Wednesday, 19 December 2012

I Hate... The end of one year and the start of another / "Why let all those dark afternoons go to waste?" - Morrissey

Nothing happens in music throughout December and January. There's no point in buying a music magazine until at least February as December is nothing but lists of "best", "worsts" and summaries, whilst January is full of hot air about who or what is going to be super duper exciting in 2013. Snore.

So I'm really enjoying how empty my working life feels right now... 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Bruno Mars "Unorthodox Jukebox" Album Review

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Just two worthwhile things have come out of the last two series of The X Factor. Last year, it was Bruno Mars performing ‘Runaway Baby’. And this year, it was Bruno Mars airing his latest single ‘Locked Out Of Heaven’. Each performance was distinctly different; the former a cheeky, Motown routine with immaculate choreography, and the latter a testosterone driven ’80s ska stormer. The only link between them was the faultless precision with which each track was delivered with neither a step nor note out of place.

It’s this diversity that’s been the crux of criticism for Mars’ sophomore LP. The way in which he is able to bounce between Elton John-esque piano ballads (‘When I Was Your Man’) and Michael Jackson Off The Wall-era disco funk, with added sex drive (‘Treasure’), whilst also finding the time to have a go at flirty reggae jaunts (‘Show Me’) and ominous pounding paranoid freak outs (‘Money Make Her Smile’), for some, curiously, this is a bad thing. The ten tracks that make up Unorthodox Jukebox are entirely individual; there’s no track melting into track here or mistaking one number for another. And it’s beyond me how this could possibly be perceived as anything but a good thing. Correct me if I'm wrong (which I'm not) but didn't the best selling album of all time become such by being consciously constructed as an LP made up of nine disconnected genre-defying hits?

I’m not saying Unorthodox Jukebox is this generation’s Thriller, but it certainly follows the ambitious mould set out by Michael Jackson in 1982. Meticulous attention has been lavished on each track to ensure a nothing less than delectable assortment of pop perfection was the final product. Like Thriller, every song, when taken on its own merit, simply works. Even ‘Gorilla’, an ode to cocaine and alcohol fuelled animal sex, makes sense on this album and is not to be skipped. Whilst the massively successful Doo-Wops And Hooligans was patchy and erratic at best, Unorthodox Jukebox is convincingly diverse with its individual parts woven together by Bruno Mars’ malleable vocals and admirable ambition.

-Kate Allen

Written for NOTION

Sunday, 9 December 2012

PRINTED WORDS / ICONIC Issue #9


The new issue of ICONIC is out now. 

Order yourself a copy HERE

£4.25 is an extremely reasonable price for literally thousands of words written by yours truly about Michael Jackson's diet and exercise regimes, his various attempts at creating a successful range of fragrances and why, if I had a time machine, I would travel back to Wembley Stadium on 16th July 1988. 

Other really good stuff inside includes exclusive interviews with Michael Bush, Philip Treacy and Jonathan Moffatt. 

And you don't need me to tell you but the front cover features the best pair of sunglasses ever donned by Michael Jackson. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Splashh Live Review


Find the original post HERE



Live Review: Splashh @ The 100 Club, 03/12/2012


2012 has been the year of Splashh. In less than a year they formed and established themselves as the foremost purveyors of ‘90s psych revival – a movement won’t be fading away anytime soon. Tonight, their packed out show at the legendary 100 Club feels like the final and fitting huzzah for the hard working and not-so-slacker quartet.

Despite their set falling foul of persistent technical problems (the drummer can hear too much guitar, whilst the bassist can’t hear any) such setbacks do little to hinder proceedings, as proven by the fervent mosh inspired by Splashh’s high octane take on grunge. Stage right of The 100 Club is where one goes to get loose on a Monday night, evidently.

The band’s polite introduction of, “Hi, we’re Splashh,” seems rather redundant in front of a crowd who are driven as crazy by B-sides like ‘So Young’ as they are by ‘All I Wanna Do’ – arguably, the best single of the year.

Just as the audience’s energy never falters, neither does the band’s. Amongst a selection of new material, which, on first listen, sounds a little baggier than their previous releases, they mercilessly thrash out the indie scuzz delights of ‘Headspins’, ‘Vacation’ and ‘Washed Up’. Sasha Carlson’s visceral vocals give grit to every track; whilst Jacob Moore’s powerhouse drumming provides Splashh with an on point and controlled edge.

Polishing off this celebratory gig is an extended, hypnotic version of ‘Need It’ (arguably, the second best single of the year) which has quickly become their signature closer. Yet as masterful as their performance is tonight, some signs of being at ease or interaction between band members wouldn’t go amiss, rather than remaining in concentrated isolation on their individual roles. Guys – you rock. We want to see you enjoying it as much as we do.

-Kate Allen

Written for Notion

Saturday, 1 December 2012

I Hate... My Moral Fibre / "They ain't friends if they robbin' me"

I wish that my moral integrity wouldn't prevent me from stealing the articles below from my place of work. 





