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Artist Interviews

Artist Interview: Philip Jonathan

Hello. In your own words, how would you describe your sound and style?
In a nutshell, it’s cinematic folk – or Ben Howard at the front and Sigur Ros at the back! I spend a lot of time in the hills or on the coast and this inspires a lot of my writing. So I tend to like these earthy, organic folk sounds sitting on top of wide open spaces and atmospheres created by orchestral and electronic sounds.


You’ve just released your debut EP titled “Pluma”. What is the story behind the EP and its title? What themes and ideas influence your music and writing?
Pluma” (‘feather’ in Latin) is about searching for hope in the highest, lowest and most mundane moments in life. The tie for me between a feather and the concept of hope goes back some way. Chokehold came about through the grief of losing a close friend who passed from cancer a few years ago. As he got more unwell, he kept on seeing feathers everywhere, and this prompted him each time to remember things to be thankful for and to live in the moment – that things were going to be okay. He was someone of faith and for him, existence was bigger than the life lived here so he had a different perspective. I worked the feather into most of the music videos – leading the woman to the shore in Seafront, behind the sunflower at the end of I, Hope, and all the bird-feeders in In the Garden. The artist who made the cover art, Goutham Tulasi, had shared with me how Seafront had accompanied his journey making peace with his father’s death. He suggested having a flower bursting from the end of the feather. Even after the feather has fallen from the bird: its story isn’t over yet. 

I couldn’t pin down any one thing that influences my music and writing. Often I find writing songs is a way to authentically examine some of the questions I ask myself. But a recurring theme in that process is a search for some kind of redemption – to find meaning and beauty in the middle of some of these struggles.

We really enjoy your music and had the pleasure of seeing you play at a Sofar Sounds event in Gateshead. What have been career highlights for you so far?
The day I released my first track, Seafront, stands out for me – the amount of messages I received from friends and total strangers about it was totally overwhelming! It took me about a week of near-constant messaging to reply to them all. That was a huge moment for me after years of not sharing so much of this music to realise that people actually valued what I was making. After that, another big milestone has got to be the gigs around the “Pluma” release. I played Sofar NE, sold out my first headliner for the launch gig and played to a packed room in Berwick the week after. It was both humbling and surreal to realise that so many people were coming out to support me! I’ve always wanted to play at Sofar – they have the best audiences, so that was really special. At the launch gig, the crowd started singing along to In the Garden – Alicia (my backing singer) and I were so surprised that we forgot all the lyrics! We had a good laugh about it on stage and managed to carry on though.


Do you have any plans for the year ahead that you would like to share with us? Also, what would you like to achieve in the upcoming year?
The next few months are about taking time to allow creative ideas to bubble up again. The last year has been so intense learning how to self-promote, use social media, send out press releases etc. that I’ve had almost no time for the most important bit – songwriting! But I’ve already been back in studio getting started on the next EP. I hope to be finishing off that through the Summer and Autumn, whilst getting out and playing as many gigs as I can in the meantime! Expect some new releases towards the back end of the year/early 2023.

What advice do you have specifically for other north east artists? And what advice do you have for artists in general?
I recently wrote a piece on just this for the fantastic local music Zine ‘Every Day is a Rhythm’ – you can read it here: https://t.co/8JuMtQ62v2. But in summary: Figure out what drives you and what your internal metrics of success are – the things which aren’t dependent on anyone else. Don’t make art about numbers or what other people are saying, make it about what moves you or you’ll probably burn (or sell) out. Second – and I’m still on the learning journey here – don’t compare yourself up or down. Celebrating and championing those around you is a great antidote to the urge to compare yourself to others.


Lastly, what artists are on your radar that you would recommend others listen to & see live?
There’s a few most established artists who massively inspire my sound that I’d love to plug. The Staves are phenomenal live. Also, if you like any of my music, I thoroughly recommend Roo Panes, Matthew and the Atlas, the Paper Kites, the Oh Hellos and Francis Luke Accord.

However… locally (as I’ve recently been discovering!) we have some phenomenal talent. I’m a particular fan of Benjamin Amos live (so much energy!), Tom Joshua (can’t wait for him to release more music), Jodie Nicholson (a rising star + beautiful vocals) Matt Hunsley (cracking vocals and interesting arrangements) and Ceitidh Mac (some serious music there). I also saw Faithful Johannes live recently and I can say it was a unique and truly extraordinary experience.

Follow Philip Jonathan on socials: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

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Artist Interviews

Artist Interview: Elephant Memoirs

Hello, Elephant Memoirs. You’re a north east trio: how would you describe your sound and style?
I would say our sound is that of a trio playing heavy, raw, guitar based music. We would like to think that we have a powerful sound which comes from playing as a tight unit and often structuring our songs to emphasise power when necessary. We do have a softer side too and our new single “Done In” showcases this along with the power mentioned above. Being from the north east is a big part of our identity too and we don’t hide away from this. We sing and play naturally and try not to be something that isn’t authentically us.


Your latest single – “Done In” – is doing very well. What is the story behind the song and what does it mean to you?
Done In” is a song about growing up and realising the adults you looked up to and learned from as a kid just become other people as we become adults ourselves. We see them not as indestructible idols but as flawed individuals just like us and we no longer require their teachings.
On the musical side this is a song that starts very gently and builds to a hard hitting middle-8 and final chorus. “Done In” is a perfect example of the different sides of Elephant Memoirs tied up in a single song.


You’ve been very active as a band, releasing several singles and even hitting the road with a mini tour, playing in Glasgow, Stockton, and Newcastle. Where do you find the energy and what keeps you all motivated?
We’ve always had a good work ethic in our band, so as long as we are all fit and healthy (and we aren’t trapped at home due to a global pandemic) then we want to get our music out there. We genuinely feel like we are getting better as a band, so we want to get out and show people what we can do. Motivation has never been a problem for us. We love playing in this band and if we ever stop enjoying it, we will knock it on the head. At the moment we feel like we have a good creative buzz and we want to keep that going.


In terms of playing in other cities, what was the experience like? Would you like to do more of this with even more tour dates in the future?
We really enjoyed getting out and about in 2021 (leaving the house seemed like an adventure after 2020). We love playing Newcastle, so it was great to headline back at home. But to play some places that we’ve never been was really special. We love the opportunity to play in front of people who have no idea who we are and try to win them over. Meeting other bands and making new friends is great, although obviously not everyone could understand what we were saying in Glasgow.


What advice do you have specifically for other north east artists? And what advice do you have for artists in general?

The advice we would give to other bands would be to try new things out. Go to new places, try making music videos and get interesting photos and develop your sound. Also send your music to different radio stations, magazines and blogs. Advice for north east artists would be that there are a lot of good people in the north east music scene who aren’t there to rip you off. Find them, work with them and enjoy yourself.


In terms of industry infrastructure, are there any organisations in or around the north east that you would recommend that other artists reach out to for advice and support?
There are many good people around in the northeast. There is loads of good promoters and PR folk. Along with people such as Generator. However, we haven’t had to use many. Picking a lot up as we go over the years, along with having good reliable folk to turn to. You have Jay from Pillar Artist, who does a lot, not just for the local scene but a wider field and does put on some great gigs. He also has a great roster of bands too. You also have Afterlight Management ran by Snaz Craigm again offers great things to the northeast. They are always around to help bands out however they can and have a vast array of knowledge within the industry. You also have newer people such as Rebel Rose, who again look to do what they can for unsigned bands.


Lastly, what artists are on your radar that you would recommend others listen to & see live?
Some of our local favourites are Ten Eighty Trees, Pave the Jungle, Cat Ryan, One Million Motors, Beachmaster. To be honest the list goes on haha. We can’t recommend these enough, and we’ve had the pleasure of playing with most. Definitely check them out if you see them playing. We would also encourage though to support all local music and get along to gigs as often as you can; for one it supports the artists and venues but also you might just find your next favourite act!!

Follow Elephant Memoirs on socials: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Catch their next gig on 23 April at Central Bar, Gateshead: Event | Tickets

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Artist Interviews

Artist Interview: Keiran Bowe

Hello, Keiran. In your own words, how would you describe your sound and style?
I always find it difficult to answer this one, I like the lyrics to stand out, I’m writing about my past and what I’ve learnt in such a short space of time but at the same time, they are lyrics that I think people can relate to. It’s then about creating a sound around those lyrics, either a catchy riff/beat people can move along too or just chords that allow for people to be able to sing words back.


Big things have been happening to you since the release of your latest single: “Hinny”. What is the story behind the song and it’s title? What themes and ideas influence your music and writing?
I tend to write my songs in an almost chronological order, of events that have taken place in my late teen years and having to grow up quick. “Hinny”, in particular, comes at one of the most difficult times of my life, where things could have panned out a lot different to what they did. Without going into detail, it’s almost a reassurance message to a mother worrying about her son, as if to say “Look I know it may feel like the worlds crumbling around you but he’s gonna be alright”.


You’ve been busy, playing a steady stream of live shows around the north east. What has it been like playing gigs through the year and what gigs do you have in the diary for 2022?
It’s the busiest me and the lads have ever been, as hectic as it’s been it’s definitely been the best few months we’ve had as a band. Seeing packed out venues, seeing new faces and meeting some incredible artists, you can’t beat it. We’ve a load of stuff booked for 2022 some of which haven’t been announced so I’ve got to keep hush about those. We’ve a one off close to home gig at the Thomas Wilson social club on 11th Feb, The Green Room in Stockton 5th March and a headliner at The Cluny 2 on 2ndApril.


Have you had much of a chance to look ahead to the new year? If so, what plans do you have and what would you like to achieve in the upcoming year?
Now we’ve got mgmt, everything is a lot more organised. Credit to them they really have worked wonders for us so far. We plan to keep the ball rolling, a new single 25th February, which is, probably the best yet. Following on from that it’s literally gigs gigs gigs, graft and gigs.


What advice do you have specifically for other north east artists? And what advice do you have for artists in general?
The north east scene is something I’m so proud to be part of. The talent is insane. Network would be my first advice, get to know those on the scene, get to know venues and the guys that run them, there’s people who can help you on your way. Then it would be just to take every opportunity you’re able to take, and at the same time, go watch other local artists and show them the support. It goes a long way.


Lastly, what artists are on your radar that you would recommend others listen to & see live?
I need to get out and tick a few people off the bucket list, we’re talking BigFatBig, Club Paradise, A Festival A Parade, Lizzie Esau. Those who are a must see live, Motel Carnation, Kate Bond, Elizabeth Liddle, Palma Louca and Don Cayote.

Follow Keiran Bowe on socials: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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Industry Interviews

Industry Interview: Pippa (Generator & Singing Light Music)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I’ve been active in the North East Music scene for around two years, having moved up to Newcastle from Wales to study music at Newcastle Uni – however since the moment I arrived I got well and truly stuck in the local scene!

I have my fingers in quite a few pies – I currently work at local talent development agency Generator, at artist management and distribution company Singing Light Music, and I also work at Du Blonde’s record label imprint Daemon TV.


How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
I was a musician from a young age and got involved in gigs through playing the saxophone – but I soon realised that it was behind the scenes that I wanted to build a career in. Whilst at University I put on some live events within the jazz community and became more active in the wider scene in general, going along to as many gigs as possible (difficult during a global pandemic!) and picking the brains of those currently working in the industry (mostly via zoom!).

After completing a placement whilst at University – I landed my dream job at Generator, and through the power of networking, gained work with the amazing people behind Singing Light Music and Daemon TV.


What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
Utilise your surroundings! Seek out/go along to as many gigs and events as possible, and make the most of the expertise of those already working in the industry. In my experience – people are more than willing to chat through what they do and help out if they can, one of the great things about how collaborative the North East music industry is!


What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
How close knit and welcoming the local music community is. Ever since I stepped foot up here I’ve been welcomed by the Newcastle music scene with open arms – and I’ve been very lucky that I’ve met lots of great people who have supported me in building a career up here.

Particular highlight for me has been being a part of the founding group of supportive network Forward NE (for women, trans and non-binary people working for equality and diversity in the North East). I’ve been able to meet and work with loads of great people, and have been a part of organising some fantastic events building collective power for change.


Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
I’ve recently set up my own platforms as a creative practitioner so I can put all my various music activity and projects in one place – you can find me over on @PMorganMusic on Instagram and Facebook, and @PM__Music on Twitter.
PM Music: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

I’ve just announced a gig on there with the amazing collective NEWISM (North East Music In Soul Music) at Cobalt Studios on the 19th of March. Tickets on sale here!

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Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Simon Shaw (KU Promotions)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
Hey, I’ve been active since I was 18 years old as a musician, I think I put my first gig on when I was 22 as a promoter? I’m 33 years old now, it’s been a long long time. My main role is co-promoter over at KU Promotions alongside Jimmy Beck but I also am a rep for other gigs and even more recently also take photos/videos of gigs. Bass playing wise I’ve played in a fair few projects most notably Cape Cub but currently playing with ‘Travis Shaw’ and ‘Church, Honey’ with a couple others TBA (that’s a promoter joke but also true).


How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
I’ll speak mainly as a promoter from now on as that’s been my full-time work for so long and probably more interesting than wanting to perform on stage ‘because it’s class’. I wanted to put gigs on because I wanted my mates to have somewhere to play at the start.  I did everything myself to keep the costs down to please the venue owner at the time which meant setting up, doing the sound, taking little breaks away from the desk to take photos and serve some drinks if the bar was busy. I did that four, sometimes five nights a week for three years. I do think I’m still here because I’m very honest and friendly and people can see I’m horribly working class, I’m not from money in fact my parents were both disabled growing up. I am a people pleaser and somewhat live my happiness through the events I put on. I love live music, I don’t think there’s anything better than a dead good gig.


What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
If you’re wanting to be a promoter I’d say find your local small venues, go in and watch the gigs as early as possible, maybe turn up at the door time. Stay as long as you are allowed and watch and take in what’s happening. Usually these gigs have the lowest overheads so speak to the owner of the building and see how feasible it would be to put a night on and explain it’ll be your first. Thankfully the buzz with your mates about your first promoted gig will be enough to fill a small room but then comes the graft. Little tips that always work is to keep the bands happy with expectations of what the gig is and how sales are going. Keep your engineers happy by sticking to planned timings and give them enough space and time to work. Keep everyone safe and most importantly, look after yourself. It’s a tough craft at times because the buck literally stops at you, if an event fails it’s because you didn’t get it right and that’s okay.


What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
I think the word wholesome is the vibe for me. I love seeing people succeed in their own expectations. My favourite thing is listening to people talk about something they really care about and the music world is full of those kinds of people.


Are there any upcoming events that you’re especially excited about and, if so, why?
The big one we’re promoting this year is a new music festival in Stockton called The Gathering Sounds festival. The best way to describe it to gig going fans is that it is a very slightly smaller Stockton Calling festival. Six stages all in established music venues like Georgian Theatre, ARC and KU itself. We’ve got This Feeling and Under The Influence promoters curating their own stages at this years festival. The line-ups announced please do check out because I could write a book about them all by now, headliners are Red Rum Club, Sophie and the Giants and The Mysterines, Du Blonde and Himalayas. It really feels like this is the year for a bloody big all day music festival ey?


Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
My personal social media accounts are full of my work or you can check out KU Stockton on the usual places, I’m over at @SimonShawBass. Always happy to answer questions and I love a good natter so if you spot me at a gig let’s chat. Thanks very much for the questions Northern Music Collective.
KU Stockton: Facebook | Simon: Instagram & Twitter

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Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Adam (Promoter [Famous Last Words] & Founder of MUNRO Festival)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I have had a voice in the music scene for nearly nine years. Famous Last Words started in 2016 and the majority of the organising, planning, designing the work, promotion and managing I have done myself.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
Following the blog, I took an interest in the event organisation, planning and the behind the scenes of live music events. This included preparation, familiarising myself with all aspects of the event, equipment and promotion. In doing so, I started working with events company Ten Feet Tall, that at the time were based at the Middlesbrough Empire. During my work with them, I created Famous Last Words. FLW has been a huge personal success as I have worked with incredible local artists and some further afield. I have also had the pleasure of managing stages at Stockton Calling, The Gathering Sounds and Twisterella over the past few years. FLW have also managed it’s own all day festival called MUNRO for the past two years.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
The three most important tips I always give to people, if they ask me this question, are:

Tip 1 – Get to know everyone within the music scene, physically go to gigs, have a look around see who is there; 99% of the time people will always have a chat with you and if they don’t know something they’ll help you by directing you towards someone who does.

Tip 2 – Get involved because you love music, not because you want to make money from it. I can’t stress this enough, at a grassroots level everyone is doing it because they love music. There isn’t any other reason than that.

Tip 3 – Don’t be a doyle. Simple advice.

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
The North East music scene is amazing, from Newcastle to Hartlepool, from Sunderland to Stockton, it’s full of class talent.
The togetherness as such, everyone is wanting everyone to do amazing things and take it to the next level, I think because sometimes the North East does get over looked in some ways, it gives everyone a motivation to prove people wrong and the area has been doing that for years now which is class.
My highlights as a promoter would be selling out gigs, Cape Cub & Michael Gallagher are probably the highlights for me in that sense because they were the first two I did. Working with Stockton Calling is always a blast as well, always one of the first things I write on my calendar whether it be as a promoter or as a ticket goer.
The highlight that is always in every gig and I don’t know if anyone else does it as a promoter but I watch people leave and if I see people leaving with a smile, I have done my job, giving them a nice night, bit of entertainment. Always something I look for.

MUNRO is always a highlight, working with the likes of The Lottery Winners, The K’s, Komparrison, Plastic Glass, Club Paradise, Walt Disco. I could spend all day chatting about MUNRO but I don’t want to bore your readers too much.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
Famous Last Words can be found @FamousLastBoro on all socials! I do prefer if bands want to send me something or are wanting to work with me, to email me at FLW_events@hotmail.com
Famous Last Words: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Mal (That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I was first introduced to the music scene about 2003 when I was in a punk band called Verbally Withdrawn. But right now I have my own music blog which is named after that band called That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog. I also still play I’m currently in a blues-influenced band, Grim Lizard (formally Dark Passenger), as the bass player.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
My interest in music started when I got introduced to the band Blink 182. I just loved everything about them; the image and music all seemed very cool to me. Over the year I’ve been in and out of bands and have made many friends along the way. I’ve also been very keen on supporting over bands and going to as many gigs as I can. That’s why I started the blog and, I think, the more I do the more popular the things I have posted have gotten.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
My advice, if you’re interested in going to gigs and getting involved yourself, is to find other people with the same interests and catch some shows together. If you’re interested in writing, maybe start your own blog or get in touch with people already involved like local zines or magazines for a little help.

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene?
The support that people give each other, especially recently, has been incredible to see. I also love that events aren’t just limited to music acts; you get all types of art being displayed at events. People using art to send out a message. There’s really been loads going on over the past few years. On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed being involved in many things like bands messaging me upcoming tracks to review, and being in the band getting to play festivals like Stockton Calling, Heelapalooza and Volkspower, were so much fun. One of my favourites was playing Salsola’s single launch for the song “Cass”. I’ve always enjoyed launches that are organised by the band. It’s always been a fun and creative way bands to support each other.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
Mostly on the socials such as Facebook or Twitter, for the blog just search “That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog”, and for the band search “Grim Lizard”.
That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog: Facebook | Twitter | Website
Grim Lizard: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter