2 Cool 2 Care – An interview with Anna Burch on her whirlwind 2018

(Photo credit: Ebru Yildiz)

I had health care through the job and all that stuff…

It’s Thursday evening in Manchester and Detroit based singer-songwriter Anna Burch is in town to kick off her Autumn EU tour. At Gullivers in the Northern Quarter, the second support of the evening is gearing up to head out in front of the sold out crowd. Meanwhile, Anna sits across from me in the back room, offering up a nip of whiskey as we talk about the year she’s had – and what came before it.

Inbetween touring in the past, I worked a lot of restaurant jobs, bartending – stuff like that. I had a pretty solid bartending job at a nice restaurant.” She continues, adding with a laugh. “I quit due to kind of dramatic circumstances.”

As a member of Midwestern folk-rock band Frontier Ruckus for much of her 20’s, Burch got stuck into the cycle of touring one minute and making up time at the restaurant the next. Having slowly started working on her own solo output on moving back to Detroit from Chicago, it meant that time was precious – any time away was almost detrimental to finishing what would become her debut album.

“It was tough to sneak away and work on the record, so that process got stretched out much longer than I would’ve liked.” Continues Burch. “It feels great to not really have a boss, I mean, I’m my own boss now and that’s stressful in its own right I guess, but I do have people helping me. The only person I really have to answer to is myself now.”

Off under her own steam for the most part, Anna’s visit marks her official Mancunian debut good and proper – though she’s no stranger to Gullivers, having previously popped in last time she was up North (“Just for a pint.”)
May saw her up the road in Salford as part of Sounds From The Other City, kicking off her first UK Tour as a solo act, with further dates throughout the summer including festival appearances at Gold Sounds and Deer Shed in Yorkshire, as well as End of the Road Festival not long after we spoke.

It all comes off the back of that aforementioned debut album – Quit The Curse’, released back in February. A nine-track summer breeze of a record, it brings to mind sun-soaked afternoons with not much to do, each song becoming an instant earworm. But there’s a depth to these nine tracks, with themes of absent lovers, destructive relationships and pangs of nostalgia for a fleeting romance. The move to Detroit four years ago saw Anna make initial steps toward her solo output, having briefly stepped away from music completely to attend Grad School back in Chicago.

Read our review of ‘Quit The Curse’ here!

A google search will tell you Detroit is the ‘largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the largest city on the United States–Canada border’, though when speaking with the local Detroit Metro Times,  Burch commented on how everything can feel so small (even spying the subject of most of the record’s inspiration at the bar during said interview!)

It was definitely cathartic.” She says, back in Manchester. “I don’t know if I even knew how to write any other way. For whatever reason, figurative language and poetry and stuff like that doesn’t come super naturally to me, so I think I almost couldn’t do it any other way.”

She laughs. “It was certainly a cathartic experience getting it all out there, after not really having a creative outlet for so long.”

Inspired by the perils of romance in her new surroundings and friends advice to work on her own material, it was moustachioed friend and Chicago based musician Paul Cherry who helped Anna shape phone-recorded demo’s to become something more workable.

Most of that was done in apartments and not a studio.” Says Anna of its production. “I retracked some stuff in a studio – maybe a third of the record – but two thirds of the record was all done in apartments. We were all kind of learning our own little parts at the time. I was learning to be a songwriter, Paul was learning how to record and produce and stuff like that.

The journey picked up steam via the more than kind introduction of friend and fellow Michigan artist Fred Thomas, who put the word out to Polyvinyl Records in the states. Legend has it, Thomas sent some of Burch’s demos to the label back in the summer of 2017 with a note that read “This is not a drill. You need to hear this”. Recalling this moment, Anna lights up and laughs.
Fred Thomas, my good friend…” She smiles. “…Felt like he warmed them up very nicely. They were very receptive.

