Interview: introducing UK rock band Vermillion Tides

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Photo (C) Rhian Melvin

If all you know about Halifax in West Yorkshire is what you’ve learned from Sarah Lancashire on the BBC, or some high-profile TV ads for the banking sector featuring some bloke called Howard, then be prepared to have your eyes – and ears – educated.

Vermillion Tides are an up-and-coming rock band based in the town, playing a vintage-tinged, energised strain of psychedelic rock n’ roll. Having worked with a host of solo artists and bands with some serious pedigree, Vermillion Tides’ guitarist and chief songwriter Blair Murray decided to branch out on his own in an entirely new direction.

Blair himself picks up the story as the band catch up with Skin Back Alley ahead of their debut live show this coming weekend. Also present, vocalist Natalie Cooper-Bates, bassist Andrew Tarling and drummer James Newsome.

Skin Back Alley: Give us an introduction to Vermillion Tides. Who are you all and how did the group come together?

Blair Murray [Guitar/Songwriter]: Well Vermillion Tides has come about from when I split from Twisted Wheel and decided I wanted to form my own band, but something that was completely different.

Natalie Cooper-Bates [Vocals]: And that’s where I come in. Blair wanted a female singer, we had been dating for a while and he had seen me perform with an old band of mine, so it kind of made sense really.

James Newsome [Drums]: I had been mates with Blair for a long time, I even used to teach him drums. He wanted to focus on writing and playing guitar, so he asked me to join and work on some songs before we decided to recruit our other troops.

Andrew Tarling [Bass Guitar]: Me and Blair had worked together before doing some work for Tom Hingley [solo, Inspiral Carpets]. We had always kept in touch. He had sent me some demos of the new music he was doing and when he mentioned he needed a bassist I was well up for it.

Forming in 2015, the band itself may be relatively new, but you’ve all had experience playing with other artists and bands, I understand?

Natalie: Yeah that’s right, the lads have worked with some top artists. I myself had only previously played in a low key Leeds band a few years back and before that hadn’t ever even stepped in front of a mic. Actually, tell a lie, I sang with a mic at my school leavers assembly when I was 11 if that counts? I knew I could hold a note or two but just kept it to myself and that was that really.

Blair: I have been playing in bands since I was young and then from that I played drums for Tom Hingley on his solo album. It was Andrew actually that put my name forward for that, so cheers Andy. After that I was gigging round Manchester, and from that I was seen by Twisted Wheel’s management who asked me to join. This gave me some good opportunities. One of my favourite artists I worked with was Laura Cantrell, a country singer which was so far from what I was doing.

Your new single is “Atom Bomb” backed up with “Fortune Cookie” on the B side. Can you tell us about the stories behind the tracks and what they mean to you?

Blair: “Atom Bomb” is a hard one to put in to so many words as each line stands for different things, like everyone has a breaking point, frustration towards those who have power such as the “government.” But when each line of the lyrics is broken down it still comes together as one strong message. I would say it is mostly about people who have addictive personalities and the way those in power say what’s good and bad for you. The chorus is saying that we can all be like a bomb and in time we can blow up. Whilst writing the second verse Robin Williams had recently died, so the story of Adrian Cronauer who Williams plays in “Good Morning Vietnam” was added as condolence to him. There is so much more to this song, but lets just leave it there for now.

“Fortune Cookie” was written in a psychedelic way for the listener to struggle to work out what the story is about, as the meanings behind the song are quite personal. BUT I guess we can give some of it away now. The story can be dedicated to any one who has been disappointed, used and betrayed by the lies people live. The chorus line ‘here comes the rain’ I guess can be seen as a simile to here come the tears, which I’m sure most of us have been told whilst growing up.

The songs have a distinct psychedelic rock vibe to them, and that’s a theme that continues in your aesthetic such as in your logo and cover art. Presumably as a band you always knew you were aiming for that style and sound?

Natalie: The theme if you will is, yeah, that 70’s psychedelic style, but that has a lot to do with our general interest in that era for the clothing etc. Our sound is such a mixture, it’s so hard to say what genre you are and sometimes it’s just easier to put yourself in a category. Although to be honest if you come watch us and hear the rest of our stuff, our sound is all sorts, so you could say we were alternative but that word is so cliché and used way too often. We’re not too bothered what people want to say we sound like, it just matters if they like it or not and get a buzz for it like we do.

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Are there specific bands or artists from that oeuvre that you look up to or draw inspiration from?

Blair: What actually set this idea off for me was when I watched the film “Dig!” [a 2004 documentary, directed by Ondi Timoner, about the careers of The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre], so yeah I suppose I have had inspiration from BJM. I like all sorts of bands from the psych scene like Spaceman3 and The Jesus And Mary Chain, which I suppose influences the sound of the music. But in terms of the lyrics it would be more artists like Tom Waits, Dylan and poets such as Oscar Wilde that I have taken an interest in.

