What Else Is Out There? #6: The Fontana Instincts

Four with nature from left to right: Widdop, Campbell, Komorowska and Kelly

Four with nature from left to right: Widdop, Campbell, Komorowska and Kelly

Back to Derby for our next order of What Else Is Out There with an Americana act that is 3/4 British Midland and 1/4 Polish! Fractions are nothing here though as we’re going with our Fontana Instincts!

Tom Campbell (guitar, lead vocals), Jim Widdop (lead guitar, backing vocals), Magdalena Komorowska (bass) and Alex Kelly (drums) make up this Derby-based four piece that definitely don’t sound like a band that would come from this area of the country, or even this country in general!

From their start at the end of the noughties to their current incarnation that has been on a brief hiatus of late, The Fontana Instincts have been bringing their sound to the rest of the UK that brings you their sound which reflects the best in Americana.

Maybe not THAT 'Murican, but something!

Maybe not THAT ‘Murican, but something!

To start, Campbell was doing the whole singer-songwriter routine for a few years before meeting Widdop in 2008, each of them performing with different acts at the time. Widdop playing dobro and steel pedal in particular caught Campbell’s attention and both of them hit it off very well which resulted in them having a good ole’ jam!

After that jam and a subsequent six months of gigging starting from December 2008, they started working on an EP which would be known as The Chilka Sessions, but they weren’t satisfied with it so it never saw an official release.

The EP contained five tracks, some of which would end up on a certain future release such as Miss Muldoon, Night and Day and Millie Come and Get Me although later on it would be shortened down to just Millie.

Here’s Miss Muldoon as a primer.

The genesis of Fontana came about in 2009 with two more people added to the mix. The first was Tom Kitchen, a former bassist of heavy rock act LostAlone also knew how to play drums and was brought in after meeting Campbell at the Rockhouse in Derby and Luke Wynne, a good mate of Campbell’s who filled in the position of bassist for a few gigs.

After this new quartet met up with Birmingham musicians and producers Brian Nordhoff and Rob Cimarosti, they recorded four songs in one 16 hour session in a Moseley studio. The result was four good takes and Nordhoff encouraged Campbell to carry on writing and he would help them record an album in the future.

During the Summer of 2010, Campbell busked around Australia for inspiration and the wallabies no doubt, before being put in touch with a Polish girl who Kitchen knew (Komorowska) and wanted to join a band. A few drinks and a joyful jam later, the group was whole again.

Want more band sex appeal? Woman with bass guitar...BOOM!

Want more band sex appeal? Woman with bass guitar…BOOM!

Their first performance as a group was on the Main Stage at the 2010 Out the Box Festival in August but their first booked gig was in September at the Grapes bar in Sheffield. They would continue to perform for four months before going to back to Birmingham to start recording an album.

The recording process would start at the start of 2011 and would continue throughout the year. One of the gigs to stem the tides till then was a gig in April at the reliant Wetmore Whistle on the card with Tilted Smile and Lady and the Tramp.

Another big April gig came at the Bodega Social in Nottingham supporting Glasgow-based alternative rock act Kassidy who went on to tour with Lana del Rey in 2013!

Still, let us remember the REAL stars now!

In May, they were announced by BBC Introducing that they would be playing on the Allotment stage at YNot of that year! That particular stage would be headlined by beatboxing extraordinaire Beardyman and the festival as a whole would host big names like Maximo Park and local names like Max Raptor (cos we didn’t hear ENOUGH about them being at YNot!)

After a return to Out The Box Festival, the first Burtfest at Burton Rugby Club and their stint at YNot, they brought Benjamin Edmonds, formerly of Tilted Smile and Son of Eagle in to the studio to provide backing vocals as the finishing touch to their album.

Two big Midlands gigs came in October with a headliner at the Derby Assembly Rooms as part of the Evolution Derby College Talent Showcase and Burton promoter Loaded’s launch night at the Star and Garter.

Prizes for guessing what the hell the words are!

Two more great gigs for them that closed out the year were a support slot for Riding the Low at Sheffield’s Leadmill in October and being on the card with Son on Eagle and Boat to Row for a sold out show at the Derby Guildhall in December.

A rousing goodbye started off 2012 with the Fontana brigade supporting veteran power pop four piece The Souvenirs at the Victoria Inn to another sold out crowd.

Act who would support them in the coming months would be 5 Days of November and Lucida Scroll in Burton and at Derby’s Ryan’s Bar with London psych rock band West of the Sun and Exile84 big shot Andy Crowe.

Well THIS guy thinks he is anyway!

Well THIS guy thinks he is anyway!

