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

 

Brewtown #15: Riding the Low

Paddy and 4 non-famous people from left to right: Baker, Chambers, Considine, Eaton, Baldwin

Paddy and 4 of his mates from left to right: Baker, Chambers, Considine, Eaton, Baldwin

To mark the recent DVD release of the brilliant sci-fi comedy The World’s End and to mark the 15th milestone on Brewtown Music (WAY more important!), I thought I’d give you a chance to see into the musical side of one of the stars of that film. Paddy Considine’s own Riding the Low!

Considine (lead vocals), Chris Baldwin (guitar, backing vocals), Daniel Baker (lead guitar(Yes, THOSE two again!!)), Richard Eaton (bass) and Justin Chambers (drums) make up this quintet that on the surface seems like another celebrity vanity project, but when you take into account that these are talented musicians being fronted by a man who doesn’t even like being labelled as a celebrity, you may just eat those words.

It's odd how vanity has become synonymous with humiliation.

It’s odd how vanity has become synonymous with humiliation.

Obviously, with Paddy being kind of a big deal in terms of being an actor and film maker, starring in films like The Bourne Ultimatum and Hot Fuzz , a lot of people don’t know of his musical exploits which spread back just as far, if not further than his interests in acting. A lot of Brewtown residents will know this, but anyone out there who isn’t in the know of this, allow me to clue you in.

Patrick George Considine was born in 1973 in Winshill where he still resides to this day. It was in his teens when he met two people in the space of three years who would set him on the road to a multi-media career.

At 15, he met Nick Hemming (the leader of The Leisure Society) through Richard Eaton and built up a friendship between them that helped him (as well as local youth theatre) to find his calling in life: in the performing arts. Inspired by bands like Guns N’ Roses and Spinal Tap, they created comedy rock albums that taught them each that they could have fun being creative and not end up pushing the self-destruct button.

The second key person he met at 18 years of age in 1990 was Shane Meadows, whom he met at Burton college whilst on a performing arts course. It was here that he became a part of a short-lived virtual comedy thrash group (a genre combination for the ages!) called Grunt.

This 1983 film called Grunt was used in Troll 2, which came out in 1990, which was the same year Paddy went to college and became a part of the comedy thrash group of the same name! Coincidence? I think so! Sorry for wasting your time!

Paddy also got together with Meadows, Hemming and Eaton to form She Talks to Angels, an Indie band named after the Black Crowes’ song of the same name. Paddy went under the pseudonym of ‘Bam-Bam’ as the drummer (cute!) with Meadows on lead vocals, Hemming on guitar and Eaton on bass.

But because of incompletion of college courses, Paddy going away in 1994 to Brighton University to study for and eventually gain a first-class degree in Photography and other commitments, STTA called it a day in 1993 but not without their fair share of requests to be on a record label along the way. This time in the Midlands music scene would go on to inspire their 2009 This is Spinal Tap-inspired mockumentary Le Donk and Scor-zay-Zee.

Oh, how the scene has changed!

She Talks to Angels reunion tour!

But you’re probably wondering: “How far are we till we get to Riding the Low?” Well, over a decade by this point but seeing how a lot of you know about Paddy’s acting chops during this period like A Room for Romeo Brass, 24 Hour Party People and the cult horror classic Dead Man’s Shoes, I’ll skip ahead to 2007 where the story of RTL begins.

Still wanting to perform in a rock band, what with it being of one of his first passions and all, Paddy looked to form a band that was as ‘kitchen sink’ and no-bullshit as Meadows’ directorial efforts combining American alternative rock with a no-nonsense British sensibility.

As well as being inspired by Guided by Voices (his favourite band, check out Le Donk’s shirt!), the name came from a book about Lee Marvin. Paddy himself quoted:

“When Lee came off films, he would still have the character residing in him and he’d find it hard to shake psychologically and be in a bit of a depression. His psychologist said to him that’s the time when you need to keep yourself active with the things you liked doing and they call that period after the movie ‘riding the low.’”

Was this Marvin’s ‘low’ he was on about? PS. Just kidding, I actually love this song!

He of course needed other musicians for this to be a band after all, so he enlisted the help of four guys who would help his band come to be. Eaton on bass (of course) introduced him to Star From Ivy leader Baldwin which led to the inclusion of Baker (they need their own site with how many acts they’re in!) and Dan Thompson became their drummer in the first year or so later replaced by Hero2Zero (whom Baldwin was also in. See? He does need his own site!) drummer Justin Chambers.

He saw the band as a way to get back to reality after he finished acting for the day and just so what he had always wanted to do and loved to do. In their first year as a band, they immediately took off as a local favourite act, not just due to the initial draw that someone as well-known as Paddy had, but with the raw, lo-fi sound that gripped people’s ears whenever they performed.

This draw rippled not only in the Midlands, but also in places like Stockport, Manchester and London, where RTL have been frequent to revisit when given the opportunity. Americans and New Zealanders also became fans of the band thanks to an active and dedicated forum that Paddy himself was a part of that was dedicated to his film-making works.

The earliest available recording of a RTL gig from November 2007

With this new-found medium fanbase, demand for their music in mind and interviews with BBC Radio 6 in mind, the band set out to record their first EP They Will Rob You Of Your Gifts in 2009 on Clinical Finish Records, the label owned by Paddy and Baldwin themselves and in the same year as Le Donk would become a cult hit. The finished product contained four songs, one of which was fan-favourite Easy On Your Own. Towards the end of the year, the band performed a live set on Janice Long’s Radio 2 show to promote the EP.

Of course with Paddy being a busy guy what with his day job and all, RTL gig and record on and off depending on the demand for his acting talents. The late 2000s/early 2010’s were particularly busy for him and so it was rare to see him perform with his band, not surprisingly. But in 2012, he looked to be getting more gigs than usual, especially in his hometown. Yay!

