A Moment With:
Pwned By Gravity
Pwned By Gravity are an indie band reaching maturity. They’ve released their first EP, done the local circuit, and now they’re reaching for something more. Their second EP (Time And Time Again) is out this month, and with the release of their stirring lead single All My Might, it feels like their identity is solidifying into something great. It’s a snapshot of an artist coming into their own. I wanted to see it for myself and so they took a few minutes out to answer a couple of questions...
Q. When did you start working on the new EP?
PBG. Some of the songs have been around for a long time in one form or another. Time's Toll’s an old one. A few song ideas came around last spring, but it started to take shape when we released Shipshape And Bristol Fashion - that’s when a lot of the ideas really fell into place. And then one of the songs - Memory Lane - just happened. It was a week before we were due in the studio, and we were just sat at home with our guitars. Two hours later, we had the song.
Q. Obviously you guys have been playing together for a long time. When did you start to take it seriously, to really have a go at it?
PBG. It only really started when we finished school. Before that, it was a huge joke. It was this big banter thing to tell everyone we were going to be huge. If we were struggling, we’d just say “We don’t even need to do these exams, because we’ve got these great songs!” I hope everyone got that it was a joke, otherwise we’ve come across like such douchebags! But then when school was finishing we thought, actually, why don’t we try to make the joke real?
Q. If you were stranded on a dingy together in the middle of the ocean with no food, who would you eat first?
PBG. [laughs] We should say Axel, because he’s not in the interview with us. And he’s a bit picky, so it might be a good idea to eat him! We used to have this really fat guy in the band, but we ate him too.
Q. Name one country other than your own where the music scene is really flourishing right now.
PBG. Great Britain. We’ve always been obsessed with the British music scene.
Q. Is that only because of the country’s past heritage?
PBG. No, I don’t think that’s true. Britain does have a legendary history of music, sure. But it’s still really strong today. The Arctic Monkeys were inspired by their heritage, how could they not be? But they kicked off modern indie music, and proved that Britain is still where it’s at.
Q. If you guys make the big-time, please tell me nobody’s going to buy a double-necked guitar.
PBG. [awkward pause, laughs] Yeah, we all really want one! Since we were 12, we all wanted to do the Jimmy Page double SG thing.
Q. You guys took a very distinctive picture not long ago of the four of you all tangled up. Do you think you could play a gig like that?
PBG. Of course! as a professional you have to adapt.
Q. I notice on your bio it says, “don’t ask about the band name.” Is that an invite?
Q. And one more: If there was a cocktail called a Pwned By Gravity what would be in it?
PBG. [they confer] Beer.
Q. Just beer?
PBG. Just beer.
Parachute is one of those rare songs. No matter where my mood is at play, I know where it'll be four minutes later. It'll be high, serene, and in love with the new music scene. Souvenir Season specialise in combining a nebulous, enveloping ambience with Sarah's pure vocals and reassuring melodies. Each instrument comes in only when it's needed, just enough to slip you away into a place where nothing could be wrong, ever. As much as it is a song about trust, it is an ultra-modern lullaby executed with perfection.
The genre, which I call ambi-pop, is at the very forefront of the indie scene, and echoes of it are only now beginning to tickle the mainstream. For one thing, combining nebulous (ambient) with hooky and sharp (pop) is no easy task, but for their mastery of it Souvenir Season continue to grow exponentially. After masses of critical acclaim for their first album Into The Black , they are seeing plenty of international success. Their recently mindblowing Budapest visit will be swiftly followed by the release of their second album, and dare I say it, a ton more critical acclaim. If you want to hear mainstream success before it happens, then surely this is it, right here.
There it is, folks - another great year for new music, and for the Podcast. Thank you for trailing with me these last twelve months, it's a labyrinthine but revelatory world. By losing ourselves in its corridors, we can not only find our ears but hear the sounds of the future. Wyatt Sanders, for example, is now busy at a Warner subsidiary lending his legendary songwriting skills to tomorrow's hip hop stars. His sound is tomorrow's sound. And in another twelve months, who knows where this year's Top 3 will be?
I have a pretty good idea.
3. Swift Avrel
Originally from South Wales, the Guilford foursome caught us quite unawares for April's podcast. What makes Swift Arvel so refreshing is their innovative use of metre. Avoiding the obvious 3/4 and 4/4, the rhythms chop and change sleekly and unpredictably, giving their rock a viscous and erratic edge. Combine this with meaty hooks and an accusing vocal line, and you get a cathartic sound that ignores your defences and releases your inner demon.
Swift Arvel (or Swarvel, if you like) are only a couple of years old, having picked up their fourth member at the back end of '14. They increasingly play all over the country and are starting to pick up the recognition they deserve. In the next year, they will begin to emerge onto higher ground. These guys are creatively brave, and deserve every bit of a place among 2016's best.
