Hastings based indie-rock band TxtTalk chat to Edward Burnett about their origins, their plans for post-social distancing and their brand new rockin’ single: ‘Hollywood’!
RNRR: Hi TxtTalk! Would you mind introducing yourselves, where your from and your style of music for the RNRR readership that are unfamiliar with you?
TT: Hi Rock N Roll Reports, we are TxtTalk, an Alt/Indie/Pop band from Hastings, UK. We’ve just released our debut EP ‘Text Message Love Letters’ which hit 25k streams in one month on Spotify and it also gained us the spot of BBC Introducing’s featured artist of the week! On top of that our new single ‘Hollywood’ is out now! We have Marcus Swadling on vocals/guitar, Ed Stubbs on drums, Theo Prior on bass and Mark Yexley on the trumpet. Everything is completely self produced from recording to mastering between our home studios and the University of Brighton recording studios.
RNRR: Okay great, nice to meet you all. So let’s go back in time now and ask when and how did you all meet? Did you know instantly you’d be in a band together or were there friendships running long before that moment arose?
TT: We actually started the band in 2019 when our previous singer Callum Dalton (who you can hear on our debut EP) was in another band, a live drum and bass outfit, doing the festival circuit at the time. We had just got back from playing Glastonbury Festival and we had been writing some songs together with Marcus (our current singer). Marcus was playing bass at the time in the band, we jammed around in the studio for a while finding our sound and messing about with some riffs and ideas before we started to self record our debut EP. We knew we wanted to do somthing alternative-indie and we were listening to a lot of Australian indie bands at the time and were drawing a lot of influencers there from bands like Sticky Fingers, Ocean Alley, Lime Cordiale, the DMAs.
RNRR: So you’ve mentioned a few immediate inspirations that lead to the creation of your music but who were each member’s inspirations growing up? When did each of you realise you wanted to have a musical career as opposed to any other professional ambition you had?
TT: We all grew on a diverse mixture of musical influences which has probably made are sound the way it is now. Marcus grew up listening to bands like Foo Fighters, Oasis, Kaiser Chiefs, Blur and more aswell as listening to a lot of 60 and 70s psyche rock bands from his dad’s huge vinyl collection. Ed was quite into some heavier bands like Muse, Guns and Roses and Metallica aswell as having had a big influence from the electronic scene with bands like The Prodigy as well as drum and bass artists like Pendulum and Shy Fx. Mark listened to a lot of Miles Davis, James Brown, David Bowie, Fat Freddy’s Drop and more recently, John Grant. And out bass player Theo’s were Miles Davis, Chopin, John Mayer, Norah Jones.
RNRR: Live performances are always a key part of music despite them decreasing in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic raging on. My question to each of you is what was each of your first gigs you went to and which gig left the most lasting impression on you?
TT: [Marcus]: The first proper gig I went to was Angels and Airwaves at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London. It was the first time I'd seen a band from the States with a huge following. This was around the time I started playing in my first band and it definitely gave me a lot of inspiration to start gigging back then. Seeing Green Day at the Emirates Stadium, supported by the Kaiser Chiefs was brilliant too though. Seeing a band of that status play for 3 hours and being in a stadium packed with over 70 thousand people chanting along, having a great time, felt unreal. The way the singer Billie Joe Armstrong interacted with a crowd that size and still managed to get them involved with the songs was really inspiring. [Ed]: When I first started going to gigs it was probably when I was turning 18 in Brighton. I was going to mates’ shows and local indie nights at different bars around the city. We were all young and probably underage so it was drinking a few beers on the street and using fake ids to get in [laughs] but obviously since then have seen some amazing bands. One of the biggest atmospheres I have experienced would be at Rage Against the Machine at Download Festival. The way frontman Zak de la Rocha worked the crowd was unreal and the energy was crazy. They had been broken up for years and it was their come back year so people were going mad, I think people were getting crushed at the front an they actually had to stop the gig, so yeah pretty intense stuff.
RNRR: Some amazing gigs and bands you’ve just name dropped there guys! So while staying on the topic of live performances, what plans do you have gig-wise after the pandemic eases? Is there any venue or festival you realistically want to play before the end of the year?
TT: We hope to be gigging again by the summer if all goes to plan! Nothing is concrete yet because of the current situation but we're hoping to get back into the swing of things by playing some local shows and festivals in our hometown Hastings as well as promoting a couple of the new singles we're planning to drop around that time. We also have a few dates in London pencilled in but as I said nothing is in concrete yet due to the pandemic.
