Brewtown #22: The Red Monroes

Marilyn never posed like this from left to right: Fitton, Alexander, Dolman and Woods

Marilyn never posed like this from left to right: Fitton, Woods, Dolman and Holmes (Alexander unpictured, sorry!)

As we continue on through our jaunt through the acts of Brewtown, we today look at a band that had another identity through the noughties, but have reformed in a more modest sense. Boop-boop-be-do, it’s The Red Monroes!

Philip Fitton (Lead vocals, Guitar), Sean Alexander (Lead Guitar, B Vox), Rob Dolman (Drums, B Vox), Damien Woods (Keys, Synth, B Vox) and David Holmes (Bass, B Vox) make up this five piece that go back longer than the small time they’ve been around as the Ruby Marilyns!

Although starting the RMs just last year, Fitton has led with another band called The Risks who made a big impact themselves in the scene since they formed nearly a decade ago. Let’s take a look at that history up till now shall we?

Just watch out for Fitton along the way. He get's very hungry!

Just watch out for Fitton along the way. He get’s very hungry!

Just to clarify, this is still an article on The Red Monroes, so I’ll keep The Risks’ stuff as brief as I can, but to start, Fitton formed The Risks back in 2005 with Alexander, Holmes and a drummer by the name of Kev until eventually getting replaced by Dolman. Kev everybody!

Originally, they were a covers band under the pretense of securing gigs but after a couple of bookings, they started writing their own material and as Dolman came in, they were performed a Fantastik 4 hybrid set of covers and originals.

Their style of music was hard indie and punk from the main musicians and with an Elvis Costello-esque vocal performance tinged with some Bryan Ferry-like vibrato from Fitton.

Vibrating so hard he may as well have DualShock printed on his body! 2:07 onwards in particular!

Highlights for The Risks included a TV appearance on Sky Sports (Kitten Pyramid level fame here!), support slots for Little Man Tate, The Futureheads and The Rascals and a gig at the 2007 Glastonbudget. Also, they performed at Liverpool’s world famous venue The Cavern Club which Fitton and Dolman were hugely proud of being big Beatles fans.

Over a successful couple of years and some well-received gigs in Nottingham and Manchester’s O2 Academy, things fizzled out for The Risks and so they decided to call it quits in 2009.

However, in 2012, Fitton, Dolman and Holmes thought it would be nice to start performing again, but a new identity was needed. And this is where the story of The Red Monroes begins!

Finally, I've been waiting ages for you to get going with that!

Finally, I’ve been waiting ages for you to get going with that!

Though they would begin writing and rehearsals around about November 2012 and through the Winter/Spring of 2013, they wouldn’t get their first official gig until June where they started out in big style, at the Victoria Inn in Derby, a regular place for The Risks to perform.

Woods was added to the line-up on synth to further develop the sound of TRM as well as some new show slots, including a return to the Wetmore Whistle (Risks popular venue again) and performing at mini festival Hilton Party in the Park in July.

Ashby’s BUNKA venue was also on the cards for July, a venue where hip hop legend Grandmaster Flash played with Jacob ‘Jaws’ Wilshaw of Raptorial!

Why am I showing this pic? Because it's awesome and I can! MWAHAHA!!

Why am I showing this pic? Because it’s awesome and I can! MWAHAHA!!

But on topic of the article, the Autumn saw more promotion of their debut EP and two more gigs at The Vic with the first being a headlining gig on top of solo local talent in October and the second supporting The Vibe and Get Cubs in November.

Before finishing their EP, they added one last lead guitar layer provided by Alexander who made the band a quintet in December. After a private demo amongst friends and family was given a thumbs up, they looked to release the EP in Spring 2014.

Sure enough, they did release their debut self titled EP on April 4th for release on iTunes, Google Play and physical release for gigs. To further promote the EP, they decided to reach further afield than Burton. Say…Canada…yeah that’ll do!

Yep, sure I’m not stereotyping here eh?

They were actually promoted twice on Canadian radio stations! One of them being 103.7FM CFBU Brock University Student Radio in Ontario (rolls right off the tongue eh?) in April and CISM 89.3 French Canadian radio in May!

With further gigs in the pipeline including one supporting Star From Ivy at the Whistle in mid-May, TRM will know doubt be looking to gain back that old attention-grabbing fire back from their days as The Risks. I’d say they’re on their way.

Still, regardless of this journey, what about the material? Well I’m glad you asked that. The evolution of the sound from Risks to Reds has been an interesting one and in some ways for the better so…

Come on then! Bored first person drummer is bored!

Come on then! Bored first person drummer is bored!

Their music from their Risks days did seem more raw in the sense it was more rooted in punk than anything else. Songs like Change Your Ways from their rough demos did sound like a heavier Elvis Costello number!

But with the Monroes, there’s power there, but it seems more heartfelt and romantic as well as the production being more slick and polished. Not to it’s detriment, it’s just an observation.

Songs like Don’t Waste Your Shadow and Take My Hand seem much more romantic, optimistic and catchy pop rock numbers than the punk sounds of previous times but…they are romantic, optimistic and catchy so there’s a big upside to the style change.

The first of two recommended tracks is Information was put up as a free download on their Soundcloud as a preview for their EP and it was a pretty good call.

It displays the upbeat Indie melodies that came with their style change including harmonic guitar riffs and the synth/piano featured on the whole EP that adds to the happy nature.

The lyrics are also a consistency with their new sound, with romantic themes such as a new woman coming into your life that was miserable before and the ‘Information’ being the facts needed to be heard by the singer to get him out of the slump he’s in. You can listen to it above.

The second of these tracks, Light of the Corner, is even more happy and joyous than the previous song! It’s quite the feat, but it will leave you with a bigger smile on your face!

The jangly guitars, the melodic piano, brisk drum beat and vivacious vibrato vocals (say that 5 times fast!) make it an essential gateway into the sound of TRM.

You say the words that make it all seem right

Can’t understand why I blame it on myself….

Where the light is a corner we found!

Fitton sings about that special place in private where you can just make out with your partner and not have to care about anyone around you looking. No smooth jazz needed, just happy Indie sing-alongs! If you care to check it out for yourself, by all means do so!

In conclusion, The Red Monroes/Fitton and co have definitely shifted in tone from what they were nearly ten years ago, but I’d say it’s a refreshing change. A much more upbeat approach to counter the anger in certain musical facets is always refreshing, at least to me. Either way, this has been Brewtown Music serving you a hearty brew of Midlands tunes!

The Reds’ stuff

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

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/the-red-monroes

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3k7D2tS4pWB2xzWB3r_BbQ

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheRedMonroes

The Risks’ Unsigned page: http://www.unsigned.com/therisks

The Risks’ Myspace: https://myspace.com/therisksderby

The Red Monroes 2

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/

FI logo

fontana_instincts happy

 

What Else Is Out There #4: Alex Blood

In this piece, there will be Blood!

In this piece, there will be Blood!

There is a big market out there for both hip hop and ska so why not fuse the two? Clearly this guy had the right idea since he has become one of the most recognised and celebrated musicians in Derby. Digging for gold, it’s Alex Blood!

The Midlands scallywag Alex Blood can boast a career in music that spans over a decade with many influences behind his sound and many gigs performed all over the country. Sure you could say that about many acts out there, but Blood has built a large enough following and punchy enough sound to cement himself as a local (in Derby) music legend.

Blending rock, hip hop, funk and reggae with a no-nonsense Midlands sensibility, Blood with his band The Diggers have just as complex a interesting story as their sound so let’s dive right into it.

They're more than just the Derby Chili Peppers, but that would be pretty cool too!

They’re more than just the Red Hot Derby Peppers, but that would be pretty cool too!

Born in 1982 in Derby, Blood set his sights on becoming a musician/producer in the same vein of Jamie Beau with his experiences stretching as far back as May 2001! But we need to go back even further to see how Blood got into the sordid world of the hippity hop as far as the mid 90s when an impressionable young Blood got into rap music.

“I’d moved from an outer-city school to an inner-city and just got into the whole inner-city culture and was exposed to more Hip Hop.” This love of rap was explained in this interview with BBC Derby news in 2004 which was one of his first known interviews to the public. Not a bad start eh?

This soon hyped up the release of his first full EP simply known as The Alex Blood EP under Deprogrammed Productions, the same production he was under when he produced the Deprogrammed Presents, a hip hop collaboration with multiple underground MCs across the UK.

Over the next few years, Blood would soon start gaining ground towards becoming a very well-known recording artist/producer with his next few records. These were the Blood Makes Noise EP from 2005 and The Preface 23 track mixtape released in 2006 featuring guest spots from Reggiimental and MC Rukus.

Youtube video of theirs from 2006! 240p we meet again!

From 2007 onwards, Blood’s profile was boosted even further when, at the beginning of 2007, became the Creative Facilitator & Workshop Leader at Baby People Studios in Derby. The jobs involved in this position are to deliver year long schemes of work to young people who are usually hard to reach and try to engage them and help improve their lives.

This form of community service is something that he does not only with Baby People, but also with BBC Blast that same year until 2009, Kingsmead School in Derby, Positive Activities for Young People at Derby Connexions and The Derby Youth Offending Services. He has also travelled to Chesterfield and Corby to deliver his music workshops.

But it was also in 2007 when Blood, Baby J and a few other Derby MCs worked together on a remix of Mark Ronson’s version of Valerie which was played on MTV Base! Yes, TV exposure as opposed to the usual radio exposure which we will get onto of course!

Music on MTV? Sorcery!

A major highlight from 2008 came when Blood was able to tour with the one and only Jay-Z! HE needed to watch his throne cos I’m sure Blood would have taken it!