From utter obscurity, Stephanie pops onto the stage with her new band and this stunner of a debut. What struck me first was the juxtaposition of theme and genre. An uplifting chord sequence, upbeat drums and a voice that can't contain her love of the music. A song about sunshine and young love, perhaps? Try a love of joyriding and speeding. But listen harder, and it is exactly a song about young love. In Stephanie's words, "love makes you act irresponsibly and that's okay". At track's end, I'm left feeling positive and free.
What's even more amazing about this year's newest singer-songwriter is that this is her first release. Fresh on the scene as she may be, she's already supported Laurel on her UK tour, is recording her EP and has a string of UK venues to welcome her on her own national tour next year. Clearly we aren't the only ones to recognise her potential - and that means you should be watching her, too.
And in first place?
The ADSRecords Top 3 Artists of 2016
It's that time of year again, when stockings are hung and ears bleed with Victorian carol. But don't despair, because it's also the time that I release the ADSRecords Podcast 2016 Top 3 - the best three tracks to have been featured on the podcast this year! If you want to know where the hidden music scene stands, and the people and sounds to follow, listen to the podcast each month. Failing that, you've come to the right place.
Just like last year's Top 3 (here), this year's tracks have been extremely difficult to decide. One thing that makes it a difficult task is the range of genres we've had through our gates. Comparing two classic rock tracks is fairly straightforward - comparing math rock to hip hop? That's where it gets tricky. And that diversity in the show is something I'm very proud of. I believe it says something about the direction of the industry. More choice, more diversity, more chances for you as a listener to express your personality through your choice of music.
Before I get to the Top 3, some Honourable Mentions to artists that came too close to go unmentioned. Firstly, master of electronics Jorgalad. The hardworking composer is constantly pushing the boundaries of the genre, creating textures and landscapes that capture the imagination. Alskr also have an effective grasp of electronics, combining their sound with positive vocals to create an energetic and uplifting blend. And finally, both our recent heavy rock introductions, Local Enemy and Waiting For June deserve a tip of the hat for their welcome shot of adrenaline. And that brings us to this year's Top 3. Let's do this!
Third place for 2016 goes to:
Getting The Pitch Perfect
How to be scouted in the modern industry
Hearing new music is easily the greatest joy in my working life. Watching the new avenues that musicians always seem to find, and how they prove that never will everything have been done... it’s magic. Finding the gems, however, means wading through a lot of material that falls short. I've been an active talent scout in the industry for three years now, and although I suspect it's only the start of my journey, I'm ready to share with you my experience of what makes an artist worth getting behind - and what doesn't.
The Music Recipe
I could write a book on this all by itself. In short, I look for originality, variation, impact and production. If you make great sounding music that sounds like it could have been released by your favourite band... you've forgotten originality. You need something that identifies your sound as signature, as unique. Is it a vocal style? An irregular time signature? A unique blend of instrumentation? Once you've got that, you need to add variety. If your chorus sounds more or less like your verse, and your second verse sounds like your first, well I'm bored. And even worse, if all your songs are the same, shoot me now. Having said that, don't make your songs SO different that you lose all cohesion and identity. It can be a fine line, but being a good artist is a fine art.
Next, is impact. You might have something new and original, but does it work? If I don't enjoy listening to it, I'm moving on. I want music to capture me, to haunt or delight me. I want to be humming your music to bed. But then again, what doesn’t work for me may work for someone else. It’s all about understanding your target audience and giving them something transforming. Finally comes production. If it was recorded on a karaoke mic, I’m not interested. If it's not mixed and produced effectively, it's not ready. Getting your stuff recorded and produced well can be a time-consuming and expensive game, but there are ways and means, like saving up your gig earnings or finding someone you can team up with. It's all part of the journey.
You have to understand what music organisations are looking for, and the size bracket you fall into. Most things within the music industry are reciprocal. If nobody's following you yet, you may not be a good prospect, because whoever features you or writes about you can't expect to gain any traffic in return. Occasionally, we'll feature an artist with no following simply because we're impressed with the music, but given that everyone thinks their music is amazing, it can't hurt to work on those numbers. Similarly, though, if you have a hundred thousand listeners on Soundcloud, you're outside my remit. So, whatever stage you're at, have an idea of where you are and target the blogs, magazines and labels who are looking for your size.
If you want those numbers to rise and for people to take you seriously, put some good thought into your image. Good marketing is instant. Everything from your Facebook picture, to the clothes you wear on stage, to how you word your bio should match your music and strengthen your identity. It also helps to be eye-catching and professional - a selfie on a webcam isn't going to launch you very far. The sad thing is, people DO judge a book by its cover, and they'll assume your genre from your brand. If you get that wrong, you'll send your fans away and attract your critics. So don't think of your project just in terms of music, think of it as a complete, breathing entity - a sub-culture all of its own. Do that, and people will want to like your music.
This underpins everything that you do. The chances of anyone finding you by luck are slim. If your music reaches me by email however, I'll go out of my way to hear it. Once you've got your music and your brand up to scratch, you need to seek out which organisations will want to hear from you. There are literally thousands of music entities out there and you can't contact them all - finding the right ones is hard work. Contacting them is also tedious hard work. Using platforms like Indie Shuffle can help, but ultimately there's nothing like sending a ton of emails. And as a scout, that tells me something about your work ethic. If I happen across your account, which has one hastily taken photo and no presence on social media, you aren't trying very hard. Any publicity I give will be wasted on you. You probably won't even respond to an email. If, however, you've got a coherent brand, good music, links to all your platforms and you've gone to the trouble of sending me an email, I respect you, sir/madam. You have my ear.
And that's what scouting amounts to; checking if you're doing everything you can to help yourself. Because like all scouts, I'm a middle man - I'm not scouting for myself, I'm scouting for my label and for the listeners of my show. If I think you'll bring them something truly memorable, I'm sure to send you a message.
So here it is, merry Christmas! I hope everybody's having fun. We've had plenty ourselves, not least from exploring the vast ocean of music that lies beneath the hyperlit world of 'The Hits'. Over 2015, I've heard many good tracks, only 30 or so of which made it to be featured on our monthly podcast. If I was asked my favourite, well that would be a tough one. Tough, but not impossible. So, here it is, my Countdown 2015! Before taking on the top three, there are a couple of people that deserve an honourable mention.
Shoegaze is a quickly expanding genre of music that's really gaining momentum in the indie music world. Personally, it's a little outside my area, but there's no denying that Heart Of Noise by Follow The Sea is a fine demonstration. A memorable chorus and a vibe that I can only describe as drift-rock, keep an eye on these guys...
From an empathetic point of view, the second mention goes to Stay by Souvenir Season. Catchy, well executed and enveloping. It's a perfect example of the new trend towards ambient pop.
Which brings us to Cam's Countdown 2015: The Top Three (drum roll).
In third place:
3. Maia Dietrich
After discovering Thunder for March's podcast, it may as well have been on repeat in my household. Mellow and anthemic, it's a joy to listen to. It's the first time the defined ambient style hit the ADSRecords sphere, described by Maia as 'post-pop'. She captures airs of introspective reflection that are evocative and easy on the ears. There are a whole raft of influences I'd like to pin on her, from Enigma to Origa, but none of them quite fit. When it comes down to it, the balance held between reflection and hook is the start of something new.
Maia's work is thematically diverse, and although there are other
tracks of hers which achieve a greater degree of lyrical subtleness
and layered implication, for me, Thunder's majestic voice makes it
irresistible. I feel like I'm being massaged and having an epiphany
all at the same time. It's pure enjoyability and modern edge have
earned it a place in 2015's Top Three.
2. Wyatt Sanders ft. Eddie
I don't like hip-hop or R&B very much. Nothing wrong with it, it's just not down my alley. You know how it is - in the noughties I was listening to Avenged Sevenfold and Evanescence. And that's precisely why Wyatt is on this list. It takes an exceptional artist to bring in listeners that aren't naturally aligned to their genre, and I am one of those listeners. His easy-going and ponderous style has me hooked! But Phase Me isn't the only Wyatt Sanders track to feature this year, why has it reached second place?
Phase Me is what you'd call a 'grower'. If you'd have asked me in May, when the track first aired, it would have been his earlier track Bulletproof Vest in this spot. After all, it's chorus is immediately accessible. But after a few plays, Phase Me's subtle edge starts to come into focus. The syncopation between vocalist and beat is so much more sublime, and Wyatt's vocal performance strolls through the song with an unstoppable, confident steadiness. Magic.
And in first place?
1. The Tom Gee Band
The 9-piece big band from northern England oozes with gentle charisma. Their upbeat jazzy sound is an instant uplift. It's what I like to call breakfast music; there's not a lot of songs I can bend my head around before the day kicks in, but I've always got time for the Tom Gee Band. And especially as the mornings get colder, the warmth of their music seeps in like a welcome mug of coffee. First place? Absolutely.
When Superman starts with its cheerful piano riff, perfectly rhythmic, I can already feel my mood picking up. It's easy-going yet energetic vocal line compliment it to a tee, and soon you have nine diverse musicians, working seamlessly together to create a unified vibe. And yet, for all that, each individual manages to make their mark with flair. The craftsmanship is impressive, but not immediately obvious as I'm getting lost in down-to-earth textures and flawless execution. It's creative, effective, and quite frankly, masterful.
Superman is only the start of Tom Gee’s journey, taken from their debut album Swapping Stories. They’re gathering themselves for a second album, and in the meantime they’re coming to London on the 26th February.
It's been a fantastic year, for us and for indie music. It's just another reason why we love what we do (my Top Three reasons, in fact). But these are more than podcast memories, they are the sounds of the future. These are the people who will carve their name into the indie stage, and whose influence will ripple through the creative world. Merry Christmas!