Natalie: I wouldn’t say I actually really draw inspiration from anyone as such, I just like to do my own thing. With me in terms of inspiration it comes mainly from the way artists act or style themselves. I mean I can spend ages online just looking through pictures and footage of artists such as Grace Slick, and Cher (don’t judge, she had amazing presence when she first started!)

Where did you record the tracks and who did you work with to record and produce them?

James: We recorded “Atom Bomb” and “Fortune Cookie” with producer Yves Atlanta, who has worked with Peter Hook [Joy Division, New Order], DeStijl, Julie Gordon [Happy Mondays] and Mark Burgess [The Chameleons, I Am Kloot]. We then mastered the songs at Homespun Studios with Andy McKerlie who was the guitarist and piano/organ player on the Folks album “I See Cathedrals” and bass player for Marion.

And what has the response been like to the songs from audiences?

Andrew: It’s been great. Couldn’t really ask for a more positive feedback. It’s interesting to see people choosing which is their favourite song from what we have released so far. Everyone who has listened to “Atom Bomb”, whether it’s their style of music or not, has said they can definitely see it going down well live at gigs. It’s got so much energy. We recently got a quote from a Manchester magazine saying “Vermillion Tides are one to keep an eye out for if their following releases are as good as this first one.”

Can we expect a full album in time? Is that the next goal?

Blair: The next goal would be to release another single and then to bring out an E.P or a small album on vinyl. We are always writing new songs, and for our first album we want it to be the best it can be. I had written the songs before anyone had joined and now that Natalie has now been writing lyrics it feels right to wait until we have a collaboration of songs which has both our input.

Have you got any live shows coming up? Where can we see Vermillion Tides in the future?

James: Yes, we have our debut show coming up at Hebden Bridge, Trades Club on the 27th of February supporting Deadcuts. Their lead singer is Mark Keds from a band called Senseless Things [and he was also very briefly in The Wildhearts – Ed]. It will be such a good night.

Natalie: We love this venue, it’s so intimate and has had some great acts play there over the years. After this we will be playing The Lanes in Bristol on March 19th, which is another cracking venue; a bowling alley, a vintage shop and a gig venue. What more could you want? Another gig we can’t wait to do is in Manchester at The Castle Hotel on March 27th, where we have two great supports and a DJ set. Oh, and it’s on Easter Sunday, so no work the next day which is always a bonus.

Well the future for Vermillion Tides is obviously going to be massive! No, seriously, we have some great support already and can only hope for bigger things. The next step really is getting on some great festivals and keep building our fan base.

Finally, big up Halifax for us. “Happy Valley” has got us thinking it’s full of sociopaths and policemen and women with a dramatically troubled past.

Natalie: Ha, “Happy Valley” is actually a favourite of mine. Bloody loved the first series. Cant beat Sarah Lancashire, she’s great. But anyway, YES to putting Halifax on the map and making people see it’s not a ‘troubled town,’ We’re really proud of being from Yorkshire.

Connect with Vermillion Tides at:
Facebook: facebook.com/vermilliontides
Bandcamp: vermilliontides.bandcamp.com/releases
Spotify: open.spotify.com
iTunes: itunes.apple.com

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Photo (C) Rhian Melvin

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Interview: SpaceCream visionary Savannah Pope embraces the strange

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“As I’m sure you can imagine, I was a strange kid. I was never interested in pouring tea or being a princess. I was intense, imaginative, and enthralled by complex narratives,” says SpaceCream singer, songwriter and aesthetic visionary Savannah Pope from across the pond in LA.

It’s evident. The notion of living your weird and embracing your strange seeps from every pore of SpaceCream’s musical and visual style. Pope’s philosophy is one of otherworldly wonder; an energetic and positive explosion of riotous colour and character. Importantly, it is also one of self-acceptance and personal empowerment. More than just a group of talented musicians with a strong collection of songs, SpaceCream seems to be a way of life that says love yourself and don’t apologise one bit for being exactly who you are.

The band released their extraordinary debut album, Pterodactyl Sky, at the end of January, celebrating with a launch show at LA venue The Mint. Skin Back Alley caught up with Pope online shortly thereafter.

SBA: First thing’s first: how did the album launch show go at The Mint?

Savannah Pope: It was beautiful – I will always remember that night! There was a line down the block and the crowd was incredibly enthusiastic. There’s no high that can top facing an engaged audience.

I imagine it is both amazing AND terrifying to be finally releasing your album?

An accurate insight. On one hand, it’s exhilarating and wonderful to put art into the world; on another, it’s scary to expose something so personal to criticism. I agonised over the details of this this record for months, but at a certain point I had to let go and have faith. Overall, I’m very proud of Pterodactyl Sky. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, so I can’t complain.

As an album, Pterodactyl Sky is a real gem. It’s detailed; the arrangements are fantastic; it sounds brilliant. How long has it taken to pull together and who have you worked with in doing so?

Thank you! That means a lot.

Pterodactyl Sky is over two years in the making, comprised of my favourite songs from SpaceCream’s repertoire to date. I’ve always been the primary lyricist but the former guitarist and I took turns writing the arrangements and ‘Superstar’ is largely his song. Storied drummer Owen Goldman helped and prodigal LA bassist Nathan York Jr. helped with some of the structure, particularly time signature changes. We recorded at Kitten Robot Studios with engineer Paul Roessler (45 Grave, Eliot Smith, Nina Hagen).

Towards the end of the recording process, the former guitarist and I parted ways and SpaceCream went on temporary hiatus for a while. During that time, I auditioned new players and worked on the album. I was so obsessive that Paul ended up teaching me the basics of Protools so he could get some rest while I scrutinised. For me, the studio is a challenging and cerebral environment – almost the antithesis of a stage – so the process was somewhat arduous. Still, it was absolutely worthwhile and I’m very grateful to everyone who contributed to this project.

Every aspect of your work seems to have been thought through in great detail. SpaceCream has a whole and coherent aesthetic, not just a sound based in a genre. Are you a detail oriented person and band? Would you say you think ‘conceptually’ as an artist?

I first mapped out the conceptual aspirations of SpaceCream in 2012. I wanted to pay homage to what I consider to be the greatest era of music, while incorporating the captivating elements of a number of genres as well as my garish sense of style. I wanted SpaceCream to serve as a beacon of intellectually-charged love for anyone who feels like an outsider. It took years of hard work for that vision to manifest musically, aesthetically and personally.

Because I’ve put so much effort into my creative ambitions, I am not inclined to compromise when it comes to details. I know what I want, and I don’t stop until I get it. For a long time that was a hard pill for people to swallow, especially coming from an unapologetic young woman like myself. There was a lot of struggle and heartbreak involved. It wasn’t until SpaceCream won the Battle for Vans Warped Tour and recorded this album that things really started to fall into place. The current outfit is a dream incarnate.

The title track of Pterodactyl Sky is a standout for me. What was the starting point for that song? It’s not every day you come across a rock song about dinosaur-riding warriors fighting merciless alien invaders!

‘Pterodactyl Sky’ is one of the few songs I’ve written without an instrument. Normally I’ll sit down with my Martin or sing to a rough recording, but this time an arrangement popped into my head out of nowhere. It must have needed to come out!

As I’m sure you can imagine, I was a strange kid. I was never interested in pouring tea or being a princess. I was intense, imaginative, and enthralled by complex narratives. When I was at school, I’d read books whenever possible. At home, I’d shave Barbie’s heads, give them pirate warrior names, and mount them on dinosaur figurines. My private life was decorated by colourful fantasies of warfare and star-crossed love. There were no limits.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve infuriated people who prefer the norm, so the freedom of imagination is my sacred oasis. This song is a tribute to that sanctuary, as well as my way of encouraging others to cherish their unique ideas.

There’s a strong theme of self-acceptance running through your work, be that body positivity, sexual positivity or simply accepting the more wonderful and wacky aspects of your personality. Is that a real driving force for your music and lyrics?

Abso-fucking-lutely! I think it’s abhorrent how our society imbues basic facets of the human experience like individuality, sexuality, and physical appearance with debilitating shame. I’ve experienced a great deal of this shame first-hand and have discovered that the only way to recover is through self-acceptance. I am what I am. I’m not skinny, I’m not chaste, and I’m certainly not timid. These are traits expected of women, and in the past I’ve tried to make them my own. But they’re not. They probably never will be. And frankly, I’m glad! Being different has taught me a lot about empathy.

What was your journey in to music like? Has it always been something you’ve been involved in and wanted to do?

I’ve always been passionate about music but the idea of dedicating my life to it didn’t occur to me until several years ago.

The first time I ever got a taste of the stage was actually in reform school. I was fourteen at the time, and so terrified of my environment that I barely spoke to anyone. To challenge me, a staff member gave me the assignment of performing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ a ‘capella in front of the entire school. Nobody knew that I could speak more than a few sentences, let alone sing, so when I belted that song out the room just erupted. I honestly surprised myself.

After that, I picked up some rudimentary guitar and started writing songs to relax. I had no idea that something would come of it – I just thought of music as a kind of meditation.

I wanted to be a lot of things before I fell in love with performing. I spent a few years raising grant money and running around with live-off-the-land hippies, hoping to be an environmental activist. When that world started to feel small, I moved to Spain to make art and party. Eventually, that lifestyle life took a real toll on me, and I crawled back to the US felling irreparably lost.

One night, some friends dragged me to go to an acoustic open mic in the hope of cheering me up. I had a very strange, new feeling in the pit of my stomach throughout the evening until I decided to borrow a stranger’s guitar and perform one of my songs. Again, the response was palpable. Once I got onstage, I realized that what I had experienced was not discomfort but a rush of pure creative adrenaline. I’ve been hooked ever since.

When did you begin to discover and develop your voice? It’s incredible; such power, pitch, and control!

Thank you! I have no formal training, so I’m sure it could be improved. I’ve just been singing to my favourite records for twenty years. When I finally got a band together, my voice naturally developed more of a rock sound because I had to compete with the instruments.