After he released a ten track album in 2009 The Unlucky Winner is… , he decided he wanted to expand the sound he had even further and develop some of the tracks he’d made previously into more of a band feel. Enter…The Diggers!

On September 2010, Blood released the first Diggers EP It’s a Free Country which developed some of the songs off The Unlucky Winner is such as Scallywag, Tired of Workin’ and Sticky Song.

The Diggers current line-up consists of Blood himself, Gregoir Dominic Jackson, Chevy-jordan Thompson, Nathan Rickards (who has helped produce Blood’s EPs) and Duane Acton.

And Cow and Chicken's Dad here on top a bin!

And Cow and Chicken’s Dad here on top of a bin!

The next release for the band would come on April 1st 2011 with The Manifesto EP. No Alex, what you do is you say you release it on April 1st but release in on another day because…never mind!

The Diggers would score two big festival gigs in May and August with Glastonbudget and YNot, the latter having Tilted Smile, Max Raptor and Crushing Blows on the cards with them on The Allotment stage.

The Diggers would close out 2011 with a set on Radio Derby on December 21st and also Alex would give us quite an impassioned spoken word piece about the state of the country all in the name of slagging off reality TV. Gwarn!

WARNING: Contains politics

Doomsday year started off very well for Blood and The Diggers with some BBC Radio 6 Music airplay presented by Steve Lamacq with their song Living in the Red off the Manifesto EP. They would also make a YNot return come August because why not? (Ducks flaming pitchfork)

Come 2013, Blood, already having a big profile as a soloist and producer was getting even more publicity with The Diggers, with the release of two singles in February. These were Say Hello and Wake Up, both of which were supported by Radio 1 with the latter getting its own remix done at Maida Vale BBC. These releases were also there to hype up Baby J’s upcoming Baby People album.

A massive gig came for The Diggers on June 1st as they would perform at Party in the Car Park in Canterbury supporting the likes of Mista Jam, Chase & Status and Labrinth!

Over the rest of the Summer, Blood would be working, both on and off the stage a few times with both Derby-based R&B artist Jamie Joseph and good ole’ rap duo Great Scott. All three acts jammed together in July in preparation for a massive Radar Love event which would also feature all three acts and serve as Blood’s Derby comeback and as a single launch/record label launch for his new label Sheepskin Beats.

Best visual representation possible!

Best visual representation possible!

The gig was very well received and gave not only Blood a triumphant comeback but some good publicity for the release of his new single The Way I Do which was also featured alongside Great Scott‘s Let Me Down Easy and Jamie Joseph‘s Hit the Ground Running.

Before aired on BBC Radio 6 again in October, this time by Tom Robinson and for The Way I Do, the band officially announced they would spend the rest of the year recording for a proper album which they will look to release in Spring 2014.

Whoo! Quite the history, but it’s time to look at the music itself. There are certainly a lot of things here with Blood and The Diggers and Blood is able to pull a lot of musical ideas of very well.

And the flatcap, he pulls that off well an' all!

And the flatcap, he pulls that off well an’ all!

Even as far back as his solo MC days, he’s always been one to slip acoustic instruments into the mix like on his first ever EP on tracks like on Freedom (Man Bleedin’) and this blend of genres has been a staple of his music for over a decade of writing and producing music for himself and others.

So with such a massive discography like this, it was hard to narrow it down to a few recommended tracks. If I were to ultimately, I’d suggest two of his Diggers songs Scallywag and The Way I Do.

The former Scallywag is a cool and confident ska track with Blood singing the whole time rather than rapping. He cockily introduces himself which fits since it is the first track off his first Diggers release (though the original is on The Unlucky Winner is...) and shows that you can either like him or lump him and you can take him for what he is instead of what you think he is or want him to be:

I said Hello! How do you do?

My name is Alex Blood it’s scallywag to you! (2x)

You don’t know me, you see you think you do

So I must do my best to show my face to you

You’re so phony, you think that it’s the truth…

The latter The Way I Do is my personal favourite of the two and despite it being another song about personal identity, it is much more brutally honest about how he lives his life and what the state is about the place that he lives in.

This fiery, yet still laid back political anthem tackles a lot of those problems oop North such as unemployment, trying to make ends meet, local shops closing down and just overall barely being able to make it through a day.

When he talks about ‘burying me head’ it serves as quite an apt expression for how we are reluctant to deal with our problems and always talk about finding solutions but never do or follow through with the ideas we have to make things better. Either way, if you feel this way about modern times, check out the song below! You can also catch a Great Scott cameo!

In conclusion, Blood is an artist hard to pinpoint and I think that’s a good thing. Someone who’s not going to be pigeonholed and try everything he can get his hands on and it pays off very well due to his poetic and musical talents. I’d definitely recommend him in time for his new album coming out this year. Go on you scallywag and thanks for stopping by for some Brewtown tunes, from Burton and beyond!

Blood’s Stuff

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

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

Bandcamp: http://alexblood.bandcamp.com/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/alexblood

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alexblood

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/alexblooduk

End of the line