Edward Burnett chats to Ontario band Willy Nilly about the theme of existentialism in music, the band's songwriting process and their upcoming single 'Mystery Meats'.
RnRR: Hi Willy Nilly Band, would you be so kind as introduce yourselves to our readers?
WN: Sure so we’re an indie-rock/folk band from Kingston, ON that have been active for just over a year now. I always have a hard time comparing us to other musicians as we have a pretty wide range of sounds throughout everything we’ve written, exhibited even in the few we’ve released thus far. In the band is Owen Fullerton on guitar/lead vox, Max Tinline on lead guitar/backup, Reilly Donnelly on bass/backup and Devin Pierce on drums.
RnRR: Great to meet you all, so I guess we have to start with the origins of Willy Nilly. How did you all meet and why did you start this musical venture together?
WN: Well for me [Owen] I was working as a news reporter up north and had felt an increasing pull towards music. At that point I figured if I didn’t give it a shot then I never would so I looked into a couple music programs and landed on St. Lawrence College. All four of us met in that program. At that point I had only ever approached music as a hobby, so was a lot less experienced in putting together a song than the other guys. When I showed them stuff I was working on, they all liked it and when we started collaborating I realized pretty quickly some of the ideas they were bringing to the songs were a lot better than anything I could come up with, so we started to click pretty fast.
RnRR: Back to present day, how has the band been dealing with the COVID situation? Has the pandemic halted your creative progress as a group?
WN: In a lot of ways yeah. It felt like we were starting to gain some momentum locally in the months leading up to the pandemic and now not really having audiences to play to definitely puts a damper on that. On the other hand I was inspired to do a TON of writing early in the pandemic and once we started getting back together again we’ve been able to put together almost an album worth of songs that we really like. 5 of these songs will be on an EP released some time in November. I think recently it’s become more difficult than it had been early on. There’s still not a ton of opportunity to play shows, and as a band looking to establish itself it can be a little difficult not to be worried about the future of this industry. We’re just trying to stay inspired with new ideas and playing whenever we get the opportunity.
RnRR: On the topic of being inspired, which musical artists had an important impact on each of you growing up? Any acts in particular that convinced you to get into the musical world professionally?
WN: I think bands like Arkells, Hollerado and Kings of Leon are some of the biggest influences on our overall sound. Bands like Dr. Dog and Half Moon Run also in the sense our discography is very eclectic and one song can sound markedly different from the next. It’s interesting though because we come from some fairly different backgrounds. Devin is primarily a classics kind of guy especially bands like Guns N Roses and the Doors and Reilly is a country boy and is really into singers like Eric Church, Chris Stapleton and Tyler Childers. We have all found a lot of interlap in our musical interest so we’ve made it work. For me personally my lyricism and writing is heavily influenced by Dan Mangan, Father John Misty, Gang of Youths and Frightened Rabbit. It’s the last one who really convinced me to get into music. After Scott Hutchison died I got heavily into Frightened Rabbit and some songs felt like he was articulating my thoughts and feelings better than I could do myself. Since then that has felt like something I really want to do.
RnRR: So moving onto music of the present, what would you say your aim is, as a band, when producing music? Is there any features you always have to ensure are present or any methods you guys employ which are unique when songwriting and jamming?
WN: I don’t know if there’s really a specific goal in mind and no reinventing of the wheel or anything. Normally the songs are written acoustically whether that be over the span of a few hours or sometimes as long as months. Then when we get together and jam them out they start to take shape pretty quickly. Our music sounds really different song to song, I think that’ll be exhibited on the upcoming ep and already has been on what we’ve released, so it’s really just about putting whatever we feel sounds right in the song for us.
RnRR: If you had to pick a current song that you’ve released that sums you up as a band well for a new listener, what do you recommend for our readers?
WN: Definitely our upcoming single dropping on October 2. Our last couple singles have been kind of stretching our range but I think the upcoming tune ‘Mystery Meats’ is really our sweet spot. There’s some songs on our first ep I would also say but we really rushed that one forward last summer just to have examples to send to venues and we’ll be re-releasing those 4 songs on our debut album.
RnRR: So that perfectly moves us on to your new music and upcoming release as you mentioned, ‘Mystery Meats’. Can you shed any light on the new single and what it’s about or are you keeping everything to do with it under wraps until it’s eventual release?
WN: For sure. It’s kind of just a broke man’s anthem haha. In a way like a cry of desperation reflecting on things being shitty but having a belief they will get better. Also kind of how trying to dive into music can be rewarding but also very demoralizing at times, more generally how trying to dive into something with everything you’ve got can really feel draining and overwhelming at times.
RnRR: Those are some very existentialist ideas. Would you say that existentialism is becoming a far more regular topic of discussion in the arts? This more profound wide scale with more and more music and films choosing to focus on that topic and themes similar with it. Why do you think such a suggested growth in this has occurred as creatives yourselves?
WN: Yeah I’d say you’re probably right about that. Hard to say why we’re seeing more of it, maybe we’re just seeing more of it come to light than we have in years past. I feel like the arts can kind of be a safe haven for weirdos a lot of time and now with everything being on the internet you don’t need to be radio friendly to make a mark. I mean frankly the old stories in movies and music have been told a billion times, I think for many they get boring both as a listener and an artist.
RnRR: Beyond existentialism, what other themes would the band be wanting to cover in future songs? Do you find the songs as a platform to talk about anything so that people can hear you loud and clear? Or would you rather say it’s to find a topic that your listeners can always relate to?
WN: I’m really just a write what I feel kind of guy. I’m not the most open person generally so I find the music can often act as a buffer to really be able to say what’s on my mind. I’m somebody who spends a lot of time in my own head and music feels like a good way to try to make sense of what’s going on. But I feel like the goal is to really find a sweet spot in between those two things you mentioned, I think we’ve touched on some pretty serious and important themes like drug dependency and depression on this EP but we try to make the songs sound as lighthearted as possible. While they are deeply personal at times, I try to walk that line where people can actually relate. It’s cheaper than a therapist I suppose!
RnRR: Moving away from the music now, what have you guys been during the pandemic and lockdown? Have you developed any new interests or honed different skills?
WN: I think we’ve all mostly just dove into the music a little more. All the guys have other music projects they’re a part of and Reilly is heavy into photography so enough to keep busy for everyone generally there. Other than that I imagine our lockdowns looked as uneventful as most!
RnRR: What are your plans for the future beyond the new single? Where would you ideally and realistically like to see the band in a couple of years?
WN: I mean we have a ton written already and we same to be currently running at a rate of two songs written per every song released. Our debut album was actually written and partially recorded before the pandemic but we decided to freeze it and work on some stuff that I had written early in the lockdown. I think realistically we can get a couple albums plus an EP or two out in the next couple years, and I’d really just like to be on the festival circuit around that time, assuming that still exists! So that’s really it I guess, it’s tough to say where I want us to be because I don’t even know where the music industry will be or what will change. If in two years we’re at a point where we can basically solely focus on creating music, I will be ecstatic.
RnRR: Finally the most important question that I ask everyone I interview on Spotlight. If you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your days and could only play one album ever again, what would you as a band choose?
WN: (laughs) I don’t think we’d agree on one but we all are pretty big fans of KOL and Come Around Sundown is my fav album of theirs so let’s go with that.
RnRR: A great and democratic choice it appears then! Thanks for being on Spotlight and we will be sure to update the page with any news from the band.
If you would like to find out more about Willy Nilly and stay tuned for the release of 'Mystery Meats' then be sure to check out their socials below:
Edward Burnett chats to indie-rock act Howlin' Circus, aka Jafar Sandouk, about his motives for starting a musical career, his favourite food and his love for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
RnRR: Hi! First of all, would you mind introducing yourself to our readers and what you do?
HC: Hey, I’m Jafar from Howlin’ Circus. I sing, play guitar and write the songs.
RnRR: So where are you based and how does that, if it does, play into the music that you produce?
HC: I’m based in Toronto now. I moved from London, UK a few years ago. What I write and produce tries to connect to the core of the emotions that bind us, irrespective of place although it’s always grounded in the present. Toronto has an incredible music scene. So many good musicians pushing each other to improve.
RnRR: Yes, we’ve had a few guests from the Canadian music scene feature on Spotlight before showing the country’s knack for being the hub of quality indie-rock music. What’s your favourite thing about living in Toronto?
HC: Well during a pandemic it ain’t too fun. Yesterday I saw a grown adult woman taking a shit right onto the street just outside my window. I miss the good live music venues. The city has a lot of cool neighbourhoods which are all pretty self contained so you never need to venture too far for whatever you need.
RnRR: So how did you first get into music? What made you decide to do it for a living and not just as a hobby?
HC: There’s a lot in life that can’t be easily expressed. I always found it easiest to tune into my vulnerability with a guitar on my lap. Pain is that universal constant. You can’t really avoid it and I think music’s that one thing I’ve always been ok suffering for. It’s also a lot of fun obviously!
RnRR: Do you find other motivations other than pain when writing music? Does love ever factor into the process and your own personal experiences of this?
HC: Love and light are always there even in the darkest moments. And it’s always personal in some way. The very act of recognising the pain we suffer can be cathartic. It’s a recognition of some kind of truth that often goes unspoken. I feel like that’s what music is often about: tapping into the truths we so rarely feel comfortable acknowledging. And that includes “all you need is love”.
RnRR: So while we are still covering your earliest musical memories, what was your first ever guitar? What did it mean to you having the tool to create on a musical level?
HC: It was my sister’s acoustic guitar that she was learning on. It was one of those very cheap starter guitars. She gave up on learning years before and I found it in storage one summer and decided I’ll try to learn. It took me a long time to get any good at it. There wasn’t any moment where it all came together - I just kept trying and failing to get good at it and when I was ok on guitar I couldn’t quite sing with it. I’d lose hours playing it and nothing else really mattered when I got into it.
RnRR: On a similar vein, let’s talk about your musical influences. I know that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were a big one for you, tell us more about the impact their early albums had on your musical career. Also who else inspired you to follow suit and perform music professionally?
HC: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are a big influence for me. Growing up I was always looking for music that had honesty, heart and soul, whatever the genre. They can have a heavy rock song and a sweet acoustic folk song played on the same night. I was also into a lot of old blues. Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Etta James. That got me playing blues bars in London. I’d join these jam sessions every week to learn how to play with other musicians. Someone just shouts at the key and counts you in. I’ve always loved the spontaneity of music.
RnRR: Is Howlin’ Wolf where you got some inspiration for your act’s name? On this line of inquiry the occasional song of yours bares reference to B.R.M.C. with ‘Let Your Love Burn Out’ which is both similar in name and nature to ‘Love Burns’. Would you say this similar style of indie-rock has always been your end goal when it comes to genre aspirations?
HC: The name Howlin’ Circus was inspired in part by Howlin’ Wolf. I liked the idea of a circus. A sort of place where misfits and outsiders call home. I always felt a bit like an outsider. I liked the love songs that focused on regret, pain, that had a more real view. You can’t have incredible love and romance without that part too. I always appreciate honesty in music. Though as much as I’m inspired by the past I think we’re seeing across the board in art a desire to try new things and give a platform to new ideas. I’m trying to put my reality and experiences into my music as much as possible - and also the reality of the world as it stands today.
RnRR: Could you tell us more about your perspective of being the outsider and it showing in your music?
HC: As much as I can find a way to connect in a lot of the music I grew up with I didn’t really hear music from someone like me. Maybe that’s what ultimately got me into playing music. I’m the son of Iraqi immigrants who moved to the U.K. from Baghdad. That city has been bombed so often and that’s a big reason why anyone in the west even knows it exists. We’ve been demonised and considered less worthy than those we grew up around. I never really felt accepted as British growing up and I didn’t feel like I was fully accepted as Iraqi either. Art, be it music, TV, or whatever, is always richer when we get a new perspective on things. And some people out there might find it interesting to hear my perspective.
RnRR: So would it be fair to say you found solace in art when you felt rejected from the world? What are your plans moving forward with your music career as well? Any plans for new singles or gigs?
HC: Definitely. And it’s a way to find your place in the world. I’m working on new songs at the moment. I’m not sure when it’ll be possible to play shows. In Canada there’s talk of doing social distanced shows. There’s already been a few drive-in shows but if we can’t do it right then I’m happy to just wait it out. What’s positive about this period, if we can find something good in it, is it’s been a lot of time indoors, which has allowed me to just focus on the music and nothing else. I’m playing around more with different sounds, taking my time with it.
RnRR: So while we are on the topic of the future and your music, where would you like to be? Would you want to have a few albums released and be attracting larger crowds or is it more important to you to improve the music rather than fame? Aim in moderation or is the sky the limit in your opinion?
HC: All you can do is focus on the music. Once you start thinking about how people will receive it and if they’ll like it, share it, and all that, then being true to yourself becomes more challenging. Part of why we get drawn to artists is the authenticity. It’s hard to stay true when you’re thinking about whether or not this person or that person will like it. It’s definitely hard to keep your mind from going there. I guess we all want some sort of validation but you have to be content with your own.
RnRR: Let’s move away from the music now for a second, what would you say your biggest interests are other than music? Have you picked up any new hobbies or talents throughout this year’s lockdown?
HC: I’ve been reading a lot lately. Maybe it’s all the time spent at home. I’ve definitely got more patience to sit and finish a book in a day or two than I did before. Since lockdown restrictions relaxed a bit I’m back playing football (soccer over here). I’ve also been cooking a lot more. Making my own pasta from scratch and even pesto. There’s time for all that now but it would also be nice to go hug friends and family.
RnRR: What have you been reading? Are you a big football fan? Do you support a team in particular?
HC: 'Say Nothing' by Patrick Radden Keefe which is all about the Troubles. Unsurprisingly there was no mention of it when I was at school in London, so I really wanted to learn more about it. I also recently finished Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow, which is about the effort to uncover Harvey Weinstein's many crimes. And most recently Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Music-related, I recommend Lizzy Goodman's Meet Me in the Bathroom, all about the early 2000s rock n roll revival in New York. I'm a big football fan but the kind that watches pretty much any team in the Premier League. I grew up supporting Blackburn Rovers because they had Alan Shearer, who was my favourite player at the time. I still try to catch their games but they're rarely ever on TV here in Canada.
RnRR: Staying on this break from music, what would you say you’re go-to meal is? Our last guest, Nina Anto, is a big fan of Italian food and especially pasta. Whereas other guests like Charity Shop Pop are more supporters of pizza. What’s your favourite meal?
RnRR: Great choice! So back to the music side, whats your next project, do you have something in mind, or is it a go as you come scenario? Any grand plans for delving into different genres or stick to what you enjoy?
HC: I’ve got a few songs in the works at the moment. I haven’t yet decided how I’ll be releasing them, whether it’s just singles, an EP or a full album. The process of doing it all at home during lockdown has given me the chance to delve into all kinds of sounds. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop lately, taking inspiration from the drums. I’ve been listening to old Arabic music, hearing some of the beautiful vocal melodies and string sections. With the home studio set up I’ve got in lockdown I’ve been able to play with all types of sounds. You might hear those influences on the new songs.
RnRR: I look forward to hearing them. I know indie-rock always benefits from a heavier presence of drums thanks to hip hop such as the first album released by the Arctic Monkeys. We’ve mentioned BRMC already but would you say that the Arctic Monkeys are also an inspiration in many of your songs?
HC: Maybe they were an inspiration by osmosis. I wasn’t a proper fan but they were always on the radio or a friend was playing their songs when I’d go over. You can’t always be certain where all your inspiration comes from but they’re a great band and if anyone thinks Howlin’ Circus sounds like Arctic Monkeys I’ll take that.
RnRR: So one of the biggest casualties that COVID has dealt the music world is the postponement of live gigs and festivals. How much have you missed both performing at and attending live shows and venues? What are your plans for returning to normality on this front?
HC: I’ve missed it a lot but not as much as being able to hug friends and family. Maybe normal wasn’t so great because independent venues were closing down even before the pandemic. But going out to see live music is so important. Hopefully this moment can help everyone appreciate that and figure out a way to bring back live music in a way that was even better than before and we can do more to protect independent venues. I’m trying to put it out of my mind for now because it’s impossible to tell when we’ll be able to all hug each other at a show and let loose and spread love rather than worry about spreading a virus.
RnRR: Finally, the signature Spotlight question and arguably, most important. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only pick one album to play for the rest of your days, what are you choosing and why?
HC: ‘Howl’ by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I’m actually listening to it right now. It’s got some blues and gospel influences, a lot of Americana and folk. From start to finish it’s beautiful. There’s not enough of that vulnerability in rock and roll. And it’s a courageous record, considering there was all this expectation on them to just release a loud punk rock record. I think it showed me you can be more than just one thing.
RnRR: A perfect choice which is befitting of your own musical act. Thank you for your time and we will be sure to update the page of news of any of your upcoming releases.
If you would like to find out more about Jafar and Howlin' Circus, all his socials, including his YouTube channel with his music videos, are below via the icons:
Edward Burnett chats to Warsaw-born singer Nina Anto about her time in England, the meaning behind her lyrics and her favourite pasta
RnRR: Hi Nina, would you introduce yourself and what type of music you make to our readers?
NA: Hi! I’m Nina Anto. I was born and raised in Warsaw, Poland. In 2016 I moved to London to study vocals at British and Irish Modern Music Institute. I would label our latest release as indie-pop but usually, it’s hard for me to be stuck with one genre. I love experimenting, especially developing unique ideas together with my bandmates. We come from 4 different countries, which brings diversity to our music!
RnRR: So when did you first realise your love for music? What were your earliest musical memories and influences?
NA: It's a pretty funny story, my first memory when I realised that music is the most magical thing on this planet was December 2000 when I was 3 years old. My parents wanted to make me happy, so they decorated the Christmas tree with musical lights which were playing Christmas carols. The quality of the sound was super bad, but it made me realise that music is just something I connect the most with. I remember sitting on the stairs in front of this Christmas tree and listening to these musical lights. There was even a possibility of swapping songs! This is how the story started, later my parents bought me a keyboard, which I carried everywhere, and whenever they were taking me on a trip I was singing in the car all the way. When it comes to influences, hmm, my first musical inspiration was probably a Polish comedy group from the 50s and 60s called Elderly Gentlemen's Cabaret.
RnRR: A unique introduction to the musical world indeed then. So between these early musical memories and you moving to the British and Irish Modern Music Institute, when did you realise you yourself possessed a talent for music? What encouraged you to take the leap towards making your own songs?
NA: I realised that when I was about 5 years old and my piano teacher told my parents that I definitely should apply to music school. I got in and I spent 10 years being trained to become a classical pianist. This training was the hardest of my life. It cost me a lot, but I became extremely good at it. But one day, I realised that I don't want to become a classical pianist as everyone expected from me - my biggest dream has always been to become a singer, and I wanted to play modern music. At that point, I quit this classical piano career and started following my dreams. It was a big change for me: I had to swap from being great at something to being a beginner again. I was working my head off to reach a certain level with my voice, but it was worth it! After those years of training, British and Irish Modern Music Institute offered me a place and I started studying vocals in London! One of my biggest dreams came true! When it comes to songwriting, I wrote my first song when I was about 7 years old. It was a very simple song. I have never presented it to anyone - this song was very precious and personal to me and I did not want to share it even with my parents. This small experience made me realise that songwriting is a great way of conveying emotions. This is also how I deal with my feelings today! For example, our latest release 'Jestem' was written because my neighbours pissed me off...
RnRR: So that’s the perfect segway into what we are here to talk about, your single ‘Jestem’. You’ve began to say there what the general idea of the song is but can I push you further to discuss ‘Jestem’ and it’s origins and meanings to you?
NA: ’Jestem’ is about the duality of emotions. Shyness vs rebellion. I’ve always allowed other people to be who they want to be, but it was not always working in the other way around: people wanted me to think differently, be different, sometimes I felt that some people wanted to take my freedom away (this is also what my neighbours were trying to do - they hated me practicing in my room, they were telling me that I was walking too loud, talking too loud, in their opinion I was doing everything wrongly). At first, I was always apologizing. I was always in this fear mode. But one day I decided I will stand for my rights and that I cannot allow other people to take my freedom away. So this song is for everyone who is not feeling free or accepted. I believe It’s important to be kind to other people but it’s also important to respect ourselves. This last year situation with my neighbours wasn’t easy to handle, It made me feel sad and furious many times, but on the other hand, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my boundaries. Today I'm grateful I had such annoying neighbours, I wouldn’t have written this song without their ”help”.
RnRR: An interesting story behind ‘Jestem’ then. The lyric I find most interesting from the song is “I won’t let you close my mouth, I won’t let you stop my soul”. Given all that is going on in the world in current events, these words you write are bound to provide positivity and an important message to others, don’t you think?
NA: I hope so! These words are about an internal rebellion. For everyone... We need those internal rebellions to realize who we truly are, what’s our real identity, to start believing that we are important and that our voice matter, but also we should do it in the best possible way and never be violent towards other people! I’m happy that this time our song is in Polish so everyone in my country can understand not only emotions but also the lyrics, I think these words are needed there at the moment...
I hope this emotional message will encourage listeners around the world to search for their truest identity and will give strength to those who do not feel welcomed or accepted by others. I hope one day the world will become more tolerant and peaceful.
RnRR: That’s a powerful stance to take and one that has to be welcomed in this day and age. So let’s move onto your actual experience and enjoy ability when pursuing your musical career. Which do you prefer, playing live or recording in the studio and what are the perks of each for you?
NA: I prefer playing live! I love performing, especially when I know that my friends are in the audience and we can hang out after a gig. Performing in front of people when they are singing and dancing along Is such a powerful experience to me! when my band and I can give the energy to the audience and they are giving it back, I just love this energy exchange! When it comes to studio work is usually much more stressful than performing to me as It’s not only about going with the flow but there are many decisions to make. But when a producer is chilled and open-minded this process is also joyful and I usually enjoy it a lot. When I feel comfortable during a studio session I start experimenting and developing new ideas that I did not expect to have on a track before.
RnRR: So with an eye towards the future, what are your musical plans regarding the second half of 2020? Do you have anything in concrete during this difficult and unpredictable time? New music? Small scale gigs?
NA: I'm planning to go back to London in September as right now I'm back in Poland windsurfing and kitesurfing at the Hel peninsula, spending beautiful holidays surrounded by friends and family. My musical plans are to make ’artistic’ use of this remaining time in Poland and do some collaborations with musicians from here before I leave for the UK. From October on I’m planning to start gigging around London if venues reopen. Also, I will be doing my final year at BIMM studying vocals. Because this time seems to be unpredictable when it comes to performing, my goal is to release one song every 1.5 months... Let’s see if that’s possible but I have some material ready or almost ready and I cannot wait to share it!
RnRR: That’s exciting news that you’re sharing with us of your new music. Can you give us any further details about this new material, pre-release?
NA: I can reveal that one of my coming songs is called Necrosis, I'm singing in English on this track and I'm showing my piano skills a bit, finally! I also incorporated some delicate electronic sounds in it. The song is quite intimate, very honest, sad but beautiful. It’s my brother’s favorite one... I hope people will enjoy it as much as he does. As soon as I will have a pre-release link/material I would love to share it with everyone here!
RnRR: What made you change to singing in English for your coming tracks? Is this to achieve a more accessible audience? Are you a lover of electronic sounds in songs yourself? Do you feel electronic adds something to music that is unachievable using any other modem?
NA: Some songs come to me in English, some come in Polish. I always try to follow my intuition. I want to create music for people and sometimes I feel that my country needs some words so I compose in Polish, sometimes I feel it might be useful to do a song for a bigger audience so I try to sing in English. When it comes to electronic music I feel that we live in the 21st century and these electronic sounds are part of our times,
so it would be a pity not to include them in my music as well! Recently, I also started recording sounds of nature (I have recordings of birds, waves, forest, even a sound of my own heartbeat). I put them into the Ableton program and I try to add filters on it, so I can create my own sounds from scratch. Also about a year ago I bought a Nord stage 3 and some vocal effects, I love using those machines because they allow me to create my own soundscape, which I can present to others and invite everyone interested to be a part of it!
RnRR: So you mention the proposed use of natural noises and that leads me to a question more in tune with your personality rather than your music. Are you more of a nature, countryside type of person or do you prefer the business of a city? Wish so you find a more helpful environment for writing your music?
NA: It's pretty funny that you're asking me this question today! It's because today's night I spent sleeping on a beach. I was watching stars with friends and then we fell asleep. I was woken up by a paraglider flying 2 meters above me... Last two weeks of my holidays I spent doing kitesurfing and windsurfing and I was living on camping in a tent or a caravan. I love this kind of life but probably only when on holidays. When it comes to regular life I need both - a city and countryside. Actually the lockdown time I spent at my parents' house in Warsaw. They live in the city but in the more green area (suburban area) in a beautiful house surrounded by a well-tended garden. This was probably the best environment for me when it comes to songwriting. I had plenty of space, lots of musical equipment and a calm atmosphere. When I needed a vibe of the city (and the city reopened...) I could cycle there or take a car and reach the Varsavian city center within 20 minutes. When it comes to my London life - that's also an interesting place to live, especially because the music scene is amazing there, parks are beautiful, many cool parties are happening (obviously not during COVID pandemic) and there are plenty of amazing art exhibitions. But even when I am living in London I need to visit parks often. I am unhappy when my life is separated from nature for too long. Nature is amazing, and it's probably one of the biggest sources of inspiration for me recently!
