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

 

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BREWTOWN 20th POST: MAX RAPTOR

Wot you lookin' at from left to right: Winnington, Stevenson, Ray and Reisner

Wot you lookin’ at from left to right: Winnington, Stevenson, Ray and Reisner

So here we are with another multiple of 10 milestone article! To mark this momentous occasion that I’m making it out to be, let’s look and listen to one of the most nationally known and popular acts to come out of Burton-on-Trent in recent memory. British cousin of Ego, it’s Max Raptor!

Wil ‘Ray’ Raybould (vocals), Ben Winnington (guitar), Matt Stevenson (bass) and Pete Reisner (drums) form this hard rock quartet who have been one of the bigger national success stories to come out of Brewtown.

Their alt-punk style mixed with their widespread reputation has landed them massive support slots alongside the likes of Billy Talent and The Stranglers believe it or not!

The right look for that announcement possible! Happy but keeping up the punk image at the same time!

The right look for that announcement possible! Happy but keeping up the punk image at the same time!

Not to spoil too much right away of course, since there’s a lot to cover here! Let’s start off with the origin of the band, which stems back to 2006 from a humble academy in Barton-under-Needwood called John Taylor High School. Ray and Stevenson were friends at JT along with another gentleman called Tom Garrett (brother of Sam Garrett).

Stevenson phoned up Ray one day whilst being at uni and asked him if he’d like to have a jam. They all agreed to it along with Garrett and an old friend of Stevenson called JB Wilcox was brought in to play guitar along with Ray on vocals, Garrett on bass and the current bass Stevenson on drums.

John Taylor, along with three of the original members of MR and Reisner, has a decent alumni of future Brewtown staples such as Roz Bruce, Sam Garrett and Christian Taylor of Get Cubs just to name a few.

ROCK AND ROLL THROUGH AND THROUGH!!

ROCK AND ROLL THROUGH AND THROUGH!!

Although they formed in 2006, they sent music to each other over the Internet to prepare until March 2007 when they had their first official gig at the Victoria Inn in Derby. Ah, what a history that place has! Little did those people watching know that they witnessed the first time one of the biggest Brewtown bands performed live. Their first ever gig was apparently at a Christian Farmer’s BBQ which isn’t quite as spectacular!

Spreading the word over social media such as Myspace (yep, THIS was 2007!), they performed not just locally, but all around the country including a gig at the Joiners Arms in Southampton where the likes of Oasis, Muse and Enter Shikari have played amongst many other now mainstream acts.

Through these humble yet promising set of gigs in their first year, they started off 2008 with MR sending a rough EP over to Kerrang! Radio which, surprise surprise, was given a slot on their unsigned show for six weeks! This would not be the last time that MR had anything to do with Kerrang though!

Birmingham Festibull 2008 backed by Kerrang! Apologies for the audio, people still recorded with potatoes back then!

As well as Festibull, they performed at Cockermouth (admit it, you snickered!), a much smaller YNot and Heartfest in Barton, their old stomping ground. Other highlights alongside the festivals in 2008 included supporting Johnny Panic at The Old Bell and being set to record a new EP with Sam Bell who has worked with the likes of Snow Patrol, Bloc Party, Editors and REM!

With this amount of backing behind them, MR could only go from strength to strength. From playing Club NME and HMV showcases with the likes of Mystery Jets, Hot Club de Paris, Black Sabbath‘s Tony Iommi and Biffy Clyro, how could they not?!

But it was in June 2009 that the Raptors had their biggest break and fangasm from how it all went down! Their ‘GREAT AND THE GOOD’ tour saw them supporting not just Calvin Harris and The Zutons, but also their idols and main inspiration. Canadian punk rockers Billy Talent!

That shoe brush should have it's OWN support slot!

That shoe brush should have it’s OWN support slot!

The dates of 9th-10th June will live on in Raptor memory as they opened for Billy Talent (who discovered MR through their Myspace and invited them to open for them) to very appreciative crowds at the Newcastle o2 Academy and the Camden Underworld. It didn’t hurt that they returned to YNot as headliners and the Cock Rock Festival too (what is their obsession with cocks?….sorry).

At this point, with their profile given a massive boost through their tour and their dates with BT, they had four record labels approaching to sign them which had to have been flattering. But after much deliberation, they signed with Salisbury-based Naim Label who they have remained with to this day.

2010 saw more great things happen for the Raptors which saw single releases from Naim, another opportunity to tour with another established punk act and to perform at one of the biggest festivals in the country! Or at least, the first of quite a few big festival slots for them!

Download? Oh, how passé!

I’ll tell you what’s not passé though. Playing 23 tour dates with The god damn Stranglers! From February to March, the Raptors toured all round the country opening for the veteran British punk act. The biggest date for them came on 19th March when they played at the Hammersmith Apollo of all places, a venue they always wanted to play at.

Whilst they were performing with The Stranglers, they gave the public a pre-emptive stream of their first single The Great And The Good which was released as a single download from iTunes, Amazon etc. on April 26th under the Naim label.