Huge news came in April as they would be announced they would be supporting American alternative giants The Lemonheads (known for their hit cover of Mrs Robinson) on their ‘Shame about Ray’ tour at the Venue in Derby!

More big news to follow as they announced in May that they would release their long-awaited debut album Carousel which was set to be released on July 2nd and to hype up interest, they released a video for their song Our David on May 2nd.

In June, they rounded off the huge Burtfest weekend at the Arch Creations stage on Sunday 17th. Sure enough, this hyped up more interest, at least in Burton, for the album release, sure enough on July 2nd.

Ooo shiny!

Ooo shiny!

A member departure came in August when Kitchen left the group amicably for university which left the band without a drummer for Osfest in Longford. Campbell also did a solo outing at YNot to stem the tide before a new drummer could be brought in.

On summer transfer deadline day, or August 31st, the band did find their new drummer Alex Kelly formerly of Midlands Brit rockers The Iron Door Club who have supported the likes of Pete Doherty and Underground Heroes.

After a huge Liverpool O2 Academy performance, they returned to Burton twice at the end of the year with one even being Exile84‘s first hometown gig in November at the Whistle and also playing at the Tower Brewery for a Christmassy gig in December.

More Exile84...oh puh-lease!

More Exile84…this is OUR blog post matey!

2013 was the last year we saw of the guys for a while but still, they made the most of it, with six of the year’s gigs being throughout February and March including a supporting slot for Turin Brakes at the Venue and a Jam Café performance in Nottingham.

Though not on the card for it, Campbell helped out with the sound and stage set-up for The Sunni Mae Festival in Willington, an event to raise money for cancer charity and in aid of Lily Mae Morrison, a young girl diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma.

A return to OsFest in July and their last gig (for now) at the Flowerpot in Derby supported by Tilted Smile and West of the Sun rounded off a brief summer for the guys and have since been on hiatus.

Still though, savour the last show...SAVOUR IT!!

Still though, savour the last show…SAVOUR IT!!

Now though, let’s savour and look at the music. Like I said at the start, for a band that is made up of three lads from the British Midlands and a Polish woman, the Americana sound rings true in their music, sometimes doing it better than American bands!

The country-folk influences are strong in their tunes with songs ranging from calm country ballads (Room For Me), to rousing stompers (Forgotten Almost) that can transport you to the Snakeskin Inn in Georgia listening to them (I am SO sorry for that!)

Campbell’s smoky voice and Komorowska’s backing give each song a Brit rock spin on these Americana songs and Widdop’s ever-reliant guitar playing whether on a regular axe or a steel pedal gives these songs their uniquely sturdy American-British charm (would you expect anymore from a guy who had his head bloodied before a show but still carried on?)

Two songs I’ll give attention to are Carousel favourites Our David and Miss Muldoon. The first of which showing a good deal of their upbeat side to a story that doesn’t sound as upbeat, in fact it almost sounds quite distressing!

It tells the story of a man (called David I assume) who’s family members are worried about him being out for so long and just want him to get home safely. Aww!

The twang in the guitar and southern drawl vocals from Campbell are very much present in this song and while it won’t make you wanna go “Yee-haw!”, it will probably get you up dancing and singing along to the chorus.

If our David isn’t home

We will never be alone…

…We will stand to watch the phone until we

know that everything’s OK…OK!

Secondly, Miss Muldoon provides that same up-tempo feel as Our David, but feels much raunchier with it’s subject matter of just wanting to impress that one woman that you’re eyeing up, but are just to intoxicated by pressure or drugs possibly to do so.

More specifically, the woman (who I assume is one Miss Millie Muldoon) is seen just browsing the merchandise at the record shop when the singer’s character is trying to go with the flow and ask her out, but is just not able to get the words out due to…whatever circumstances or certain substances!

Musically, it sounds like that dirty hard rock sound that you’d hear later on in the night at the Snakeskin when everyone’s had one too many whisky shots! Interested in dirty bar rock? Check this out!

MISS MULDOON

In conclusion, The Fontana Instincts give a Western take on Brit rock that is very much welcomed. Derby have definitely struck gold with these guys so to speak and it would be nice to see some new material from them. Until we see that triumphant return, a rip-roaring serving of Brewtown tunes to you, from Burton and beyond!

Fontana Instincts’ stuff

Official Website (currently down): http://fontanainstincts.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fontanainstincts

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/fontanainstincts

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW4KiP_fT1lnw0rcw5PnxTQ

Tumblr: http://thefontanainstincts.tumblr.com/

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fontana_instincts happy

 

What Else Is Out There #5: Just James

Just jamming from left to right: Kerridge, Anthony, Reeves, Child, Young and Mehew

Just jamming from left to right: Kerridge, Anthony, Reeves, Child, Young and Mehew

For the fifth edition of What Else Is Out There, we’re off to Nottingham to greet a dance act who aren’t entirely what you’d expect from the genre, especially when performing live! Though there’s six of them, it’s Just James.

Alex ‘Motormouf’ Young (rapping vocals), Ella Reeves (singing vocals), Ben Kerridge (guitar), James Child (bass), Jake Mehew (keys) and Joseph Anthony (drums) form what is quite a unique combination; the sounds of live rock music and house/drum n bass tunes brought together to make a storming impact on the Midlands music scene.

Since their own formation in 2010, they have stopped by Burton a number of times to deliver their brand of electronic/dubstep/rock/hip-hop/soul/zydeco/leetcore/whatever the hell else music (they dubbed themselves ‘science fiction rock and roll’ if that’s easier) and that is why they are featured on Brewtown Music!

That and Motormouf's pits here give Jack Poxon's a run for his money!

That and Motormouf’s pits here give Jack Poxon’s a run for their money!

But the tale here begins before all that though, we have to go back to 2008, where the public performing days of a young lad called Alex Young began and developed into being an instrumental (pardon the pun) part of the urban music scene of Nottingham with his style of human beatboxing that was looking to emulate the likes of Beardyman and Dub FX.

His main inspiration though was American beatboxer Rahzel, former member of The Roots and known for his vocal work on SSX and SSX Tricky. So much like a lot of musicians, Young’s beatboxing was self-taught…not that I know of many beatbox teachers anyway!

The big solo highlight came when Young entered into the Midlands heat of the Vauxhall UK Beatbox Championships in 2010 where, after some very impressive and funny beatboxing, got to the heat final but unfortunately lost to LucasTheBeatbox. I think my thoughts on his loss are summed up here.

Oh well, 3:42 will let that news go down easier!

Towards the end of that year, Young was invited to watch his college buddy’s (Child) band Just James play at a Christmas party in the Stealth club in Nottingham. He was very impressed with the band’s unique sound and after Anthony invited him for a jam to see what it would sound like to have a rapper in the group, he impressed so much that they decided to have him on as the sixth member of the band.

Just James themselves formed in October 2010 and Young had his first gig with them in April 2011 (the same month as a gig at the  after a shining first few months of performing that earned them a spot on the shortlist for the 2011 YNot Festival (Dammit how many more times do we have to hear about that one?!). Unfortunately though, they didn’t make the final cut.

After a good few months of recording, the band put out their first EP Keep Calm and Rave On Vol 1 on June 24th which they would promote at festivals they were performing at that Summer which were Ripley Music Festival in June and the Nottingham Waterfront in August.

Keep Calm and Rave On: Zack Ryder approved!

Keep Calm and Rave On Vol 1: Zack Ryder approved!

In September, they would headline at The Maze music bar in Nottingham with Notts ska giants The Breadchasers and post punk indie band Tribal Suns. Being a Nottingham based act, they would be frequent performers at The Maze throughout their run as an act with their first gig there being in May.

In October, they had two very important gigs, in the context of this article of course, as they performed at battle of the bands competition in Derby for a chance at a record deal and their very first gig in Burton at the good ole Wetmore Whistle! Everyone goes there!

Just as a way to plug another Midlands music lover, Nottingham live music promoters Nusic had the band on their show also in October to promote them as well as perform an Invaders Must Die-like number called The Bassment.

We are the Just James!

The band began 2012 with some very good news. Through their shows in Derby and their battle of the bands competition, they were signed to Belper-based independent record label and music production team Sound Hub! Other bands signed to this label are Derby-based independent rock acts Whitemoor and James Warner Prophecies.

Two more notable gigs in Spring included a charity performance for Oxfam that also included Derby MC Eyez in April that raised £430 and a big performance at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on June 1st for the Queen’s Jubilee that was more of a play on the word queen for a Gay Pride concert!

But in a major highlight in June, they became a part of the 2012 Burtfest (redundancy is redundant I know!) performing on the Arch Stage on Saturday 16th June that also featured Great Scott, The Vibe and Riding the Low.

But we all know who the stars are…the band nobody there had heard of!

They would end up returning to Burton, to the Star and Garter specifically, later in the month to attempt to save the Wetmore Whistle after Burtfest left the former Whistle owner Ben Brettell in massive debt with a fundraising gig along with The Vibe, Get Cubs and Kitten Pyramid.

