Film · Work

BFI Feature: Teenage characters we wanted to be

Myself and five other bloggers were invited to write about our favourite teenage film characters, to coincide with the BFI’s Teenage Kicks season.

I chose Sarah Bailey, the cool “natural witch” from The Craft. If you haven’t seen it, you can read about why this character rules and see what other awesome characters my fellow bloggers picked by following the link.

SarahTheCraft

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Do More Magazine: David Gray Review

Another live review published in Do More Magazine, this time of singer-songwriter David Gray and his performance at the Bournemouth Pavilion.

DavidGray

As soon as David Gray and his accompanying band of seven entered the stage of the Bournemouth Pavilion on Wednesday night a warm, lively reception greeted them from a packed crowd.  Already well-respected for his back-catalogue of indie – folk rock, it’s safe to say that Gray would have been welcomed just as enthusiastically prior to this year’s new release. Yet armed with fresh material from new album Mutineers, his audience were clearly in the mood to celebrate.

Wasting no time in promoting new tracks, the singer-songwriter started the night’s proceedings with ‘Birds of the High Arctic’, a beautiful introduction followed by a handful of other Mutineers tracks. At the start of songs like ‘Gulls’ and ‘Back in the World’ murmurs of appreciation within the transfixed crowd was indicative of their early familiarity with the star’s latest work.

Following shower upon shower of warm applause, we were taken through a meander of older material, revisiting well-loved songs from breakthrough album White Ladder. By this point people were making their admiration heard with cheering, shouts of “Brilliant!” and even a few ladies waving and swaying in the aisles. Maintaining a sophisticated demeanour throughout, Gray seemed delighted by the response to his first ever Bournemouth performance. His talented band members also visibly loosened up as the set progressed, clearly enjoying their own musical delights.

As the show came to a close, an exuberant plea for an encore brought about three more tracks from the talented front-man and co., at which point the majority of the audience were standing and embracing the opportunity to sing along to their favourites. Of course ‘Babylon’ made an appearance as the evening’s finale.

Judging by the overall age-range of the crowd, the night’s performance was occupied by long-term fans of Gray’s work. But if he continues to perform shows of this stature, then new generations of music lovers are sure to be entranced by his distinctive style and genuine persona for years to come.

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Do More Magazine: Flow #4 Review

Below is my review of Flow #4 (an interpretive dance show), originally published on Do More Magazine.

BrokenRose

“Everything you see tonight, you will never see again.” This is how Gemma Connell, artistic director of performing arts company Broken Rose, introduces tonight’s show. This is the Bournemouth-based company’s fourth production of Flow, a touring open-stage performance that combines spoken word, improvisation and dance.  As a headlining act for the Winchester’s monthly Freeway Poet event, this would be the second opportunity for a local crowd to bear witness to a truly spontaneous and unique event.

Fitting with the poetry night’s theme – Body Language, the Flow performers merge words with movement. Poet Joe Selby kicked things off to an excellent start with his spoken word, whilst dancers Ruby Adams and Emily Mercer took turns at interpreting his words through expressive dance alongside Joe. As Gemma explains, the dancers are never informed prior to a Flow show as to what kind of poetry will be read; a daunting prospect for the average spectator. But of course, the ladies know what they’re doing and manage to perform in way that captivates the audience into a state of reflection, simultaneously providing a visually dramatic accompaniment to Joe’s wondrous recital.

By this point, occupants of the packed venue were transfixed to the small group’s experimental approach and when the time arrived for Gemma to call for poets in the audience open to reciting their own work, an immediate show of hands demonstrated the crowd’s eagerness to get involved. Popular poets from earlier in the evening took to the stage and embraced the chance to couple their work with the movement of Ruby and Emily, who once again made an honourable attempt at interpreting what was offered within the confines of a small stage. Who knows what magic they could muster in larger venue?

The most overwhelmingly positive response came from the final part of Flow. Further crowd participation was encouraged for a session of tag freestyle poetry and the chance to go head to head with Joe. Again, the crowd’s reaction was instant and one individual confidently made his way up to the mic. Hilarity ensued as the two performers exchanged lines back and forth and kept everyone in attendance highly entertained throughout.

With this ending being met with a barrage of applause, laughter, shouts and cheers, such brilliant feedback was not only a testament to the originality and boldness of the Flow team, but an example of the artistic appreciation flowing from a small and supportive Bournemouth community.

Interviews · Work

Do More Magazine: Polly & the Billets Doux Interview

This interview was originally published on Do More Magazine. I spoke to front-woman Polly Perry of Polly and the Billets Doux ahead of their UK tour.

I also reviewed their new album. You can read my Money Tree review right here. It’s a good, soothing listen.

MoneyTree

Congratulations with Money Tree! With such a combination of genres and influences audible in the band’s sound, I’m assuming music has always been a prominent factor in your life?

Yes, of course! Though I never studied music at school or college… One had to choose between art and music. I wanted to do both. I grew up listening to my parents massively eclectic record collection, anything from Ian Dury, Gong, Nina Simone, Fairport Convention, X Ray Spex, all sorts! My Nan was a singer in the War, so whenever I see her we duet 40’s sentimental songs.

What were your primary inspirations (lyrical or otherwise) when writing Money Tree?

Money Tree was inspired by the Northern Poet Tony Harrison. We tour a lot in the north of England which we love. The lyrics are inspired by the images and places we have been and also a book called the Sisters Brothers by Jonathan DeWitt.

Are there any specific themes or concepts behind the album? Or perhaps every song has a unique thought or story behind it?

I would say that we enjoy the diversity of the songs but there is generally a strong sense of struggle, death and travel. Money Tree features our first murder ballad in Calico Blankets, heavily story based, inspired by the weather. It was a truly freezing cold day and Steeny was feeling gloomy.

Do you have any favourite songs on the album?

That’s tough, but probably ‘Black Crow’ because I love the rhythm, the darkness and the birds. Steeny likes them all and can’t choose between them but loves playing ‘Black Crow’ live. Dan says they are all too different to select one favourite and loves all of them, particularly the driving energy of ‘My Father’s House’. And Ben loves ‘Old Virginia’, because after years of bringing the accordion to the recording studio, we finally buckled and allowed him to play it!

Are there any particular songs on Money Tree that you’re expecting to go down particularly well live? Or that you’re especially excited to perform live?

Black Crow’ – we love performing it! The rhythm bestrides four triplets and 3/4 straight so it’s super fun to play and great to dance to.

Between releasing your début album and EP you’ve toured extensively and performed at several UK festivals like Glastonbury, Green Man and The Big Chill. But if you could pick one highlight of the band’s career so far, what would it be and why?

Touring Ireland was a major highlight for us. We had never really been there before and had an incredible time! We met some of the warmest, most hospitable and fun people.

Touring can be tough for some. Do you enjoy the touring lifestyle?

I enjoy the parts where we visit new places and go to interesting museums. I am very much an outdoors girl and so I find sitting in the van for hours can drive me crazy. But if I get the opportunity to set off across a field for a walk and get a bit muddy I can keep relatively sane.

Have you played anywhere in the UK where the audience are particularly enthusiastic/appreciative of the band?

We haven’t yet had underwear thrown at us. But a gentleman once bought me a necklace and a man last night made us some personalised wooden toys! A man has also had some of our lyrics tattooed on his chest. In terms of whooping and hollering… The Ceilidh Place in Scotland.

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One year with Rock’n’Reel Reviews

Whilst reviewing Lost Society’s new album, it occurred to me that my review of their début was the first thing I wrote for Rock’n’Reel Reviews exactly a year ago.

Time really does move quickly. Especially when assessing so much awesome music!

Here are my metal review highlights from the past year:

Children Of Bodom – Halo Of Blood 4/5

They’re my favourite band, so of course this was excellent. The Finnish heavyweights’ most exciting work in ten years. I’m massively biased and would have loved to award it five stars. It is an excellent album though.

Havok – Unnatural Selection 3.5/5

Along with a select few, Colorado thrash pack Havok are dominating the scene and are one of my personal modern favs. Unnatural Selection may not be as frantic as its predecessor, but is packed with great tunes nonetheless.

Morgue Orgy – The Last Man On Earth 4/5

This album was an amusing surprise. Not only did it break up the colossal amount of thrash I listen to, but this groovy death metal and its spooky vibe was an entertaining and impressive début album from an unsigned, homegrown band!

Behemoth – The Satanist 4.5/5

The Satanist is an evil masterpiece and already a firm contender for album of the year. Basically everybody needs to hear it.

Savage Messiah – The Fateful Dark 4/5

Definitely another thrash recommendation, this time from London. The Fateful Dark is the most recent album that was an absolute pleasure to review. I officially label Savage Messiah under Excellent!

Interviews · Work

Q&A with Gary Stringer of Reef and StringerBessant

This Q&A is pulled from a little phone interview I conducted back in 2011 with Gary Stringer – frontman of the band Reef and currently StringerBessant.

It will always stick out in my mind because it was my first time interviewing somebody ‘famous’ and also because I forgot to press Record and had to phone him back post-interview and politely ask if he would be so kind as to do it again…

He was a cool guy – which was fortunate for me, really. I won’t be making that mistake again!

The transcript was published in a Bournemouth newspaper for whom I was completing work experience at the time. Reef were set to perform at a local music festival that summer.

After a string of successful shows after your band’s reformation in 2010, you’re playing again in Bournemouth this weekend. How do you feel about that?

Yeah I’m really glad we’re coming to Bournemouth. I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve played some really good gigs and they have always been well supported when we come to Bournemouth. So yeah I’m really stoked about it.

Did the reformation of Reef last year change the group dynamics in any way?

No, not really. We didn’t have much time to think about it as we were all concentrating on different things and when we finally got to rehearsals we suddenly realised that ‘Oh my god, this could be awful’.  But it was absolutely fine.

From the first show it was obvious that everybody had that fire in their belly that the group have always had. We have always felt comfortable with our performance and I think it has something to do with having that spring in your step and fire in your belly, and not just playing the songs like you’d hear them on a CD, but actually perform the songs for the audience that you’re playing in front of.

Ten years ago Reef played in Bournemouth in aid of Surfers Against Sewage. Are green or environmental issues something you feel strongly about?

Sure yeah, we’ve played a handful of gigs for these sort of things over the years. This year we’ve done a couple of gigs for Surfer’s Against Sewage. Previously we performed at Lusty Glaze and also played the Boardmasters which is supporting Surfers Against Sewage.

Who would you say are the majority of fans who flock to you gigs since Reef have reformed? Are they mostly fans from the nineties or more recent admirers?

I would think that there’s plenty of people who came first time around, so there will be plenty of thirty-somethings and yeah a few younger and older people as well.

During your time in Bournemouth, do you plan on checking out many of the other bands playing at Musicosity festival?

As of yet we don’t really know what our schedule is going to be like but I think we’re going to spend the night. So we’ll see what happens, but yeah it would be good to check out some of the other bands.

You’ve shared the stage with a number of big names but who would you say has been the biggest or best artist you’ve performed with?

Without a doubt it would have to be Paul Weller. He looked after us so well and when we were just starting. He treated us with a huge amount of respect and we walked away from it having learnt a lot about him and the way that he interacted with us was incredible. So yeah, top man.

Have you got any favourite memories from your musical career or any specific performances that stand out?

Yeah, well playing at Glastonbury has always been very special. I’m from Glastonbury so it was quite incredible and also just things that ten years ago we might have taken for granted, you know. We did a TV show in London and got on a private jet flying over to Denmark to play a show the same night. If you look at our schedule from 1997 it’s pretty incredible really, you know? We were doing Spain and then we’d be going to Norway, then be in Glasgow the next day, which probably would have meant flying through London.

It was just crazy, crazy times really. But yeah playing Glastonbury festival, especially the first time. I can remember turning up with my shorts on in the sun and had a really cool time, you know, and playing the festival that I had attended as a youngster, it was great.

What have you currently got planned for your acoustic project StringerBessant?

We’re gonna make another record, so we’re gonna work until the end of October. We’ve got UK shows lined up and we’re gonna go to New York for a week or so. Then we’ll probably call it quits and take a breather and then go write another record. 

Film · Work

Spring Breakers Film Review for The F-Word

Harmony Korine’s film Spring Breakers completely knocked my socks off. It’s a fascinating and scarily accurate take on modern society, down to the dub-step and references to double-penetration.

First, here’s my long review for The F-Word, in which I argue that there’s more to SB than bikini-clad ‘hotties’ and explain why, contrary to the opinion of others, the film does not reinforce rape culture.

And here’s my second review, for Rock’n’Reel Reviews, which sums-up the film’s greatness nicely.

SpringBreakers

Personal Score: 5/5

Metal · Reviews · Work

Review: Lost Society – Fast Loud Death

I’ve just started contributing to Rock’n’Reel Reviews, which is pretty exciting. My first review introduced me to an up-and-coming young thrash band from Finland called Lost Society. They’re a lot of fun! I couldn’t have asked for a better first album to listen to on behalf of the site.

You can read the full Fast Loud Death review here.

Personal Score: 4/5

Film · Work

The Guardian Film Blog: Five of the Best Unhappy Endings

Something I wrote for the The Guardian last month. It was great coming up with the most sad and sick endings in film.

WickerMan

If you subscribe to the view that happy endings are too often used to satisfy audiences, there’s a good chance you’ll revel in endings that offer the complete opposite. Why conform to generating cheery satisfaction on a mass scale when you can leave audiences stunned, disgusted or bewildered? Some of Hollywood’s most powerful final scenes are also some of the most emotionally unsettling.

What are yours? Read the rest on the Guardian Film Blog.