The Basement Tapes: An interview with Weirds

It’s fair to say that Weirds have been putting on a brave face this past month. The psych-rock outfit from Leeds have been victims of a virtual swindle, having their Facebook band account hacked twice in the past month or so, losing them a silly amount of organic followers in the process. To twist the knife in further, their debut album ‘Swarmculturehas had its release date pushed back (owing to an issue with artwork at pressing). It’s an onion in the ointment for sure and it’s all come on thick and fast, but prior to this Weirds were flourishing, riding a wave of hype following the release of two big singles and a signing announcement with tastemakers Alcopop! Records. Something tells me this won’t faze them.

It’s not long after the release of the massive single ‘Phantom’, the latest taken from their impending debut album, when I meet up with Weirds outside Sound Control in Manchester. At this stage, the incoming hack and media storm is weeks away, so all attention is being focused on their current tour with The Wytches, which vocalist Aidan Razzall and guitarist Zachary Thomas are buzzing about.

Later on in the evening the pit is rammed with teenagers losing their wigs and getting pure stuck in. It’s no big thing for The Wytches, but it’s a bit of a new environment for Weirds, vocalist Aidan pointing out the manic, younger crowds they’ve come face to face with thus far.
“…that’s kind of good for us and new for us, ‘cus those are the kids that will stay loyal to you for a long period of time.”
He says.

Weirds aren’t strangers to raucous live shows – though it’s normally them kicking off in a live scenario. A Weirds live show will normally see the quartet getting in amongst it before the crowd know what’s hit them, though on this tour they’ve been encountering a lot more clued up kids.
We’re not going out there every night and expecting people to dive around.” Clarifies Zachary. “Some nights it’s happening, sometimes it’s not. You can’t expect people to do it if they don’t know the songs. When they do it, it’s just a lot better for us.”

Weirds at Birmingham’s Sunflower Lounge (Photo Credit: Paul Reynolds)

Regardless of age, I think part of coming to our show is that we do like getting in the crowd and climbing about.” Comments Aidan. “ Having the younger kids react to that has been good. First and foremost, we’re a live band. That’s our big thing about what we do. We obviously love recording and writing and doing artwork and videos and all the other stuff that goes with it, but I think the thing we most enjoy is the intensity and chaos we try to put in our live shows.”

Weirds have always had a drive about them, earning plaudits for early singles and making a mark throughout the North thanks to their aforementioned raucous live show. But Weirds have seemingly been everywhere over the past six months, thanks in part to their affiliation with Alcopop! Next week will see their partnership really flourish, with Swarmculture being delivered to the world – via big wax discs and even a super exclusive leather jacket (Limited to 20!)

I think really, since we signed to Alcopop, there seems to be a lot more momentum about us than before.” Comments Aidan. “It definitely makes you, as a band, a bit more driven I think. It does feel like… the cogs are turning a bit more with what we’re doing.”
You appreciate it as well, because obviously that’s what you do it for.” Adds Zachary. “You slug it out for years… I think if you don’t slug it out then you won’t appreciate it. That’s why we appreciate it so much.”

A lucrative spot on a tour with The Wytches has obviously not gone unnoticed and Aidan and Zachary speak highly of the quartet from Peterborough. Though whilst they’ve been privy to and shared in The Wytches “ample rider” throughout the tour, the slugging it out remains as Aidan confirms with a grin.
We’re going around in a tiny van and sleeping on floors and all that kind of stuff. It’s good to sometimes debunk the myth that if you get on a good support tour it’s gonna be easy.

Back onto the topic of Alcopop! Records and their big push in momentum, singles released from the new record thus far have been racking up radio play on the likes of Radio X and BBC Radio 1 (“I remember being 15 and listening to Huw Stephens and hearing bands and being like – wow, who are they? So if we can do that for people listening to Radio 1, then that’s great.” – Aidan). It’s a similar partnership that has developed out of Tigercub signing with Alcopop. Major, major push!

After recording the album, they were the first label we sent the record to. Jack at Alcopop… he’s passionate about the record and he’s passionate about bands.” Comments Aidan. “One of the reasons we signed to them is because of the sort of love they have for physical releases – they do a lot of deluxe stuff and limited items. The art side of our band is really important to us, so that was a good thing for us to be able to do. Also, it’s great being able to say that you’ve got a record label behind you. It’s a great thing and we’re very thankful and grateful for it. It’s definitely an important milestone in our band.”

