Sunday, 31 May 2015

DIGITAL WORDS / Bebe Rexha Interview

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Think you don’t know Bebe Rexha? Think again.

She co-wrote ‘The Monster’ and gifted it to Eminem and Rihanna – which is one of the Slim Shady rapper’s best-selling No. 1 hits of his career, just FYI. And you will also be familiar with her roaring vocals on the chorus of David Guetta and Nicki Minaj’s latest radio banger ‘Hey Mama’, as well as Cash Cash’s ‘Take Me Home’.

The 25-year-old New Yorker is a huge pop star just waiting to explode. Her edgy look is a refreshing antidote to pop’s overtly bubblegum flavour at the moment, and she writes songs that every girl can relate to (please see ‘I Don’t Wanna Grow Up’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Drinking About You’).

Bebe grew up watching TRL, checking her local Toys R Us on the daily in the vain hope that the Baby Spice doll would be back in stock, and freaking out about seeing the video for ‘…Baby One More Time’. Essentially, she’s just like us!

We caught up with  Ms Rexha backstage at a recent live showin Shoreditch, London where she tore the joint up. In between sips of herbal tea to soothe her vocal chords and showing us the eclectic collection of jewellery she had packed in her luggage – a scented coin necklace from Turkey, a gifted necklace from her record label, a body chain, statement earrings and shell rings from Israel –  Bebe chatted to My Flash Trash about her musical upbringing, fashion and beauty tips, life advice and gave us some preview info on her upcoming debut album…

Hey Bebe! Let’s get straight to it. You’ve described your look before as “grunge glamour”. How can we emulate your look?
Mix cool expensive stuff with cheap shit. I’ve got Doc Martens on today but I have a pair of Vesaces that I travel with too. A really good leather jacket is essential. I recently bought a real leather motorcycle jacket, it’s so heavy, it’s about 20 pounds. Tons of jewellery is good too, as well as jeans and lots of t-shirts to switch up underneath. Layer shit – layering is key. Get the basics together and then add to it.

How about your makeup? Your eyeliner is always perfect.
I’m very simple. I bounce between two classic looks. One is clean winged eyeliner and really pretty lashes, and a red lip. The other is a smoky eye and nude lip. Sometimes I just take an eyeliner and smudge it, lashes on and apply a bit of bronzer.

So how has your European tour been going so far?
The crowds have been very respectful and listen to everything I say. In the US they’ll be a little more crazy, but I’ll get to a slow song and I’m like, “Shut the fuck up!” That happened once. I told everyone to shut up and they wouldn’t listen. I was being dead serious but they just kept cheering me on. In Finland yesterday I cried. It was the first time there has been an audience that knew every word to all my songs. I got emotional. There was a little nine year old girl there, crying, she was singing every word, including all the swear words! She had a little leather jacket on and she said, “I’m wearing my leather jacket for you.” It was the cutest thing in the world. Playing my own smaller shows but to people who know all the words is way better than bigger shows supporting someone else. These people are coming to see me – it’s amazing.

Do you like London?
Everybody dresses so cool here. The fashion here is ridiculous. It sucks to say but you cannot compare London fashion to New York. Europe is so much cooler. I wore some creepers in my video and you can’t do that in L.A. or New York, they don’t think it’s cute at all.

You’ve already filmed some epic music videos. Did you grow up watching a lot of MTV?
Yes, TRL! And I will always remember seeing Britney Spears’ first music video. I haven’t had that same feeling since.. All her videos are insane and I’ve never had that strong feeling for anyone other than Britney. I want to make bigger videos in the future. I wanna burn shit down!

You’ve previously cited Alanis Morrissette as a key influence for you…
Once we were blasting her CD at the studio and Glen Ballard was there – he produced Jagged Little Pill. That album is insane, and even though she had the songs she refused to be the fashion girl and didn’t fit the mold. You can do whatever the fuck you want!

Who else did you grow up listening to?
I only started liking the Kanyes and Lauryn Hills, or Tracey Chapman – all these more credible artists as I’m getting older because I can see what they’re saying and it means more to me. But when I was little I was listening to Destiny’s Child and Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. I was a total pop junkie. I liked ‘80s stuff too, like Madonna and Duran Duran. My aunt bought me my first tape, it was ‘Genie In A Bottle’.

You’ve worked with Max Martin already… Can you tell us something about him that no one knows?
He’s very nice but also very gangster. When I was working with him he had two sessions going on at the same time, he would come in, doctor the melody, do it himself. Oh, and he has a great voice! A really fucking good voice. Like, superstar voice! His ear is incredible. When he listens to a song it’s  mathematical to him. It was very different working with him because I just do what I feel.

