Tag Archives: Professor Penguin

”Camaraderie is essential” – Professor Penguin Interview

16 Jan

Professor Penguin

While it may not have been too widely heard, Professor Penguin’s debut album, Planes was an understated masterpiece about which we said; ”Melody is King of this soundscape and the horns, strings, keys, drums, vocals etc merely subjects sworn to its allegiance. With each listen more and more of the depth and beauty is revealed, the subtly and emotion of the lyrics unfold before you, drawing you still deeper into its warm and inviting embrace”.

It also presented us with the most unusual track-listing of the year with all 10 tracks, as well as the album title and indeed the band name, starting with the letter ‘P’. Clearly this was a band after our Alphabet hearts though we could find no explanation for this apparent obsession with the letter. Despite the brain fuddling nature of the ‘P’ enigma, Planes deservedly placed on our end of year albums list and we were keen to meet the men responsible, all seven of them.


We say seven; it was seven when we met with them (though we spoke only with three, Jonny, John and Toby) though the number is usually ten and even reached 13 at one point. The guys are all in good spirits when we meet just before a sold out show in support of Public Service Broadcasting, but it must be hard to keep them all happy. ”Camaraderie is essential”, laughs Jonny, and it is in evidence throughout our chat with the three of them laughing and joking. Such is the scale of the band that when they joke a nearby Henry vacuum cleaner is also a member, it doesn’t sound that far-fetched.

They are playing XOYO that night and the stage there is not the largest but at least they can all fit on it with some room to move, it hasn’t always been the case. At their own album launch gig at the Social they had to have the keyboard player practically in the crowd on a concrete bench and it wasn’t just the band who was mildly inconvenienced, ”we blocked off the only route to the toilet, no-one could go to the toilet, they laugh. “We had to order them all to go before”.

Band members have not always been legion though, in the beginning it was pretty much just Jonny and, unusually it was the album that came before the band. “The first day of Professor Penguin was an album”, says Toby, ”so like that’s quite strange isn’t it?” As a result they have been on an interesting journey since Planes was recorded as the music has evolved with the growth of the band.” We put the band together afterwards” Jonny explains, ”It was quite strange to put it (Planes) out then, what people were listening to wasn’t really what we had become as a band”. John agrees and explains that the effect has been positive, ”A lot of people were surprised by how different it sounds live to how it is on the CD, which I think is a good thing”. Certainly there have been no complaints and their set that evening goes down well with the crowd.

The reaction to Planes was very positive and while we may have loved it more than most, it was unquestionably loved by those who heard it. The expansion of the band and the way in which their sound has developed recently has led the Professor Penguin boys to forgo any laurels and just crack on with the next album, one they will actually write and record as one. Jonny is still the driving force behind the writing but the process has become much more democratic and it’s starting to feel more cohesive for the others, like it is the group’s music. ”I demo them” Jonny explains ”and then we record something afterwards or we play something afterwards. We’ve all got our own thing with the song”.

Professor Penguin2

Is it really like that though? It must be hard for someone who was used to writing and recording without the input of others to open up like that, but the others agree with Jonny when we ask, and their laughter isn’t nervous when it is suggested they pretend he isn’t in the room. The process, as John explains, is quite simple with Jonny providing more of an outline of a tune which the guys take away to listen to and work with. ”It’s just the skeleton on the demos”, he tell us. ”We can mess around with it, play around with it, we can do our own little bits to it”.

It’s not just Jonny getting used to working this way though, its new to them all and they have been experimenting and finding a way to make it work. With seven of them all having a creative input it has seen songs change a fair bit, which can occasionally be problematic. ”Everyone changes stuff”, says Jonny. ”I still change stuff, and when you come out the other side, if you’ve changed something and someone else hasn’t? That doesn’t work with what they do any more. And if they change something, and someone else has as well, then those things can clash…” ”That’s the fun part”, smiles John. Thankfully that camaraderie is there and no-one has come to blows over any changes.

It’s clear that the guys are having fun and genuinely like working with one another. Conversation comes easily to them as they happily talk, reminisce and joke. With everyone in such a good mood we decide to chance it and ask the big question. Why do all the songs start with the letter ‘P’?

Jonny smiles as he explains, “It just kept all of the songs in the same place on my computer. That was why”. Unsurprisingly we don’t believe him and his grin grows as he elucidates further. ”They were in a nice bundle”.

Now we know he is joking and he soon confesses, ”there is a different answer every time someone asks me so…” So we’ll never know. Still, ‘P’ or no ‘P’, it is a bloody good album.


2012 Albums of the Year: Part One #15 – #11

12 Dec

2012 Albums of the Year 15 to 11

After counting down our favourite tracks and favourite EPs of 2012, it’s high time we started our look at the albums that we fell in love with over the last 12 months.

Last year we listed 50 albums over two days, which was frankly bonkers, so this year we are aiming for something much more manageable. Having looked at 20 tracks and 10 EPs, we thought we’d split the difference and go with 15 albums. We will countdown five albums each day over the next three days and reveal our choice for number one on Friday, when we will also list out a few albums that didn’t quite make the final 15, just for fun.

As with the tracks and EPs, this is a list of favourites and reflects our somewhat eclectic tastes. Trust us when we say, you are unlikely to find a list like this anywhere else. It’s one reason we love music as much as we do, everyone has a different opinion and we can introduce each other to new sounds all the time.