Speaking with Aidan last year at Handmade Festival, we spoke of the basement that sees most of their writing take place. The basement-cum-writing space/studio allows the quartet to crack on in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s here where they wrote the majority of Swarmculture, with initial single ‘Valley Of Vision’ being put together in an evening. Aidan has previously gone on record to say that with Valley Of Vision, intentions were around creating a pop sound that was just as heavy as it was poppy. But as Zachary explains, this too comes from being in each others pockets on the regular and knowing one another so well.

I think it’s just maturing, when we were writing.” He says. “I think it literally just boils down to that. We didn’t consciously go – that’s gonna be a pop song. That’s just how it comes out. We are poppy anyway though. We might add a weird fucking kraut thing in the middle of summit, but the general way we write is a pop structure anyway.”
We’ve pretty much always written verse-chorus-verse-chorus kind of stuff. That’s the music we like as well, we like music that treads the line between weirdness and pop accessibility – we’ve always liked that.” Adds Aidan. “But as Zach said, it’s not conscious, it’s more… We’ve known each other such a long time that when we’re writing stuff we know where things fit into place. We know if something will sound bad as well.”

“I also think recording the album has definitely helped, ‘cus we did it for about six weeks,” Continues Aidan. “…so being in the studio for that amount of time – especially with Matt Peel, who’s like a really seasoned producer – you kind of become aware of your songs a lot more than you would just writing them and then recording them for two days or whatever. It’s good to have that luxury of time.

Swarmculture was recorded locally with Matt Peel in Leeds at The Nave – A studio built into a converted church. The aforementioned ‘seasoned producer’ is just that – and then some. Top 40 hit ‘Blood’ from Pulled Apart By Horses was one of his, as were both wonderful Eagulls records. Notable for its surroundings and décor, both Aidan and Zachary comment on its high ceilings and vintage equipment having a definite creative impact, the actual nave of the church itself hosting the sessions and providing added inspiration.

Although you’re quite spaced apart, there’s definitely a weird… you know when you get a feel for a place? That came pretty quick.” Says Zachary. “I think it comes across on the record.”
In terms of sonics as well, the size of that room and the way things get mic’d up in there really gives it… you can almost tell when a record’s been done at The Nave, kind of through the drum sounds, in a way.” Adds Aidan, quick to clarify with a laugh. “That’s not a criticism. That’s like a really good thing. It’s got a bit of a trademark stamp, which is cool.”

As for Matt Peel himself, Aidan notes his honesty being a major plus point for the band, with the producer not being afraid to tell the band exactly what he thought.

He’s very honest I think.” Comments Aidan. “…I think the vintage equipment he has also helps, so we used a lot of space echoes and weird synthesisers and stuff, which kind of really helped us do that. The main thing is his honesty and he works really hard on the songs. Often he would come in in the morning and say what he was thinking the previous night, after we’d finished, about the tracks and stuff. He’s really switched on and doesn’t stop on a project until everyone’s happy, which is something we’re thankful for. It’s good to have that – something to push against, in a way. We’d much rather have someone that we can be honest about and have a creative discussion with, rather than someone who just pressed record and there you go.”

In Swarmculture, there’s been murmurings of a light at the end of the tunnel, a slightly more delicate side of Weirds not really heard up to this point. Following 2016’s Weird SunEP and its brutal, chest crushing nature, Weirds pulled back on the throttle somewhat.
“…It’s got a slight softer side to it in the second half.” Confirms Aidan. “It kind of mellows out, gets a bit sadder, more trippy and ambient.”
“I’m excited for them to hear what we can do with some softer things.” Beams Zachary. “Obviously our live show is quite intense, but there’s a softer side that definitely comes out on that towards the end.”

With the album release scheduled for a week away, Weirds are, fingers crossed, rounding third and getting ready to smash out a belter of a home run with their debut. People are taking note and the raucous live shows are seeing Weirds pick up real momentum. Whilst its release is imminent, as is often the case, the idea of a follow up is niggling. So, back into the basement?

This year, obviously we’ve been busy with getting this album ready, so we’ve kind of tried to write the new stuff but I don’t think we’re quite in the right headspace yet to really get involved with it.” Smiles Aidan.
We’ve got tons of ideas and stuff, it’s just about putting them all together. We don’t want to write the same record twice.” Adds Zachary. “We wanna have some clout about us and take a risk, providing we like that – what we’re doing. That is conscious… We want it to be a bit more natural, so that’s why we’re gonna take as long as we want to properly put it together.
I think with that as well, we sort of discussed the rough idea of going away somewhere for the next writing period. A couple of weeks – no phones, no computers, nothing.” Adds Aidan with an excited look in his eyes. “Just really try and give it a go.”

Read our review of ‘Swarmculture‘ here!

Listen to singles from ‘Swarmculture’ in our Now Playing Spotify Playlist!

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Live Review: Pip Blom at The Castle in Manchester 12 April 2017

Review from Jack Brownbill

Forward thinking those Dutch folk eh? Cycle everywhere (great for the environment), one of the lowest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe (No need for Jeremy Kyle here then), the birthplace of total football (God bless Johan Cruyff) and liberal laws when it comes to those magic cigarettes (whatever floats your boat I say!)

However, the music scene over in the Netherlands hasn’t really had anything to shout about over the years. Apart from travelling to Ibiza with The Vengaboys in the late nineties or reaching ‘No Limits’ with 2 Unlimited, the music scene hasn’t really evolved past the techno/Europop to date. It’s not that there isn’t a market for this kind of stuff – I am just all for the variety; the spice of life. Step forward the new kid on the block: Pip Blom.

The indie DIY scene is something I must admit, doesn’t first come to mind alongside the Dutch music scene. After hearing of the band on Marc Riley’s 6 Music show (the day before the gig!) and their live studio performance, I was instantly hooked by the throwback of scratchy guitars, catchy riffs and a dollop of pure pop fun.

Comparisons to Courtney Barnett are inevitable. The Catchy ‘I Think I’m In Love’ pretty much follows in the same vein as Barnett’s ‘Pedestrian At Best’. That isn’t a bad thing, but we are not treading on new ground here. However, with all the jangly guitars and observational poetry steeped in each song, it’s easy to feel all warm and fuzzy for all those nostalgia feels from early noughties and the burst of the Indie scene that swept a nation. Pip Blom have charm in abundance and there is a little innocence to the whole performance as well.

Opening up with the insanely catch ‘Taxi Driver‘, the gig starts at a frenzied speed. The setting of Manchester’s Castle Hotel just adds a little more intimacy to the gig (readers will know this is a particularly fave venue of mine!) The chat is few and far between each song, but that gives the audience even more time to soak up each song.

The gig flew by in the blink of an eye, but that’s not a bad thing. It all feels slick and tight – I think the gig even clocks under 30 minutes, but tonight’s performance felt like an instant hit of DIY Indie tunes at its finest. It’s early days for Pip Blom, but on tonight’s showing, the Dutch band show they have the confidence, as well as some damn fine catchy songs to show they could easily muscle their way through the ranks of the Indie music scene. If anything, the future is bright, the future is Orange.

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Album Review: Employed To Serve – The Warmth Of A Dying Sun

Review from Ben Forrester

I’m gonna start this review with a bold statement; Employed To Serve are the best heavy band in the UK in recent years. Their debut album ‘Greyer Than You Remember‘ was a crushing as fuck collection of doomy riffs and hardcore breakdowns with a death-metal intensity that blew my head off back in 2015.

Needless to say that the announcement of a second album earlier this year got me very excited. Lead single ‘I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away)‘ heightened my anticipation to the max, boasting the best head banging riff EVER and a breakdown that was so brutal it made me want to put my head through my computer screen! So yeah, as you can imagine, I am going into this new album with the highest of expectations!

As expected, this record fucking rips! It retains all the elements of its predecessor but pushes them further, which makes for an even more earth shattering piece that is equal parts epic and hammering. Although opening track ‘Void Ambition‘ starts off with some techy guitars and lightning bolt drumming, there seems to be a more general sense of control with the writing on here, and the band really let the riffs and breakdowns pummel into your ears.

Of course, each tune is packed with tons of ideas and dramatic shifts (‘Lethargy‘ is the most wonderful head fuck of a track) but I think that there has been more of a conscious effort to make some head-banging bangers, which I’m all for. In allowing this, the band make for some of their heaviest onslaughts yet, from the snarling, gnarly riffage of ‘Platform 89‘ to the gut punching, vomit inducing beat-down of ‘Good For Nothing‘.

The second half of the record taps into the bands more melodic, expansive side with tracks like ‘The Warmth Of A Dying Sun‘ and ‘Half Life‘ coming to the most euphoric and climactic conclusion, while closing track ‘Apple Tree‘ acts as their most ballad-like moment to date. It combines beautiful clean vocals and spoken word to finish the album in the most devastatingly beautiful way. I think they’ve tapped into another side of their heaviness on this track and it’s very intriguing to see if this is something they expand on in the future.

The Warmth Of A Dying Sun sees Employed To Serve angrier and heavier for some gloriously furious results. It goes in harder and deeper than before, taking them up to new realms of power and cements my early statement of them being the UK’s most powerful proposition in heavy music right now.

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Album Review: Tricot – 3

Review from Ben Forrester

Tricot have been Kyoto’s best kept secret since 2010. Although they’ve made considerable waves in their homeland of Japan, the rest of the world had been oblivious to their razor sharp brand of twiddle-pop. In spring of last year, the three-piece made a trip to these shores and knocked everyone for six with their tight as fuck live show. So, it makes total sense that labels such as Big Scary Monsters and Top Shelf have gotten on board in order to distribute their first official global release, their third long player ‘3‘.

For those that have delved into Tricot’s back catalogue, 3 will act as a welcoming hug from an old friend as they intricately blend math-rock with K-pop to stunning effect. There is just no denying the amount of ear worm hooks that they throw into their tunes. From the mile a minute blast off of ‘Tokyo Vampire Hotel‘ to the groove-pop pomp of ‘Yosoiki‘, Tricot write melodies that really soak into your skin. It’s great to hear previous EP track ‘Setsuyakuka‘ make an appearance, with a super pumped drum track ready to make you sweat. Oh and the chorus on this track is catchy as hell! Even though I’m not very versed in the native tongue in which they sing, vocalist Ikkyu has an irresistibly sweet voice that packs a punch when needed.

Although I’d say that this record is mostly full of straight up math-pop bangers, Tricot do explore their sonic palettes a little further with some more dynamically interesting ideas. Current single ‘DeDeDe‘ begins with an almost lounge style introduction, before ascending into this more angular passage which eventually bursts into a beautifully melodic chorus. ‘Sukima‘ takes on a more jazz like vibe, with ride heavy drums and a silky smooth interaction between the guitar and bass slinking around each other seductively. ‘Pork Ginger‘ is a definite highlight and key example of their dynamic switch ups, as it floats around crisp guitar chords and a spaced out rhythm section to then cut into the most infectious and urgent chorus on the album. It’s hard not to have a big grin across your face when it kicks in.

There’s a lot of fun to be had here and you’ll be hard pressed to not crack a smile at the e-number induced buzz of ‘Namu‘ or the perfectly uplifting fuzz of breezy closing track ‘Melon Soda‘. Tricot are a band that care a lot about making music that makes you want to dance and they understand that international fans like me may find it hard to understand the lyrical themes of their music, which is why the melodic and instrumental aspects of their sound are full of life, passion and colour.

3 will act as the most perfect introduction for people who have yet to embrace the brilliance of this band, while old hands are going to fall in head over heels for this energetic and uplifting set. Tricot truly deliver the goods here and cement themselves as exceptional musicians, songwriters and, most importantly, an unstoppable unit.

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Exclusive: Listen to ‘Appendages’, the Too Pure Singles Club B-side from The St. Pierre Snake Invasion

(Photo Credit: nik_y_lens)

When it comes to backstories and inspirations behind band names, it doesn’t get much better than The St. Pierre Snake Invasion.

Inspired by historical events of 1902 in St Pierre, Martinique, it’s said that the small island suffered at the hands of an erupting volcano that sent a fleet of 6ft. long snakes scarpering to the mulatto quarter of St Pierre to avoid the molten lava. These big bastards killed over 50 people before an army of street cats fought them off. To make a brutal story even more raw, a tsunami soon followed, killing everything in its wake (save for two incredibly lucky survivors).

Right barrel of laughs then, eh? Oh aye. Sounding just as brutal as the events that inspired their name, the Bristolian quintet have been caving in skulls for some time now. The tail end of May will see them hook up with our favourite vinyl monthly Too Pure Singles Club to release an exclusive 7″. In even sweeter news, Birthday Cake For Breakfast is super chuffed to present below the flip side to the single’s A-Side ‘Dick E Mozart’!

Listen to the teeth-chattering roar of ‘Appendages‘ below and pre-order yourself a copy here!

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a/s/l: Vulgarians

Remember the days of the old schoolyard? Remember when Myspace was a thing? Remember those time-wasting, laborious quizzes that everyone used to love so much? Birthday Cake For Breakfast is bringing them back! 

Every couple of weeks, an unsuspecting band will be subject to the same old questions about dead bodies, Hitler, crying and crushes.  

This week: Ryan Wilson-Preen – frontman in super-radical quartet Vulgarians!