RNRR: So guys, you recently released your great new single ‘Hollywood’. With such a catchy tune and interesting lyrics, the song is already a hit in my books. Talk us through the process of coming up with the theme of the song.
TT: You always hear people talking about the Hollywood dream and how great it would be to be in the shoes of those living it but you don't always hear their side of the story. The pressures, the lack of control over your own life or the image they construct of you to sell the brand. There was a few different news stories going on at the time and it just got me thinking about the realities of that lifestyle and the corruption Then the lyric 'Cause this is Hollywood, and I bet you never felt this good' just popped into my head and we went from there. We are proud to say the track ended up as a highlight on BBC Introducing, gaining the status of track of the day on BBC Music which was a real highlight for us.
RNRR: Congratulations are in order as BBC Introducing is no mean feat for sure! The ‘Hollywood’ single artwork is also truly immense, how did you settle on going for such a grand piece of design for the single’s cover?
TT: The artwork was created by our good friend Zak Comyns who is a very creative and talented illustrator. The artwork he created captures the lyrics and vision of the song perfectly and we love working with him. There's a lot of references in the artwork, from the Church of Scientology to Marilyn Monroe, it's really cool to take a closer look at.
RNRR: So moving away from the music side of things, what are your biggest other hobbies and interests as individuals?
TT: Marcus has always had an interest in video and photography. [Marcus]: When I was younger my school ran a video editing class which I did for a while. I started using programs like Photoshop when I was around 10 and I would just mess around creating digital art and converting old black and white photos into colour, things like that. This knowledge is pretty useful these days as we don't really have to rely on anyone outside of the band for creating things like Facebook/Spotify banners and promotional materials. On the video side of things, we've been filming and editing behind the scenes mini documentary's whilst in the studio, showing how we record and write songs which is just a really cool way to let our fans see how everything comes together. At the start of the lockdown, we decided that since we can't go out and play for people that we would start our Lockdown Live cover series and upload the videos online. We've done around 6 of them so far, covering some of our favourite bands and we've tried to be quite creative with the video side of things.
RNRR: So carrying on the topic of other hobbies, did you guys learn any new talents or gain any other interests while the United Kingdom was in its various lockdowns? Of course we are still in one so what do you each do to pass the time other than music related activities?
TT: Lockdown came as abit of a blessing in disguise. We have had so much time to finish tracks, edit parts down and really perfect what we have. We actually released our debut EP in the first lockdown! Our second EP ‘Hollywood’ is nearly finished and we have already made steps into our third EP! So it has really given us time to get our heads into it. We are so buzzing to get out of lockdown though and start gigging. Words can’t express how hungry we are for this! Besides from music we have been taking to the South Downs for long walks. It’s so important to get out and exercise during times like these to keep your head on and keep sharp. It also helps with inspiration to get out and take a break, getting the amazing views that the area we live in has to offer. We are very lucky in that respect to live here in Sussex.
RNRR: So looking towards the future, where would you like the band by the end of this year? What would you gage as a successful year?
TT: At this point, playing even a handful of shows this year will feel like a success! With the easing of restrictions starting to take place, it's looking like we can start rehearsing and gigging full time again within the next few months and we honestly can't wait! Our main aims this year are to play as many shows as we can and to promote the new EP 'Hollywood' that we're releasing next month. Then our focus will turn to our single release we've had planned for this summer. hopefully picking up some festival slots along the way. We actually have a lot of new material in the works at the moment so we should have something ready for the end of the year too! With all things considered, if everything goes to plan it will be a really productive and successful year for us.
RNRR: A lot of plans and we’re all hoping that the stars align for you so that you can make 2021 a successful year for sure. Finally, I have to ask you our signature Spotlight question. We always pose the problem of being stranded on a desert island to our guests with the option of only choosing one album to listen to for the rest of their lives. TxtTalk, what are you picking and more crucially, why?
TT: That is such a hard question for us as we all have such a varied music taste but as a band, we definitely share certain inspirations. I guess we'd have to go for the first Arctic Monkeys album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not’. It’s still one of their best if not best albums as the lyrics are truthful, the riffs are loud and it's hard to get bored of. We all loved that album at the time and it’s an artist we are proud to say our sound is often compared to.
RNRR: That’s one of my all time favourite albums as the Monkeys are my personal favourite band so I’ve got to give you extra points for that one! Thanks for being such great and insightful guests and best of look with the release of your second EP, ‘Hollywood’!