How does it compare hearing other artists’ recordings of your songs to listening back to one of your own releases?
Hearing your own song is more epic. I can see Eminem and Rihanna perform my song in front of a million people and it feels awesome but if I see 200 people singing the words to my own song, that’s incredible. When you write a song it’s like part of your soul. You put your spirit, soul and energy into creating a song from thin air.

The songs on your EP are very relatable. Is that something you aim for?
In the end I ultimately want that but it usually starts out as just therapy for myself. But when I try to help myself as a form of therapy it does help others too. I do take it into consideration and I’ve been writing about women and empowerment recently – a song called ‘24/7’. It’s about letting a girl have her moment. If she wants to cry, or put her lipstick on,  or go dancing and feel sexy… It’s not easy being a girl or a woman.

You’ve spoken really openly about losing your first record deal. You’ve written about the negativity that followed it too. What advice do you have for anyone feeling knocked down?

There’s this saying I like: “In the end it will be okay. And if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.” I tell myself that. You have to remember that things will get better. I wrote a song called ‘Die A Little’ – a line of it says, “You have to die a little to know what it’s like to be alive.” And if you ever feel down, go for a walk. Walk for miles – that’s what I do – it clears your head. 

Written for MY FLASH TRASH

[Insert caption]: Me

Friday, 22 May 2015

DIGITAL WORDS / Brandon Flowers Live Review

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Photo by Torey Mundkowsky

Like any really good album, Brandon Flowers’ latest solo release, The Desired Effect, is too short. Ten supreme tracks that flash by and leave you wondering, “Wait, what just happened there?” The same can be said for the opening night of Mr. Flowers’ tour debut in support of his new LP.
Admittedly, he does make a noticeably late arrival on stage but all is forgiven when he appears and suitably begins with The Desired Effect’s expansive opener ‘Dreams Come True’. It’s a rousing start that’s upped by an immediate transition into what is arguably his best composition yet, ‘Can’t Deny My Love’. It’s dark, powerful, intense, glossy – in essence, pop perfection. And Flowers is looking and sounding better than ever too. Dressed in skinny black jeans and fitted tee, topped off with a golden blazer, his vocals and stage presence are faultlessly commanding.
Not that he has to do much to win over an unexpectedly dedicated audience. Flowers encourages the occasional call and response and espouses some genuine sentiments of thanks, but the power is all in the music. “Remember this one?” he asks before kicking into ‘Crossfire’, and the appreciative reception it receives answers Flowers with a resounding, “Hell yes.” ‘Only The Young’ and Flamingo album cut ‘Magdalena’ go down equally well. “Do you know this one yet?” Flowers faux humbly wonders before playing another one of his crowning recent singles, ‘Lonely Town’. The Bronski Beat-sampling ‘I Can Change’ is yet another winning performance moment.
Photo by Torey Mundkowsky
In fact, attaching a chorus of ‘Smalltown Boy’ to the end of ‘I Can Change’ is just one of many unexpected and pleasantly surprising additions Flowers inserts into the set. So robust is the strength of Flowers’ solo material that he doesn’t have to, but he does, obligingly, play some Killers’ hits. ‘Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine’ is stripped down to an acoustic ballad and ‘Mr Brightside’ pared back to slithers of synth. Regardless, the crowd belt out the lyrics true to the original recordings and their enthusiasm is rewarded with a full-on rendition of ‘Read My Mind’.
Similarly unexpected is an appearance from Chrissie Hynde. Flowers reveals that he’s pissed off that journalists have failed to recognise the influence The Pretenders have had over The Killers, so decides to make it clear by teaming with Hynde for a run through of ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ – during which the pair of them sweetly try but fail to co-ordinate a shoulder dip dance. Chrissie stays for a further duet on the touching ‘Between Me And You’. A final guest appearance comes from Mrs Brandon Flowers and two-thirds of the couple’s off spring, who has to be coerced to coming on stage to give an awkward wave to the audience ahead of her beaming husband dedicating his ode to fidelity, ‘Still Want You’, to her.
Photo by Torey Mundkowsky

The slow burning ‘The Way It’s Always Been’ makes for a strange parting number. It effectively returns the crowd and performer alike to a state of calm after an elongated singalong to ‘Still Want You’. But it feels like it all ended too soon. Even after the house lights come up, some fans stay awaiting more, convinced that there simply has to be something else coming. Nope, that’s your lot. Dumbfounding flawlessness that leaves ‘em begging for more is apparently what Brandon Flowers is all about now. The desired effect? We think so.
Written for FMS

DIGITAL WORDS / Bebe Rexha Live Review

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Wednesday night saw the debut London show of – we’re saying it – our (and by extension, your) favourite new pop star, Bebe Rexha.
In a former musical life the 25-year-old New Yorker sang alongside Pete Wentz in his Fallout Boy side project, Black Cards. She also previously had a contract with Island, but it fell through. Island’s loss was Warner Bros. gain, but the emotional fallout from this let down has proved instrumental in the rise of Ms Rexha.
Succumbing to depression and self-doubt, Rexha’s time spent being prescribed pills and bad advice from a therapist feeds directly into her defiant single ‘I’m Gonna Show You Crazy’. In fact, raw, first-person narratives are what drive many of Bebe’s best songs to date. Her two-man band leave the stage whilst she concentrates on the fragile delivery of ‘I Don’t Wanna Grow Up‘ and she positively drowns the stage in energy and attitude when it comes to ‘I Can’t Stop Drinking About You‘.
Oh and then there’s just the small matter of ‘Monster Under My Bed‘ – just a little track inspired by Charles Darwin a quote she found on Tumblr ("We stopped looking for monsters under our bed when we realised that they were inside us") that she co-wrote and donated to Eminem and Rihanna, which they re-named ‘The Monster‘ and took to No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic.
Bebe also performs the other major league chart hits she already has under her belt: Cash Cash’s ‘Take Me Home’, David Guetta’s ‘Yesterday’ and the Nicki Minaj featuring ‘Hey Mama’, plus Pitbull’s ‘This Is Not A Drill’. Whilst she performs these club bangers with aplomb and shows off that she can twerk, grind and slut drop as good as the rest, it’s when she performs her EDM pop-meets-actual sentiment numbers that she sincerely bursts with passion.
Opener ‘Pray’ sees her vocal chops and intensity immediately proven, and so excited is she about an empowering feminist anthem called ’24/7′, taken from her upcoming debut album, that she can’t stop herself from airing an A cappella preview (FYI it’s as sassy as anything on her ‘I Don’t Wanna Grow Up’ EP but sees her moving past the heartbreaks and disappointments of times gone by).
Bebe stomps her patent Doc Martens, thrashes and whips her hair tirelessly in an effortless display of confidence, as if getting up on stage is the most natural thing in the world – as any decent performer should.
Amongst the music, Bebe talks extensively and honestly with the audience and makes a quick connection, particularly with female members of the crowd who can be heard whispering to one another, “I love her” at the close of each song. And we’re inclined to agree. Bebe Rexha is a true talent and personality unafraid to say and sing exactly what she thinks and feels.
Written for FMS

Monday, 18 May 2015


In the newly re-launched issue of Notion magazine you'll find interviews conducted by yours truly for a feature titled Punk LDN which looks at a set of Londoners "who embrace the modern ethos of punk". 

Pick up a copy and check it out. 

Please note this magazine cover is one of four (the others feature Adam Lambert, Lindsay Lohan and Pixie Lott). This one is my favourite because, well, Carly Rae Jepsen is alright, isn't she? And she's eating a burger. What's not to like?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

DIGITAL WORDS / Quick Fire! Q&A w/ Emilie Nicolas

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Currently a favourite artist at FMS HQ is Emilie Nicolas and her chill dub-pop vibes. The Norwegian vocalist’s upcoming single ‘Pstereo’ has a bewitching Scandi sound and the video boasts an equally remote and enchanting look.

We shot some quick questions to the upcoming talent and she fired her answers right back, managing to cover language translation issues, her forthcoming album and some of her favourite artists.
‘Pstereo’ is a cover of a song by the DumDum Boys – why did you chose to record this track and are you a fan of the band?
It was actually by request from a festival in Norway. So I just made it for  them and then it became my first single.
Umm… What does ‘Pstereo’ actually mean?
Good question! I have no idea! The original song is as vague as my version  since I just translated the lyrics to English. I think the only one who knows  this is Dumdum Boys.
Your album, Like I’m A Warrior, is soon to follow. Is ‘Pstereo’ symptomatic of the LP’s sound?
I believe ‘Pstereo’ might be the more of a “hit” than the rest of the tracks on the album. Since I wrote it for a festival and didn’t think it would be a single, it is maybe not as personal for me, but the sound and the electronic vibe to it is the same.
Which musical artists did you grow up listening to?
I listened to Bossa Nova and Keith Jarrett, and then Sade, Jeff Buckley and Radiohead etc.
Are there any particular artists or albums that you’re really into at the moment?
I don’t listen to that much music, so when I first find something I like, I listen to it a lot over a period. Right now I don´t have any but I listened to a lot of Popcaan in the winter.
What do you think are the defining characteristics of Scandinavian pop music?
I don’t think there are any, but I believe that if you give something your  undivided attention, in this case music, that things will blossom.

Written for FMS