Male, Hull, 23.

Have you ever seen a dead body?
Only the ones we have in jars at home.

Who is your favourite Simpsons character?
The racist Grandad who’s well gummy.

What T-Shirt are you wearing?
PIL (obviously).

What did your last text message say?
Pass me the hummus I feel sexy.

What’s the last song you listened to?

How did you meet the people in your band?
Connor and Ryan met through playing cricket, hilariously. I met Luke through mutual friends at school and Jodie through similar experiences.

What’s the first record you bought?
I can never remember this. I remember the first record which was given to me. The Kinks – Singles Collection. My Grandad gave it to me when I was about 10.

When was the last time you cried?
Around 24 hours ago when we had a balls up with the print of our 2nd EP.

Have you ever kissed someone & regretted it?
I’ve only ever regretted not kissing enough.

Best Physical Feature?
Belly button.

Worst physical feature?

Reasonably ok/not bad feature that you’re not fussed about?
(Noted in the lack of an answer. One way or the other, this lad! – Ed)

Do you have any pets?
Luke has a budgie called Mo who he expresses sadness to every Sunday evening.

Ever picked up any injuries on tour?
Many psychological ones. Backache, also a common theme.

What did you do for your last birthday?
Played to a sold out Shackwell Arms in London with Weirds. Blew many candles out.

Name something you CANNOT wait for?
We’ve never played in Glasgow and playing there as part of this tour. I’ve heard the crowds are very interesting up there.

Do you have a crush on someone?
Only myself.

What’s the shittest experience you’ve had as a musician?
Travelling from Brighton to Milton Keynes in disgustingly hot heat. We played to the support band and sound engineer. Fantastic venue though.

If you could go back in time, how far would you go?
14. So I could not become a sociopath who became too interested in experimental guitar music.

How do you want to die?
Funnily enough I’ve discussed this recently and I think it’s quite an easy decision. House fire.

What’s your favourite thing about pizza?
When the tomato consistency is slightly too much and it squirts into the gob.

What are you craving right now?

Have you ever been on a horse?
Absolutely not.

What did you dream about last night?
That somebody loved me.

If you could go back in time and kill the baby Hitler, would you?

Do you like Chinese food?
Yes we love Chinese food. There is a really cool one opposite our band room that tastes great and comes with appalling customer service skills. Win-win really.

Ever meet someone famous?
Jodie met Fearne Cotton when she was 12 and hasn’t stopped talking about it since.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Almost-Instinct, Almost True’, the new EP from Vulgarians is out now! Listen to tracks from it here and grab yourself a copy here!

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What’s On Michael Portillo’s iPod: Sweet Baboo

(Photo Credit: Ryan Eddleston)

Hello Birthday Cake for Breakfast,

Thank you for asking me to be included on Michael Portillo’s I-pod. I’m not sure if he will like my selection (I’m not familiar with his taste) but here are some records that I have been listening to as of late and which helped shape the latest Sweet Baboo album.

Number 1Robert Wyatt – ‘Maryan’ (Shleep, 1997)

Robert Wyatt is the best. I love this song and think about it a lot. A must for any I-pod, no matter how small.”

Number 2: Bee Gees ‘You Win Again’ (ESP, 1987)

“I’m guessing Michael Portillo might have ‘The Best of the Bee Gees‘ on his I-pod already but you can’t go wrong with a bit of the g’s.
We had two touchstones for the new Sweet Baboo album. This was one of them.”

Number 3: Frank Ocean’s album Blonde (2016)

This was the other one. I’d like to think we stuck rigidly to our influences and achieved a lovely balance of the two.”

Number 4: Mort Garson’s album Plantasia (1976)

I’ve no idea if Michael Portillo is a fan of Gardening, I think he’s more of a train man but I think this album is pretty transferable from one hobby to another. Imagine taking the West Highland Railway Line from Glasgow to Mallaig with this as your i-pod soundtrack. Magical!

A quick look on I-tunes though and unfortunately the album is not available to download so either Portillo or I will have to rip it ‘illegally’ from the internet unless the train has super fast broadband onboard.”

Number 5: Finally and by no means least (you can always shuffle)
Cluster’s album Grosses Wasser (1979)

“Music for any occasion, from dinner party to morning workout. We used this album for both activities whilst making the new album. It comes highly recommended.

I think my selections have pretty universal appeal. And that’s it.

Wild Imagination‘ is out June 2nd on Moshi Moshi. Pre-order a copy (or two) here.

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