If you'd like to find out more about TxtTalk and keep up to date with their latest EP releases then the links to all their social medias are below via the icons:
Edward Burnett chats to Chicago based band Tough Ombres about their origins, how their Christmas went and their shows during the pandemic which have been held with social distancing over in the United States!
RNRR: Hi Tough Ombres! How are you guys doing? Would you mind introducing what you do and where you are from to our readers who may be unfamiliar with your work?
TO: Hi! We have been called “The New Alternative“ with a full spectrum of sound. Our back grounds are diverse in R&B, thrash-metal, blues and hard-rock. Lead singer, bass and drummer (Jeff, Nikki, Dave) are from Chicago. Guitarist (Tony) is from New York. We started this band to have no walls around our music. We pride ourself in giving our audience a high octane show with diverse music that leaves everyone entertained and musically pleased. We will be releasing 7 EP’s throughout early 2021. We are currently in studio wrapping up production on our new songs. Thanks for having us on!
RNRR: Nice to meet you! So how did all of you meet? Is there some crazy, cross-state origin story with Tony being from New York or was it the simple case of you were all close friends?
TO: In our opinion, it’s a cool story. Lead singer Jeff and myself Nikki went to high school together. Jeff was in R&B bands and Chicago House Music bands. I was in the rock/metal scene. Jeff would sing at house parties and I always thought he had a killer voice. Moving a couple years later, Tony and I are playing in a thrash-metal band. Tony was living in Chicago for only a year or two and he took the call to be a drummer not a guitarist for thrash band. Tony played the drums and then after playing drums he went to guitar just for fun. The minute he started playing guitar, both myself and our rhythm guitarist could not believe what we were hearing. Tony was unbelievable as a guitarist, he was fired as our dummer and became our lead guitarist that same day. Two years with the changes of constant lead singers and drummers killed the spirit of the band. Tony and myself quit the band to start families and careers. Fast forward 10 years later I run into Jeff at a local establishment. We start talking about high school days and that we both were playing in bands after and missed the natural energy of playing a show in front of fans and making music. I tell him that I would be starting a band soon and would let him tryout. Forward a year later I take an advert from a drummer looking to start up a band. This is where I met Dave (Drummer). He was such a powerful drummer at our first rehearsal so I was not going to lose him. So, I called Tony (Guitarist) up and said that I found a drummer and drove 50 miles to pick up Tony to bring him to practice. It was fantastic! Tony, Dave and myself came from all the same musical backgrounds. I then called Jeff (Singer) and gave him 3 cover songs to play. He came in and nailed it! We were so impressed that he had a fantastic voice. I called him the next day to join the band. And the rest is history.
RNRR: Sounds like a great story to me! So let’s take it forward to the present. What are you guys doing now, have you restarted live shows yet after the pandemic? In addition to that question, how has the pandemic affected you as a band? What difficulties arises because of this worldwide Covid situation?
TO: We are finishing up 7 EP’s to be released in early 2021. It has been difficult with the pandemic but we are marching on. We have been playing shows. Any way we can help out local venues and establishments, we have. A lot of shows have had late cancellations and rescheduling but the shows that we have played have been great! Even with social distancing, the energy from our fans at shows has been spectacular. When playing during the pandemic whether at a venue or local establishment it is sometimes surreal knowing that this may be the last show that they have for a while. So every show we are trying to outdo the last. The band has definitely gotten closer thanks to the pandemic. We decided early that we were going to continue playing shows and continue writing. It was scary at the beginning because we were looked at as being crazy, but it was the right decision for the band. It has definitely opened up doors for us.
RNRR: I’d also like to enquire about the band’s inspiration. What previous musical acts were each member’s heroes? Were there certain musical figures which inspired each of you to try and go professional in the music world? Are there famous bands that your own style has been influenced by?
TO: Jeff’s inspirations would be Same Cooke or Donny Hathaway whereas Boys 2 Men, Color Me Badd and Silk pushed him to the R&B direction.
Tony’s inspirations would have to be Jimmy Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. Kiss, Metallica and Van Halen all pushed him towards the direction of playing. Dave inspirations are Stewart Copland and Vinnie Paul with Pantera and The Police has inspired his playing. My (Nikki) own inspirations are Rex Brown, Michael Anthony and Steve Harris. Kiss, Iron Maiden, Van Halen and Slipknot made me want to go professional.
RNRR: So now we are in January, how was the band’s Christmas? Could you celebrate it together or was it more of a family affair for each of you? Does Christmas mean a lot to each of you in particular?