RnRR: If you could live anywhere in the world for free and write music, where would you choose and why?
NA: I think I would choose Italy, I would stay in a villa somewhere not too far from the city. It’s my favorite country, I love the Italian lifestyle, I think people there know how to enjoy life. I’ve been there 15 times already and each time I’m amazed by their culture, cuisine, attitude, art galleries, nature (especially mountains, I love skiing). there is all I need in Italy, and It’s not that far from my hometown - Warsaw!
RnRR: Wow, 15 times to Italy? Is it the pizza or the pasta that has a bigger pull on you returning?
NA: Yes 15 times, or even a bit more. probably pasta!
RnRR: What’s your favourite type of pasta? And while we are on the topic of food, what would your ideal three course meal consist of?
NA: Gnocchi is my favourite type of pasta! Hmm I love unique food, the best restaurants for me are the ones that create their own combination, they experiment with flavours and create their own new dishes..
It’s hard for me to answer this question... as I am recently used to student dishes or camping life, It’s hard to imagine extremely good dinner now but I can tell you what other types of food I like which include sushi, pad thai, pierogi!
RnRR: Finally, there’s the matter of our most important question. If you were going to a desert island, and you only could play one album ever again, what are you picking and why?
NA: Oh wow, that's a difficult one! I'm a big fan of Yussef Dayes recently. His music unites my body, mind and soul. It brings harmony back to my life. Whenever I feel anxious, his vibes help me finding inner peace. Also, listening to his music just simply makes some moments of my life more beautiful... so probably I would go for 'What Kinda Music' by Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes. I love this album, it's beautiful and it enhances my creativity as well. With this music on a desert island, I would feel calm and interested in finding cool sounds around me. Maybe I would come back from this desert island with instruments of my own creation or if I could bring a recorder there I would catch some interesting sounds of nature which later I would incorporate into my music.
RnRR: That’s a nice and beautiful album you have chosen and great reasoning behind said choice. We will be sure to update our social media pages when your new music comes out!
If you'd like to find out more about Nina or the latest news on her coming releases, you can find links to each of her socials below:
Edward Burnett chats to Boston born singer VIA about her first ever guitar, what it's like to live in the bustling streets of Brooklyn and the importance of identity in musical production.
RnRR: Hi VIA, would you mind introducing yourself and your genre of music to the readers who are unfamiliar with your work?
VIA: Sure! I'm a singer/songwriter and I go by VIA. I describe my music as sad folk-pop. My songs center around significant moments or feelings that I'm having trouble articulating in regular life and want to process artistically. My most recent EP covers lost friendships and loneliness, experiences with depression, and a breakup.
RnRR: So let’s focus in on the songwriting aspect in particular. When did you first realise that creating your own music was the way to articulate your feelings in their clearest form and was there anything in particular that acted as a jumpstart, prompting you to produce your own songs?
VIA: It took me some time to figure out how cathartic songwriting could be for me. I wrote a couple of songs before I learned guitar at age 12, but once I was able to combine lyrics, vocals, and guitar, that became the magic combination for me to fully express myself. I started performing and recording original songs at age 14, and released an EP called ‘Taking You Away From Pain’ when I had enough material.
RnRR: What was your first ever guitar and what made you choose to learn that instrument in particular? Did you have many musical inspirations at that young age which you wished to follow in the footsteps of?
VIA: It was a cheap, off-brand electric guitar I bought with money I made from an MRI study. I became obsessed with rock music as a preteen after going to Creation Festival in Pennsylvania, and listening to the radio on my boombox every day. I had enjoyed music as a kid, but it was seeing live music for the first time and tuning into stations like WAAF that made me want to create my own songs. I never originally planned on being a solo artist - my first dream was to write for and be in a band. Good Charlotte was one of my biggest influences because the twins who front the band had a troubled, absent father like I did, so I related to that and saw the ways they channeled their pain through music.
RnRR: What acts did you see while at Creation and to further that, who was the best act you’ve seen live? Since you’ve brought Good Charlotte up I have to ask what your favourite song of theirs is?
VIA: Two Creation acts that impacted me a lot were Switchfoot and Relient K. They were huge in the Christian music scene and also ended up having radio hits. Even though I don't identify as a Christian anymore, I appreciate the impact some of those artists had in terms of providing people to look up to that inspired me to write. Twin Atlantic was my favorite act to see live. I saw them at TT The Bear's when they came to Boston in 2011. Even though there was a low turnout because they weren't well-known in the states then (they're from Scotland), they rocked the shit out of their set and sounded incredible. There's nothing like being a few feet away from your favorite artist and singing their lyrics back to them while you look in their eyes. There are a ton of great Good Charlotte songs, but I'm partial to ‘The Motivation Proclamation’. I'm a huge vocals person, and the harmonies on that track are stunning and were pretty unique for that genre at the time. Song elements like that definitely influenced my own writing.
RnRR: So with your own writing in mind, let’s talk about your music itself. So you recently released the music video for your song, ‘Glitter’ which features calming yet powerful vocals with a soft, melodic tune. How did the idea for ‘Glitter’ come about? What’s the song mean to you?
VIA: ‘Glitter’ was one of only two songs I've written that came to me in a dreamlike state. I was falling asleep, and a melody with words popped into my head. I immediately got up and started writing it down, and the song was finished within a day or two. This is rare since it usually takes me weeks or months to finish a song. The song is about what it's like to experience depression when you're around other people. Even happy occasions can lose their luster and meaning because your internal state is so dark due to what you're going through. This song gives permission to that state of being and validates it.
RnRR: So ‘Glitter’ conceals a very realistic and darker subject at its core. Do you find that most things you write have to reflect on serious topics or do you ever find yourself writing a song for a different meaning or perhaps more for the tune itself rather than the words which accompany it?
VIA: I do tend to write serious songs. There's a huge satisfaction and relief in being able to translate the most gut-wrenching, traumatic experiences into something beautiful. But melody, harmony, chords, and arrangements are a huge part of what I love about writing music beyond lyrics. One of my goals is to start creating instrumental songs, specifically lofi hip-hop. It's a genre I listen to all the time, and a song can say and make you feel so much without any words. I want to flex that muscle a bit more and familiarize myself with sampling and synths.
RnRR: Would you want to release a full project focused around the genral theme of synthetic hip-hop or just release a few singles and see the reception. With a voice as clear, tuneful and powerful as yours surely the sky is the limit when it comes to trying out other genres. Many artists change their musical style throughout their careers. Do you feel that delving into alternating themes in music is a way of proving your talent or more a form of self discovery?
VIA: Thank you for the kind words! The motive is definitely discovery for me, but it's about discovering other artists and what I can learn from them as much as it is discovering what I can make. I could see myself releasing an EP if I had a body of work I was excited about and my production was up to par. Production is still an area I struggle with and want to get better at. I think there are areas I haven't reached yet in my artistry because I can hear something in my head but can't quite bring it to life. Lofi would be a good space totally separate from my regular music to practice and experiment with that.
RnRR: Yes, I would imagine that a switching of genres could help facilitate a change in itself which would allow you to express previously inexpressible thoughts. You mention discovering other artists as part of the process so what have you been listening to recently? Anything in particular that’s caught your ears?
VIA: I'm especially interested in artists that are pop-adjacent. Sky Ferreira has been one of my favorites in recent years, and I've been listening to a lot of Joji and Charli XCX recently. In terms of lofi hip-hop, I've been loving Middle School's EP The Finish Line. Looking back on the artists I listened to as a teenager, I'm very aware of how white and male most of them were. I'm glad I'm not as boxed in as I was then, though there's always more room to find artists with different backgrounds and influences. The only bands led by and including people of color that I listened to as a teen were Bloc Party and P.O.D., and those were good for me to observe, even though I wasn't very conscious of it at the time. Now I'm seeing a lot more women and queer folks at the forefront of the industry too. Nija Charles, Julia Michaels, Princess Nokia, and King Princess are all really inspiring to me, for their writing as well as their willingness to put their whole selves out into the world.
RnRR: Some great picks in there and you can never go wrong with Bloc Party! Are you more of a ‘Banquet’ fan or a ‘Helicopter’ fan? It’s a very good point you mention about diversity in music and how it’s important to hear everyone’s backgrounds both in and in the production of music. Do you find this as a vital extra motivation when making your own music? Is it integral for you to get your own story and background across as well as obviously producing quality music like you have to date?