Friday, 30 November 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Spector Live Review

Find the original post HERE


“So this is what ‘sold out’ looks like,” Fred Macpherson observes as he surveys a packed out Shepherds Bush Empire. “I’ve never seen this many people in one room.” And so it is that Spector  wrap up this 22-date UK headline tour on a high note, Macpherson recalling the band playing to a significantly smaller and less enthused crowd just a year ago than the one they find tonight. Lining the front of the stage are a series of Spector look-alikes, all slicked back dos and thick-set spectacles. They front what is a no less than rapturous audience all night, summed up by an enthused fan who unwisely chooses to crowd surf during ‘Twenty Nothing’ – the first song of the night – and is ejected before the gig even really gets going. Such displays of plain fandom are confirmation that after his Les Incompétents and ox.eagle.lion.man attempts at indie front man success, Fred Macpherson has finally settled on a routine that sticks.
And quite a routine it is. Fred makes his eagerly awaited stage entrance in a Daz-white suit with a trench coat draped over his shoulders – it’s clearly there for display purposes only as he flamboyantly peels it off and tosses it to a waiting roadie moments later. At numerous points throughout the set, meanwhile, he takes a plastic comb from his pocket to slide it back through his hair, despite not a follicle actually being out of place. It’s all rather affected and gratingly obnoxious, but the crowd eat up his showy antics, and, hey, it’s practically written this review for us.
And what about the music? Spector are an impressively solid and professional live act. They empty out the entire contents of ‘Enjoy While It Lasts’ with ease. The crowd are lead through mass sing-alongs, arms aloft swaying and wind themselves up into indie dance floor hysteria to the gentlemanly pop of ‘Friday Night, Don’t Ever Let It End’ and ‘What You Wanted.’ The rest of the band functions as a spruced up backing group, without names or voices. Hopefully they in particular are enjoying it while it lasts; it’ll be interesting to see if their overtly ambitious leader sees them as intrinsic to his next career move or not.
Kate Allen 
Written for THE FLY

Monday, 26 November 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Royal Trux "Accelerator" Review

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The next in a long line of re-issues from the back catalogue of Chicago grimy rock duo Royal Trux, 1998’s "Accelerator" is back in print and being re-released by Domino. No frills and no special edition extras here, just a short sharp jab of Royal Trux’s crafted scuzz.

For the uninitiated here’s a brief history of Royal Trux. It was a simple conception: tired of being a part of D.C. garage outfit Pussy Galore, Neil Hagerty left and formed a band with his then girlfriend, Jennifer Herrema. They released their debut album in 1988 but it was their second, Twin Infinitives, a dense avant-garde double disc that defined their lo-fi, experimental capabilities. More infamous than famous, the pair were known for their antagonising attitude and being cool to the point of alienation. Their open use of heroin might have had something to do with their reported difficult reputation. They recorded their third album with just $150 having blown their advance on drugs.

Like many of their indie contemporaries they profited, financially at least, from the post-Nirvana hunger major labels had for outwardly edgy acts. In 1995, Royal Trux signed a million dollar, three album deal with Virgin but it wasn’t a contract that was made to last. Virgin made severance payments to the band rather than let them fulfil their contractual agreements. Recognising that a major label didn’t understand what they were driving at, Royal Trux took the album that Virgin paid not to release to Drag City. That album was Accelerator.

In a conceptual triptych of decade-dedicated albums, Accelerator was the final instalment of a trilogy of records. Thank You channelled the 60s, Sweet Sixteen looked at the sounds of the 70s, with putrid artwork, which seemed like the symbolic nail in the coffin for Virgin’s hope of making Royal Trux crossover a success, and Accelerator was all about the 80s. However, one does need to be directly told this as the band themselves have said that the records in question don’t actually sound anything like the decade they are supposedly based on. Rather the band employed methods and signifiers of their inspirational time frames.

Accelerator is by far the strongest and most compelling album of the triple collection. One suspects that in order to appease their big buck investors they curbed their unconventional impulses on Thank You and Sweet Sixteen, but it is on Accelerator that Royal Trux strike the ideal balance between experimentation and accessible riffs to create what is, essentially, excellently organised chaos. You can hear their awe for the Rolling Stones through the fuzz of ‘Yellow Kid,’ Herrema’s grainy, androgynous vocals are of the raspy kind that Alison Mosshart can only but wish for (Royal Trux are pretty much the band The Kills will never be), and you can detect the seeds they were sowing on the rock blues ballad ‘Stevie’ that would eventually develop into the White Stripes.

This re-release is not in aid of anything; Royal Trux are not celebrating any kind of anniversary, nor has Accelerator been tarted up with any long lost audio or outtakes, and they are most certainly not looking to make a comeback as a reunion has been absolutely refuted. It’s simply an exercise of appreciation and making damn sure that more people have access to the louche rock and roll crashes of Royal Trux.


 Written for IDOL

Friday, 23 November 2012

I had my hair put up at Hershesons on the weekend. 
I'm yet to take it out. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / IDOL's Top Five: Music Tracks

Find the original post HERE
Indiana – Blind As I Am
This piece of haunting, soulful electro comes from Indiana, an upcoming singer-songwriter from Nottingham who will be releasing this as her debut on NO ROMEO Records next week. The video is every bit as eerie as it’s soundtrack with filming having taken place during the night at a disbanded school. 