(Photo Credit: Ambar Navarro)

Closer to home, it was Heavenly Recordings who picked up on Anna earlier this year, distributing the record throughout the UK. Label man and founder Jeff Barrett even met Burch whilst in Texas, excitedly thrusting a hand in her direction at first sight.
The first time I met Jeff was like right after I finished my first set at South By. He came and shook my hand right up at the stage, introduced himself!” Says Anna, extending her admiration for the label past Jeff and beyond. “They’re fantastic. They’re such music lovers, they really care about what they do. They’re so fun and friendly and communicative.”

From the streets of Austin, Texas for South By Southwest, to more intimate festivals over here such as Indietracks at the Midland Railway in Derbyshire (!), on top of releasing her wonderful debut LP, Burch played here there and everywhere, even knocking out a number of live sessions as she went along – including one in Salford for Marc Riley on BBC Radio 6 Music (“I think that probably attributes to some of the Manchester turnout tonight. So thanks Marc!”)

It’s been really great to be busy to be honest.” Says Anna of the fruitful year she’s had thus far. “I mean, I had toured a bunch in Frontier Ruckus before, so it’s something that I’m at least kind of primed to do. I know the ropes a little bit. That’s been really helpful to know what to expect. Yeah, touring is a very different way to live, so I think my expectations were in line and it’s been really great.”

With visions of her previous role as supporting player now fading, we talked of Anna opening up and having the focus shift solely to her. Before assembling a band to form around the new songs, Burch originally did go solo on a few occasions (“Ugh, so scary”), and with her actual name on the marquee, I queried if it can be daunting.

It is my own name, so there’s no degree of separation when it comes to people talking about the project. It can be really flattering and then it can also be really stressful. There’s definitely something to be said about being part of a band or having a moniker – separate your own identity. I feel like there’s a lot of bleed into my personal life, so it’s just kind of… In some ways I would like a little bit more separation, but it’s also kind of like – you get all the attention.” She laughs. “I’m not gonna say that’s a terrible thing.”

There was a point in time where I thought I wanted to come up with some sort of moniker. Everything I came up with just seemed kind of forced or false or pretentious. It just became more stress than it was worth trying to figure that out.” Continues Anna. “I just thought, the songs are pretty blunt enough and there’s no point distancing myself from those sentiments. It was the first effort and I think at that point in time, I didn’t really have an audience even in mind, I was just kind of writing songs for myself. Now that there is a bit of an audience, which is crazy to me, it feels a little different. The stakes are certainly raised for the next record.”

Later on in the evening, halfway through a run through of ‘Quit The Cursein front of a captivated Manchester crowd, Burch bashfully asks her live band – featuring members of Girl Ray and The Golden Dregs – to leave the stage for just one song. A new one.

I’ve got a little less than an album right now, waiting to be arranged.” Burch excitedly announces across the table hours before. “I can’t tell right now how many great songs there are, but I think the arranging process really makes things clear. I definitely know that there are a handful of songs that I’m really excited about and I’m looking forward to having some more time once tour’s over in the fall to work on it. I think I’ll actually be recording hopefully early next year.”

Whilst the banner reads Anna Burch and the words and chord progressions belong to her, Anna is keen to note how much of the project is collaborative (I’m not crazy about the idea of playing solo”) and whilst the DIY approach that birthed ‘Quit The Curseremains a treasured memory, for album number two she’s looking to change it up.

“I’m so proud of what we came up with, but I’m definitely looking forward to approaching it in a more professional manner. I definitely have some things in the works that I’m super excited about. I can’t really talk about it yet, probably. But needless to say, I’m really excited for what’s ahead.”

(Photo Credit: Elene Usdin)

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Live Review: Indietracks Festival 2017

Review from JT Wilson

Friday

One of the advantages of Indietracks being held at the delightful Midlands Railway Centre is that it has a large barn which they use as a second stage. This means that if the weather becomes too impossible, they can always retreat indoors with minimal inconvenience. On Friday, as it throws down with rain all afternoon, they take no chances and move indoors for the whole of the first night. I will take on the arduous task of reviewing every single band who played on Friday. Don’t expect it every night.

Kid Canaveral are a sensible choice for an opener: in many ways, they serve as a condensed version of the festival’s sound, without threatening to overshadow anyone higher up the bill. They’re a mixed-gender quintet who’ve played the festival before, and sound like a C86-era version of Frightened Rabbit. They’re afforded an epic quality by the natural reverb of the barn, which gives everything a Phil Spector feel (for better or for worse, as we’ll see).

Chorusgirl, in their white T-shirt and black trousers, have something of a T-Birds look to them. While they twang in a vaguely 50s way as well, they also incorporate 70s punk vibes and 90s shoegazey noise.  Would it surprise you to learn one of them was playing a Fender Jaguar? Previewing tracks from their forthcoming album (not named), Chorusgirl are just okay tonight: competent but not terribly exciting.

Martha stole the show at 2015’s Indietracks with their anthemic, empathetic power-pop, and with another album under their belts since then, they’re elevated to tonight’s main attraction. Accompanied by lights that make them look like the Utah Saints or something, they sprint through 19 tracks in an hour, from early single ‘Sycamore’ to last year’s album peak ‘Do Nothing’. They’re not helped by audio gremlins throughout, but the audience stay with it, singing JC’s lines on the almost-perfect ‘Present, Tense’ and literally carrying the band during crowd-surfing encore ‘St Paul’s (Westerberg Comprehensive)’. The band finish their set with Semisonic’s ‘Closing Time’: the opening bars made it sound like ‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth, so imagine my disappointment/joy when it wasn’t.

Saturday

It’s dry when the festival opens for Day 2, and the first band on the outdoor stage is another Glaswegian act, The Pooches. Vaguely similar to Indietracks faves Allo Darlin’ and Indietracks organisers Pocketbooks, they play a mimsy indie which positions them perfectly as Indietracks openers, but which might need another dimension to move up the card. Mind you, given that one of the songs is named after a Magic: The Gathering move, maybe that dimension will be a malignant supernatural one like in ‘Stranger Things’.

The sun comes out, appropriately, for upbeat Catalonian septet Cola Jet Set, whose lyrics are all in Spanish but whose vibrant performance transcends linguistic boundaries. Sounding roughly like a Spanish-language, female-fronted Beach Boys, I can imagine these being Gruff Rhys’ favourite band. Shout out to Felipe, the band’s lead guitarist and bandleader, who looks like Patton Oswalt in a middle manager’s striped shirt.

We switch to the indoor stage for yet another band from Glasgow, the reverb-drenched TeenCanteen, who play swooning, synth-heavy, harmony-laden miniature epics. Diminutive singer Carla Easton, curling her lip at every high note, is the focal point, but the band seem to be having a lovely time up there, none more apparent as when they do a woozy cover of TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ that sandwiches in the rap from All Saints’ ‘I Know Where It’s At’.

Back outdoors, Chester’s Peaness add choppy Talking Heads-y new wave flavouring and Veruca Salt-ed grunge touches to their own brand of harmony-based indie-pop, but their songs aren’t for everyone: it seems that, inspired by Peaness’ 2017 single ‘Oh George’, a mum asked them for a photo with her son George, who was having none of it. When the band recount this onstage, the mum waves, but George starts crying. The personable all-female trio display potential for upward mobility both on record and today.

Peaness

Did I mention Indietracks has a stage in a restored church which only seats 100? I didn’t? Okay, well it does, and due to the capacity it’s a battle to get in there at any point during the weekend. We get in, however, for Manchester duo Crywank, who are a real change of pace compared to almost anything else on the bill. Going from the festival’s typical whimsical indie to Crywank’s intense, agonised acoustic grindcore is like enjoying a lovely sauna bathed in reverb and harmonies and then suddenly being thrown into an icy pool. It’s a refreshing change but a bracing one. Most of the attention around the band focuses on James Clayton’s desperately bleak lyrics, but drummer Dan Watson gives an unbelievable performance here.

Normal service is restored, I guess, indoors with MJ Hibbett & The Validators, who have a sort of homely wit as if Harry Hill had decided to form a band rather than becoming a comedian. The set today mostly focuses on ageing and/or festivals: a smart decision, as ’20 Things To Do Before You’re 30’ is played a bit too late for most of this audience, your current scribe included. Hibs might have been better in the church as well: the barn’s reverb hoovers up most of Mark’s vocals, in a band mainly notable for his lyrics.

You know how Scritti Politti were originally this really abrasive, Gang of Four deal doing songs like ‘Skank Bloc Bologna’, and then went really poppy and sounded like Prince on stuff like ‘Wood Beez’? Can you imagine how awkward a set during the transition might have sounded? Well, you’ve kind of got Lucky Soul, who’ve reformed recently, but have decided to go down a Daft Punk-ish disco route while still playing their old Belle and Seb-esque twee indie. It’s very polished, at a level rarely seen here, but also kind of bland, as if they’re here because Derby Pride got cancelled.

Hiding unplugged in the merch tent are ONSIND, doing an acoustic set with no microphones as a road test for a pair of new songs from the next album. The new songs are hard to gauge in such an intimate setting – the volume is so low it’s as if it was streamed off a phone – but the bookends ‘Pokemon City Limits’ and ‘Heterosexuality is a Construct’ go down as well as ever. One of the audience is wearing a Vote Conservative T-shirt, ironically or otherwise: hard to know if he enjoyed Pokemon City Limits and its chorus/punchline “Never trust a Tory”. (Other acts playing the merch tent over the weekend include electronic dream-pop act Deerful, who plays sat on the floor with a miniature keyboard.)

Headlining the indoor stage, Joanna Gruesome have had a line-up change since their last appearance, now wielding three guitars and two vocals. Imagine if Slowdive and Bikini Kill had done a split 7” back in 1991, and imagine if due to a manufacturing error, all of the songs played at the same time: that’s roughly what Joanna Gruesome sound like. They’re still weirdly uncharismatic though; they’re energetic and aggressive during their songs, but almost catatonic between them. Yeah they’re still young, but they’ve been playing gigs for years now, and they’re headlining this stage. Their gigs will seem loads more dynamic if they can more successfully marry up these elements.

It’ll probably have been beaten by Justin Bieber or some shit now, but at one point, the “semi-legendary” The Wedding Present held the record for most Top 30 singles in one year, thanks to some skulduggery where they released one single every month and charted every time. One of those went Top 10, and they were still having Top 40 hits as late as 2005. Yet they’re not really regarded as a big name from the era in the same way as some of their contemporaries: nobody lists them as an influence, they have no indie disco classics, and none of their albums are ever on Greatest of All Time lists. They feel like a legacy headliner, maybe better suited to a Sunday closing slot, in a way that maybe The Smiths or Pixies wouldn’t. Indietracks, however, has always kept faith in Gedge, maybe trying to single-handedly elevate the band’s reputation; this being his second Saturday headline slot in three years.

While Dave’s drily ironic self-aggrandisement isn’t particularly appealing (“I forgot how many good songs we did!”), luckily the band’s aggressive jangle is. Maybe it’s because late-80s/early-90s sounds are hip again, but it sounds pretty fresh, with Sonic Youth-ish ‘Kennedy’ a highlight. Perhaps the unexpected exuberance is due to the band’s latest line-up: mostly recruited in the last 12 months, both the guitarist and bassist look younger than the Weds’ 30-year-old album ‘George Best’.

The Wedding Present

Sunday

We woke up to news that the Y Not Festival had been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, despite it being in the same county and the sun beating down. While the news seeping out of the festival was at Fyre Festival levels of pandemonium, Indietracks just got on with it; it wasn’t even the rainiest Indietracks!

The first thing we catch is Daniel Versus The World in the Church, where he thanks Indietracks for being “the queerest it’s been” and making an effort at better representation (the 2017 festival also seemed more racially diverse too). This is the second time I’ve seen DVTW playing a Sunday afternoon set at a festival, but it’s a position which suits his glittery Stephen Trask-ish piano pop songs, and the trio line-up (there’s a rhythm section too) works fine in the intimate surroundings of the Church stage. He reminds me of Fiona Apple: perhaps he needs a Jon Brion production.

Most of the booze at Indietracks is served in cans, and these cans have to go to the recycling, so they get a steamroller to crush the cans flat every few hours. The can-crushing steamroller always draws a good crowd. There’s something oddly satisfying about watching it being faced with a massive pile of cans and smashing through them all: such an inspirational character. We caught the 13.50 set, but I’m sure the sets elsewhere in the weekend were not dramatically different. Maybe it’s like seeing The Fall, where it’s always different but always stays the same.

Luby Sparks are an impossibly young Tokyo quintet who, according to one interview, are playing their first ever gig outside of Japan! So shoegaze that even the drummer looks at his shoes for the entire gig, the band’s boy-girl vocal exchanges and blissed-out noise is like being guided through a busy city while on opiates. These are really pretty, both to look at and to listen to.

Luby Sparks

We remain indoors for Cowtown, an aggressively energetic Hookworms offshoot who take cues from Krautrock and post-punk and whose 12-track, 22-minute album ‘Paranormal Romance’ came out last year. The Leeds trio’s high-octane, Korg-driven performance ends with the guitarist holding his guitar to the sky, which is hilariously mirrored by the keyboardist and even the drummer (holding the hi-hat up!). The band’s boisterous drones are more fun and melodic than Hookworms were when I saw them.

Outdoors, The Orchids are playing. They’re a quintet from Glasgow who released a bunch of records on Sarah Records in the 1980s and have now reformed. You already know what they sound like, right? No? Augmented by two percussionists for this show, the band’s jangly Triffids/Go-Betweens sound is fine for the last of the Sunday afternoon sunshine.

Grace Petrie is completely unaccompanied on the Indoor Stage, but fills it completely with her passionate protest songs. After touring around for years, and being spurned by the Guardian and by Whitby Folk Festival among others, Petrie’s developed a self-aware, ironic streak even when trying to coax the audience into participation (“that’s about 52% of you keen, which as we know is an overwhelming majority…”). A sudden downpour causes Petrie’s audience to literally double as everyone rushes indoors, essentially creating a captive audience for the Leicester singer-songwriter. Petrie’s stuff, however, warranted a decent audience anyway.

The inclement weather causes a temporary stage reshuffle, and forces Monkey Swallows the Universe into the indoor stage for their “last ever” gig. The odds are against the minimal folk quintet: they’re chucked onto the indoor stage with essentially no soundcheck and have to follow Grace Petrie’s rambunctious songs to the disinterest of the crowd. Using instruments like the glockenspiel, recorder and double bass, this must be the most low-key quintet ever, so quiet that they’re virtually inaudible at times. But it’s hard to know how this would have translated to the main stage either: another band who in hindsight were probably better off in the Church.

The forced line-up switches cause a few awkward schedule pile-ups so we forego The Wave Pictures (who suddenly start on the main stage with no pre-amble as soon as it stops raining) to catch sullen Hole-ish duo Skinny Girl Diet, who play super-heavy tracks off the aptly-named ‘Heavyflow despite some technical issues (a malfunctioning distortion pedal) and the stripped-down line-up. A Karen O-style echo effect is applied three tracks in, which suits the band well, oddly enough.

Lilith Ai

Back in the Church, Lilith Ai is playing with a slightly reduced line-up with her drummer on compassionate leave, but her songs are strong enough to captivate even under these circumstances. They’re melodic and soulful enough to convince in this environment and gritty and authentic enough to fit more urban bills: essentially, Lilith can go in any direction she wants from here. ‘Riot Revolution’, played with a drum machine and digressing into breakbeat-driven electronica, showcases her potential as a frontwoman unencumbered by the acoustic guitar she plays for most of the set. Ai got a lot of Twitter attention for this set, and rightly so.