To build towards an album release, they released a single on July 16th called Red Light Means Go which is notable for climbing all the way to #11 on the iTunes Electronic charts! That’s not like Reverbnation’s country/county divisions either, that’s official!

Arguably, one of the biggest crowds they have ever played to came towards the end of July with their performance at the Nottingham Pride Festival where they played on the main stage in front of 20,000 people and supported Basshunter of all people!

Suddenly Burtfest feels pretty small right now!

Suddenly Burtfest feels pretty small right now!

Two more big gigs in November closed out 2012 for them with the first on Nov 2nd at Nottingham Rock City supporting Follow You Home and Sonic Boom Six and on Nov 22nd headlining at the Nottingham Bodega along with support from Great Scott and The Afterdark Movement. These also promoted a new free downloadable song See It Through released on the 27th.

2013 gave them a mini-festival at the Derby Assembly Rooms in January that had House of Thieves and Kitten Pyramid on the card…but due to heavy snow, it was re-scheduled for March 23rd where Jamie Joseph and Get Cubs were added to the mix! It even snowed THAT day too but it didn’t deter the willing!

On April 14th, they released their new single Limitless which when released also made a pretty good push up the iTunes Electronic Chart making it #29 this time and had it’s own music video released on the 21st.

Wherever they are, The Prodigy are not far behind, or in front...eh whatever!

Wherever they are, The Prodigy are not far behind, or in front…eh!

After performing again at the Whistle with The Sixth Letter at the start of June, they ended the month being a part of XStatic Festival in Swadlincote which also featured Get Cubs, Raptorial and We Were Ghosts.

But that was not the biggest festival announcement they had, as their already exciting announcement of them performing at Strawberry Fields Festival wasn’t big enough, they were told they would be opening the Festival on Friday on the Main Stage! Get Cubs were at this festival too as well as more mainstream acts The View and The Enemy.

After a big summer of festivals, they were set to perform what they said was their ‘biggest gig of the year’ at the OxJam Soiree set for 29th October which was promoted with a humorous little Youtube ad.

Though I don’t know what gave me more whiplash, the camera pans or Young’s line delivery!

With new songs in the pipeline, a gig supporting the legendary Dub Mafia at the Maze and a summer festival season announcement of Bearded Theory to come, who knows what else is set for Just James in 2014?

Buggered if I know, so let’s just look at the music itself now! Midlands Music Maniacs described them as the ‘Who needs class A’s when you’ve got these lot’ lot! Yep, I’d say that sounds about right!

Just James‘s sound has a massive presence whether being performed on stage or simply being blasted through your headphones. With influences from The Prodigy (of course!) and Pendulum spurring their sound on, their music commands your attention whether it be the rock base sound, the electronica buzzings, Young’s lyrical drops or Reeves’ soulful singing.

One song to listen to is their first single Red Light Means Go which already seems like something the high guy meme would say and that contradiction forms a good basis for song and immediately hits you full-on with the bass blares at Young’s furious rhymes!

Young’s lyrics, which I’m not even going to list they’re going by so fast, are delivered in a way that makes you think that this guy is not going to let anyone tell him to stop what he’s doing since he’s going by at such a pace, it’d be like an OAP kindly asking a truck from Maximum Overdrive to slow down!

The instrumentation is just as hard as the vocal performance from Young, but Reeves’ singing give it an almost calming quality despite the fury still remaining!

I can lose half my beard to this!

I can lose half my beard to this!

Another track to look at is Limitless which judging by that title is already going to be as ‘full-on’ as the previous track and the JJ lot don’t disappoint! Drum and bass are officially approved on Brewtown Music!

The keys riff at the start provides a steady flow to the energy to follow which the band provides in spades and can be seen done in the music video. Dan Lowe, the producer and mixer at SoundHub also needs recognition for providing their music as well as this one with great care and consideration to make the most hard-hitting track possible!

With Young’s flawless flow providing the verses and Reeves’ chorus line of “To know no bounds, is a merry-go-round”, the vocal work does give the band’s rock/dance sound it’s own unique identity and prove that EDM is not the only option for those who want to mosh to dance music! Still though, check them out and judge for yourself!

In closing, Just James give rock and dance another great union and have graced Burton with their presence a good number of times along the way! With more tracks and big festivals on the way, they’ll be sure to get everyone moving and opportunities could be limitless! A hardcore serving of Brewtown tunes to you, from Burton and beyond!

 

Just James’ Stuff

Official Website: http://www.wearejustjames.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WeAreJustJames

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/wearejustjames

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/WeAreJustJames

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeAreJustJames

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