Here are numbers 15 to 11 on our albums of the year list.

15. Professor Penguin – Planes

Professor Penguin

Melody is King of this soundscape and the horns, strings, keys, drums, vocals etc merely subjects sworn to its allegiance. The 10 tracks swim effortlessly along and each arrangement is as soft and dreamy as the last. It is no wonder the guys have been attracting the attention of 6Music and Brian Eno. With each listen more and more of the depth and beauty is revealed, the subtly and emotion of the lyrics unfold before you, drawing you still deeper into its warm and inviting embrace. Take your time with this, listen properly and without distraction and you will be rewarded.


Buy it from: Professor Penguin

14. Save The Clocktower – Through The Glass

Save The Clocktower - Through The Glass

We love good pop music, our tracks and EP lists show that much, so it pretty much goes without saying we love Through The Glass which is dripping in psychedelic pop dancibility. Save The Clocktower have created rich and bold sounds that holding their head high, big smiles beaming on their faces. “Better Than Ever”, for example, which features guest vocals from Company Of Thieves’ Genevieve Schatz, has a sweet hook and a chorus that borders on anthemic. It embraces the best of pop, from across the genres. At every turn there are wafts of half remembered melodies or beats from the past. This element of familiarity no doubt helps the record get under the skin of the listener but it is the never ending mobius-groove running throughout that will get you. Even on slower jams like “It Happens” there is still enough to have you swaying from side to side, if not singing along loudly and joyously.


Buy it from: Save The Clocktower

13. Jack Robert Hardman – Jack Robert Hardman

'Jack Robert Hardman' Artwork

Our very own letter ‘H’, Jack is currently gathering a great deal of attention from the music world for his track, “Plymouth”, and with good reason. Its feather-soft, ethereal feeling washes over you and soothes your soul. Before “Plymouth” though, came the eponymous debut album from which it is taken and quite the superb piece of song-smithing it is. Building on the classic 3minute pop song mantra and using his musical magpie tendencies to pluck elements from the world around him and craft them into something entirely new. Stylistically he is able to jump around without ever jarring or leaving the listener confused. Be it “Famous”, a Simon & Garfunkel-esque ballad of cracked beauty, or “Lights of London”, a light near-dance track that is full of bounce, or even the playful and utterly charming “Conveyor Belt Of Love”, Jack takes us gently with him leading us along his musical mosaic.


Buy it from: iTunes

12. The Penelopes – Never Live Another Yesterday

The Penelopes Never Live Another Yesterday

Never Live Another Yesterday is an album crammed with futuristic jams built on retro foundations. Full of energy and effervescence, our French heroes have taken their 80s electro influences and blitzed them with a soupcon of Gallic flair and vibrant pop hooks. “Sally In The Galaxy” and “Now Now Now”, in particular, are fantastically catchy and danceable, the kind of tracks that you can’t get enough of on a summers day, driving in the car with the windows down and not a care in the world. The male/female harmonies are rich and infectious, with lead singer Axel’s quiet gruffness complemented perfectly by the sweetness of Laura Kidd’s backing. In a year of many great pop records, The Penelopes have produced a cracker that stands up there with the best of them and which deserves multiple and repeated plays.


Buy it from: Amazon

11. Adrian Younge – Something About April

Somthing About April

Recorded as if it was the soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist, Something About April is modern soul at its very best. It’s crammed with reference points that ring out across the generations of what would now be called urban music. Crooning 50’s vocals, 60’s Motown, deep and fuzzy beats, 70’s funk, hip-hop and dance, all are bursting from within this multifaceted and deeply wonderful album. We also love picking out some of the melodious homages within the tracks ( The Godfather theme and The Beatles are our favourites). Originally released last year in the US and beyond, it earns its place on our list by virtue of its summer 2012 release here in the UK. We may have got to it later than everyone else but that just makes us appreciate its soulful grooviness even more.


Buy it from: Amazon

So that was part one, come back tomorrow for part two where we will reveal who made it to numbers 10 – 6.

Album Review: Professor Penguin – Planes

17 Apr

I’d like a ‘P’ please Bob.
Yes it’s an easy joke to make, and most likely one that will have younger readers scratching their heads in bemusement, and no doubt it is one that the assorted members (all nine of them) of Professor Penguin have heard countless times over the last couple of weeks. Given that their name, their debut album, Planes, and every track thereon begins with the letter P, they shouldn’t really be surprised.

With our poor attempt at humour out of the way, let’s focus on the music, and what a treat it is. Considering this London based collection of musicians has swollen its ranks to nine, you would be forgiven for expecting something of a racket, with each of the legion of instruments battling for prominence. Not at all, melody is King of this soundscape and the horns, strings, keys, drums, vocals etc merely subjects sworn to its allegiance. It is about compliment, not combat.

The 10 tracks swim effortlessly along and each arrangement is as soft and dreamy as the last. It is no wonder the guys have been attracting the attention of 6Music and Brian Eno. With each listen more and more of the depth and beauty is revealed, the subtly and emotion of the lyrics unfold before you, drawing you still deeper into its warm and inviting embrace. Take your time with this, listen properly and without distraction and you will be rewarded. If all debuts were this good, no-one would make a second album, ever.

Planes is out now on Gentoo Recordings and can be bought digitally or on CD.