I’m intrigued. How did you achieve the celestial sounding choir-like passages in ‘Pterodactyl Sky’? Were there a bunch of angels in the studio, or was it the mystery of multi-tracking?!

Multi-tracking all the way! That opera solo was not a part of my original arrangement. I was laying down a simple harmony when more parts popped into my head. I asked the engineer to record each one, and when I heard them all played back I said, “Cut the instrument tracks!” We had a lot of fun.

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How did you put the band together as it is?

A thorough audition process. I’d been through a number of members in the past and decided that enough was enough. These guys were highly vetted, and I waited until I was confident they were right for the project before I offered them a permanent place. I am really, really thrilled with the current players. They’re incredibly talented and smart.

David Bowie’s work seems to have been a significant influence on your own. You must have felt his death quite keenly?

I have him tattooed on my left shoulder blade. His work has filled me with such comfort and creativity. I am devastated about his death and still crying about it. But how incredible and unlikely is it that we got David Bowie at all? I’m so grateful for him and thrilled that he got to live a fabulous life. He even died beautifully. An artist forever.

Do you remember when you first discovered his music?

Another nod to reform school! It was a fluke, really. Most of the music that came into that place had to be approved by the staff, but for some reason our gym teacher decided to play the radio one day. ‘Rebel Rebel’ poured through the speakers like a warm beam of light from the Mothership. I felt it had been written just for me – a trapped, misunderstood, androgynous creature from some other planet.

And do I detect a distinct Rock Horror/Richard O’Brien influence in the opening bars of ‘SpaceCream’?

Haha, couldn’t help it! Watching Rocky Horror was among the more formative experiences of my childhood. The visual decadence, the soundtrack, the encouragement to love your weird – it was like coming home for the first time. Richard O’Brien shows up in the work unintentionally. He’s just there!

Where else do you find inspiration for your work, be that music, subject matter or stage wear?

Everywhere, I suppose! My creative process is intuitive. I have a very specific and personalized aesthetic that I work to achieve on all levels. Being a visual artist definitely helps, as does reading and travelling. I also find a lot of inspiration in old films and photographs.

Are there any SpaceCream music videos in the works? I’d love to see how you translated your work in the medium of film!

Yes! I love making music videos. That will probably be the next step for us. Expect a lot of gold.

How is the rest of 2016 shaping up for you so far? Can you share any plans for the year ahead?

Releasing Pterodactyl Sky was a sensational way to kick off the year. As a result of that night, SpaceCream has secured a number of great gigs and opportunities. We headlined iconic venue Molly Malone’s last week and will play LA Record’s Silverlake Lounge residency with Vice Versa on February 23rd. We have six So Cal shows mapped out for March, including a return to The Viper Room on the 2nd.

I’m especially psyched too for our big LA Fashion Week show at the Taglyan Complex on March 17th. I remember snagging tickets to the runway last year and thinking, “I’ve never seen a venue so regal and exquisite. Maybe, if I work really hard, I’ll be able to play here someday.” I’m so grateful that the creative director of Art Hearts Fashion happened to be at our album release! He was impressed and asked us to participate in the closing gala.

I can also tell you that we plan to go on tour this year. I really want to take this act all over the states – not to mention overseas!

Connect with SpaceCream at:
Facebook: facebook.com/spacecreamband
Twitter: twitter.com/SpaceCreamBand
Instagram: instagram.com/spacecream_official
Web: spacecreamband.com

Album Reviews | Live Reviews | News | SBA Lists | The Playlist | Under The Skin | Without A Song

Interview: This Year’s Ghost talk origins, sonics and future plans

This Year's Ghost 2015

This Year’s Ghost released their debut EP, Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow Today, back in November. A sagacious slice of grunge-inflected rock n’ roll, it seemed rare in that it was a first salvo that felt fleshed-out and fully formed. In conversation with frontman Paul Mckenzie, it soon becomes clear why, as he reveals the extent of the hard work that he and the band put in prior to recording the material.

A substantial and auspicious start then, and one aided and abetted by the likes of The Defiled’s Stitch D, and production and engineering from Matt Hyde (Slipknot/Machine Head/Funeral For A Friend/Gallows) and Meyrick de la Fuente (Exist Immortal).

“There’s a lot riding on the first couple months,” says McKenzie whilst answering Skin Back Alley’s questions. Too true, but to these eyes and ears, so far, so good…

SBA: Congratulations on the new EP, it’s a killer set of songs. I feel compelled to ask, as I am sure many others will, where did the mind-bending title of Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow Today come from?

TYG: It was simply meant to imply the letting go of the past today as our time here isn’t always certain but it has somehow turned into a brain twister for sure!

It’s only been out for a comparatively short while, but from your perspective, what has the reception to YBTT been like so far?

We have had a great response so far. There’s been a few pretty humbling comparisons drawn between us and some epic bands in these reviews. One even went as far as to draw one between Chris Cornell and myself which is extremely flattering (but entirely untrue in my opinion!!!)

