A Mixture of Motown, Hendrix, and Jimmy Page: Introducing MISS

Brighton is one of my favourite cities for rock music, being the home of a series of incredible bands, festivals, and concert venues. Acts like Royal Blood, The Kooks and Blood Red Shoes have originated from the area which is known as a vivid lively city, a hub for music, art and creativity. And MISS are an exciting new rock band who are certainly a contender in shaping the city’s musical legacy. They’re formed of Marty on lead vocals, guitar and piano, Wilson on bass, and Ben on drums and synth. A couple of weeks ago I interviewed the band, asking about their local music scene, musical influences and their debut album plans, which can be read about below. They released their EP ‘Do You Feel Electric?’ back in November, and recently premiered their new track ‘Kinkajou’ on iTunes, Bandcamp and SoundCloud. They plan to start recording their debut album next month, and it’s already safe to say it’s going to be mega. Their music really excited me when I first listened to it- ‘Kinkajou’ is a proper heavy rock track, with a rich bass to it and a clever intricate drum riff. It’s such a catchy tune as well, with really cool soft vocals which contrast brilliantly with the heavy deep guitar sound. The band’s aura is very much alternative rock, with a very unique unconventional sound, drawing in experimental sounds and techniques which you don’t hear all the time. ‘Smokescreen’ is another one of theirs which I love- it’s got that unique extended intro with an intense, vivid guitar riff. The structure of the track is so unconventional and new- with soft light harmonising on the line ‘Do you feel electric? Me too.’ Marty’s voice is so raw and raspy and edgy, with a pure rock bite to it. Their music is like a mix of dark grime/ R&B with hypnotic indie rock, such a unique exciting sound. I also really liked ‘Ant vs Elephant’ which has a truly beautiful, stunning guitar riff. The high pitch harmonising with the lead vocals is mesmerising to listen to. It’s such a soft light track that’s just so hypnotically captivating, one of those tracks you don’t want to end. ‘We fight for the hell of it, Ant vs Elephant’ is just one of the intriguingly beautiful lyrics in the track. At around the 4-minute mark it changes so much in tone though, with heavier raspier vocals kicking in, making the track go from something soft and light to a proper head banger style rock track. They’re also a three-piece band, which intrigued me as rock bands now days tend to be two pieces (The Last Shadow Puppets, Slaves, and Royal Blood for example,) or four pieces, like Arctic Monkeys, Catfish and The Bottlemen and Wolf Alice. But, three piece acts have always been brilliant, given the likes of acts like YAK and The Enemy. The loud hazy guitar sound they have reminds me a lot of Royal Blood and Hendrix and Jimmy Page fused together, and there’s a clear 70s rock sound with a cool intriguing modern edge to it. If you have a chance to catch them live, definitely take it; there’s more information on their tour dates and other band info at their website, http://www.missbandofficial.com/. As for the line ‘do you feel electric?’- that’s just one way they make me feel. Their sound is vivid, electric, intensifying and unique, promising them a bright future in the music industry

 

My Q&A with the band:

  1. How long have you been a band and where did you meet?

Marty: Well myself and Benji-man met at uni, but it wasn’t until the beginning of 2015 that we started working on MISS. And then after we released our debut EP (Do You Feel Electric?) in November last year we went on the prowl for a third member for live shows at which point we found Wilson washed ashore in Brighton

Wilson: The other two have been a band since last year, when they recorded their EP ‘Do You Feel Electric?’ I joined the band to help the boys take their EP live at the start of this year.

  1. Whereabouts are you from and what’s your local music scene like?

Marty: I’ve moved around quite a lot, but grew up in Kent. We’re all Brighton based now though and are part of that music scene which is a pretty vibrant one

Ben: Brighton. The music scene is really good, perhaps too good because there’s so much going on all the time. But on the other hand there’s a consistent music appreciating audience

Wilson: I’m originally from Reading. I moved to Brighton before I got the chance to get into the gigging circuit in Reading, but a lot of exciting stuff is coming out there; Sundara Karma, Echoic, Kaldera

  1. Who did you grow up listening to and which bands inspire your music?

Marty: I listened to a lot of Motown and pop music from the 60s/70s when I was very small, but then Eminem was the first artist I got really into when I was about 11? When I started playing guitar at 15 I got put onto Hendrix and then I got into rock and blues. But in terms of what kind of music inspires MISS songs it’s hard to say. I listen to a lot of jazz, electronic, etc. Despite the fact some of our tracks are pretty rocky I don’t really listen to much rock music anymore

Ben: Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke- loads of jazz and blues. And heavier stuff like Led Zeppelin as well

Wilson: I grew up listening to the same records my Dad played in the car, so a lot of Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Dire Straits etc. I loved the heaviness of Led Zeppelin, and this has evolved into what I listen to today, which is a lot of Biffy Clyro, Muse, Rage Against The Machine etc. I’m a sucker for a big riff!