VIA: I'm a ‘Banquet’ fan, but my favorite Bloc Party album is ‘Four’! I am a mixed-race, Black, queer woman writing music, and even though I haven't written explicitly about those identities in my songs, it's impossible to separate the art from the creator. White, straight men have been a big part of my musical influences and the people I've played, toured, and collaborated with, and a handful of them are good friends of mine. But I'm also intentionally seeking out artists in other demographics to gain musical knowledge, inspiration, and friendships with folks who share even more of my experiences.
RnRR: A good plan and the music produced surely would benefit from greater shared experience and knowledge gained from such meetings. Would you ever think of doing collaborations with other artists if you find talented friends? Have you considered being in/before been in a band or has it always been more focused on the solo venture?
VIA: Definitely! That's my hope for the new album, that I can collaborate more than I ever have before. Working with other people is invigorating to me. I was in a band called Breaking The Silence (later renamed Modern Prodigals) in high school with my best friend, and we had a short but good run. We only released one EP and played a handful of times, but I loved every minute of it. I find performing to be a lot more rewarding and less stressful when I'm sharing the stage with one or more musicians. Performing requires you to give a lot of energy out to the audience, and as an introvert that can be draining for me. When I'm with friends, we feed off of each other and can sustain that energy and grow it much more easily. If I never had to perform solo again, I'd be perfectly happy. And I'd love to be in a band again if the opportunity arises.
RnRR: Moving away from the music briefly now, would you mind telling the readers more about where you’re from and live? What’s it like to live in Brooklyn, New York City? Does the hustle and bustle all get a little too much or does the magic always remain?
VIA: I'm from Greater Boston, but I moved to NYC last February. This year and a half has had a ton of ups and downs and there's been a lot of changes in my personal life. Part of that is adjusting to the city life, since I grew up in the suburbs. My favorite thing about Brooklyn is how many different neighborhoods there are, each with their own cultures. NYC as a whole is a city you could spend a lifetime exploring and never get bored - you're always seeing something new and meeting different people. But yes, it can be tiring for sure. There's not much space physically or mentally because you're constantly receiving stimulation and bumping shoulders with other people. I don't plan to stay forever, but I'm grateful for the time I have here and especially the friends I've made. I'm enjoying the little things, like sitting on my fire escape and watching the sun set while Manhattan buildings twinkle on the horizon.
RnRR: So that leads us on to the final question and as I always say in Spotlight, the most important. If you were on a desert island for the rest of your days and you could only ever listen to one album ever again, what would it be and why?
VIA: Ooh, what a question! My first thought is to pick something with a decent amount of high-tempo songs to energize me since I presume there won't be much else going on there. I would also want something that makes me feel happy when I listen to it and brings back good memories. Thus, I'd pick Twin Atlantic's album ‘Free’. There's even a line in ‘Crash Land’ that talks about being "stuck here on this island," so it's the perfect choice.
RnRR: It seems that especially with ‘Crash Land’ you’ve managed to find the correct answer to the world’s most subjective question! Thanks for being on, it’s been an absolute pleasure and we will be sure to update the page whenever you have new music out!
(Photograph by Chi Altro)
If you'd like to find out more about VIA or listen to her music, you can find her socials down below:
Edward Burnett talks to Canadian rock band DellaRose about their songwriting process, the reemergence of vinyl and what they have been listening to in lockdown
RnRR: Hi DellaRose, would you like to introduce yourselves and where you are from to our readers not familiar with you.
DR: Hey Everyone! We are DellaRose, a hard rock group hailing from Toronto, Canada!
RnRR: It’s nice to meet you and to have another guest on Spotlight from Canada following acts such as 0Stella, Kaeley Jade and Hollow Core. So tell us a little more about each member and who’s on which instrument.
DR: Glad to have Rock n’ Roll Reports showing interest in the Canadian Music Scene it means a lot to all of us so thanks so much for having us Edward! So DellaRose consists of Vocalist Garrett Christian, Drummer Kris Lamb, Eric Sebastian on Bass and finally Sean Broda and myself, Kramer White on guitars. The band all met each other at various times through the Toronto Music Scene with some of us working together in previous projects. I’ve spent the last few years touring with different projects, most recently play lead guitar for the Manchester battle rap legend Shotty Horroh! But before that I’d actually played with Sean Broda in a group called Reverse Grip. The days performing with that group lead me to meet both Kris and Eric and now we’re all a collective unite continuing our musical passion!
RnRR: So Kramer, what was it like working with such a big name in Shotty Horroh? Did you gain experience and skills which you have brought into DellaRose? Was it an aspiration of yours to perform in the UK? Is performing around the world with DellaRose a key aspiration for the band’s members?
DR: It was fantastic! His raw talent and constant desire to better his craft is inspiring. Spending so much time with him definitely opened my ears to a lot of new artists i hadn’t heard of or really given the chance which just gives me more inspiration to draw from when writing for DellaRose. Sean and I had the opportunity to do plenty of touring worldwide with our previous group so that continues to be a strong desire of ours as a unit. Getting back to UK, Europe and Japan is a goal of ours which we hope to achieve in due time.
RnRR: So let’s talk present now and in particular, DellaRose. What was the thinking behind the creation of the band?
DR: When previous projects fizzled out, I was tasked with the challenge of either finding a new artist to perform with or start my own adventure musically. Once I’d written some demos with Kris, I’d pitched them to Garrett and DellaRose was formed. After some time tinkering with line up changes we finally managed to bring long time friends and amazing musicians into the fold.
RnRR: Why choose now to start and why this theme? Has this been a plan and a dream for the guys for a while now?
DR: It’s always been a dream of ours to share music with the world and hope it resonates with anyone who gives it a chance. While our “theme” is ever changing due to our collective inspirations when it comes to song writing, the question “why now?” Is simple. If not now then when? Everybody knows what procrastination is and we’ve decided it’s time to put our foot down. With so much happening in the world our goal as musicians is to write songs for people to relate to the times, poke fun at society, sing along and think critically.
RnRR: That’s an intriguing take on your role as the creator of music and one that sits well especially in the current global situation. Moving onto your music itself. One key track that you have out already is ‘King For a Day’. Tell us more about this song and the thoughts that went into creating such a bold opener.
DR: ‘King for a Day’ was actually written some time ago. Shortly after a certain character got elected president, the idea spawned that anyone could have an opportunity to be king. Ironically enough, a fellow musician just tossed his hat in the ring for the upcoming election in the US as well! Full support for Yeezy from us! During the writing of the song Garrett and myself had also been getting into astrology and star charts which kind of birthed a lot of the lyrical content in the song. Aligning with your true being and attaining a higher/evolved version of yourself worthy of holding a kings power even if just for a day.
RnRR: Moving onto your own astrological path then, what do the stars hold for you? When would you like the band’s first EP/Album to be released? What other goals do you have with the band for the rest of the year?
DR: What do the stars hold? Fortune and fame! We currently aren’t in the market for an EP or Album release. The way music is consumed these days makes album releases a waste of material in our opinion. You need to have fresh content frequently to keep fans attention. Our next single ‘Hinder Tot’ is due out in the coming weeks, and we’ll have another single following that shortly after. We’ve also got an acoustic bop called ‘Summertime Sunnies’ that plays on the quarantined summer we’re experiencing during this global plan-demic that will be available for your listening delight in the coming weeks as well! Our goal is to pump out a bunch of singles and then put them together in a collection so we can have a hard copy vinyl/CD for fans that desire that type of material!
RnRR: That’s a great plan and is a earnest way of ensuring each and every song on said CD will have had the utmost care and attention if all were singles previously. Talking of merchandise, what’s your stance on vinyl re-emerging as a popular medium for music? Do you guys think it’s overrated or do you welcome this blast from the past?
DR: As a group of guys that grew up buying cd’s amongst other great band collectables we definitely enjoy the vinyl re-emergence. While we’re definitely deep into the streaming era of music and that isn’t going anywhere it’s great to have a hard copy piece of art available for any fans that enjoy it. Album and single artwork is extremely underrated and under appreciated in some genres so being able to include some images to tie your music together is a huge bonus in our opinion!
RnRR: On a similar vein with regards to streaming, do you think it makes a big difference for new bands and musical acts to have streaming as a mainstream mode of music? Do you feel it allows you to gain more recognition and traction than you would have got twenty years ago perhaps? Does streaming positively increase accessibility for fresh music?