Tensnake Featuring Syron – Mainline 
Unashamed old school ‘90s house anthem vibes and aesthetics flood this collaboration between German nu-disco DJ Tensnake and teenage South London songstress Syron. This is your new guilty pleasure.



Milo Greene – What’s The Matter
LA newcomers Milo Greene are making subtle but sizeable waves with their stirring indie folk that calls for comparisons to Fleet Foxes. They’re already making a name for themselves Stateside having toured with the likes of Grouplove and The Civil Wars. Now they’re launching their rich melodies here in the UK with this, their first single, being released next week and their self-titled debut album expected to drop sometime in January 2013. 


Flight Facilities – Clair De Lune
A Debussy-inspired darkened soundscape is the latest release from mysterious Australian duo Flight Facilities. Complemented by vocals from New York talent Christine Hoberg, this track is a serene seven minutes of atmospheric calm. Listen here: http://soundcloud.com/flightfacilities/flight-facilities-clair-de-1
Sky Ferreira – Sad Dream
One of the more unexpected tracks from Sky Ferreira’s Ghost EP is the next to get a single release. The downcast, acoustic ballad Sad Dream is accompanied by a video starring a gun toting, shop lifting and forlorn Ferreira. 


Written for IDOL

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Five Minutes With Splashh

Find the original post HERE

(L - R: Toto Vivian, Jacob Moore, Sasha Carlson and Thomas Beal)

What was the last film you saw?
Jacob: The Lincoln Lawyer. That’s a good film.
Sasha: Old School
Tom: I can’t remember the title of it... I’ll get back to you.
Who would your dream date be?
Tom: Alexa Chung.
Sasha: You can’t say that.
Tom: Why? Because it’s Toto’s dream date?
Sasha: Probably an actress. Scarlett Johansson.
Jacob: How superficial are we? [Laughs]
Toto: I’m going to say a supermodel. I don’t know a name.
Sasha: Who’s that girl from Ted? Mila Kunis. Or Natalie Portman – that’s who I should have said.
If you could be good at anything, like a sport or skill, what would it be?
Tom: Building houses. I don’t know.
Sasha: High jump. It’s pretty sick.
Toto: Flying.
Jacob: Skateboarding.
When you were younger what posters were on your bedroom walls?
Sasha: Michael Jordon and skateboarders.  
Tom: Geri Halliwell.
Jacob: The Beatles and skateboarders.
Toto: I had surfboarding posters; big waves and girls in bikinis.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
Sasha: Flying Lotus.
Toto: Collaborate musically?
Tom: No, sexually [Laughs].
Toto: We’re not good at these questions, are we?
Sasha: Maybe Mozart or Beethoven.
Jacob: Tame Impala would be good.
Sasha: James Murphy would probably be top.
Jacob: And Beck.
Toto: There’s so many. We could go on and on. What about Timbaland?

Splashh’s new single 'Vacation' is out now.

Interview by Kate Allen
Photography by Samuel Bradley 
Written for IDOL

Monday, 29 October 2012

Thursday, 25 October 2012

More Pictures From The Tompkins & Bush Collection: Michael Jackson Wardrobe

Sorry about my reflection in many of these pictures. The glass display cases were just too damn clean and shiny. 













DIGITAL WORDS / The Collection of Tompkins & Bush: Michael Jackson Wardrobe

Find the original post HERE

Currently on show at the Getty Images Gallery located in Westfield Stratford City is an exhibition of clothes made by legendary costume designers Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush for Michael Jackson.
The design duo created stage wear for the King of Pop from the ‘70s right up to the planned ensembles for his This Is Itshows. Despite each item being placed behind a thick wall of glass, you can still get close enough to the iconic items on show to see signs of life, and wear and tear; the stage variations of Jackson’s most iconic jackets, having been used in countless performances, are stained with makeup around the collars and have broken zips. Also on display are a used pair of Jackson’s loafers which show how his footwear was purposely scuffed and scratched on the soles, in a similar ritual to that of a ballet dancer breaking in their shoes.
A number of other accessories that became synonymous with Michael Jackson and his showmanship displayed here include a single, glittering glove covered in crystals that took Michael Bush 72 hours to complete, a fedora and the hat mould that made it, plus some mirrored aviator sunglasses.

Particular highlights of this exhibition are items signed by Michael Jackson himself with his dazzlingly elaborate autograph, such as pillow cases with scribbled messages to his fans that he would throw from hotel windows to the waiting crowds that  followed him wherever he went, a plain glove that functioned as an invitation to a party at New York’s Natural History Museum in 1984 to celebrate Thriller being the biggest selling album of all time, and a couple of rare personalised jackets embellished with an image of Peter Pan and another bearing an anti-press appliqué.



The exhibition coincides with the release of Michael Bush’s book The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson and is one of many stops these artefacts will visit on a worldwide tour before eventually being auctioned off for charity by Julien’s Auctions, California, in December.
 The Collection of Tompkins & Bush: Michael Jackson Wardrobe will run until Saturday 17th November.
 The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson will be published by Insight Editions on 1st November.
Words and images: Kate Allen
Written for IDOL

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Sky Ferreira "Ghost EP" Review

Find the original post HERE


It feels like Sky Ferreira has been around for, like, ever. She was signed to Parlophone back in 2009 and yet a debut album is still to materialise. Instead, her career has been shaped by a series of fits and starts, haphazard singles, and modelling tangents. Despite initiating her career at the all-too-tender age of 15, Ferreira’s decision to wait out the hype that initially greeted her was the right thing to do. After all, her back story of MySpace discovery was starting to sound a little stale and outdated. But, just like MySpace, she’s poised for a relaunch.

A bubblegum, brace-face brat no more, Ghost feels like the first musical statement Sky Ferreira has made that actually makes an impact. It’s a big, bold and fitting leap from the disposable pop of her 2011 EP As If; one that displays serious intentions of development and a new level of maturity. Her voice is now endowed with a distinctive, weary rasp that is far removed from the generic sugary vocals of her previous singles ‘One’ and ‘Obsession’, but is not a million miles away from Lana Del Rey’s breathy, fragile tones. She’s given the chance to show off a wider variety of vocal stylings thanks to the EP’s all-encompassing approach to genre selection. It sees Ferreira delivering a hushed ballad (‘Sad Dream’) one minute, an electro bop (‘Lost in My Bedroom’) the next, and later on it carries on morphing with the moody country twang of ‘Ghost’ and the Shirley Manson-penned diet grunge of ‘Red Lips’.

With the comprehensive amount of ground covered on this short, five track EP, it’s unclear whether this is an eclectic or plain directionless collection. Ghost seems to be yet another showcase of what Ferreira is capable of, but lacks any commitment to a particular sound or direction. We can only hope that the direction she ultimately takes will be in the same vein as this EP’s standout moment; the minimal, neo pop of ‘Everything’s Embarrassing’ – a faultless single written by Devonté Hynes and produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, that is size perfect for Ferreira’s detached manner.

Will Sky Ferreira’s music ever matter more than her fashion credentials, her A-list links, or her hair? The jury’s still out on that one. At the tail end of Ghost it’s still not clear who Sky Ferreira is or what she does exactly, but we’re keen to keep on listening out for any further indications.

- Kate Allen


Written for NOTION

Monday, 22 October 2012

I Hate... Bad Michael Jackson Books / "Michael Jackson: The Bad Year" Review

** I originally wrote this review to go alongside my previous write up on Todd Gold's "Michael Jackson: The Man in the Mirror." However, fans do not like the author of this book so it was decided not to publish this on MJWN. So here it is instead. **


This is a book that I have read so that you, dear fans, won’t have to. Written by Rick Sky who, at the time of writing, was the pop music editor of the Daily Mirror. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know about this vapid little volume. Published in 1994, "Michael Jackson: The Bad Year" cashes in on the post-1993 toxic tabloid furore that was launched on Michael by reprinting some of the most ludicrous and salacious stories of the time. Some of them are so ridiculous they’re funny. For example, the claim that Michael refused to eat any meals that were not named after a Disney character such as “Pluto pie.” This idle piece of gossip is, of course, inconsequential, but in a book that attempts to tell us what happened when Michael was accused of child abuse in 1993, the willingness to include such absurd details and idle gossip puts the integrity of this entire book and its author in serious jeopardy. The one redeemable feature of this book is the chronology it provides of all events relating to Michael from January 1993 to April 1994, but it’s certainly not enough for me to recommend this book to any of you. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

DIGITAL WORDS: "Michael Jackson: The Man in the Mirror" Review

Find the original review HERE


There is a flurry of exciting, new, sumptuous Michael Jackson titles hitting the market this month; from the separate style tomes of designer Michael Bush and fashion writer and stylist Stacey Appel, to the sensational 1993 ‘Was Michael Jackson Framed?’ GQ article by journalist Mary A. Fischer, published in its unedited form. All of which will be reviewed in due course, once I’ve had the chance to get my hands on them and my nose firmly into them that is. But for now I thought I would revisit a dusty, older title in my library that some Michael Jackson fans may not have previously heard about. ‘Michael Jackson: The Man in the Mirror’ by Todd Gold.
Published in 1989 this two-hundred pager both starts and ends by looking at Michael during, arguably, his most famous hour: the ‘Bad’ tour. What with the ‘Bad 25’ frenzy we’re all currently embroiled in, the attention this book pays to that particular period makes for welcome reading. However, this book is mostly dedicated to telling the MJ story in a linear fashion. As this book is credited as “the first informed account of his childhood, family life and early Motown days” the majority of it is indeed focused on the Gary, Indiana days which is actually rather frustrating when the blurb of the book makes so many tantalising promises about details of Michael’s adult solo career; such as the prospect of exploring the baffling relationships that comprised his private life, from Diana Ross, to his father and, most importantly, Michael’s relationship with himself. There are two particular areas of Michael’s life that Gold cannot leave alone throughout this book and continuously returns to. The first is Michael’s troublesome relationship with his entire family and looks at the constant pressure on him as both a child and adult to continually provide for others who should have been capable of looking after themselves. It’s sad but fascinating. The second is Gold’s theory of Michael suffering from anorexia. It is an idea that he puts forward more than once and goes to great lengths to justify his thoughts, but always makes it clear that this is speculation and nothing more. If you can get past the terribly unflattering image of Michael that has been used for the cover, this hardback is certainly worth a read.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

PRINTED WORDS / Mairead Nash Interview

This interview was originally published in IDOL Magazine #3 "The Insiders Issue"


DJ, presenter, model and manager Mairead Nash is an unquestionable and enduring insider of the music industry. As we discuss the many facets of her career, she chuckles at such an exhaustive CV making her feel old. She may say “old”, we say “prolific”.

Throughout the early ‘00s, Queens of Noize were a recognisable marker of the new rock revolution – partly because of a close friendship with The Libertines. But the party cane to a halt. As the boys in the band disbanded, Mairead and her DJ partner Tabitha Denholm found themselves marginalised by the music industry that once embraced them.

Something of a career chameleon, Mairead has channelled all of her learning-on-the-job expertise into her latest professional status as manager of Florence and the Machine and head of her own record label. The fact that our interview with her had to be rescheduled three times was confirmation enough of this woman’s non-stop, whirlwind working life. And when we got our chance to chat with her about her transition from cooler-than-thou poster girl to her now behind-the-scenes occupation, she proved herself more of an insider than even IDOL had anticipated.


People know you, foremost, for being one half of Queens of Noize. Can you tell us about how you began your career as a DJ?
I started by running a club in London called 333 and I was working there as the booker. It was predominantly dance music, which I wasn’t that keen on when I was 17 or 18 [laughs]. The owner of the club asked me, “If you could do something, what would you want to do?” I think they could tell that I wasn’t really into the nights that I was booking. I said that I would like to put on bands and maybe DJ, and that’s how it all started really.

How did you meet your DJing other half Tabitha Denholm?
I met Tabitha at a party and then, basically, just didn’t leave her house until she agreed to DJ with me.

Was Tabitha an established DJ when you met?
No, that was the funny thing because she was good friends with a lot of DJs like Andy Weatherall and Death in Vegas... It took her minute to get her head around herself actually DJing, but she had very good records. We both started by becoming best friends really and getting our whole style of DJing as if we were in our bedrooms and being in our own little world when we play records. The shambolic-ness is what people like.

DJing brought the two of you success as you went on to do modelling, presenting on MTV, writing a column for NME, hosting shows on BBC 6music. You even released a single (2005’s Indie Boys Don’t Deserve It).
We definitely tried a number of different things, which was great. We had musicians who were friends and then opportunities just kind of came up... Anything is possible and it’s super fun when you’re making up your own rules. 

Queens of Noize were very closely related to The Libertines. How do you reflect on that heady period of time? Looking back, did you enjoy it?
Yeah, it was amazing. Even now, looking back, it was a special time in music. At the time I don’t think any of us realised how significant it was, and I think that was the beauty of it. There was nothing planned. We were all very much just in it for a crazy few years but that was generally how it was. Looking back, I’m totally proud of being a part of all that and how much I learnt. It was an amazing way to grow up - DJing and working in my own right whilst being around my friends and doing something that I really enjoy doing. Making fun into a job is what we were good at.

So if you were enjoying your lifestyle and career at that point, what was it that made you change to the more behind-the-scenes role of management?
Well, we used to run a club night, and then we did MTV and NME. Then things turned a funny corner. People didn’t like us as much, and we thought that we just don’t need to put up with this shit, you know? We’re not in it to get slagged off now. So it was time to take a bit of a step back. I moved away to Mexico for nearly a year and lived a bit of a different life. Tabitha came and got me and I came back. I moved to Mexico when I was 23 and moved back when I was 24. That’s when we started to think about how we could use everything we had done and turn it into a job now because we were just in this whirlwind - which was great, but it wasn’t very secure. You never knew what was round the corner. That’s when we decided to do the radio and got the gig on BBC 6music [Queens of Noize began co-hosting a radio show called ‘Sonic Safari’ in 2006] and we attempted to be more professional.

It seems that your strength is rolling with the punches and reacting to what’s happening around you.
It was like we needed to get a bit of respect back so that people would know that we were not just hanging out with boys in bands, you know?

So the story goes that you discovered Florence Welch singing in a public toilet. What exactly happened?
Well, we were running a club night and our friend Jack Peñate who went to school with Florence brought her down to our night. Then we booked her boyfriend at the time as a DJ. She just sang to me in the toilet. So we hung out and chatted a bit and she sang me an Etta James song, and I thought that she was amazing. I booked her the following month to play one of our nights that was our Christmas party and asked her to do some covers. She called me up a week before the gig and told me that she had some of her own songs and asked if she could play some of her own. I was like, “Sure, but maybe do some covers too” [laughs]. And that was it really. That’s when I saw her sing and I knew there and then that I wanted to be her manager...

As time went on from those early stages of you and Florence getting to know each other, how has your role as her manager changed? Is the reality of being a band manager different to what you envisioned?
The bigger it got, it changed each time. You’ve just got bigger boots to fill. But predominantly we still work pretty much in the same way. We come up with things and Florence knows how she wants things - from what outfits she wants to wear or how she wants the stage to look. All the creative stuff comes first.

How would you define your working relationship together? It seems like a cross between a personal and professional relationship.
Yeah. We’re really good friends but we don’t hang out as much as we did. There’s just no time to [laughs]. I’m a lot more behind-the-scenes, and I’m with the record label a lot. I can’t be on tour that much - you know, as much as I would like to be - but that’s the way it is.

Are there any particular events or achievements that you’re particularly proud of in your role as a manager?
I think when Florence and the Machine performed at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2010 in America... It was a real turning point. She became the most Googled person in the world on the day of the performance. It was after a year and a half of hard work that everyone had put into it. You do one big TV appearance and then everything falls into place...

You also manage Blood Orange (AKA Dev Hynes). How did that come about?
I’ve been doing that for about six months. He’s great. I’ve known him a very long time. He’s an old friend of mine, and I just thought that his album was incredible. So I’m just here to help. He’s now talking about making his next record, and he’s really exciting. I’m working with a different record label, and I’m learning something new every day with him, which I really love.

With the ever changing nature of your job and always learning something new, is there such a thing as a typical working day for you?
It depends where a band is at in the record cycle. Setting up a record and making the album, then we’re pretty much just in London. I’ll be in the office most of the time, and I’ll have my doggies with me. Then when we’re travelling or in America, I’ll probably stay in New York because we have an office out there.

Do ever wish there was more strict routine to your job?
Sometimes, but I think the thing that I miss most is the days when we used to be DJing and have one club night a week and then have gigs at other venues like art galleries as well. You had time to ponder and come up with stuff or shop and do whatever like that. I definitely don’t have time for that kind of life anymore. That’s what I definitely miss - the lost weekends. But when I did do it, I did it with style, I think. And then when I’m home resting, I’ll go on big walks with my dogs and it’s all quite relaxed. I’ll be cooking or with that dogs. That’s it really.

You’ve been in the music industry for ten years now...
Yeah, I moved to London in 1999, and it all started in 2000 really. I’m 30 next year so I’ve made the milestone [laughs].

Is there still anything new that you want to pursue professionally?
At the moment I’ve got an imprint through Universal called Luv Luv Luv Records, so I’ve been signing bands. I think I’ve got a really good roster...

Who are your idols?
That’s really difficult. I would say that while growing up my idols were like Patti Smith and Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex. She really blew my mind and how she worked within punk! I also like icons like Marilyn Monroe. I really admire her style. I’ve always loved having lots of Marilyn Monroe pictures around my house. And lastly, my all-time idol would have to be David Byrne from Talking Heads; I think ‘Stop Making Sense’ taught me so much. Early on I made Florence sit down and watch ‘Stop Making Sense’ over and over again. I think he’s the one man who honed the stage and the art of performance. He’s amazing and always will be an inspiration.  Of course, Madonna as well - she’s the queen of reinvention I think that’s running theme with Florence, Tabitha and I. We’re all quite good at coming up with new things that keep us all excited.

Interview by Kate Allen

Monday, 8 October 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Peace "EP Delicious" Review

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Just like the juicy slices of neon watermelon atop some trippy murky-coloured water marble depicted on the cover of Peace’s debut EP, the four tracks contained within are individual segments of tasty psychedelia.

The Birmingham foursome have come true on the mass excitement that greeted  their initial online demos and early live outings by signing to a major and producing a heady mix of acid house influence and melodic tropical indie guitar work. Said guitar sounds are heavily indebted to Foals’ afro-pop leanings on Total Life Forever, but Peace’s efforts match up to those of their predecessors with assured ease. Nowhere is this confident exotic air more evident than on ‘Bloodshake’ and the slightly revised, sonically expanded, and brightly polished reworking of ‘BBlood’. But the essential dreamy qualities that lit the first torches of hype remain intact.

The guitar goodness continues through ‘Ocean’s Eye’, a slight track that clocks in at just over two and a half minutes, but it’s a solid opener comprised of darkened, tamed energies that the band slowly unfurl as the EP progresses. Yet whilst closer ‘1998 (Delicious)’ seems like the talking point of this record and Peace’s most outgoing track yet – what with it being a ten minute prog dalliance that sees the band take on Binary Finary’s self titled trance number – the real curveball here is the tender, sun-faded ballad ‘California Daze’.

But in brief, Delicious is rich, honest, and it’s sincerely romantic.

-Kate Allen


Written for NOTION

Sunday, 7 October 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Splashh Interview

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Splashh are a band that are going places fast. Initially comprised of friends Toto Vivian and Sasha Carlson who began writing together in the idyllic surroundings of Byron Bay last summer, the duo then relocated to East London in February to make some bedroom recordings of their dreamy, frayed-around-edges indie-pop. With tracks like 'Lemonade', 'All I Wanna Do' and 'Headspins' to their name interest picked up quickly and Splashh were booked to play their first gig in May. Just one problem – they actually needed to complete the band line-up; cue drummer Jacob Moore and bassist Thomas Beal joining the band and making a solid live debut. As a band based on firm friendship, fun and irresistible fuzzy guitar hooks, Splashh’s success feels certain. Ahead of the release of their next single, 'Vacation', the young, giggly quartet sat down with IDOL to talk about their not-so-distant past formation, their swift, instinctual work ethic and their plans for the future.

Can we talk a bit about how you guys came together? Toto and Sasha, you two started writing together, so how did Jacob and Tom come into the fold?

Sasha: Tom was kind of always there from the start. He played in Toto’s old band.

What was the name of your old band, Toto?

Toto: [Laughs]

You don’t want to mention that?

Toto: No.

Okay.

Toto: Well anyway, when we started writing after a couple of weeks someone asked us if we wanted to play a show. It was just the two of us at the time. We were like, ‘Why not? Let’s book it,’ in order to pressure on ourselves to start playing live soon. So then we were like, ‘We need to get people to play with us.’ So that’s how Tom came into the equation. Tom was there early.

Jacob: And I’ve known Sasha for years and years. We’re both from Auckland. Maybe a week before the first gig they told me they needed a drummer.

That’s quite a commute. Didn’t it take you a day to get to London?

Jacob: Yes, it did take me a day to get here. I had my last gig with my old band on the Saturday and I came over here on the Sunday.

That’s dedication.

Toto: He came straight off the plane to our first rehearsal. And then two days later we had our first show.

How did that first show go? Did it go well?

Sasha: Yeah, we had loads of friends there who were dancing at the front. It was a really good night and really good fun. We were quite nervous because there were quite a lot of people but it was fun.

Do you still get nervous when you play together or are you over that now?

Toto: Some shows, yeah.

Sasha: We played a Dazed & Confused party with Primal Scream recently and I was most nervous, I think.

Toto: There are always pre-stage nerves but once you’re on there you just have fun.

Tom: You just have to get on with it!

Toto: Listen to the rock god over there!

Tom: Well you have to get on with it otherwise nothing gets done, does it?



So now that you’re all together has that changed the creative dynamics of how you go about writing songs or making videos?

Sasha: Well making the videos, I guess, because there are two extra people now.

Toto: I guess the way... When we started writing it was so easy because we just do it at home and the process worked so we’ve kind of kept that.

Sasha: I think, like, maybe after the first record we’ll start doing everything as a full band.

Jacob: Too many cooks spoil the broth... [Laughs]

Toto: With our new single ‘Vacation’ it’s the first song that we’ve recorded together as a band. It’s coming out in November. That’s the first time that we’ve all been in a studio together.

You said that a lot of your friends came to your first show and you’ve previously spoken about your circle of creative friends. Do you friend this to be an enabling environment and s there anyone in particular you want to name check who works with you? 

Toto: Errol Rainey who I actually live with and is a close friend of all of ours. He’s made all of our videos. He’s always popping his head around the corner and into the room like, ‘Hey, that’ sounds cool.’ Victor Vauthier the photographer is a good... umm, comrade. [The rest of the band are amused by the use of the word ‘comrade’]

Jacob: It’s was him who came round with the convertibles. We were just hanging out at Toto’s house and he brought round the convertibles we used in the ‘Need It’ music video. He just rolled up like, ‘Hey do you guys wanna go for a drive?’

Toto: There’s also my brother Cosmo.

Sasha: The artist Leif Podhajsky as well, which is cool. It’s all more art and photography based.

Jacob: Leif has done Tame Impala’s artwork and covers.

Sasha: He does trippy stuff. He’s really good.

Toto: It’s inspiring having a taste of stuff that’s not just music. We’re always seeing new pictures that Victor has taken. It keeps your idea cohesive if you continue to work with the same people.

Your first release was a cassette via Kissability. You’ve said you prefer a physical product to something out on the internet. Is that something you plan to continue with for future releases?

Toto: Yeah, we will definitely always be releasing vinyls. It was cool to do that as a first release as a band.

Sasha: We weren’t worried too much and we didn’t think about that one too much. It kind of popped up and we liked it. It was a good introduction.

Toto: It’s very niche, cassettes.

Your last two singles and your forthcoming track ‘Vacation’ have been released by Luv Luv Luv. How did that come about and are you planning to stay there?

Toto: A few labels popped up as we were starting out.

Sasha: Yeah, there were a few.

Toto: We were interested in singles labels and it’s nice being part of a small team.
Jacob: They wooed us with a tasty barbeque.

Toto: Mairead Nash was in New York and she said that she wanted to come see us rehearse and play. So she came down, we met, had some margaritas and that was it.

Sasha: They’re just all really nice people and we try surround ourselves with people that we feel comfortable with.

Toto: We like the other bands that they work with as well. They’ve got a real cool vibe going. 


Before you were in Splashh you were all in different previous bands, which some of you don’t want to talk about...

Tom: Well it’s just that we only did two gigs!

Toto: [Laughs]

Sasha: We’ve all been playing music, like, since we were fifteen. I have and I know Jacob has... yeah.

Are there any lessons that you’ve taken from your previous bands or solo work and brought to Splashh?