Effervescent London trio The Tuts peculiarly announced on Facebook that they were headlining Indietracks on Sunday, but are on earlier than Cate Le Bon and play the second stage. Whatever their thinking, the effort involved in their set indicates that they’ve decided to treat the gig as a headline slot, either to upstage Le Bon or to announce their own potential for the role. It works, too: this is probably the most memorable set of the weekend. Introduced by a vicar in front of 4ft balloons, entering in bridal gowns, playing a cover of ‘Wannabe’, the band are going all-out here. There’s the occasional dud: a song with the refrain “give us something worth voting for” seems like an unfashionable opinion in 2017, and the new song is more Tuts self-mythologising in what sounds like an unsuccessful attempt to emulate Beyonce. On the encore (!!!), though, the various parts coalesce: singer/guitarist Nadia talks openly about her struggles with depression before the vicar comes back on to marry the band to themselves (because if you can’t love yourself…) and the band bring out an assembly of pals for an acoustic cover of Linkin Park’sIn The End’. They’ve always been a fun proposition live, but this was a statement of intent.

Top that, Cate Le Bon. Wearing a black pyjama suit and holding her guitar like a machine gun, Le Bon’s superior quirk would have caught the eye had she been lower on the bill, but this is the death slot for her and her band. There’s a difference between headlining your own gig and headlining a festival, a difference that Le Bon gives little indication of understanding: she treats it as just another gig, albeit one of the last for the band before they go to record the follow-up to Crab Day (which is her newest release, despite being fifteen months old). It’s a bummer, as while it may not be a festival headline show, the music is still pretty good: a fringe associate of final-days Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Le Bon has a similarly skewed take on indie-pop as they did, a cross between John Cale’s chamber-pop and Canterbury scene lysergics, a sort-of psychedelia indigenous to Wales (seicedelia’r?). The set finishes with ‘What’s Not Mine’, which takes the ‘Mr Blue Sky’ chug to its logical, fatal conclusion. And that’s it: there isn’t even an encore.

So that was Indietracks, a fine mix of vintage Peel-era indie outfits, modern-day whimsy, energetic girl and/or queer outfits, and Crywank; a festival which courted a younger crowd of grrls while retaining the nostalgia crowd it’s always played to. It’ll be interesting to see which direction they go in next year, but with its eclectic line-up and affordable price, Indietracks is usually worth a look.
(If you’re going for a headliner from the Peel era next year, see if Urusei Yatsura or Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci will reform and you’ll guarantee my ticket.)

Cate Le Bon

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a/s/l: Crumbs

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: Gem Prout, drummer in lovely Leeds quartet Crumbs!

(Photo Credit: Mat Dale)

a/s/l?
29 f leeds.

Have you ever seen a dead body?
yes, but under a cover. does that count?

Who is your favourite Simpsons character?
snowball 2.

What T-Shirt are you wearing?
a minty one.

What did your last text message say?
kiss emojis.

What’s the last song you listened to?
sex beat‘ by the gun club.

How did you meet the people in your band?
boyfriend / friends from the music scene.

What’s the first record you bought?
gina g – ‘ooh ah just a little bit’

What was your favourite VHS growing up?
trap door.

Best Physical Feature?
does hair count?

Reasonably ok/not bad feature that you’re not fussed about?
fingers.

Do you have any pets?
yes, two cats.

Ever picked up any injuries on tour?
not yet.

What did you do for your last birthday?
got pished in scotland.

Name something you CANNOT wait for?
indietracks.

What’s the shittest experience you’ve had as a musician?
a man saying that i was carrying the drummer’s drums upstairs for HIM. they were mine.

If you could go back in time, how far would you go?
i wish i could remember the 80s for the dancing/fashion.

How do you want to die?
peacefully, i don’t care how.

What’s your favourite thing about pizza?
i fucking hate pizza.

What are you craving right now?
roast vegetables.

Have you ever been on a horse?
yes, it was shit.

What did you dream about last night?
i dreamt that i was at work, as usual.

Do you like Chinese food?
yes, very much so.

Have you ever been on TV?
my dad called me to say he saw me on david dickinson’s bargain hunt a few years ago. i told him it wasn’t me but he still insists that it was.

Ever meet someone famous?
princess diana.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
dead.

The debut Crumbs LP ‘Mind Yr Manners‘ is out TOMORROW through Everything Sucks Music! Pre-order yourself a copy here!

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5 Things to love about…Indietracks Festival

Preview from JT Wilson

If I mention ‘indie’ and ‘train’ in the same sentence, you might have visions of Ocean Colour Scene’s lumpen dadrock or the Libertines’ guerrilla gigs way back when. Thankfully, Indietracks has little in common with either. Now in its eleventh year, the festival has established a firm standing on the festival circuit, inspiring throngs of repeat visitors charmed by the Midlands Railway Centre’s delightful surroundings, the intimate atmosphere (there’s only 2000 attendance) and its blend of twee, riot-grrl and classy Peel-era scene veterans.

In the last three years, headliners have included The Go! Team, Gruff Rhys and Saint Etienne alongside Indietracks regulars like Allo Darlin’ and this year’s return headliners The Wedding Present (who last headlined in 2008, although 2015 headliners Cinerama have a suspiciously similar line-up and set). But who should you see this year? Your old pals BC4B have you covered.

Martha
(Friday 21.15, Outdoor Stage)

(Photo Credit: Meg Lavender)

Nathan and Daniel are putting out another ONSIND album this year, but before that, they headline Friday night as part of evergreen anarcho-tinged power-pop quartet Martha. Originally spotted playing unplugged in the zine tent back in 2014, the Co Durham gang’s combination of relatable awkwardness (teen crushes, depression, anxiety), band-specific interests (anarchist writers, weirdly specific biological metaphors) and sunnily poppy, anthemic indie should be an exhilarating start to the festival. Assuming Voltarine De Clair can successfully get you there prior to 9.15.

MJ Hibbett and the Validators
(Saturday 17.00, Indoor Stage)

There’s something charming about Hibbett and his brand of nerdish songwriting, which puts him somewhere between Half Man, Half Biscuit and John Shuttleworth, or perhaps a British take on Jonathan Coulton. Highlights of Hibbert’s song-as-story formula to look out for include an unlikely triumph in Peterborough, songs from his conceptual opus ‘Dinosaur Planet’ and not-a-dry-eye ‘It Only Works Because You’re Here’, about an IT support drone’s unrequited love.

Joanna Gruesome
(Saturday 19.50, Indoor Stage)

The forthright Cardiff quintet’s set in 2014 was hampered by technical problems, but if lightning doesn’t strike twice then Saturday’s Indoor Stage headliners’ high-octane “dissonant wimp music” should be the visceral highlight of the night. Things will get fuzzy. (Refined guitar-pop mainstays The Wedding Present headline the Outdoor Stage soon afterwards: by staggering the two main stages, this festival allows you to have your cake and eat it.)

Lilith Ai
(Sunday 19.20, Church Stage)’

The indefatigable ‘Fight Like A Girl curator seems to be making real waves this year, playing all over the country including a slot at Glastonbury a few weeks back. Originally an acoustic act, Lilith’s recent shows have seen her accompanied by a full band to perform her riot-girl-infused, Lauryn Hill-esque blend of surly agit-soul. She’s playing in the Church stage, which is indeed a church. Catch her before her congregation grows too big for venues like this.

Skinny Girl Diet
(Sunday 18.00, Indoor Stage)

(Photo Credit: Katinka Herbert)

SGD’s album ‘Heavyflow’ came out last September but for all the qualities of the record, their abrasive, no-fucks riot-grrl sound is probably best appreciated live. Originally a trio, but currently operating as a duo, the North London sisters will make enough noise to blow away any post-Saturday night brain fog.

ALSO… Acts including Me Rex and The Perfect English Weather will be playing on a train which trundles around a track during the act’s unplugged set. Pro tip: make sure you stay hydrated as the unique setting draws a crowd, which in turn makes it VERY warm… The workshop marquee has featured short story writing and a baffling, semi-scripted agony uncle set from The Spook School drummer Niall. This year offers workshops in campaigning for social change, stop-motion animation and the science of sound… Sunday is headlined by sometime Gruff Rhys collaborator and eccentric Cate Le Bon, whose unusual, tangential sound is less angst and more Ankst… There should be zines, birds of prey and the inexplicably popular can-crushing steamroller too…

Look out for a review of the festival next week. I promise it’ll be as exhaustive as I will be exhausted.

Cate Le Bon

Indietracks Festival kicks off this weekend! Tickets can still be purchased here!

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