DR: It 100% makes music more accessible for the consumer. As an artist it’s much easier to place your product in front of viewers now. Sharing a link to a streaming service opposed to sitting on the street corner outside of venues passing out home made CDs. It also allows for more frequent releases and like we’d previously talked about being able to push singles often rather than relying on distribution of albums. That said, recognition, traction and quality fans still come along in the same manner as they have for many years. Just as quickly as someone can stream your new single they can forget about it completely and move on to the next track. I have to hear an artist a few times without seeking them out (ie; car radio, at a store, friends house, etc) before I really give them a proper chance and add them to my personal catalogue.
RnRR: So with discovery of music in mind, what have you guys recently been listening to and been impressed by? Any new artists that have caught your ears especially during this lockdown?
DR: The Glorious Sons are a fellow Canadian group that’ve caught our ears lately. They’ve been consistently dropping radio hits so they’ve been hard to miss! We’ve been fortunate enough to work with one of their engineers Kevin Dietz so it’s nice company to be in! Bring Me The Horizon’s new tracks Ludens & Parasite Eve have been on heavy rotation as well as Bedford’s Don Broco for some UK love. MGK definitely took the quarantine crown. He really took advantage of the times and pumped out a ton of great material. We can’t wait for his new pop punk influenced album to drop!
RnRR: Some good picks there in keeping with DellaRose’s own sound. Finally is the most important question I ask of all the guests on Spotlight. On the topic of other artists, if you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your days with only one album available to listen to ever again, what’s your choice and why?
DR: We’d take an acoustic guitar over a stereo on an island for sure... endless albums. Is there even electricity on a deserted island? Honestly impossible question to answer.. as a collective everyone had different picks.. from ‘Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge’ by MCR and Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ to ‘Rock n Roll all Over’ by Kiss and ‘Travelling Willburys Vol. 1’. As a group we would have to rock ‘Big Shiny Tunes 6’ but good thing we’re each washing up on our own island!
RnRR: Great plethora of choices there and thank you for being this time’s guest on Spotlight! All the best for the rest of the year and we will be sure to update the page of news regarding new music as soon as it comes out of your camp.
If you would like to find out more about DellaRose and their new releases or even watch the music video for 'King For a Day' then their socials are down below:
Edward Burnett talks to Edmonton singer Kaeley Jade about her songwriting process, her early musical memories and her love for karaoke.
RnRR: Hi! Would you mind introducing yourself and your act to our readers?
UK: Hey Ed, nice to meet you! My name is Kaeley Jade, and I’m a folk-pop singer/songwriter from Edmonton, Canada.
RnRR: So Kaeley, when did you first discover folk-pop? Who were your inspirations and what is your earliest musical memory?
UK: While my parents listened to some 60s and 70s folk growing up, I started getting really into folk and folk-pop maybe seven or eight years ago, and I found as I started getting serious about writing music and discovering my sound, it’s what I was really drawn to. While my own music is inspired a lot by what I’ll be listening to at the time, some of my all-time favourite artists are The Lumineers, Vance Joy and Mt. Joy. My family has always been really into karaoke (which is something we still do in the evening at our holiday gatherings). We used to have one of those handheld machines you could plug into the TV, and I remember singing Celine Dion and Avril Lavigne on it as a really little kid.
RnRR: Some great tunes there from your family. If you had to take part in karaoke right now, what would you sing?
UK: My go-to songs are for sure Under Pressure by Queen and Grace Kelly by MIKA, especially if I’m singing with someone else!
RnRR: Good choices! So moving to your own music, what song of yours would you recommend to new listeners which really sums up Kaeley Jade?
UK: I feel like ‘Bittersweet’ really balances on the line between folk and pop, and it’s honestly my favourite track on the album. I wrote it during a transitional period of my life, so it’s very special to me.
RnRR: So focusing on ‘Bittersweet’, do you feel that if you, the artist, has a greater personal impact on the song’s meaning, the song benefits?
UK: I think it definitely depends on the project, and I can only really speak to my own personal process. For me, the music I write is almost always inspired by my own relationships and experiences, and do I feel that some of my best work has stemmed from the most impactful moments in my life. Songwriting is very therapeutic for me, and good lyrics are just a positive byproduct of processing an emotionally challenging experience. Usually, the deeper my feelings run, the stronger my lyrics are.
RnRR: Great reasoning there, so with that in mind, where do you want to go from here? What are your plans for the future? How has the pandemic affected your plans?
UK: I’m actually hoping to get back in the studio in the fall! I’d originally hoped to tour my first album this year, but with the pandemic that’s no longer a possibility, so I’ve been trying to write a lot and learn a lot in the meantime! I’d love to start playing festivals when the time is right, too, but for now, I’m going to focus on building my career in other ways. Alongside my music career, I also work as a film and theatre actor, so I’ve been trying to grow my craft in those areas as well. The pandemic has really launched performing artists into uncharted territory, so while my immediate plans for the future have been derailed, I’m slowly learning how to move forward in our new reality!
RnRR: Crazy times we live in now, indeed. So staying on the same topic of the future, where would you like your act to be in say 3 years time? Would you like to be performing gigs across the world or have several studio albums released? What level would you aim to be at which you’d consider to be successful, personally?
UK: I mean, if in three years I could be touring the world and playing for thousands of fans, of course that’d be pretty sweet! Realistically, I’d like to release my first LP by then, and I’d love to start opening for some bigger artists, and maybe even set up my own North American tour. I find success such a tricky subject to nail down, especially being part of a society in which it is often defined by fame and fortune. On one hand, if I am able to live comfortably off of my artistic endeavours without having to work a joe job, that would be a pretty great feat. On the other hand, I’d love nothing more than to be at the level of artists that sell out Madison Square Garden, or are headlining major festivals. But at the end of the day, if creating art is my full-time job, I’ll consider myself extremely lucky. In the meantime, I’m going to keep focusing on my craft and pushing myself to see just how far I can go.
RnRR: To be grateful for what you have and to be able to enjoy performing as well is a great attitude to have with regards to your future. Finally, there is the most important question of all which we ask all our guests. If you were moving to a desert island and could only bring one album to listen to for the rest of your days, what would you pick and why?
UK: Oh man, that’s a tough question! If I had to choose one, I’d probably say Imagine Dragons’ Night Visions. That album has gotten me through some tough times!
RnRR: Imagine Dragons are always a safe bet! We will be sure to update the page whenever news from your camp drops!
If you'd like to stay up to date with news and releases from Kaeley, you can find links to all her socials below:
Edward Burnett chats to Bex and the Disappointment about their first connections with music, their favourite albums and what there post-coronavirus plans entail.
RnRR: Hey Bex and the Disappointment! Would you mind introducing the band and telling our readers a little more about your music?
BATD: Bex and The Disappointment is an indie rock band from Toronto featuring Rebecca (Bex) Grainger's powerful and emotional vocals. With influences ranging from Stevie Nicks to the Foo Fighters to The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with hints of 80s glam rock and early 90' grunge. Rohnny Kosan brings his chewy riffs on the guitar, mixed with a dash of heavy bass groves from Pam Sloan. This is all spread on top of succulent beats from Christopher Moleirinho’s drums. We serve up a rock entree ready to satiate the most emaciated ears.
RnRR: How did you all get into music? What were your inspirations from a young age?
BATD: [Rebecca]: I’ve been singing since I I was a kid, entering contest in my hometown of North Bay whenever possible. My dad and I bonded over music, so I was influenced by the voices of Annie Lenox, Sade, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie. In my 10 years living in Toronto, I've sang and written with several groups of musicians but didn't find "the ones" until Ron, Chris, and Pam showed up. [Ron]: I was always playing “Air Piano” to the radio when I was a little kid. My mom thought maybe I wanted to actually play so the next thing I knew I was at the Conservatory (The Canadian Conservatory of Music in Windsor, ON) learning Beethoven. My focus turned to the guitar later. Inspirations were the guitarists that were never considered guitar heroes. Guys like Andy Summers, Robert Smith, Prince, Johnny Marr and James Mankey. Guitarists that didn’t just take huge, shredding solos. [Chris]: I grew up in a musical house, my dad played in bands and that’s how I got into playing. Early influences were mostly classic rock and 90s rock. [Pam]: I’ve been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember. I started in dance at a young age as I’ve always been driven to express what I was hearing and feeling physically and transitioned towards making my own music in my 20s. I bought a guitar and taught myself to play and after a couple years, eventually started playing with other people at which point I transitioned to bass. I grew up in a family with some wide age gaps which gave me a diverse tastes and musical background in different eras, genres, and styles outside of the music that was being played on the radio. As a result, my influences tend to vary greatly. My father gave me classics like the Rat Pack, my mother gave me Led Zeppelin and Pat Benatar. My teenaged siblings gave me 80s rock and pop music, dance gave me a classical ear and on my own I found Nine Inch Nails (which changed my life), electronic music and rap/hip hop. Also following strong, outspoken, feminist, fearless female artists like Salt n’ Pepper and Kathleen Hanna truly shaped my musical attitude.
RnRR: For new listeners, how would you recommend experiencing your best? Any tracks that are coming that sum up the band’s vision well?
BATD: Live. That’s the best way to experience Bex and the Disappointment. We are about to release our first EP, and all 4 songs are special. For now we have our Single Fade available for free download on our website (bexandthedisappointment.com).
RnRR: What are your plans for the future? After the pandemic has passed, are you hoping to organise gigs and realise more new music?
BATD: With the current global pandemic, we look forward to the release of our EP on all streaming platforms in the very near future. Then as soon as its safe we want to play all the shows we can! Shows in and around Toronto, hopefully some touring as well.
RnRR: Now for the hardest question: if you could only take one album to a desert island for the rest of your days, what has to get picked and why?
BATD: [Rebecca]: "Pink Moon" by Nick Drake. Because it calms me. Also, you can chill, cry and sleep to it. [Ron]: "Disintegration" by The Cure because Robert F***ing Smith. Also, The Cure were my first concert ever. [Chris]: "White Pony" by Deftones. [Pam]: As much as I’d love to say Downward Spiral by NIN, it would have to be "Are We Not Horses" by Rock Plaza Central. The album as a whole is a journey and a story that’s almost like watching a movie through songs. The feelings evoked are strong and real but range from heavy and existential - to light, cute and carefree in an almost seamless, yet cohesive album. The songs can be enjoyed on their own for different moods but as a whole, it’s quite the trip that has already entertained me and kept me interested for over a decade.
RnRR: Some great choices there and it’s been a pleasure having you on Spotlight. Finally, where would you like to be in your career in around three years time?
BATD: We are happiest making and performing music together, and we try our best to never take our artistic connection for granted. We hope to have a couple full length albums in the next few years and to play more cities, countries and venues while growing our fan base. We will also continue to be grateful to make and play music together for as long as possible.
If you'd like to find out more about Bex and the Disappointment or find out their latest news on upcoming releases and gigs, the links to their socials are below:
Edward Burnett talks to Leeds band Ten Hands High about their time at university together, their plans for after coronavirus and what album they'd take to a desert island.
RnRR: Hi guys! First and foremost, would you like to introduce yourselves and the band to our readers?
THH: We're Ten Hands High from Leeds, based in London now. We're made up of Finn, Joe, Tom and Alexi. We have been releasing music for over a year now and would probably describe our sound as an eclectic mix of indie rock, anthemic pop and uni nostalgia.
RnRR: Nice to meet you guys! So how did you all come to know each other?
THH: Well we all met at Leeds University, apart from Finn who is still in primary school. We messed around with a couple of different lineups until we settled on the current formation of the band and went from there.
RnRR: Was there a busy music scene in Leeds at the time? Was the university a good catalyst for the band? The facilities surely gave you a place to realise you wanted to have a serious go at the music industry?
THH: The university was actually great as early on we'd use the practise rooms in the music department for free because two of the boys were part of the society. Then in 2019 when we really started going for it, we used Pirate Studios in Kirkstall which was perfect! Well, apart from having to lug our gear around but we're all jacked now so it's fine. The Leeds music scene is actually so great for new bands, shoutout to the Lending Room and Verve Bar for hosting us unsigned folks.
RnRR: So when did you guys first realise you had a passion for music and aspirations of one day being in a band? Was this a main goal since childhood or did the aim start when at university?
THH: I think we all had the aspiration quite early on in our lives. We've all been playing music for a long time and its always better when you're playing with other people so it was always on our radar, we just needed to find the right lineup.
RnRR: Ah perfect, so like you say, music aspirations had been quite an early feature. So with this, was there many musical inspirations at a young age for each of you? Any bands or acts that really encouraged you to follow the same path?
THH: I think in terms of the progression of recent bands that we admire, we're big fans of the way that The 1975 have consistently evolved through their career. Finn and Tom are massive fans of The Beatles obviously as well which definitely influences our creation of music- ensuring there's a really strong song with solid melodies at the heart of every track we produce.
RnRR: That’s a good background to help explain how your songs come about being constructed. So moving onto the very songs themselves, for new listeners of Ten Hands High, which of your songs would you recommend? One which gives a good representation of what the band is about?
THH: I think our newest track “Red Wine” will definitely give your readers an idea of what this phase of Ten Hands High will sound like (post-covid). We feel like as a band we've definitely matured since our first year together and with that, our sound has too. Production wise you can hopefully tell the difference between this song and the 6 tracks we released in phase 1 (shoutout to producer Bob Cooper for that). In terms of a song from phase 1 that encapsulates our band I'd personally always point to “A Jet's Pink Trail”, our first release. While we'll admit the production isn't brilliant due to money constraints, I think as a song it shows what we're about. It is indie rock with a groove to it, nice summery melodies and it isn’t afraid to be openly wet and hopelessly romantic at times.
RnRR: Both songs are great tunes and good examples of what the band is capable of creatively. Have you been working on any more songs for after the pandemic has passed?
THH: Yeah we've got so many songs ready to be released and we've been writing loads during the lockdown too but those songs probably won't see the light of day until next year. Unfortunately our recording session in April got cancelled because of the situation so that's been reschuduled to June when we'll record our next single that will should come out by early July. It's a real summery tune so hopefully we can get it out there when the English sun is still out!
RnRR: So once normality resumes later this year, what are the band’s plans? Any gigs being planned to run aside the release of these singles you mention? Any ideas behind a full EP or album release?
THH: So our mini tour of 6 shows this Spring was cancelled because of Covid so we're trying to rearrange that to the autumn. We've managed to find alternative dates for 3 shows so far (London Sept 18th, Leeds Oct 10th, Sheff Oct 17th) and will hopefully get the others sorted asap because playing live is by far our favourite part of being in the band. Also, our new single “Red Wine” has brought us loads of new fans who we'd love to play live to. In terms of a full EP or album, we'd absolutely love to make one but right now we don't really have the funds. For now we're sticking to releasing top quality singles, but maybe next year will bring opportunities for larger projects.
RnRR: Hopefully you’ll be able to achieve those aims in the future and pursue such larger projects. Talking of which, where do you see the band being in a couple of years’ time? Where would you guys like to be in your musical careers with Ten Hands High?
THH: We've always said that we'd love to be able to tour around the country and Europe and make a living out of making music. I definitely see that on the horizon in the next couple years and who knows what else could come along.
RnRR: It is always good to keep your horizons widened. So finally, the most important question we ask every guest on Spotlight. If you were stranded on a desert island with only one album to play, what would your choice be and why?
THH: Christ, that's like choosing between my 10 children. I've definitely got a fair few albums that would be in contention but I would probably choose something from hiphop so that there were less melodies to get sick of. I'd probabaly choose “Madvillainy” by Madvillain because by the time i'd deconstructed all the wordplay, the rescue boats would have arrived.
RnRR: Great choice and reasoning. We will be sure to update the page with any news from your camp over the coming year, all the best!
If you would like to find out more about Ten Hands High and keep up to date with their latest news and releases, their socials are down below:
Edward Burnett chats to Hamilton rock and roll band, Hollow Core about their inspirations, symbolism and Kidz Bop!
RnRR: Hi Hollow Core, would you mind introducing the band’s members and what genre the band covers?
HC: Hollow Core is a 5 piece consisting of Austin Kennah , Collin Sheehan, Andrew Sabev, Brad Moulaison and Dan Scime. We are a metal band who tends not to stick to one subgenre, we just write things that sound epic!
RnRR: Nice to meet you guys! How did you get into music then? Was it always an aspiration from a young age?
HC: We all have very different stories and histories with music but it's clear that each of us still has an almost childish passion. You can kind of see the excitement of our younger selves when we are writing or playing.
RnRR: So continuing in that vein, what were your musical inspirations? What bands and artists did you listen to which truly inspired you to go out there and do it yourself?
HC: As a band we grab from all over the place but I find the similarities really cool. We have these inspirations from when we were growing up, bands like Tool, Protest The Hero and Alexisonfire. But then there's this kind of classic appreciation where we pay homage to bands like Sabbath, Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. With 5 members its definitely hard to reach an absolute consensus but it seems, even just from those examples, that we have been inspired by the hardcore movement of our childhoods as well as the band's that helped shaped music as we know it today.
RnRR: That’s great to know that you had inspirations such as Pink Floyd. Also, it’s useful that you are able to come to a consensus with five members, so that no one is left feeling “Comfortably Numb”. So tell us a little more about where you’re from?
HC: That's amazing haha! We are all from Hamilton Ontario, it was at one point the steel city of Canada, but now I think everyone is more focused on the arts and culture. Its having this like boom in musicians and it makes for some real fun hometown shows.
RnRR: Ah sounds like a real breeding place for musicians! So for new listeners, what song would you recommend to give a good representation of the band?
HC: We have a couple self recorded singles on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. A good first listen would be a track called "Pure Life".
RnRR: Tell us a little more about “Pure Life” then? What’s the story behind the lyrics? When did you write the song?
HC: It's a fairly new song, wrote it only a couple months ago. Pure Life was originally just the working title. Dan, Collin and Brad looked down at a water bottle and said "let's call it Pure Life". I (Austin) ended up using that working title as the basis for the lyrics. It's pretty much a song about trying to create a pure way of living without the tainted religions of the world. There's a lot of symbolism I'm proud of such as "Baptize me in Fire, Kill my desires." But during the breakdown of the song I chant "We're all disposable you'll see" which some people would say is very thought provoking. But your readers will know is inspired by a water bottle!
RnRR: Very revealing! Especially about the water bottle. So would you say that you often aim for your songs to contain symbolism or political issues such as religion. If so, how important do you believe such topics to be when songwriting?
HC: I think we do like to have some sort of message in all of our songs. However we like to cover the symbolism in fantasy so the escapism of art is still there. It's a bummer to constantly be hearing about politics, but if it's the politics of like demons and elves it's less of a buzzkill, even if that story mirrors our own world. I don't think it's necessarily important to songwriting though, music moves people in different ways for different reasons. Sometimes the only meaning a song needs is let's all have a good time.
RnRR: That’s a very good attitude to have. So let’s talk about the close future. What do you have in store for us in the coming months? Gigs? Songs? What’s happening on the Hollow Core front?
HC: We are currently finishing a short tour and we are working hard on our first official EP in studio! We have 5 songs that are for sure going to be on it. Any others could be an option for singles in the future!
RnRR: Exciting times ahead! So finally, the most important question of all. You’re going to a desert island for the rest of your days and you’re only allowed to take one album to listen to, what are you picking and why?
HC: Knowing us, probably something like Kidz Bop Greatest Hits. To torture each other on the island and then slowly develop an ironic love for it. Then the irony is gone and we genuinely love it.
RnRR: Haha! Great choice, well thanks guys it’s been a pleasure and all the best for the future! We will be sure to update the page with any news from your side of things.
If you would like to listen to some of Hollow Core's music, you can check them out at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCedA6JVgT9fi4gvSFiUpjew
Edward Burnett chats to indie-rock band NERiMA, based in Canada, in February's edition of about their upcoming single, spare time and how each member became intwined with a musical career.
RnRR: Hi guys, first of all, would you like to introduce the band to our readers and what genre of music you play?
NERiMA: Hi, we’re a band called NERiMA made up of our singer and rhythm guitarist Alexi Orial, our lead guitarist Matt Bondoc, our drummer Alex Nicole and our bassist Connor Sheahan. Our genre is a mix of modern rock, punk, and alternative-indie.
RnRR: Great to meet you! So tell us where you’re from and what’s special about living there?
NERiMA: It’s great to meet you too! Our band typically considers the GTA, or the General Toronto Area to be our homebase. We really do love it here because Toronto has got that classic downtown citylife feel, and they’ve got all the venues, institutions, music stores, and everything there where we can really feel like a part of the music scene. But then, of course, at the end of the day, we can all come back to our little suburban towns we consider our hometowns (Oshawa, Ajax, and Whitby) with their own charm of even more local, intimate shows and our closest friends/family.
RnRR: It’s good to have a balance between the two. So, talking about the band itself, what encouraged you to form a band? Any musical inspirations while growing up which you would argue have shaped your career?
NERiMA: We think so, too! About our origins, Alexi invited her cousin Alex to form the band with her after a life-long desire for one. Our dream was inspired by our childhood spent singing, exploring instruments, and playing Rock Band with cousins, but also by seeing our favourite bands do what they love and not being able to see ourselves happy doing anything else. The main bands we’d like to thank for this are Paramore and Twenty One Pilots.
RnRR: What were the other members’ inspirations and origins when starting the band?
NERiMA: Well, Alexi had been playing guitar since age twelve and singing/songwriting since long before, so the wait for her lasted forever. Alex learned drums for the band, quickly growing to love how easily she could express herself with them. It took us a while to find two others genuine enough to help follow our dream, but we found Connor and Matt and believed in these dedicated musicians and awesome friends to take the journey with us. Matt had a long history playing guitar, piano, and more, but Connor had just started bass, originally being taught by us. Their inspirations were bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day.
RnRR: That’s a great origin story! Also great bands to have as inspirations to what is becoming a blossoming music career. So let’s talk songs. What song of yours would you recommend to new listeners and crucially, why?
NERiMA: We’ve actually got our lead single set for release on the 29th that we‘d say is our best recommendation — it’s called All Afraid to Fall, and we’re really excited for people to hear it.
RnRR: How would you describe your songs as usually being to people considering giving your tunes a play?
NERiMA: Our songs are usually a mix of upbeat sounds with mellow lyrics or vice versa, but this song, we really just wanted to have fun with. We always like to explore different genres, themes, and even feelings in our music, but for the very beginning of people’s journeys with our sound, we think one of the most important things for listeners to know is that they’re here for a good time. Sure, our discography delves into heavy topics/sounds that are hard to just have fun with, but at the end of the day, we want to leave people dancing, thinking, and overall happy they gave our band a chance, and All Afraid to Fall does just that.
RnRR: That sounds like a very developed and well thought out song and we are definitely looking forward to hearing it. Aside from the music, what else does the band get up to in spare time?
NERiMA: We’re so grateful, and we’re excited for you guys to hear it, too! But yes, when we aren’t rehearsing or writing new material, we really just like to hang out — sometimes at home, having sleepovers, debates about drug use in western culture or the classification of “food”. Or if it’s nice out, we’ll usually take our convertible for a drive (or get in the back since only Matt drives), maybe have a night out on the town with just the four of us. We like going to the mall or guitar shops or nearby record stores and overall just chilling, being ridiculous in our breaks from being serious. Music connects us of course, but our friendship goes far past it. We just genuinely love hanging out with each other, making each other laugh or yell or snort water out of our noses, and, practicing or not, we’re always down for a good time.
RnRR: That’s great to know that there’s more than just the music to it for the band. When there is more, that usually benefits the music anyway. So next, where do you see yourselves in five years? Where would you like to be?
NERiMA: I think at this point in our lives, five years seems so far away, and it’s hard to look at sometimes. But with the band, that fear/anxiety tends to fade into an exciting uncertainty over everything else. In five years, we see ourselves so much further with NERiMA. We’d definitely like to have a couple more albums and a lot more shows under our belt — a tour, if our biggest dream isn’t too crazy. What’s most important to us though is interacting a lot more with the audience we’re doing this with, since even though we’re just getting started and don’t have a lot of content to offer right now, they’re the ones who have been supportive and awesome enough for us to look that optimistically at our world in five years.
RnRR: It’s very refreshing to hear that among all the big aspirations, the fans still come first. So finally, what have you got planned for the rest of 2020? New music alongside “All Afraid to Fall”? Upcoming gigs?
NERiMA: Definitely, they always come first! As for 2020, we’ve got a lot planned and a lot more we’re hoping for. We’re planning a couple more singles after All Afraid to Fall off our debut album that we hope to release this year as well! It’ll be our very first appearance in the music scene, and we’re so excited to see what’ll come along with it — hopefully writing for another album, opening for some of the awesome bands we’ve met lately, headlining shows of our own, or maybe even playing a local festival. Of course we don’t know all of what’s to come, but we definitely hope that live music is a huge part of it, because that’s got to be the best thing about this band.
RnRR: That sounds like a fun and unpredictable coming year for the band and we’re very excited to see what comes next. We’ll be sure to update our page with any news from NERiMA’s camp.
If you'd like to find out more about NERiMA and their future releases, check them out on Instagram: @nerimaofficial or via their website at nerimaband.weebly.com