Archive for June, 2009

h1 White Denim Q&A

June 18, 2009

Email interview with James Petralli. I did this before seeing the band (the interview was promo for the Belfast and Dublin gigs) and subsequently becoming a massive fan of them. The interview appeared on here.

white denim

White Denim burst onto our collective consciousness last summer with the exhilarating garage-rock blast of Workout Holiday, a debut album that indulged the Texans’ dusty-fingered musical tastes, taking in blues, country, soul, dub and punk. They’re back next week with Fits, and they’re marking it with a tour of the UK and Ireland, including stop-offs in Dublin next Thursday, June 26 and Belfast on the Friday. We chucked some questions in the direction of frontman James Petralli and this is what he came back with.

AU: You’ve said that CDs are “worthless” – why do you think that way?

James Petralli: This one is always going to haunt us. One of us said this to a neighbour on garbage collection day and it somehow became our motto. Darn. Honestly, we don’t feel that way at all. It is just that none of us buy CDs if there is a vinyl record option with the release. When we said this we were an unsigned band, and we just decided to invest our own resources on something that we knew would not end up on the floorboard of someone’s automobile. CDs are better than mp3s, but they take up so much space and they seem to be cherished as artefacts less and less by music lovers.

Your music seems to draw from all sorts of different places, musically – are there any bands or genres that you are all passionate about?

We all have a ton in common taste-wise. We like Tommy James and the Shondells and XTC, as well as Wayne Shorter and Mothers of Invention. We are music lovers. If it is great we all love it. Playing rock and roll is extremely fun, and we are passionate about doing it together.

How do you feel about being seen as a ‘retro’ band?

It is fine with us. We make references to music that is old. We are just happy to be seen as anything really. We are all in our mid Fifties, so it makes sense.

Is the lo-fi sound of your records a deliberate aesthetic decision? Does that rawness appeal to you over more than polished approach?

We do things the way we do them because it is comfortable creatively and monetarily. I would rather see a new piece of gear in Josh [Block, drums]’s studio than to be in debt to a producer and an engineer. We are not ruling anything out for future records, but as it stands we like to give one another in the group a chance to progress in any way possible. In my humble opinion, Josh has made leaps and bounds as an engineer over the course of one year. With the right treatment and exposure he could be Leonardo di Caprio or Robert De Niro behind the board. You know, somebody who is somebody. Right? We trust one another’s talents and strive to become better at whatever we are doing. So yes, it is a deliberate and necessary aesthetic financial romantic decision.

There’s a lot going on in your songs – does it take time to form the ideas into finished tracks?

Yes. Like anything, you have to dedicate yourself fully to realise a respectable end. It takes a good bit of time as well as patience and sensitivity. We are all constantly interpreting one another’s musical intent. It isn’t always a natural thing, but most times it works out pretty well in the imperial mansion.

Your next album Fits comes out in a couple of weeks – what was the process of writing and recording like this time?

We learned a ton about ourselves and one another making this record. We had to chew on one another’s heads a bit, so to speak, in order to finish this record. We wrote and wrote and recorded and fell in and out of love again and again. It is complex and I am horrible at talking about processes like that.

Can we expect more of the same or have you come up with something to surprise us?

Most likely more of the same boring old boring run of the mill boring stuff we’ve been doing our whole lives. No but really, surprising futuristic surprises await in the next White Denim release. So rare and new and specially unique and groundbreakingly fresh our new musical direction will be, that we may never record it or write it.

There’s a lot of energy and exuberance on your records. What can we expect from the live show?

We work as hard as we can to give audiences a good rock show. We sweat. A ton. We sometimes bleed. For a band like ours, it is crucial that we give everything we can every time we approach the stage. There may be more energy and exuberance in our performances than in our records.


AU57: AU Stereo tracks

June 1, 2009

In which I wax lyrical about the tunes I was loving at the time…


Come join German supergroup Moderat (Modeselektor + Apparat) in the murk and the mire. This six-minute slice of thumping techno is notable for two things. One; the subtle way in which the textured synths and sonics ever so slowly entwine themselves around the seemingly unstoppable beat. Two; the fluttering breakdown two-thirds of the way through and, more importantly, the way it crashes back in with an entirely different, but even better, rhythm. Sehr gut, meine Herren.


Future Of The Left are a lot of things – loud, pissed-off, angular, righteous – but anthemic usually isn’t one of them. ‘Arming Eritrea’, the explosive first track on this issue’s Album Of The Month Travels With Myself And Another, goes some way to putting that right. Not being experts on the politics of eastern Africa, we’re not quite sure what Andy Falkous is hollering about, but it’s a glorious cacophony all the same. Welcome back, chaps.


It’s debut single time for Not Squares, but can the band bottle the tsunami of energy that they unleash every time they get onstage? ‘Course they can. While the homemade Wrok EP was charmingly ramshackle, there’s some real heft behind this one, a double A-side with ‘IYOUUSIT’. The rhythm pitches and lurches as Rachel Keenan’s synth twitters and the quartet declaim… something or other over the top. It doesn’t matter what, it sounds like it means something. This band already does.


The first track from Phoenix’s boxfresh new album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (aw yeah) gets a supercharged disco makeover from Brooklyn duo Holy Ghost!. While it’d be nice if HG! came up with a follow-up of their own to last year’s fantastic single ‘Hold On’, remixes like this bide the time nicely. The original’s stop-start jangle-pop is recast as a glitterball ass-shaker, with Thomas Mars’s vocals sitting surprisingly well over the sizzling synths.


AU57: Electric Picnic piece

June 1, 2009

For this issue, I put together a summer festivals guide, in which I picked out 10 of the best and most interesting festivals from around Europe and flagged them up. Electric Picnic being close to my (and AU’s readers’) heart, it got the #1 spot.

Electric Picnic 7



Surely only one festival can come out top of a list like this. Now approaching its sixth year since starting as a one-day event back in 2004, the Electric Picnic has managed to maintain its singular atmosphere and eclectic approach, pretty much defining that pesky tag ‘boutique festival’. It’s the kind of festival where the faithful spend the nine months prior to it in fevered anticipation, and the three months afterwards slowly digesting it. Put simply, it’s the highlight of the year.

For those not in the know, the festival takes place in the leafy surroundings of Stradbally, Co. Laois, about an hour’s drive from Dublin. In its first year, it managed to attract acts of the calibre of Super Furry Animals, Jurassic 5 and Soulwax, but it was 2005, when it became a two-day event, when things really took off. Kraftwerk and Nick Cave were among the headliners, and The Arcade Fire’s set – shortly before they went stratospheric – became the stuff of legend. In 2006, the festival expanded to cover three days (well, two and a half), and since then it has been well established as Oxegen’s slightly more refined, discerningyounger brother.

The main selling point is the atmosphere, which is often compared to Glastonbury, though on a much more manageable scale. In the last couple of years, concerns that the organisers were unable to draw the same quantity of major acts as Oxegen have led to a slight shift in emphasis, and while the music still dominates, it’s all the other stuff that goes on that gives the festival its unique character. Cabaret, theatre, cookery demos, comedy, a funfair and the kind of ambience that puts you in mind of a particularly exciting summer fete. The Body & Soul Arena (expanded for 2009) is the hippy heartbeat of the place, while the Village Green takes care of your genteel side. The food is also superb, by the way – salmonella burgers are in short supply at EP.

This year, the musical line-up is as varied as ever. At the time of going to press, only 47 acts had been announced – expect plenty more goodies over the next few months – but the early highlights include disco legends Chic with their first ever Irish performance, Orbital, Flaming Lips, Fleet Foxes, MGMT, The Sugarhill Gang, Four Tet, Explosions In The Sky, dubstep kingpins Skream and Benga, 2ManyDJs and many more. Book early, eh?



AU57: AU Tour feature

June 1, 2009

Just by way of explanation, this was a lead news feature to promote the AU/Livewire Irish tour that the mag put together to celebrate its sixth birthday in June 2009, featuring And So I Watch You From Afar, Adebisi Shank and a host of local supports.

AU tour



Here at AU, we like a good shindig. For our launch party back in 2003, Therapy? laid waste to the Mandela Hall in Belfast. On a sunny Sunday in 2006, our third birthday saw the cream of NI bands take over the Spring & Airbrake, Limelight and Katy Daly’s in Belfast in an all-day, three-roomed extravaganza. And last year’s fifth birthday saw us repeat the trick in Derry, as Sandino’s played host to Fighting With Wire and the best of the new breed. This year, however, we’re going one better.
Read the rest of this entry ?


AU57: Not Squares news feature

June 1, 2009

Not Squares



On a Friday night in the middle of June, Belfast’s Stiff Kitten venue is going to have its arse handed to it by three of the most exciting live bands in Ireland: Not Squares, Adebisi Shank and LaFaro. The occasion? The launch of Not Squares’ debut 7” single, the rather splendid ‘IYOUUSIT’/ ‘Aye Yo Pa’.

“Adebisi Shank are fucking brilliant,” enthuses Not Squares drummer Keith Winter, as he and bassist Ricki O’Rawe spend an hour with AU in the bowels of Queen’s University Student’s Union. “I mean, the energy they give out is unrivalled, really. I don’t think I’ve seen it for a while.” There’s a touch of false modesty in that statement, perhaps, because his own band runs them close. Last month, the Belfast dance-punk quartet passed only the first anniversary of their debut gig, and yet though still a part-time operation, they’ve built an impressive fanbase in Northern Ireland and further afield.

“We’ve got a really good group of friends who support us everywhere we go, and dance, and we always wanted it to be like that,” says Keith. “We started a band to make music so everyone could dance and have a good time. And also, when we go anywhere else [they have played all over NI, as well as Dublin, Edinburgh and London], we treat it as locally as we do in Belfast. And I think that attitude maybe comes across.”

When they played to a bunch of schoolkids in a club in Omagh, says Ricki, “Some of them loved it, some of them were really confused and some of them were just getting handjobs in the corner. Literally.” Granted, arrangements for the band’s frequent forays out of town have been helped by goodwill for the four members’ previous bands – Tracer AMC, The Killing Spree and Gaju, amongst others – but they wouldn’t have made much of an impact if they weren’t such a vital proposition in their own right, one that detonates when they get onstage. Added to that energy is the music itself – think Liquid Liquid and early Liars – and an almost imperceptible sense of ideology and inclusiveness driving things along.

“If Rachel [Keenan, keys] goes and DJs somewhere by herself,” says Keith, “she can say she’s Not Squares. If I go and drum or shout somewhere, I can say I’m Not Squares. It’s this idea that one or two or three or four or five people, or more, can represent that name. It’s the idea of a collective, I guess, and instead of fencing your territory and saying, ‘If one member leaves, we can’t function’, it needs to be more fluid than that.”

“That was born out of the fact that all our friends kept coming to the shows,” says Ricki. “It was like, ‘Are these guys Not Squares as well?’ Obviously, they are.”

The single is being released on the Dublin-based Richter Collective label, who also intend to put out the band’s debut album later in the year. It’s a relationship that was first established after Not Squares played a gig with Dublin’s finest post-prog-punk scientists, their new labelmates BATS. “Those guys have been brilliant,” says Ricki. “I was thinking about it the other day, how much they’ve helped us. They’re so enthusiastic. The first time we played with them, they were like, ‘Come and play with us, waaaaargh!’ This energy. Like, ‘I’m ringing Richter Collective tomorrow’, and we’re working with Richter Collective now.”

The band go into Start Together Studios in Belfast after the single launch to record that album. Up until now, their recorded output has consisted solely of the lo-fi Wrok EP, released on limited edition cassette tape and as a free download from their page. Now, they have the chance to go wild. “We want to get a really good, energetic document of a lot of stuff that people will know from our gigs,” says Ricki. “But then there’s also things that’ll be on there that we haven’t been able to do live. We definitely want there to be some interesting songs on there – just to experiment in the studio a wee bit.”



AU57: Summer Festivals Guide piece

June 1, 2009

As I mentioned here, this was a guide to the festivals for AU. Electric Picnic got the full-page treatment – here are the rest.


According to its own slogan, Glasgowbury is “small but massive” and it’s getting bigger. 2009 marks the tenth year of the Sperrins-based festival, named after its head honcho Paddy Glasgow, who in 2000 decided to put on a gig to raise some money and awareness for the Ulster Cancer Foundation. Almost a decade on, it’s grown into a full day, multi-stage celebration of Northern Irish music, with several southern bands (Ham Sandwich, Hybrasil, The Dagger Lees) joining in the fun last year. This year’s bill has yet to be announced, but expect just about every NI indie and rock band worth their salt to be there, plus several from elsewhere, from little-heard up-and-comers to well-established stalwarts like last year’s headliners Ash. A scenic setting high in the mountains, a community vibe and loads of great bands make this an ideal low-cost (and family-friendly) alternative to the bigger festivals.

Glasgowbury Festival takes place at Eagles Rock, Draperstown, on Saturday July 25.
Tickets: £25 or £30 with camping


Like Glasgowbury, Truck is an independent festival that prides itself on its small-scale and friendly atmosphere. It’s been running every year since 1998 on Hill Farm in Steventon, rural Oxfordshire (except in 2007, when it was postponed and moved to Oxford Brookes University due to flooding). The name either comes from a compilation CD found by founder Robin Bennett called Keep On Trucking or (more likely) the fact that the main stage is constructed from three large flatbed trucks. Despite the cosy 5,000 capacity, there are six different stages, including one set up in a cowshed. Clearly, this is no ordinary festival. This year’s headliners are Ash and local heroes Supergrass, and other bands so far announced include ASIWYFA, Panama Kings, Errors, Red Light Company, Chew Lips and YACHT. Expect that list to be significantly bolstered in the next few weeks.

Truck Festival takes place at Hill Farm, Steventon, Oxfordshire on July 25 and 26.
Tickets: £70 for the weekend


Since Reading and Leeds embraced indie, there has been only one serious option for British and Irish metallers: Download. Held at Donington and basically a continuation of the old Monsters Of Rock festivals, this is no place for shrinking violets, which is why our eyebrows raised appreciably when we read that General Fiasco are on the bill. Apart from them, though, it’s business as usual – this year’s headliners are Faith No More, Slipknot and Def Leppard (spandex-tastic), whilst elsewhere you can get your fill of old-school rawk with Mötley Crüe, Whitesnake and ZZ Top, nu-metal with Korn and Limp Bizkit, proper modern metal with Meshuggah and Opeth and goth fun with Marilyn Manson. Further NI interest comes with the appearances of The Answer and Therapy?

Download takes place at Donington Park, Leicestershire on June 12-14.
Tickets: £135 for the weekend, arena only (camping tickets sold out)


Due to its size, facilities and (let’s be honest) a good proportion of its clientele, Oxegen has lost a bit of its lustre in recent years. The emergence of the bright and shiny Electric Picnic can’t have helped, either. So in an effort to regain some credibility, they’ve properly pulled out all the stops this year with a quite incredible line-up. And with good reason – Oxegen is very much the modern, corporate festival, so the music has to be good. The punters will be pulled in good and proper with headliners as big as Snow Patrol, The Killers, Kings Of Leon and Blur (an Irish exclusive), but just look at what else is on offer: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Of Montreal, The Horrors, Mogwai, M83, The Specials… AU is impressed. We’ll gloss over Lady Gaga, James Morrison and Razorlight, shall we?

Oxegen takes place at Punchestown Racecourse, Co. Kildare on July 10-12.
Tickets: €224.50 for the weekend


There are plenty of dance festivals around, but none that quite compares to Sónar. Like Primavera Sound and Summercase, the other big Barcelona-based festivals, there’s no camping, but this is urban festivalling on a huge scale. 80,000 people descend on the Catalan capital for three days and nights of utter madness. ‘Sónar by Day’ takes place in the city centre and is more like your average music festival – bands and DJs during the day. Simple. ‘Sónar by Night’, however, is a different proposition altogether. This takes place a bus ride away and is split into four separate – enormous – areas. We haven’t yet been, but we are told that the sight of tens of thousands of people raving their heads off all night, in a huge hangar with an incredible PA, is worth the trip. Not to mention the stellar line-up. This year’s highlights include SebastiAn, Orbital, Richie Hawtin, Animal Collective, Carl Craig, Fever Ray, Crystal Castles, Martyn, Grace Jones etc etc….

Sonar takes place in Barcelona on June 18-20.
Tickets: €140 for the weekend, Day and Night


Eastern Europe is an excellent choice for an alternative festival experience. We’ve heard good things about EXIT in Serbia, T-Mobile INmusic in Croatia and Open’er in Poland, but top of our list would have to be Sziget in Budapest, Hungary. It’s not for the faint of heart, though. For a start, it lasts for a full week, so camping is strictly for the well-prepared. However, because of its unique location on an island in the middle of the Danube, right in the heart of the Hungarian capital, you could dip in and out over the course of a week’s stay in Budapest. The line-up tends to be a bit patchy, and not exactly cutting edge (though Squarepusher, Klaxons and Calexico are confirmed for this year) but with nearly 400,000 punters expected and countless other activities on offer, it’d be a hell of an experience. And just think of all the cheap food and beer.