Given your disparate geographical roots (Paul hails from Edinburgh, Jake originally from Michigan), how did you come together as a band? Given the lack of US accent, I’m guessing Jake has been on these shores for some time?

Yeah he’s been in England for years (American father/English mother). We met in Bromley actually through the tattoo shop (Valhalla) that I work in. Joe and I had met in London and been through a plethora of drummers which had slowed the development of our sound down but soon as Jake and I met it amped up immediately. I think we did the drums with Matt Hyde something like three weeks after meeting each other.

What was the impetus behind leaving Edinburgh for London?

I used to come to London a lot for years anyway and knew the city well already. It’s always been the place kids in bands in Scotland are told they have to play to get any recognition and it’s absolutely true. These days there’s a couple of companies doing great things back home but the scenes are still a lot smaller. It just made sense to be here permanently.

And how did Stitch D come to guest on the EP? At first I wondered whether it might be a familial connection between you and Stitch? (Well you don’t look a million miles apart from each other!)

Ha!! He’ll love that one! Na we worked together years ago in a tattoo studio in north London and just hit it off. He’s been a real big help in pointing me in the right direction with this band in London as he’s been slugging it out for a long time with The Defiled. I learnt a lot about how the bigger shows, PR etc works from being his mate and going to shit loads of Defiled shows with them. Being side of stage with them on the main stage at Sonisphere was inspiration to keep going with this.

Sonically YBTT seems to draw on elements from across alt-rock, grunge, and metal and there are a couple of more technical/progressive passages too. Does it feel to you like that’s the sort of canon you’re working within? Are they fair observations, do you think?

I’ve always strongly been influenced by grunge music yeah for sure. Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden etc… But you’re right, this album was definitely written to have a broader appeal. It’s simultaneously much heavier whilst being much poppier in the choruses which is a direction I’m really enjoying. The slight techy feel to a couple of riffs there has definitely been explored further in a couple of the demos for the 2016 record.

Did you have a particular sonic palette in mind when you began the EP? How did you develop and find your sound?

We wanted the really crisp, full bodied guitar tones and full heavy drums we had heard Matt Hyde produce before so that was a no brainer. The development of the sound we have found is definitely down to meeting and working closely with Meyrick De La Fuente at Floodgate audio.

You’ve said that the record in part draws on your experiences of a group of friends who all passed away around the same time. On the face of it, that could make for some dour listening, but the EP doesn’t seem like that? It feels like more of a release, or a catharsis?

It was exactly that for me personally. Not only was it a relief to release these thoughts surrounding those events but it was made extra special being able to immortalise those people further in the forms of these songs.

What were the specific inspirations behind the track “Silver Tongue” and its recent video?

The song “Silver Tongue” was written about the stress that came with loss and not one person specifically. There’s a couple of small direct references in there about the breakdown of relations between friends and family. It depicts that stress as its own entity that can be addressed personally. Bit weird eh?

Who did you work with on the video itself? It has a very simple but very striking aesthetic.

The guys at Limetree Productions did our video for “Silver Tongue.” Cracking group of guys. They actually turned it round super-fast for us to fit our PR campaign which really impressed us. Looks like we are doing another one with them next month too.

Matt Hyde and Meyrick de la Fuente, who provided production and engineering for the EP, have worked for some seriously influential bands in their time. How did you make the connection with them and how did they come to work with you on YBTT?

A few years back the boys in The Defiled played the Metal Hammer Golden Gods boat party and Meyrick and I first met there. He was just finalising his studio set up so we made a record together. It was still in the infancy of This Year’s Ghost but was part of the process of reaching this point and sound now. Since then Meyrick and I work together on every single track TYG do. Matt Hyde was a lot less elaborate. We just really liked his work and I emailed him to set up a meeting. The meeting then turned into a shit load of pints in a bar in Victoria and the rest is history.

Paul, you said recently that your show in Islington was going to be your last as a 3-piece and you hinted at adding to the band’s line-up. Can you share anything yet, or is it all still under wraps?

Ah ha! We have a photo shoot in a couple weeks with the amazing Scott Chalmers and that will be when we have the big reveal. From everything I’ve said in interviews recently you don’t need to be Columbo to work out who is our new guitarist but hey…… Wait till January!

What does 2016 have in store for TYG? Can you share any plans?

Well 2016 is set to be a lot of fun. There’s a lot riding on the first couple months as we start the ball rolling with the live shows but if everything goes to plan there will be a lot of great announcements come February/March regarding our summer plans. We really want to get up and play some shows in Scotland too as it’s been way too long.

Read Skin Back Alley’s review of Yesterday Becomes Tomorrow Today here.

Connect with This Year’s Ghost at:
Web: thisyearsghost.com
Facebook: facebook.com/ThisYearsGhost
Twitter: twitter.com/thisyearsghost

Album Reviews | Live Reviews | News | SBA Lists | The Playlist | Under The Skin | Without A Song

Interview: Eva Plays Dead talk new EP, temperament and tenacity ahead of UK tour

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Eva Plays Dead feel like a band in the ascendancy; a hard rock outfit building a solid fan-base on the back of hard work, sheer grit and determination, combined with an ever-growing catalogue of memorable, mosh-inducing tunes and a reputation for reliably raucous live shows.

