Tag Archives: Feature

Five years on; so what now?

12 Sep


Five years ago, to this very day, the already named but somewhat silent Alphabet Bands was born and began to take its first steps to becoming the website that it is today. A largely silent blog.

Yes, it is somewhat ironic that while we celebrate five years of blogging, it comes after our most extended period of non-writing in that whole time. The length of our silence was not intentional, we knew there would be holidays where we wouldn’t write and that the Euro football tournament would distract us. We hadn’t appreciated that the distractions would continue though, that so many TV shows and evening activities would get in the way, that trying to improve our overall health and fitness (yes, really) would take time and so much energy that we would lack the motivation to put fingers to keyboard.

There was plenty of music we enjoyed and loved in that period, yet we still didn’t write. So we find ourselves at something of a crossroads. What do we do now?

We don’t want to end the site. Listening to and sharing music is still fun, talking about it and getting all hyperbolic and metaphorical is still rewarding and the buzz we get when bands get in touch to thank us and tell us how much it has helped is still incredible. Writing this blog has opened so many doors for us we still find it hard to believe. The number and the brilliance of the people we have met across all aspects of the industry has been amazing. The opportunities to meet, spend time with, speak to and even (to a degree) influence artists we love is one we are forever grateful for.

We have been able to film intimate acoustic sessions with some wonderful artists and we’ve managed to put on a couple of gigs – bringing some of our absolute favourites out to the wilds of Norwich to perform. We’ve even, sort of, got a record label (and people who want to work with us on it), something that could never have happened without Alphabet Bands. Most importantly, we were able to use the site, with our good buddy Breaking More Waves to raise over £1,500 for Cancer Research.

Yet we are at this crossroads. What happens next?

We’ve considered writing less (yes, we know, we’re writing nothing at all at the mo, how can we do less?) and trying to focus more on the quality than the quantity. Yet all that has done has effectively given us an excuse not to write at all.

We’ve thought about expanding out to other forms of media as well. Maybe doing long recorded interviews with artists, really getting into who they are, what and why they do what they do and finding out what makes them tick. If we did though, how should that be presented? Every man, woman and their dog has a podcast these days, do we want to just add to the noise there? Would people even want to listen?

Should we just keep doing what we have been doing? Tracks, videos and the occasional album review thrown in? Maybe try and record more sessions again? Write long-form interviews? More random features on people or labels? Random thoughts on older music, music that means something to us for various reasons perhaps?

We’re open to ideas. What do people want from a music blog these days? And when I say we, I mean me. Adam H. Should I even just start writing in the first person again? I’ve always thought that there was something more professional in using the royal we, distancing myself slightly and speaking with (hopefully) a more authoritative voice. Does that work? Do people care?

All suggestions are welcome. As I said, five years on and Alphabet Bands stands at something of a crossroads.

Which path do we take?

Here’s a wonderful tune from Penny Bridges to listen to while you think and hopefully comment with suggestions.

Thank you.

Things to see and hear: Norwich Sound & Vision 2013 Preview

9 Oct


It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No not Christmas, we’re talking about those three magical days in October when our fine city of Norwich is inundated with amazing bands and musicians for the annual Norwich Sound and Vision Festival. Last year we gave you all a little preview of the festival, highlighting some of the amazing acts that played and we thought, you know what, let’s do it again.

Before we get to that, here’s some official festival blurb from the people that write those kinds of things;

“NS&V works with inner-city venues, filling the days with thought-provoking conferences and cramming the nights with all your favourite bands (but you just don’t know them yet). NS&V is a place for companies, individuals, bands/musicians, record labels, filmmakers, gamemakers, writers – anyone with an interest in the music, film and multimedia industries – to network, reach new markets, forge new partnerships, learn, be inspired and have a great time in one of England’s most charming cities.

There is quite literally loads going on in the city over the next three days, we are going to focus on the gig side (which, like the festival as whole, is bigger and better than ever) but we urge you all to check out norwichsoundandvision.co.uk for full conference details, including details of a panel on copyright in music, how not to do an interview (we’ll be there to find out where we’ve been going wrong all these years), how not to make a music video and a panel on the relationship between music and football, which sounds like a must attend event to us.

Each day of the festival we will bring you a preview of the gigs that are happening that evening, what we recommend and what we are going to see. Or try to see we should say, as it is entirely likely that our plans will change as we run venue to venue like some haphazard, younger and (hopefully) cooler (and less chased by stocking-ed nurses) Benny Hill…

Or something…

From Benny Hill we become Frankie Howard as we give a little prologue (older readers should get that joke we hope) of all the gig going by stating that this looks to be the biggest and best NSV so far. There are more venues, more artists, more panels and yes, probably more running.

We’ll go into more detail each day but for now we will say that we fully intend to be seen at
The Birdcage for Abi Wade, George Ezra and Alto45; The Arts Centre for Superfood, Drenge, No Ceremony, Ghostpoet and Horse Party; the Hog and Armour for Pins and at Open for Ty.

On Saturday night of course, we are curating our own stage. Yes, you did read that right. We have our own stage at this year’s Sound and Vision and it’s an absolute cracker. At Olives (on Elm Hill for those of you who know the city) we will be hosting Curxes, Strangers and Waylayers for an austerity respecting £3 entrance fee (payable on the door) or totally free for NSV wristband wearers.

We are back each day to provide more detail as to what is happening, plus music and tracks to get you all excited. Think of it as gig foreplay. So check back tomorrow for Thursday’s preview, in the meantime you can check out more information on the Norwich Sound and Vision website.

Tracks Of My Teens: #11 – Summer Camp

3 Sep

Tracks Of My Teens

We have something a little special for you this week in Tracks of my Teens after its recent return. As one half of Summer Camp, Elizabeth Sankey represents 50% of one of our favourite bands around right now. As she and Jeremy Warmsley prepare for the release of their second album next week, Elizabeth took some time out to reminisce about her teenage years and pick three tracks she loved from those days gone by.

summer-camp summer-camp

Echobelly – “King Of The Kerb”

I haven’t listened to this song in…probably over a decade. It feels so weird to be watching the video on YouTube, I definitely have never seen this video before. As a teenager I didn’t live in a household where music videos were watched. It was so exciting to go to my friends’ houses who had cable or satellite and watch MTV. I would sit there, glued to the screen. I know many facts about Alanis Morissette from one day of watching Pop Up Video constantly. I wasn’t strictly a teenager when this song came out, but it was part of the beginning of my teen mentality, that time in your life when you think things like, “I’ll be the girl who wears the foam zip-up jacket and only listens to Air”. I didn’t own many albums but those I did I knew very, very well. This is a just a great pop song. Miss these guys.

Saves The Day – “At Your Funeral”

I grew up near Kingston, an old market town on the outskirts of London. It’s only now that I realise how lucky I was to spend my teenage years there. Kingston has a unique relationship with bands and music, mainly because of one man, Jon Tolley who now runs Banquet Records and puts on insanely amazing shows at the venues that used to do Kiss FM and cheesy student nights when I was a teen. They always, always, even at the beginning of the night, smelt of vomit and beer. I will never forget those sticky carpets. When I was a teen, Jon was already very involved in the music scene, and he used to DJ at this tiny club called Bacchus (he may even still do it, I’ll have to double check with him next time we play). My best friend Louise and I would blag our way in before we were 18 and spend the whole night dancing to emo and hardcore and also…Mr. Scruff? (Just one song though I promise). We were annoying at the best of times, but when Jon played At Your Funeral we went postal. There’s a dance that can be performed to this song, you know. Anyway, Louise made sure this was the last song played at my wedding, after the DJ was supposed to have stopped. I guess we’re still awful.

The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes”

There’s always a point on tour when I listen to Skinner. This is such an insanely perfect debut. I loved it when it came out, but it wasn’t until I was working in music that I realised how incredibly lo-fi the production was. It’s such a wonderful reminder that good songs cut through, regardless of how much money was spent on the production. His lyrics are amazing, so evocative and truthfully. Totally relatable. And I love his sampling, his loops and breaks are just bloody great. I saw him play at Brixton in my early 20’s and it was amazing, and I’m so glad he’s done well, but I will always love the intensity and loneliness of this album. You can tell how much he wants it, and he has so much to say.

Summer Camp’s eponymous sophomore album is due out 9 September and is available for pre-order from iTunes now.

Read more about: Summer Camp

Stalk Summer Camp: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Tracks Of My Teens: #10 – Roman Ruins

27 Aug

Tracks Of My Teens

It’s been a while since we delved deep into the dark recesses of a musician’s mind and memory to find out what tracks impacted them the most in their youth. We do like a bit of a delve though, so we thought it was about time we brought back Tracks of my Teens.

We’re delighted that on its return we get to hear from an artist who was responsible for one of our favourite albums of 2012, Graham Hill, aka Roman Ruins. His debut album, Homebuilding, is a thing of rare beauty, dealing with his experience of growing a family and home. Delicate ambient sounds blend into soft 80s electro beats while the vocals gently rock you as if a babe in arms. It is simply gorgeous and well worth picking up.

Now though, let’s find out what inspired the man that made that gem of an album.

Roman Ruins TomT

Neil Young – “Alabama”

My Dad is from Alabama, and I spent some good times there as a kid visiting relatives. I didn’t come to understand the political context of the song until much later, but it didn’t matter; I really just liked hearing Neil sing about a place that I knew. In the weeks leading up to getting my driver’s license in high school, I spent hours at the stereo console readying car mix tapes pieced together from my parents’ albums. The morning after I got my license, my sister and I were driving to school for the first time in our Dad’s 86 Toyota Tercel wagon, jamming to one of those tapes. It was a foggy, humid September morning and we were enjoying the freedom of driving on our own. As we made the soothing transition from our long gravel road to the blacktop, Neil was singing “Your Cadillac has got a wheel in the ditch, and a wheel on the track.” Just then, a school bus came barrelling toward us at a clip, wheels straddling the double yellow line, and in a panic I ran the car off the road, through a ditch and ploughed into a wooden fence. When we came to a stop, the song was still playing.

Randy Newman – “Red Bandana”

When our family drove to North Carolina for a beach trip every August, I remember listening to this song in the back of our Toyota Previa and getting so pumped. The voice is so saucy and the phrasing so effortless, it made visions of our breezy, warm Atlantic destination easy to conjure. As a result, the 8 hours in the car passed like minutes; I even felt like driving for a few more days so we might end up in “Hollywood USA.” This song employs many stylistic clichés of the 80s – gated drums, fretless bass, synth horns…but somehow it still doesn’t sound dated. The 2.5 minute length also encourages repeat listens.

The Beatles – “Across the Universe”

This is definitely my favourite Beatles song and maybe my favourite song of all. I still like practicing singing harmony whenever I hear it. The “nothings gonna change my world” refrain captures much of how I felt when I was a teenager living in West Virginia. It seemed like everything important in the world happened outside that place, and so it would never change. It still feels that way when I go home for Thanksgiving each year.

Homebuilding by Roman Ruins is out now and available to buy here. You should get it, it’s sublime. You can also pick up other Roman Ruins releases from the wonderful Gold Robot Records.

Stalk Roman Ruins: Twitter / Bandcamp / Myspace

Tracks Of My Teens: #9 – Secret Colours

21 May

Tracks Of My Teens

It’s been nearly a year and a half since we last featured Chicago’s Secret Colours on the site. That was for the release of their 3rd EP, EP3 and a lot has happened since then, their debut album was released and next week the follow up, Peach hits stores. The guys have had a pretty busy time of late but guitarist Dave Stach was able to put down his axe for a few moments and pick up a laptop to take a trip down memory lane for us. Without further ado then, this is Tracks of my Teens, Secret Colours style.

Continue reading