Sziget takes place in Budapest, Hungary on August 12-17.
Tickets: €150 for the week or €180 with camping


Just look at that name. Good, innit? This “progressive” Belgian festival deserves a mention just for that (though Holland’s Pinkpop runs it a close second). Boasting eight stages and a capacity of around 150,000 (nearly twice as many as Oxegen, to put that in context), this one is a huge deal. Maybe Belgium isn’t so boring, after all. As well as the sensory overload of being as such a huge festival, you also get a top-drawer line-up, this year headlined by Faith No More, Kraftwerk, Arctic Monkeys and dEUS (they’re Belgian, innit). Also appearing are the ASIWYFA boys, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr, Snow Patrol, Wilco, Deftones, Vitalic and many, many more. Top banana.

Pukkelpop takes place in Kiewit, nr Hasselt, Belgium on August 20-22.
Tickets: €135 for the weekend


Another good name, this one is a pun (and Lord knows we at AU like puns) on the words ‘rock’ and ‘européennes’ (European in French). It was conceived by the forward looking politicians of Belfort, eastern France, as a way of making their area that little bit cooler (or milking the youth vote, possibly). Job well done. Apart from having that je ne sais quoi that only the French possess, the organisers clearly know their onions on the line-up front. This year, the 100,000 capacity festival boasts The Bronx, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Kanye West, Torche, Mos Def, Friendly Fires and loads more. Plus, the festival takes place at a nature resort, so it really is impossibly beautiful.

Eurockéennes takes place at Malsaucy, nr Belfort, France on July 3-5.
Tickets: €85 for the weekend


If you’re an electronic music fan and your budget doesn’t quite stretch to Sónar in Barcelona, a long weekend in Derry could be in order. Each year, the Celtronic festival takes over the city for a weekend, offering up high-calibre acts from home and abroad to play in venues such as Mason’s, Sandino’s and the Nerve Centre. The cream of this year’s crop includes gauzy electronica maestro Ulrich Schnauss, German house DJ Dixon, French electro king Brodinski, Lurgan’s Boxcutter and his fellow Planet Mu star Milanese, folktronica artist James Yuill, ace remixer Duke Dumont, Belfast techno producer Phil Kieran playing a rare live set and London disco dons Horsemeat Disco. The lure of the north-west is strong.

Celtronic takes place throughout Derry on June 24-28.
Tickets: TBA


AU57: Moderat breaking act piece

June 1, 2009



MEMBERS: Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary – production), Apparat (Sascha Ring – production, vocals)
FORMATION: Berlin, 2002.
FOR FANS OF: Modeselektor, Apparat, Burial.
CHECK OUT: Moderat, out now on BPitch Control

When it comes to choice collaborative albums, Sascha Ring, aka Apparat, has form. In 2006, the German electronic musician got together with Ellen Allien, the producer, DJ and BPitch Control label boss, to make the sublime Orchestra of Bubbles, and here he is repeating the trick with another titan of German electronica, Berlin duo Modeselektor. Moderat, as the trio have called themselves, can be traced back to 2002 when they released a solitary EP, but it’s not until now that an album has appeared. In the intervening years, both acts’ stocks have risen enormously – Apparat with Orchestra of Bubbles and then his third solo album, 2007’s excellent Walls, and Modeselektor with the patronage of celebrity fan Thom Yorke, who sang on their breakthrough record Happy Birthday! and invited them to tour with Radiohead. And the Moderat album has turned out much as you might expect, even with high hopes.

The self-titled debut is a modern techno record in keeping with their label’s fine history, with Apparat contributing the flair for detail and lush sound design that has become his trademark. But there’s also that sense of fun that Modeselektor are known for, and a deep, bass-heavy theme that indicates that the trio have been listening to their fair share of dubstep and dub techno lately. Rhythm and Sound vocalist Paul St. Hilaire makes an appearance on the frantic ‘Slow Match’, while ‘Rusty Nails’ and the closing ‘Out Of Sight’ ally Ring’s ethereal vocals to the depth charge bass and brittle beats of Burial. The trio are touring heavily throughout the summer; you’d be well advised to add the nearest date to your diary – they might just disappear for another seven years.

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