Following the release of a new EP, Sounds of the Written Word, this summer, and the recent unveiling of the official video for their track “1950’s Woman” via the UK’s premier rock outlet Kerrang!, Eva Plays Dead are about to hit the road for an extensive UK headline tour.

SBA: How are you feeling now that your “Sounds Of The Written Word” EP has been out for a little while? What’s the response been like?

EPD: Putting out the EP carried both a massive sense of relief and a nerve wrenching experience at the same time. We spent a long time writing and recording, followed by an equally long time sitting on it to make sure that we gave it the best release possible (and we’re not the most patient of people.) However as soon as it was out there we were straight back to being on edge whilst we waited for the response. We’re really happy with the reception to Sounds of the Written Word, both from the press and our fans since picking up some sick reviews and messages.

I get the impression you’re a very hard working band. You certainly gig a lot and put in the miles to build support for your music. Where does that drive and determination come from?

We’re glad it’s not going un-noticed! We’ve been writing in this line up since 2011 and were all playing in bands prior to that as kids and over the years the drive has kept growing. It’s very cliché but whenever we make a tiny step of progression, it makes all of the hard work worth it and doesn’t faze us. Progression can be anything from getting a great review, playing an awesome show or gaining a new fan.

The time and effort you’ve invested seems to be working for you. It’s not every band that can mount a successful Pledge Music campaign. Do you feel that you’ve progressed in that regard and how does it feel to have a devoted core fan base like that?

The Pledge Campaign was a massive shock to us as we were 99% sure that it wouldn’t go through when it kicked off – we had around 3 different back up plans! The fact that we surpassed our target was the first real time that we realised how solid our fan base is – it’s a very humbling feeling.

Given that you do work hard on the road, have you got any words of wisdom for new and aspiring musicians about the perceived ‘glamour’ of the touring life?

We’d hardly call our approach glamorous. A few years back, we bought a van (and then another when that one died) to get around on our tours as it is more cost effective than renting a flashy van with all of the frills, considering how much we travel (50 shows in 2015). We’d only recommend doing this if you’ve looked carefully at the band’s funds, considered every expense and are certain you can afford it. We recently had a catastrophe where our engine melted and since our money had just been pumped into the release, we asked our fans to help out and couldn’t believe how quickly we raised the cash! 24 hours must be a record.

Generally though, touring is a lot more than sitting around in a van and playing a show when you’re first getting started (it is for us anyway) so when taking the DIY approach you need to have the focus and ability to see the bigger picture to make sure that everything is covered: secure bookings, logistics, accommodation, fuel costs, promotional campaigns, chatting to people at the show, designing and ordering merchandise for the runs and all of the rehearsals leading up to it.

Why do you take a DIY approach to your career in music? Mind-set? Necessity? A mix of the two?

Since we launched EPD in 2013, the DIY approach has been much more attractive as we had a bad experience with a previous record label affiliation, so this gave us the freedom to work at our own pace without relying on anyone else – everything we achieved was down to our hard work which offered a massive sense of accomplishment. Alongside this though, we didn’t want to pitch to management teams or labels when we had no history, so the DIY approach has allowed us to build our own foundation and track record.

How do you think that DIY ethic and direct approach with your fans has helped (or hindered) you as a band?

It has most certainly helped us as it means that we have direct contact with them on a daily basis. We have such a strong relationship with our core fan base and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them as they always share our new release online, buy and wear our merch and give us that boost when we need it. Saying that, introducing management or the like to the EPD team wouldn’t hinder the band as we’d make sure that we work with people who ‘get us.’

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You guys seem to have that quality of being able to move past setbacks or turn them to your advantage. If an average review lands, or the van breaks down on the way back from a gig, you always seem to present a positive response. Is it hard to maintain that approach? How do you do it?

Ha! I feel like I know exactly which occasions you’re on about… In all honesty, the initial response isn’t as calm as our public response. We all talk about it as a band and decide what the best way to approach the scenario is as opposed to just letting it slide by. Negative reviews for example – we’re fully aware that it’s only the opinion of one person so we’d rather put it up for discussion to see whether people agree with it or not.

Reading about your beginnings as a band, “…a Japanese school exchange…” doesn’t seem like the most usual of origin stories. How did the band come together following Matt and Tiggy’s meeting in the Far East?

When we were jamming with some friends back in our school days, we had no intention to take this band to what it is now. The line-ups we experimented with initially didn’t work out so after a bit of online stalking, we found Zach and he bought in Seb, as they had played in bands together previously. In all honesty, if it weren’t for music then we wouldn’t know one another.

I understand in your early days you also went under the moniker of Bury The Ladybird. I can only imagine you sounded very different to your incarnation as Eva Plays Dead?!

We’re going back to our school days reference for this one. The name was a joke, which stuck, but when our sound started to verge into the early sounds of EPD and we started to gain some recognition, we figured that a rebrand would be better sooner than later.

Speaking of things historic, I was particularly intrigued by “1950’s Woman” from your new EP. It stands out in particular because of its narrative qualities. Can you tell us a bit about the origins of the story/relationship in the song and how the track came about?

The lyrics in our songs are generally very matter-of-fact and to the point. I didn’t have the easiest of times growing up – my Dad walked out, family in and out of hospital… just a few examples. My Grandparent’s were always there for me through the harder times and keeping the family together the best they could. They told me the most wonderful stories about their younger lives and they introduced me to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald before I discovered rock and roll so I can thank them for my passion for music. The inspiration my grandparents have provided me is limitless. The Jazz artists they introduced me to really struck a chord with me and the genre is where I take most of lyrical influence.

You’ve got a host of live dates coming up in November and December. What can we expect from the shows? Can you share any plans?

We’re working on the set in rehearsals at the moment and we can’t wait to take it to the road! We’re playing all of the tracks from the EP, a few older tunes and a couple of new ones fresh out of the rehearsal room! We’ll be taking in to the studio early next year, so now is the time to hear it first really. If anyone came along to the last shows in July, they’ll also know that we don’t necessarily like to keep everything on stage throughout the set!

Are you looking ahead to 2016 and beyond yet? What’s the next target that you’d like to nail to the nearest wall?

We’ve got the studio booked for early 2016 and everything else is being worked on behind the scenes. It’s looking like we won’t be as busy on the touring front but it’s too early to say – we’re really good at accidentally booking gigs!

Eva Plays Dead will tour the UK this November and December:

20th Nov: Birmingham, The Asylum
21st Nov: Scunthorpe, The Lincoln Imp
22nd Nov: Leeds, Milos
27th Nov: Derby, The Victoria Inn
28th Nov: Glasgow, Shadow Central
29th Nov: London, Surya
04th Dec: Basingstoke, Sanctuary
05th Dec: Doncaster, Vintage Rock Bar
06th Dec: Bolton, Alma Inn

Pick up tickets at evaplaysdead.com

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INTERVIEW! Tairrie B. Murphy talks Teenage Time Killers ahead of landmark LA show

1 - T&M by Travis Shinn
Tairrie B. Murphy and Mick Murphy. Photo: Travis Shinn.

This Saturday night, 12th September, sees the advent of the most hotly anticipated ticket in rock. For one night only, a thundering hoard of punk, rock and metal’s finest musicians will descend upon LA’s Fonda Theatre for the live debut of Teenage Time Killers, the heavy collective spearheaded by Reed Mullin (Corrosion Of Conformity), Mick Murphy (My Ruin, The Birds Of Satan, Chevy Metal, Neanderthal) and John “Lou” Lousteau (musician, producer and chief engineer at Studio 606.)

Appearing alongside the likes of Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Neil Fallon (Clutch), Tommy Victor (Prong) and Lee Ving (Fear), is My Ruin’s Queen of Scream, the legendary maven of metal, Tairrie B. Murphy, who is set to perform her track from TTK’s debut album, Greatest Hits Vol.1, “Clawhoof.”

Murphy herself graciously took time out to speak with us in and among rehearsals for Saturday’s show and fending off the inferno that is the current heatwave beating down on LA.

SBA: How did you come to be a guest artist on Greatest Hits Vol.1?

TBM: Nepotism! I highly recommend it. Just kidding! I believe Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity drummer) asked my husband (Mick Murphy) if I would be interested in doing a song after Mick played him our last My Ruin album while they were in the studio recording. Mick was introduced to Reed by our good friend and TTK producer John Lousteau who Mick grew up with in Knoxville, Tennessee and who occasionally sits in on drums with our band live when we play Los Angeles. Once Mick started working with Reed & Lou, that’s when the album really started to take shape and come together musically.

Your song on GHV1, “Clawhoof”, is a killer track. How did you come to record that specific song? Was it written with your vocal style in mind and did you have input in its writing?

Thank you. Yes, Mick did write it with me in mind. Many of the songs were matched with vocalists after the fact but a few were written with specific people in mind. “Clawhoof” was one of them. I had nothing to do with the music. Just the lyrics. Once he demoed the track and played it for me, I loved it.

Where did the name come from?

Believe it or not it was actually the working title of the project before Reed decided to change it to “Teenage Time Killers”. For months, the guys had referred to it as this and I really dug the name because it sounded so evil. I guess it just stuck in my head after hearing them say it for so long and when they decided to go with TTK, I had just started to write my lyrics so thought it might be kind of cool to use it as the title of my track to keep it included in the project. I built my song around it. Unlike many of the other recordings on the album, it’s got a more sinister underlying theme to it rather than political.

I understand you were actually suffering with the flu when you were recording? Is that right? You’d never guess, the song sounds great!