  1. What’s the first record you bought?

Marty: The first single I ever bought was ‘I’m not a girl, not yet a woman’ by Britney Spears and the first album I ever bought was ‘Hot Shot’ by Shaggy. They’re both timeless classics

Ben: Dido- Life For Rent

Wilson: Slipknot’s self-titled album haha!

  1. Which venue is your favourite, and if you could headline any festival or venue what would it be?

Marty: My favourite venue we’ve played so far was Bleach in Brighton but Glastonbury’s where I’d most like to play. It’s the best place in the world

Ben: Headlining Glastonbury

Wilson: In Brighton I would have to say Concorde 2, it’s such a great venue to play and to watch gigs at! I would love to headline Truckfest, it’s the first festival I went to with my mates so it would be nice to play there one day!

  1. Is music a full time career for you, and why did you choose to have a career in it?

Marty: Essentially yeah, we just make fuck all money from it at the moment! And it’s not really a matter of choosing a career in it. I get bored to death doing anything else besides music and so it’s just a matter of working hard and hoping it pays off one day

Ben: Yeah it is, but people don’t pay for music in any form or genre anymore

Wilson: Music is definitely something I would love to make a living from. Frankly fuck doing anything else, I want to make music and perform to people!

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  1. Tell me about your writing process and debut album plans

Marty: Normally I’ll write a song, demo it, show it to the guys and see how it goes down. Nowadays when I write I’m simultaneously thinking about production as well. I think that’s a side effect of working with Ben who’s always cooking up really cool experimental recording techniques and production ideas

Wilson: Marty is the main songwriter. He’ll normally come up with something and then send us a demo recording of it. The three of us then take that into rehearsal and start working out live arrangements and how to make it sound big, as there are only three of us. This process we work on together

  1. Who are your favourite musicians right now?

Marty: It changes week by week. In terms of current artists I’ve been listening to a fair bit of Sufjan Stevens and Oneothrix Point Never this week. But there are a few artists who are permanently at the top of my list; Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix, Kendrick Lamar, Keith Jarrett. Those guys are all giants in their own right

Ben: Matt Bellamy

Wilson: At the moment I’m listening to a lot of David Gray, Damien Rice, and anything that Pino Palladino (session bassist) has played on! I’m loving John Butler Trio, such an incredible live band as well as in the studio. I’ve also been getting into Alabama 3, those guys write some really catchy hooks and beats!

  1. Who would be your dream artist to perform/ record with?

Marty: Kevin Parker

Ben: Bowie

Wilson: I would love to work with Lana Del Rey. Her music is very emotional, and there are so many layers to it that replicating her material in a live setting would be a real challenge, and so much fun! I guess the big dream would be to play guitar with Mark Knopfler, he has such a particular way of playing, real genius!

Marty: Actually, I’m going to copy Wilson there and change my answer to Lana Del Rey. She’s the love of my life

  1. What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?

Marty: The Hives at Glastonbury in 2013. They played at about one in the afternoon and everyone was going mental

Ben: A hardcore gig in Amsterdam. I don’t remember the name of the band, they weren’t big. But the whole room was shaking and sweat was dripping from the ceiling. It’s how high energy gigs should be

Wilson. Nickleback at the O2. Nah I’m joking, there are too many incredible gigs I’ve been to. A handful of them would have to be Iron Maiden, Mark Knopfler, John Butler Trio, and Skindred!

  1. What inspires your lyrics?

Marty: All sorts. Liquorice all sorts. Certainly not other lyricists. Films, poems, things people say in conversation. I quite like fiddling with idioms. I dunno. I’m sort of constantly sniffing out words that sound good together. Or on their own

  1. What’s your opinion on current day politics, and is it something you’d consider writing about?

Marty: Well I’m pretty ashamed to be British. Everything’s so ridiculous at the moment it would be funny if the implications and possible repercussions weren’t so sinister. But I don’t think I’d write a song about it, at least not directly. And if I did, about 50% of the population would disagree with it from the off

Ben: Everyone’s a cunt basically. Topple one cunt and there’s another one to take his/ her place. I’m too angry about politics to write about it.