Starting off the year, headlining a show at the Wetmore Whistle alongside Raptorial and Phoenix Salvation may have been a sign of what was to come because they would be frequently returning to the Whistle over the next year. The first occasion being in June with their headlining of the Arch Creations stage at Burtfest. Their reception was so positive that they performed a six song encore!

One of those encore songs, about being metaphorically pissed on!

After the financial failure of Burtfest, a fund-raising campaign known as ‘Save the Whistle’ was underway and one of those fund-raising efforts to save the place came at the end of June when RTL headlined a show supported by Kitten Pyramid and Black Wolf Catch. They would be back to the Whistle again at the end of the year for a Christmas party featuring acts like Great Scott, Exile84 and Star From Ivy.

To get 2013 going, they released a Soundcloud demo reel in February called Riding The Low Are The Part-time Rockstars, an apt description of their run in the music scene featuring early cuts of songs like By-Product of the Last Flats and Meet Skanker.

In April, they hyped up the release of their first full-length album What Happened to the Get to Know Ya? by releasing a single Rocky 99 which was met with a lot of positive feedback including a #56 spot on the iTunes Rock Chart!

#56! Time to Party!!

#56! Time to Party!!

In May he was interviewed by the Independent about an ailment that he had been suffering from for over two decades called Irlen Syndrome, a rare condition which makes you “unable to process full spectral light…exacerbated by environmental factors such as lighting, brightness, glare, high contrast, patterns and colours.” This meant he has to wear special lenses to help filter out the light which I’m sure come in handy even for his music what with spotlights shining down on the stage he performs on.

Later in the month, RTL headlined the Sunni Mae Festival in Willington which helped raise money for a young girl diagnosed with Neuroblastoma.

The band finally released their debut album from Genepool Records on June 10th which gained a positive review from Drowned In Sound and positive live reception at venues like the Victoria Inn in Derby on June 7th and the O2 Academy in Islington on June 28th, a day after The World’s End was released in theatres nationwide.

Jacket, T-shirt, trousers and trainers. Most dapper red carpet attire ever!

Jacket, T-shirt, trousers and trainers. Most dapper red carpet attire ever!

The band was given another public profile boost with their performance in August in Newcastle with The Wonder Stuff as well as a recommendation from Miles Hunt to his followers to give RTL’s album a listen. The album has since September become available in digital download, CDs AND vinyl record! So three generations of sound storage media for those preferring a bit of a retro experience from new music! The band are also working on their second album with the working title Riding The Low Are Here To Help The Neighbourhood! Yay for more long names!

But now, let’s look at said new music! It should be said again that out of the many celebrities who’ve recorded albums and tried to come across as sincere and not just vain, Paddy is someone who gets it, bang on the money!

RTL describes their music on their Facebook page as “Lo-fi, raw guitar rock with the fat cut out.” As modest and down-to-Earth as that statement is, I think it’s underselling their ability to produce some nuanced, complex and very accessible music and performance. You can tell Paddy means every word he is singing and this have been thoughts building up in his mind for years to the point where he had to write them down and put them to music.

The music itself instrumentally is great too. Chambers is an energetic percussionist, Eaton is great on the bass (Paddy should know knowing him most of his life!) and Baldwin and Baker continue to shine as dual guitarists/backing vocalists. The production value is also of note, with What Happened… being produced by Oregon-based musician Chris Slusarenko of Boston Spaceships (both of them met at a Rob Pollard show! Fanboys working with fanboys for the win!) with additional instrumentals from the likes of the Decemberists and Dharma Burns!

While the band has many great tunes with ranging sounds and emotions from the acoustic vs electric battle in Catch Me When You Go or the happy anthemic harmonies from vocals and guitars on Great Day Out For The Boys, I have taken quite a particular fancy to their debut album’s single Rocky 99.

There’s something about this song that even though there is an air of drama and conflict in this song, the music sounds so hopeful and happy like there will be a silver lining to what is happening. I can take from the title that it’s referring to the year 1999 (Room for Romeo Brass came out then which was had ‘rocky’ characters to say the least!) and not a parallel universe when Hollywood just wouldn’t give Sylvester Stallone a break with the sequels!

Jokes aside, all the instruments sound great together, including a piano that’s been added to the mix and Paddy sings with a higher pitch than usual but is still sounds as heartfelt as ever recounting what must have been a stressful time in his life but had someone by his side to keep him sane through it all:

So what was the goal? And is there a God? And am I alone?
I’m her clown and she’s my guide
Along the way
The lessons I’ve learned
Rocky 99
We trade in love
Well she’s my guide
And our best dramas are on the way down there

But then again, I’m not the best at lyrical analysis so let us know in the comments what you think the song means or is about and let us know what you think of the music in general.

Even if Paddy doesn’t like to be referred to as a celebrity, I personally think he is the essence of the word. Not just in terms of fame but the fact he should be celebrated, as a role model for anyone in media whether it be in acting or music. He may be more well-known for the former but the latter should not be ignored either. Riding the Low is the genuine article behind all the glossy headlines and gives the town of Burton on Trent something to be immensely proud of. This has been Brewtown Music serving you another fine brew of Midlands tunes.

Riding the Low’s stuff

Official Website:

Official Website: http://www.ridingthelow.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Riding-the-Low

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ridingthelow

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ridingthelow

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

Paddy’s website: http://paddyconsidine.co.uk/(old)index.htm

Paddy’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaddyConsidine

Chris Baldwin Music Website: http://www.cjbmusic.co.uk/

Album on iTunes

RTL

Riding the Low