Again, thank you and yes, I was pretty ill the day I went into the studio to lay my vocals at 606. My voice was definitely not in its usual form. You always want to feel you are at your best when recording, especially when you are a guest and being featured on someone else’s album rather than your own. I was a bit concerned with a room full of dudes watching me in between coughing up a lung. I did a couple takes and felt like my throat was really raw but they loved it and that was it. When I first heard the track mixed it took me a minute to get used to it because I’m used to my scream in My Ruin which is more metal, but I think being sick gave it a more punk rock feel which was pretty cool considering the overall vibe of the album as a whole.

During the recording process were you conscious of being the sole female contributor to the project at all? Is that something that’s in your mind at all as the show at the Fonda Theatre approaches?

I didn’t really think about it until the end of the recording and I was listening to the final mixes and sequence. I’m stoked to be the lone wolf representing the ladies on a project which includes some of my favourite male vocalists like Pete Stahl from Goatsnake and Neil Fallon of Clutch. As far as the show goes, I just want to have fun and do my thing. I’m not really focusing on the fact that I’m the only woman, just happy to be a part of such a cool project with so many rad dudes.

The show at the Fonda Theatre in LA is taking place on the 12th of September and being that it’s one night only, should be one hell of a night. It’s an extraordinary line up of musicians to have playing in one place. Can you share any details about what you have planned?

There are no opening bands, just 2 hours of TTK which are going to be a hard, fast and loud on stage. Mick is playing guitar for the entire show on 50 songs with all the guest vocalists. Reed is drumming much of the set and also singing a few songs and John Lousteau is drumming a few as well, including the ones with me which My Ruin bassist Luciano Ferrea is also playing. The show’s set is made up of the TTK album, songs by some of the guest singers’ own bands and a bunch of classic punk covers. It’s gonna be killer. Pun intended.

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Has it been difficult getting all the musicians together for planning and rehearsals?

When you have this many people involved in a project, it’s bound to be a little complicated and a bit of a logistical challenge. The main core of the band has been rehearsing the past few weeks at our studio with a few of the vocalists who are based in LA coming in, but many of the guests are flying in last minute to do a full show run through with everyone at Studio 606 on the last 2 days before the gig.

I have a huge amount of respect for my husband Mick as a musician and, being in a band with him for the past 15 years, I’ve seen him at his best on stage and in the studio with My Ruin and all the side projects he’s been a part of, from Neanderthal to Chevy Metal, The Birds Of Satan to Heavy Seventies as well as co-producing my new solo rap album with me. But he’s really stepped up his game to another level with the TTK album and this show which he really helped to pull together this past month in rehearsals.

Mick co wrote/co produced GHV1 and played guitar on the majority of the album, but his contributions have kind of gone unmentioned in the press and overshadowed by some of the more famous names involved, which is a shame because of all the time and work he put into it. He’s not the type of guy to toot his own horn so I’m gonna toot it for him! He deserves it. I can’t wait to share the stage with him again and also watch him rock with all the other artists performing before and after me.

Knowing that not ALL the guest artists from the album can be there on the night, have the artists who are going to be there had to learn new songs from GHV1 to perform?

Yeah, there are a few people who can’t make it due to their own touring schedules so a couple of the other vocalists are going to do those songs.

Which songs will you be performing, and will you be playing any songs other than the TTK songs on the night? Can we expect to hear anything from the My Ruin catalogue?

I’ll be performing my track from GHV1 along with “Moriendo Renascor” from My Ruin’s last album and a cover of Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” which I like to put my own red lipstick twist on live!

It’s been a while since you last performed live with My Ruin, and your fans will know that you released your first new rap album in over 25 years, Vintage Curses, last month. Has it been challenging to get back in to that Metal headspace again?

I thought it would be but surprisingly, my scream came back to me pretty quick and naturally. Coincidentally, my first rehearsal with TTK was on the 1 year anniversary of the last night I performed live with My Ruin in the UK which was on The Sacred Mood Tour in August 2014. I hadn’t screamed since then so I really had no idea what to expect given this past 12 months my headspace has really been focused on the recording and release of my new album and working on my first book which I am currently in the early stages of writing.

Is the show being recorded at all? All these incredible musicians from the world of Punk, Rock and Metal playing the same show together seems like too good an opportunity to miss!

Yes, I agree it’s going to be a memorable evening for everyone involved and plans are in the works as I write this to make it happen which I think it will. Unfortunately there are a lot of factors that go into a big show like this behind the scenes and it’s often comes down to money, rather than art much like most things in the music industry but fingers crossed because we would love to be able to share it with all those who can’t be at the show due to it being a one off special event in LA.

Teenage Time Killers appear at LA’s Fonda Theatre this Saturday, 12th September. Get your tickets here: www.fondatheatre.com

Teenage Time Killers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TeenageTimeKillers

Check out our review of Teenage Time Killer’s Greatest Hits Vol.1 here, along with our interview with TTK songwriter and guitarist, Mick Murphy, here.

3 - TBM by Travis Shinn
Photo: Travis Shinn

2 - TTK FLYER

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