Jacob: Yeah, work with people that you like and not the people that promise you everything.

Toto: Also, don’t sit still wondering about what one guitar sounds like all day. Just go with it. And if you don’t like something then just leave it. That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve learnt with Splashh. We’re pretty in the moment. If there’s something and we like then we just go with it and leave it in. You work a lot quicker and you end up with a product that you like.

Jacob: We’ve also learnt to enjoy things as they happen. When something’s really cool and you’re thinking, ‘This is great’ you have to stop and register it.

Are there any particular milestones you’ve achieved then that have made you stop and think, ‘This is working’?

All: Yeah.

Jacob: We played with Primal Scream last week.

Sasha: All of it has been pretty good so far. We enjoy it all really. It’s just fun really, playing and hanging out with your friends.

Jacob: There’s the prospect of going to America next year as well.

Toto: I guess I’m just more excited about the things that we can achieve. Plus the album is where it all happens, I think.

It definitely feels like things have moved really fast for you guys. Does it feel that way to you? Are you worried about having enough time to develop or do you like working instantaneously?

Jacob: I think it’s a bit of both and it’s been good. It kind of helps

Toto: It keeps you on your toes.

Jacob: It keeps you running to stay ahead of the tidal wave and to keep releasing things.

Toto: We’ve got to a stage now where we’ve forgotten how fast it’s moving. It’s calmed down a bit now and it’s grounded a little bit more. Now we’re taking our steps a little bit more carefully.



You’ve spoken about wanting to get an LP done. Do you have any set plans for this?

Sasha: No set plans yet but we’re writing and recording at the moment. We’re demoing, I guess, and it’s all sounding really, really good.

Is it in the same vein as what we’ve already heard from Splashh?

Toto: Yeah. A little bit.

Sasha: It feels a little bit heavier, maybe. It’s gonna be, you know, [in air quotes] “Splashh.”

Toto: As I’ve said, as all the demos have been done at home you can’t really tell until you get into the studio how it sounds.

Sasha: And when you have a producer as well.

Jacob: Yeah. maybe not so garage-y.

Sasha: A bit more hi-fi.

Toto: We like the balance between sounding like... I don’t like the word lo-fi, but just not polished.

I heard that you don’t like the term ‘garage’ being applied to you.

Sasha: To be honest, I don’t even know what it means.

Toto: Everyone just uses that word these days.

Do you think it’s too easy a label to put on you?

Toto: Yeah.

Jacob: It’s just like every band starts off practising in a garage, whether it’s a reggae band or a ska band, you know?

Toto: It’s the process, I guess, that we do. It’s more DIY than garage.

Is it true that you’re hoping to record the LP somewhere sunny like Spain or California? Is that the kind of atmosphere that you think you need to nurture your sound?

Tom: We don’t need it but we would definitely like it!

Toto: If somebody would send us there we would happily go. I guess it’s part of the whole song writing process. Like, when you’re in London and you’re stuck here so you write songs about the sun.

Sasha: If we were we would just record the ocean with some distortion and a drum beat behind it, or something.

Toto: It’s every person’s dream to always be somewhere sunny.

Sasha: I think we were partly joking.

Jacob: But it does help!


You have a lot of shows coming up. You’re going on tour with Spector and you’ve got your own show in December at the 100 Club. How are you feeling about going out on the road?

[All answer at the same time. The general consensus is that they’re ‘excited.’]

Toto: I was in bed going, ‘Oh I must enjoy my time while I’m at home.’ I’ve never done a proper tour so I’m really excited to be doing it.

Jacob: I think it’s like fourteen shows and two days off. And then it’s four shows then one day off. And then six shows and another day off, and then another four shows.

Toto: Woah!

Sasha: It’ll be alright.

Toto: The way I see it is that we’re just gonna get really good at playing live. Plus we’ll be playing bigger venues with Spector and I think we’ll have a good time as well.

Are you rehearsing yet?

Toto: No. Not at all [laughs]. We’ve just been trying to focus on demoing more songs for our album as it’s kind of creeping up. By the time we’ve done the tour we won’t really have much time to go to the studio.

Sasha: I’m really looking forward to the 100 Club. It’s a legendary venue and I think we’ll do a banger of a show. We’ll make it quite an event.

I have to ask each of you who your idols are and why. Let’s go around the circle.

Toto: Oh no!

Jacob: Homer Simpson because he’s doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing but he always does stuff for the right reason.

Toto: What am I going to say?

Tom: I’m going to say Toto. He’s everything I want to be [laughs]. He’s my idol.

Toto: Oh I hate this question.

It’s mandatory, I’m afraid. I have to ask you.

Sasha: I’m going to say John Lennon. We’ve got the same birthday actually and he was a good songwriter, wasn’t he?

Toto: I have no idea.

Jacob: Come on! Who’s the first person you think of?

Toto: Okay, Batman because he can fly.

Batman can’t fly. 


‘Vacation’ will be released on 5th November 2012 on Luv Luv Luv Records. 
Splashh will be playing the 100 Club on 3rd December 2012.

Interview by Kate Allen
Photography by Samuel Bradley
Written for IDOL