TO: Christmas was fantastic. As a band we always have our Christmas Band Party a week before and it takes us a week to recover (laughs)! That is always one of our funnest times of the year. We will have a practice with our closest friends. They call out songs that they would like to hear (original or cover) and we will play it for them. After, we will go to the local establishment and just have a blast. Christmas does mean a lot for us because 3 out of the 4 members have families with children. So we try to show our families even in a band you are always humble and thankful for what you have. That it is not about getting but giving to others. Especially this year, just a phone call to a grandparent or a call to a family member that you can not see makes all the difference.
RNRR: A beautiful message there for sure. Now that 2021 has arrived, what do the band have in store for the year? Where would you guys like to be in regards to career progression come next December?
TO: 2021 has arrived and we are excited. We will be releasing those 7 singles this year. The first 3 to be released this month (February). We will be filming our first video in March. Then we will be hitting the road in late March in the Midwest and Southeast (show dates TBA). Then we will be back into the studio November to start recording for 2022. We would like to have our original music getting attention globally. With fans being able to enjoy our live music again in venues all over. We are looking forward to a savage year!
RNRR: Are you aiming for all 7 singles to be of the same genre or are you wanting to experiment on a couple too? Have you got any collaborations lined up to feature alongside the guys in any of the upcoming singles?
TO: We do have a mixture of genre for the 7 singles to come out. Songs will go from R&B, blues, rock, heavy-metal and a little pop-country. That is one of the funnest things about creating music, you play what feels and sound right for the song. As we are in the process of releasing new music we are always writing. There has been talks with a DJ in the Chicagoland area to collaborate with. Coming from Chicago, house music and hip-house music was huge and had an undeniable influence on us. We have a song that we are creating that will need a DJ’s touch. It will be wild, infusing two different genres to create a sound that we grew up with. We also love to play out live with a brass section (when they are available). There are talks of a show this spring where we will do a 6 song Motown cover set before we get into our blistering set. This year will definitely be fun!
RNRR: So talking of changing genres and experimenting, as well as us now being in a new year, now seems a good time to ask the following question. What music have you guys been listening to in 2020 that caught your ears with its inventiveness? Any bands or solo artists you’ve really dug?
TO: To be honest, when we are making music, musical inspiration comes in on the production side but not the creative side. This is the first band I have been in where we do not have walls to stop a direction. Once the song has an identity, we start to mould it to a genre that feels correct. For music inspiration, that comes in later. For an example, we were trying to figure out cool harmonies for a section on one of our songs that will be released this year. We started to listen to old Beach Boys albums for those key elements on what Brian Wilson did. It gave us the knowledge to try different harmonies. Similarly, on another song we were looking for an acoustic sound and could only describe it on a Waylon Jennings album. So yes, music inspiration did feature on upcoming songs.
RNRR: Staying on the topic of media but moving away from music itself, are you guys big film watchers in your spare time? Do you have any firm favourite movies?
TO: Jeff and Dave are ‘Avengers’, ‘Black Panther’ and anything with Marvel or DC comic related fans. ‘John Wick’, ‘Halloween’ (2018), ‘Cobra Kai’, ‘Stranger Things’ are also firm favourites.
RNRR: Do you feel that film is just as an important media medium as music in conveying emotion and life messages or do you regard music as still the main source of creative influence in entertainment culture?
TO: I do feel that film is just as important. Movies with a smaller budget seem to have more of a creative aspect to me. Soundtracks on movies and tv shows have been excellent. There has been such a diversity of new artists and old. I feel that movies and new shows have been an enormous outlet to showcase different genres of music and introducing music to a new generation.
RNRR: Well that leaves me with just one last question to ask you. Every Spotlight we do, we always pose the problem of being stranded on a desert island to our guests with the option of only choosing one album to listen to for the rest of their lives. Tough Ombres, what are you picking and more crucially, why?
TO: What a great question! I think as individuals in the band, there would be different albums picked. For Tough Ombres as a band, I would say Alice In Chains’ ‘Dirt’. The songs on this album kind of brought all of us together when we first started. It was one of the first bands we had Jeff audition to. Still to this day, if we cover any song on that album it always gets a great reaction from the crowd. If we were stuck on an island we all could dig the album until we are picked up or left as bones!
RNRR: Some great choices there and perfect reasoning too! Thanks for coming onto Spotlight guys, it’s been a pleasure.
If you'd like to find out more about Tough Ombres or keep up to date with their new releases throughout the year, the links to all their socials can be found below via the icons: