed into raising the game here at home. The talent is there, but a lot of people are unaware of just how much they can accomplish without having to jump ship.” It couldn’t be more true. Once again turning to music, we’re constantly seeing bands feeling the need to tour in England to gain success. Northern Ireland may be geographically small but there’s so many opportunities that people refuse to see because they want to be part of something obvious, something they refuse to look for here because it might take a little longer to find.

Matthew currently has three unpublished books but doesn’t want to try publishing until he’s really happy with it: “I completed my first book back in 2005, then drafted it over and over, and I'm still not happy with it. It had a little interest from a publisher in England, but breaking out as a novelist is possibly one of the hardest creative paths to follow - and so it never came to anything. I've continued to write but have decided to sit on it until I know I'm holding something really worthwhile.” But it isn’t writing that would Matthew’s choice if he had to pick just one of his interests to do for the rest of his life – “Film is the best of both worlds really, it's a descriptive medium that immerses the audience, and can be insanely powerful. It has had the greatest impact on my life, and I have learned so much emotionally from cinema that I couldn't pick up from day to day situations.”

Matthew is currently working on a low budget feature film, and trying to secure funding for four music videos with various local acts, so make sure to watch out for some of his work throughout the year.

You can view more of Matthew's work at

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Avalanche Effect - 'Do You Think They Can Hear Us?' EP review

First track, 'Pistols at Dawn, Sir' is a brilliant opening track as it's passionate, muscially and vocally, and is quite heavy but at the same time, if you listen carefully, you can hear snyths in the background which calm it down a little bit.There are some vocals which are verging on screamo near the end of the song, and this adds to the passion. Second track, 'Mentalied Matics' starts off slower but builds up and then dies down again at the end, reminding me of old school Lost Prophets. Next track, 'History Is Made At Night', reminds me of the alternative rock bands I would go to see play when I was fifteen and loved because they really cared about the music they were playing, and because all the riffs and rhythms fitted together perfectly,. Final track, 'The Beys' is again quite a strong track, with the addition of more vocals that are verging on screamo that grab your attention. There also seems to be some sort of hidden track at the end which has gorgeous melodies and soft vocals that don't take over the peaceful music. Overall, this is an epic EP, so you should definitely make sure to purchase a copy and check out The Avalanche Effect.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Medison - EP Review

At the minute there's a lot of alternative rock bands forming in the UK, and rather than being a bit dull they're actually making music that makes you want to listen; Medison are one of these bands. First track on their EP, 'Break the Glass' has a more alternative feel to it and reminds me of bands like Fighting With Wire (funnily enough, they recently played a few gigs with these guys) and is a good song to start off with, because it really grabs your attention. Second track,'Tell Them' again has a very alternative rock feel but is a bit slower than 'Break the Glass'. Next track, 'Lava Lamps', isn't as strong as you might expect after the first two songs but is still worth a listen. Final track, 'Through and Through' has a catchy opening melody and this is carried throughout the rest of the song, along with strong vocals and an attention-grabbing chorus. Oddly, it sounds slightly more like You Me At Six than any alternative rock band, but this adds to the sound and only makes it better. If you're a fan of alternative rock, pop punk, or any genres that go along with those, you should definitely check Medison out and make sure to buy a copy of this EP.

You can check Medison out at

Monday, 26 January 2009

Joey Terrifying - Demo review

These days ska is becoming quite unheard of. Any time it's mentioned the majority of the people in the room always say "what's ska?" with a bemused look on their faces. However, for the past five years I have been a fan of ska and I know, from listening to Joey Terrifying's demo, that this won't be changing any time soon. 'National Insecurites' is a good first song for the demo, as it's upbeat and catchy and has a good ska punk feel about it. It makes me feel that a great deal of skanking is in order! Second track, 'A Girl Called Mary' is a slower song and reminds me of ska's roots in reggae. It picks up a little bit more and shows the obvious punk side of this band. Final track 'Troubled Times' is also a slow starter but when it picks up, once again, we can hear the obvious ska and punk sides of this band, and it gets a little heavier throughout the chorus. It has an epic ending and is a great end to a brilliant demo.

You can find out more about Joey Terrifying at

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Guilded Youth - Myspace Songs Review

This band reminds me of The Beatles. Not to say they’re as good as The Beatles, but no one really could be. First song, ‘Late Yesterday’, has a melancholic feeling about it, with twangy guitars and a classic sound making it seem very 50s-esque. However, it doesn’t really have very much that would make you want to keep it playing, as the vocals seem a bit dreary at times. But second track, ‘Lazy Girl’, definitely makes up for this. This is where you can really see Guilded Youth’s influences (The Beatles, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, The Monkees etc. etc.) coming through. It’s fun, something your parents might have danced along to back in the day, and that classic sound comes through again, with those twangy guitars and the fun bass lines. Guilded Youth are good at what they do and if you’re into any of the bands they’re influenced by you should definitely give them a listen, but they’re not really doing anything new.