For more on MISS, you can visit the following pages:

SoundCloud

Facebook

Instagram

Youtube

Official website

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©Photo one taken by Dani Bower

‘At our first gig my mate broke his finger!’ My interview with The Black Roses

North London has always been notorious for being one of the most exciting, vivid cities for rock music, and new indie rock band The Black Roses are certainly going to be a part of the city’s rich musical legacy. Composed of Anthony (lead singer and guitarist), Richard (guitarist), Mike (drummer) and Val (bassist), the four piece already have a couple of recorded tracks, ‘Bad Habits‘ and ‘She Makes The Rain Dance,’ and a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet the band (minus Val) in the heart of Camden at the iconic Hawley Arms. The band formed in September 2015, and have ‘been gigging extensively for the past four months’, including around ten gigs between March and July, their first gig being in March itself. Currently their gig setlist is made up of nine tracks and one cover, which is the band’s version of old Arctic Monkeys demo ‘Cigarette Smoke,’ the original version of ‘Cigarette Smoker Fiona’ from the ‘Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?’ EP. In terms of what their music is about, Anthony tells me they tend to write about ‘relationships and feelings and stuff,’ ‘general misdemeanors and love and relationships,’ which leads me on to ask about the influence modern day politics may have on their music, and whether or not it’s something they’d consider writing about. To be honest, they make it clear that you’ve ‘got to be very involved in politics to be a political band,’ and they would most likely be ‘alienating a large number of people if we start going down a political route.’ However, they joke that their ‘next song will be about Trident or Brexit’- in all seriousness though, they’re more about ‘going out and having fun and enjoying yourself’, with an emphasis on ‘life experience over politics.’ The atmosphere throughout the interview was really fun and chilled and relaxed; the band are such lovely genuine guys, and it was great to talk about the ‘shitloads of fun’ they’ve been having. Sometimes gigs from brand new bands can be a bit awkward and not too much fun, especially if it’s too early on for the band to have a solid fan base, but that’s not the case with The Black Roses. ‘At our first gig my mate broke his finger!’ I’m told, with their first performance drawing moshpits, and just being ‘chaos’- ‘the place was rammed.’ When it comes to building a fan base, the band acknowledge that it can be hard but they’re steadily playing to bigger and bigger crowds, with around 100 people watching their set at the O2 Academy Islington. Self-promotion is something the band are also focusing on, especially with ‘This Feeling’ who are the ‘best new promoters for getting new bands exposure,’ with links to Jack Daniels, Radio X, Y Not festival, and Isle of Wight festival. The band now have 3-4 promoters, but they ‘kind of offer the same venues,’ and they’ve also found that lots of promoters are looking for female fronted bands right now, which would explain the rise of acts like Wolf Alice, Fish, Pale Waves, and Black Honey to name but a few- the issue simply is ‘being four guys in a band right now isn’t in fashion.’

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We then go on to talk about musical inspirations and the band’s aims. ‘We wanna be as big as you can be’ they tell me, a big influence in terms of success being ‘the Rolling Stones, playing Glastonbury when you’re 70 years old.’ ‘If you don’t aim big, you won’t get big’ Anthony insists (followed by a humorous line of ‘that’s what she said.’) They’re a funny, charismatic band with something really warm and friendly about them, a little similar to Arctic Monkeys back in 2005/2006. That would be music to Anthony’s ears, as he’s ‘probably the biggest Arctic Monkeys fan in the group.’ We chatted about the Sheffield band, and the influence they’ve had. The Black Roses, as mentioned, cover ‘Cigarette Smoke’ at gigs, and also note them as one of their main influences, alongside Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, The Libertines and The Stone Roses. In terms of who they’d like to be as big as, Oasis and The Beatles are mentioned, as well as Spandau Ballet who were namedropped earlier as an inspiration- despite me being told to not quote them on that. In terms of their goals, the band seem to have a unanimous ambition of headlining Glastonbury, as well as playing some of London’s iconic venues, like the Forum Kentish Town, Roundhouse, and O2 Academy Brixton. Their love for these venues make sense though, as they met through Glastonbury festival and the Jazz Cafe in Camden. Talking about venues, the conversation moved on to funniest stories they have from their own live gigs. One of my favourites was when Anthony’s guitar string broke, despite being constantly reminded to change it before their set. This happened in the middle of their set, following their pedal board turning itself on and off throughout the set. When his string broke, he was forced to ask the crowd if anyone had a spare guitar, resulting in the band playing the rest of their set with Anthony using a ‘spiky metal guitar, jet black’ which they’d had to borrow. Since then though, they’ve grown so much as a live band and ‘100% our last gig was easily our best one’, it was ‘incredibly flawless.’ Their recorded music is great as well- ‘She Makes The Rain Dance’ is incredibly catchy with a great guitar sound to it, really intricate riffs and a vivid underlying drum beat to it. Their lyrics are amazing as well; personal favourites of mine are ‘feeling hopeless with these feelings, like floating debris in the wind’ as well as ‘yank my chain it’s always the same, the heat or the darkness, the lure of the flame.’ ‘Bad Habits’ also features the lyric ‘we didn’t leave the cat money’ which literally means what it says; they’d booked a rehearsal space which turned out to be a ‘shithole’ just ‘awful, absolutely terrible.’ The rehearsal door had been locked from the outside meaning they spent over half an hour waiting outside, ‘drinking on the street like complete idiots.’ Once inside, they could hardly move it was that tiny and cramped, and they ‘couldn’t make an audible sound,’ so just left and went back to the pub, literally not giving any money to the cat which was where money’s meant to be left. Before we finished our interview, I wanted to ask them about why they chose music as a career, and why they chose to be in a band. ‘Well being in a band is always a dream when you’re younger’ and ‘we all really enjoy it’ I’m told. As for the name, there’s no deep story behind it or anything; ‘we made it up’ Anthony laughs. The band are really exciting and fresh and cool, something that’s quite rare. There aren’t many new small bands like them right now, and this is definitely the start of something which could go on to be huge- and that would be something they definitely deserve.

For more on The Black Roses you can follow them at:

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Wonk Unit on Slaves, DIY punk, and the mainstream media

Wonk Unit are easily one of the UK’s best underground DIY punk bands, and last Friday I had the honour of interviewing the lovely Mark (Pwosion) and Alex. They talked to me about punk music and the meaning of proper DIY punk, the music industry and how the ‘mainstream media is shit,’ and of course about the grime punk duo Slaves. Despite their heavy punk atmosphere on stage, they are also humorous and exciting guys, and genuinely lovely in person as well. The self-described ‘punk rock legends’ formed about ten years ago, and Alex tells me that the band literally never stop gigging, with concerts booked from Friday-Sunday every week. Their first tour in Europe, which they recently got back from, was ‘amazing.’ With 16 gigs over 17 days, the band talk of playing to 40-80 people every evening, with ‘people singing our songs.’ The band have played some huge dates over the last six months; in January they toured with punk duo Slaves on their sold out UK tour, and last October they played loads of gigs in America which they described to me as ‘kinda different’ in terms of the US punk scene. Alex though thinks ‘all DIY gigs are universally the same,’ and the only difference between playing in the US was it was ‘warmer with longer drives.’ Their audiences as well are crazy and diverse according to the band, with an age range of about 14-70. They don’t just play gigs though; each year they have ‘Wonk fest,’ which they tell me is a yearly big party with a crazy audience who are all ‘fuck ups’ (Alex himself tells me he’s a ‘fucking lunatic’). Their reaction at gigs is mental though; even when they supported Slaves, the crowd went crazy for them each night. They see their opening sets and mosh pits as getting the ‘party started,’ and their infectious humour and energy makes their live presence all the more brilliant. We talk about how they got into music as well, with Alex and Mark getting into their first bands aged 19 and 13/14 respectively. At first, Alex had no interest in being a musician, but after being the one to buy pizza and beer for artists (during his job with MCA records) he decided he wanted to be the one getting the booze and pizza instead. The band lists acts like The Jam, The Who, The Small Faces and Jack White as being musical influences, with reference as well to heavy metal and New York Thrash bands. But they don’t ask for anything; ‘we will never ask for a gig, review, or record label. We’re not forcing Wonk Unit on anyone’ Alex insists, but maybe ‘if you don’t ask for anything you don’t get very far’ he argues.

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‘I hate the fucking media’ Alex tells me. Wonk Unit aren’t a famous mainstream band, put it that way, and they think the ‘mainstream media is shit’ and the music played is safe and predictable. ‘The BBC is full of shit’ Alex argues, ‘and we are dictated what to listen to. We’re not mainstream material, we’re not safe.’ Although they acknowledge fellow Slaves support band Spring King as a ‘genuinely brilliant band, fucking brilliant!’ they also recognise that even though they were selling up to 10 times more merch after the shows, Spring King are the ones being played all over Radio One shows, like Maida Vale and Annie Mac’s slot. Other than Slaves, Wonk Unit believe younger bands don’t have as much of an impact. The band does believe in ageism to a degree; the fact that Alex is a ‘43-year-old man, not an 18-year-old boy’ definitely plays into why they’re ‘not that Radio One band.’ ‘The music industry really is shit’ Alex insists, and ‘no record company will take risks anymore.’ ‘This has left us a little bit sad, but mainstream doesn’t mean shit, it’s forced on you.’

This leads me on to ask about Kent punk duo Slaves, who have been close mates with Wonk Unit since 2012, and have toured with them continuously over the last few years. Talking about Laurie (guitarist), Alex and Mark describe him as ‘100% focused- whatever he does is full on.’ Alex and Laurie already knew each other through gigs, and Laurie sent him a demo of ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth,’ which Alex listened to in the bath; the first track he heard was ‘Wishing Well,’ followed by ‘Cease Fire’ and ‘White Knuckle Ride.’ He describes it as ‘fucking amazing’ and Mark says he was ‘blown away by the ferocity of it.’ Wonk Unit took Slaves off with them as their support act, and Isaac and Laurie were just ‘two young kids on their first tour, they hadn’t really become Slaves yet.’ But both Mark and Alex remember the gig where they became a proper punk band, which was their gig at Derby where they did their infamous speech before ‘Girl Fight’ for the first time. ‘They’re not fucking sheep, they don’t follow the crowd’ Alex argues. The only band they admit to influencing them is Slaves; Alex describes ‘Sugar Coated Bitter Truth’ as being the band’s ‘Bleach.’ He told Laurie that their next album (2015’s ‘Are you Satisfied?’) would be their ‘Nevermind,’ but Laurie didn’t believe it! He also told Laurie ‘you will go on to be something major,’ which is why Alex and Mark aren’t shocked by the immense success the band have seen over the last 12 months. He doesn’t want them to be pressured into releasing a new album though, and cause they’ve been so good so far they can’t just release a shit album now. According to Alex, ‘they have the potential to become the biggest band in the world, or they’ll go and fucking lose it.’ Their advice is to simply ‘stick to their punk rock roots.’ I ask them about their thoughts on Slaves’ new track with Chase & Status, and the response is generally good; ‘I think it’s fun’ says Alex, ‘it’s got our stamp of approval.’ ‘I love it,’ Mark agrees. The only issue with Chase & Status is their terrible clothes, they laugh; ‘they look so wack man, take those shit clothes off!’

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‘Style is important’ Alex (who’s repping Laurie’s Young Lover’s Club sweatshirt) insists; ‘Ben is my little project.’ Talking about guitarist Ben, Alex talks about him being the ‘style boy in the band, the pinup; if I don’t like his style he gets slapped.’ And despite him being ‘a little sod at times,’ Ben’s a ‘bloody good guitarist.’ As musicians, the whole band are bloody brilliant. Their line-up has varied from time to time, (they had nine different people play on the last tour with Slaves,) but the original band have been together for around ten years now. Having already established that modern indie music is ‘the blandest wishy-washy shit,’ Alex jokes about my blog name, asking ‘oh can we be an indie band, I’ve heard that’s where all the money is.’ But in reality, the band embody the concept of indie perfectly, with their own label, companies, and festival. We talk about punk music too, and what they think punk has become. ‘The UK punk scene is changing, and it’s quite an amazing time’ they tell me. ‘I don’t give a shit about 1977 or any of that bullshit. It was what, 30 years ago? It’s a fucking history lesson.’ We also talk about the influence politics is having on punk music; nowadays, because of the current political situation, ‘we are living in a country so divided’ where the rich are rich, and the poor stay poor; there is no in-between, and this is causing the bitterness that influences punk music to grow.

This bitterness is something that inspires the band’s lyrics. Alex discusses how his lyrics are about ‘everyday life,’ and about 99% is done on his phone between 6am-8am ‘when I’m miserable, depressed and in pain.’ He describes his lyrics as being about the concepts of ‘love, sex, addiction and building sites’, but they also want to create songs of depth out of something simple, such as tracks like ‘Nan’ and ‘Horses.’ Despite the addiction influenced lyrics, Alex has actually been sober for over 15 years now and does mentoring for alcoholics and addicts. But that’s just part of the band’s philosophy; Alex tells me ‘I’m happy. I love people I genuinely like people…and I’m not even trying to fuck them!’