You can listen to these songs and find out more about Guilded Youth at

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

"We just want to keep outdoing ourselves."

we all met around November 2007 and [discovered] we had a lot in common and shortly after formed a band,” Alex Hewett of Copycat tells me, “[We] wrote our first bunch of songs in 2007 and started playing some shows in 2008, and since then we've just been writing and recording as much as we can as well as playing gigs.” Copycat is a band based in Manchester and Stockport who are all no older than sixteen, but this won’t stop them making great music. “We write pop songs heavily influenced by 80's pop, post punk, new wave, kraut rock, circuit bending etcetera, etcetera.”

Electronic music is currently becoming very popular with many bands as it makes more sounds a lot more easily available, and Alex couldn’t agree more: “the possibilities of electronic music go so far beyond the standard guitar, vocals, bass and drums, I think there will always be an electronic element to our songs no matter how much we move on musically - mostly because none of us can actually play drums [laughs].” With a severe lack of drummers, generally, this seems like a good plan, but the fact that these guys don’t even need a drummer to sound good makes that plan even better.

So have these fresh-faced teens got any plans for the next twelve months? “This year i guess we ideally want to get something released. That was our plan for last year but it didn’t quite happen [laughs]. it’s not going to be our main priority right now though, we're happy just playing as many shows as we can and writing new material. We just want to keep outdoing ourselves.” Those sound like some pretty good plans to me.

You can find out more about Copycats at

"I couldn't think of a better way of expressing your art than printing it onto t-shirts."

Plenty of celebrities and famous people start up clothing lines all the time, but what happens when one boy decides he wants to start a clothing line – Castration Clothing? “I decided to start the company in the summer because I had so much free time and I needed something productive to do.” Nathan tells me, “I also wanted to create something that was just mine and it would be down to me to make it succeed. I also thought that if I started a company I wouldn’t have to get a job, how wrong I was [laughs].” Aaah, the age old problem of being young and trying to get out of actually getting off your bum and finding a job (I have also fallen victim to this...). However, Castration Clothing isn’t a completely solo project: “We come up with the designs ourselves working together with Josh Baker and other free lance illustrators.” It’s good to see Nathan giving free lance artists some were to exhibit their work but also that he works on the designs himself. But what about the bands that wear Castration Clothing? Right now Nathan isn’t working with bands but it might happen someday: “Collaborating with bands is something we will definitely be considering in the future.”

“Most of my friends are in bands so they were happy to help us out by wearing our stuff at shows and in promo shoots,” Nathan continues, “I have also been lucky enough to meet and hang out with some big named international bands such as New Found Glory, Hit The Lights and Four Year Strong who were cool enough to take some tees off our hands.” It’s always good to see bigger bands supporting the “little guy”. While it can be hard, as a clothing line, to catch the attention of the public and make them realise that the t-shirt their friend wore to that party wasn’t just picked out of a high street store it’s good to see that bands are supporting them, as we all know how much people are influenced, not just by the music they listen to, but also by the people who make that music.

So what’s Castration Clothing all about? Is it just art for art's sake? “For me, personally, this clothing label was not started as an expression of art or to send out a message, but just for fun. However, if it was I couldn’t think of a better way of expressing your art than printing it onto t-shirts.”

You can read more about Castration Clothing and find out about new ranges at
You can also order their products at

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

"We just ended up getting really good at playing table tennis on a 6' by 4' table."

Previously published in Take in the Scene

“After lengthy debate we decided to call the album ‘This Hope Will Kill Us’ and it will be released on Furious Tradesmen on January 19th,” Davey of Panda Kopanda tells me, “Basically it’s our whole lifetime’s work, and we’re quite proud of it.” Panda Kopanda’s last release was in 2006 so it’s been a long wait for this album, but we’re all hoping, and believing, it will be worth it. If you’re a fan of The Pixies, Nick Cave, Pavement, Arcade Fire or (according to the band) Cliff Richard, this album may be of interest to you.

If you’re hoping for another ‘Ocean of Fire’ you definitely won’t be getting that: “The album is definitely BIGGER sounding: more airiness, more feedback, more cowbell!” But what about the band themselves; what does it say about them and their music? “‘This Hope Will Kill Us’ gives a fair reflection of what we are, it’s challenging and serious but there‘s a sense of humour in there too. We’ve still maintained our pop sensibilities from our previous works, there’s still a lot of catchy tunes and hooks in there, but we’ve smothered it in all kinds of challenging goodness, we’re like Jelly Babies dipped in Marmite!” We all know about the cliché of the “difficult second album”, but after two EPs is it possible that Panda Kopanda may have just created a new cliché – the “challenging first album”?

Currently, the band are living together, which could go one of two ways – living in perfect peace and harmony or they might be doing it Big Brother style and getting angry because someone ate the last egg: “[It’s working out] great! We’re quite unflappable really, we’ve had 80mph car crashes together and Gavin’s dad threatened Jonny with a shotgun so domestic arguments always seem fairly insignificant. Initially our thought was that living together would make us really productive, but in the end we just ended up getting really good at playing table tennis on a 6’ by 4’ kitchen table.” Nothing to worry about there then...

Since the band are releasing the album so early in the year do they have any hopes for possible outcomes in 2009? “The album is the main priority, if we can get as many people to hear that as we can then we’ll be happy. For us that means gigging as much as we can across Ireland (North and South) and generally whoring ourselves around!” And what about outside of the UK and Ireland altogether? “We’ve had a few enquiries from mainland Europe so we may end up going further afield as well. In conclusion for 2009 we want to: a) sell albums, b) tour and c) ultimately get more puntang.”

If you’re a fan of Panda Kopanda you have a lot to look forward to, and if you’re not a fan yet you’ll have plenty of gigs to attend, a new album to purchase and some banter along the way. Make sure to head to the album launch on Thursday 15th January at Two Step at the Limelight, with support from the fabulous Cutaways and Three Tales. “Needless to say we’ll be selling copies of the album at the show and our performance should feature some ’special guests’… although now that Coolio has joined the Big Brother House we need to organise his replacement.” Damnit, and that’s just who I wanted to see!

You can check out Panda Kopanda at
You can find out more about Take in the Scene fanzine at

Monday, 12 January 2009

Three bands to check out this month!

If you're into hardcore then Blackhole are definitely a band you should listen to. Having recently supported the epic Johnny Truant on their farewell tour, these boys are breaking through the British hardcore scene and quickly making a name for themselves. These guys stand out from the rest and bring a more rock-ish sound to the music they make with immense riffs and a clear passion for what they do.

For fans of: Johnny Truant, Gallows, The Ghost of a Thousand

Me Vs Hero are an amazing band who mix pop punk in with a bit of hardcore. With a clear "oi!
oi!" punk influence added in these guys should appeal to many different types of music fan so
make sure you give them a listen before you judge them. With amazing breakdowns and melodies,
If you don't give these guys a listen you will definitely regret it.

For fans of: You Me At Six, New Found Glory, Set Your Goals

Under Stars & Gutters are the third and final band of the month that you NEED to listen to. with a bit of an Angels and Airwaves style wait until anyone finally heard their music, the final reveal of the band didn't go quite as badly. These guys are punk with a slightly heavier side and are a band you need to listen to this month, if not for longer.

For fans of: Set Your Goals, Blink 182, Hundred Reasons

Photos by Tom Barnes (, Jodie Guest and Graham Smith (

Mafafi - 'Why Pay to Exist When you can be Dead for Free' EP review

‘Why pay to exist...’ isn’t your generic hardcore EP. It’s not your generic EP full stop. Mafafi clearly don’t want to do things the conventional way and they show this clearly through the five tracks they put on this record. The fact that the intro is a lot longer than second track, ‘I musta had me ‘bout 15 Dr. Peppers’ makes the whole EP stand out three minutes in. Mafafi call themselves punk as well as hardcore and the punk influence comes out on the intro, while the second track is more like an interlude, with a sample from a film that lasts most of the track, before starting a twenty second piece of music, clearly influenced by both punk and hardcore, with an obvious love for thrash coming through. Third track ‘Ed Burns’ is again short but clearly shows the passion that Mafafi have for the music they make and the styles of music that they love, with aggressive vocals standing out over the equally aggressive music. Fourth track ‘I Thought So, he was Trying to Steal my Brick’ is slower in parts and gives more time to take in the challenging aspects of ‘Why Pay to Exist...’ while final track, ‘I Still don’t Believe...’ starts with a slightly horrifying sample from a film before an epic drum beat begins and this song gets into full swing. ‘Why Pay to Exist...’ is challenging and at times you feel like you have to work to understand it and what exactly Mafafi are trying to say, but I definitely think it’s an EP every hardcore fan should make sure they get to listen to.

You can check out Mafafi at

In The Long Run - 'These Years' EP Review

For a first EP these guys have definitely put a lot of work into it. From the professional album sleeve and CD design to the brilliant production you can tell that In The Long Run wanted to make an impression with this EP, and they certainly have. It's pop punk with an edge as the first two tracks have an alternative rock sound. ‘This One’s for You’ pulls you in with a catchy upbeat intro while ‘The Lights are off’ has a slightly weaker tone but the vocals stand out and stop this song being boring – even pop punk bands need a song that’s a little calmer! Title track ‘These Years’ is probably the song that makes this EP what it is – a catchy pop punk record full of melodies and memories. With its reminiscent feel, looking back on growing up and remembering the one person who made a certain time completely perfect, it grabs your attention and will be the song that you reminisce to. Final track ‘Picture This’ once again has a feel of moving on and growing up and is a brilliant final track. It has a catchy beat and lyrics that everyone will relate to at some point in their life. ‘These Years’ isn’t your conventional pop punk EP, and In the Long Run aren’t your conventional pop punk band, so you should definitely make sure to check them out – you won’t regret it.

You can check out In the Long Run at
Photo by Tom Barnes -

Monday, 5 January 2009

"I don't want this ever to be a typical job."

When looking at a photo of your favourite band it’s easy to forget that there’s someone behind the camera who’s captured that moment – letting us see each of the band members and who they really are. “I have never wanted to actually be a musician but I have always wanted to be involved in music in some way.” Graham Smith, Northern Irish music photographer, tells me, “My path into photography came from trying my hand at music journalism, something I neither particularly enjoyed or was very good at. One of the small magazines I was writing for asked me to take some pictures to go along with my live reviews and that is how it all began.” Looking at Graham’s work you wouldn’t think his skill at rock photography had just been discovered accidentally – it looks like the work of someone who has always known this was what they wanted to do. Someone, who from the day they could put two thoughts together, knew they wanted to capture the lives of our favourite musicians in images.

“I prefer to work it as a collaboration, but this is not absolutely essential.” Graham tells m
e, “Every single shoot is approached in a different way, but usually I like to keep it all relatively relaxed and spontaneous. I am not very keen on making definite plans and coming up with "witty" concepts before shoots. I find this produces very stale and forced results.” It’s true. We’ve all seen photos of bands where they all look bored, angry and just like someone has told them to stand in the same pose for ten different photos. From looking at even one or two of Graham’s photos you can tell that this type of photo is of no interest to him.

Graham Smith is a very well known photographer within Northern Ireland, but is this were all his work is based? “My work with NI musicians only makes up about 30 or 40% of my output. I am determined to stay based in Northern Ireland, mainly because of the undeniably huge pool of talent we currently have, but I am equally determined to not just be an NI photographer. So I currently spend a lot of time working with bands and musicians outside Northern Ireland and this is something which will be increasing even more during 2009 with trips already planned in America and Europe.”

“I don't want this ever to be a typical job so these days I am very selective about who I work with and the type of jobs I take on.” Graham tells me, “At times this can make life difficult and awkward, but overall I am much happier now and I feel it is a very fair way to work as a band knows that if I take them on for a shoot it will be because I like their music and will be passionate about working with them.” And that’s exactly the way it should be. While it makes sense to work as much as possible to make a decent living, in a job like photography if you lose your passion for it there’s not really any point in continuing.

For those of you who are hoping to do photography as job some day, Graham has some advice: “Firstly and most importantly, only shoot what you truly love and are passionate about. If it is music photography you want to do, don't pick it because you think it is "cool" or because of some (usually false) impressions of what the music world is like. A pure and almost child-like love of music must come first. My other piece of advice is to learn how to actually shoot photographs (this does not have to mean take a course or read a book) rather than learning how to fix photographs in Photoshop!” Basically, photography isn’t easy, but the subconscious complexity of Graham Smith’s photos makes it seem that way.

You can check out more of Graham's work at

All photos by Graham Smith and used with permission.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Blackhole - Breaking Through the British Hardcore Scene

“It’s a good place to be right now,” Nick, guitarist in Blackhole, says of the British hardcore scene, “it seems that there are a lot of bands who are out there making music and playing shows, and that kind of productive environment can only be a good thing for everyone involved, whether that is the bands themselves or the kids who go out to the shows to have fun.” While the British hardcore scene continues to grow and get more recognition, Blackhole are definitely making a name for themselves.

Having just finished a tour supporting the amazing Johnny Truant (“It was a bit of an honour for us to be the main support on their final tour, and we're really grateful to them for that. It was good for us to see the hard work and commitment that they put in over the years to build up a good reputation and maintain it.”) and about to embark on a tour supporting Outcry Collective these guys are working their butts off, and it’s all going pretty well: “We're really looking forward to doing some dates with [Outcry Collective], it's something we've talked about doing together for a while now so it's cool that it got sorted out.”

As well as being busy with touring the guys have also recorded their first album: “We just finished recording the album with Jeff and Ginge at Nott-In-Pill studios in Newport. It's sounding great, and Colin Richardson (As I Lay Dying, Cannibal Corpse, SikTH, Slipknot) is going to be mixing the album which we are really stoked about as he has worked on some amazing records.” Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the album which should be in stores in early 2009.

With more people giving respect to hardcore music, it’s a good time for bands like Blackhole. Here’s hoping they’re the band that get you into the genre, because let’s be honest, they’re damn good.

You can check out Blackhole at

Photo by Tom Barnes -