They started off the year with a supporting tour, so why not have their own headline tour? From 20th-31st July, they went on a UK headlining tour starting at the Flapper and Firkin in Birmingham and finishing up at a pretty familiar place, YNot Festival 2010.

If we place this festival ONE MORE TIME...(foreshadowing FTW)

If we place this festival ONE MORE TIME…(foreshadowing FTW)

As said earlier and shown through the video above, they were also on the card of the 2010 Download Festival performing on the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage on the 13th June where Enemo J also played that same day.

Do you believe in Deja vu? They announced a second headline UK tour for September to promote their second single release of the year Ghosts which started at The Well in Leeds on 11th September and finished at The Wig & Pen in Truro on 9th October.

After a slot at the London Freeze Festival towards the end of October, MR made a big step towards the release of their first album being guided and produced by former SixTh guitarist Dan Weller.

With co-producer Skeletor!

With co-producer Skeletor!

To harken in 2011 and to prepare for the release of their first album, they put out an EP featuring songs like Sparks, The Great and the Good, Ghosts and Conversations with Death along with an announcement that the album would be called Portraits.

They would also have a support slot with American hardcore band Attack Attack! in Wales in March to further promote Portraits and later in the month, they put it up for pre-order on Amazon.

Portraits was released for all the public to buy on April 11th which was met with great reception from both fans and critics. The critics in particular drew comparisons to The Clash and King of Blues and Kerrang magazine gave them an impressive 4K rating (out of 5 of course).

Meanwhile, everyone thinks Dave McPherson is racist!

Meanwhile, everyone thinks Dave McPherson is racist!

To further promote Portraits, they went on an another tour of the UK from May 3rd-21st which started at the Camden Barfly in London and ended at the Moho (now the Northern Quarter) in Manchester.

The band added another famous act to their CV by supporting The Darkness for three gigs in June to start off a massive Summer campaign which included Leopallooza in Cornwall, Boardmasters Festival in Newquay, Hevy Festival in Folkestone and another return to YNot.

Just after these tour dates, they released their first music video on Youtube (The Alarm was just footage from Nosferatu so it doesn’t count) for their first post-album release single The King is Dead that racked up over 1500 views in the first three days. It also has it’s own ‘making of’ video that was released a month after and was played on TV on channels like MTV, Kerrang and Scuzz!

Post-punk hard rockers in tons of make-up…seems legit!

Quite a heart-warming story rounded off the year for the Raptors as James Halstead of The Metal Hammer Podcast’s Gill and Beez show spearheaded a Facebook campaign to get Max Raptor to perform in the bedroom of a fan called Barney Hall who had written into Kerrang! magazine to state that his new favourite album was MR’s Portraits.

Sure enough, after some involvement from Kerrang! and Rock Sound, the campaign got so many likes and had spread so wide over the Internet (spawning the meme ‘We Are All Barney Hall’) that MR did a live stream of their performance in Hall’s bedroom on 18th December, an early Christmas present if there ever was one! (Listen to the audio here)

With 2012 came a major line-up change with Wilcox and Garrett departing (Wilcox had a child and Garrett pursued other music) to  former Blakfish and SOS member Reisner on drums and Chris Gilbert on guitar! Even more widespread appeal came and some of it didn’t come from a single gig/festival! In February, to coincide with the release of their second post-album single release Carolina, they went on…you guessed it…another UK tour!

EAT, SLEEP, TOUR, REPEAT!

EAT, SLEEP, TOUR, REPEAT!

Towards the end of the tour (the Portland Arms gig date on the 19th to be exact), they released their second official music video for Carolina directed by well-known music portrait photographer Tom Barnes who also directed the video for The King is Dead. The video soon received TV airplay on Scuzz much like their previous effort.

In between working on a second album in Bristol this time, they were nominated for Best Punk for the American Independent Music Awards! That was nice of them! They didn’t win the judge’s award, but they did win the Vox Populi (voice of the people) award which was the award based on the fan’s choice. The people have spoken!

Not only that, but they got more national attention when video game developers Codemasters decided to not only feature The King is Dead in the soundtrack of their game DiRT Showdown, but also had the song play over the official international trailer for the game!

It’s not Forza, but it’ll have to do!

And yet they still missed the scent of home! After festivals in Brighton on the same card as Maximo Park, they returned to Burton-on-Trent to be a part of Burtfest, playing to a moshin’ main stage crowd on June 16th! Bet you never thought you’d hear that festival’s name again did you? MUAHAHA!!!

After performing twice at the 2000 Trees Festival in July and ANOTHER YNot, they had massive news to deliver. Said news was that they would be playing at the appropriately massive Reading and Leeds Festival in August!

Not only were they playing at the festival, they also played on the BBC Introducing stage (them again!) in a set that brought a whole festival’s load of new fans with them and were the subject of a ‘cock-rockumentary’ filmed and edited by Stalbridge-based photographer Marianne Harris.

Gilbert sums it all up best!

Happy Raptor!

Towards the end of August, they released their third single Patron Saint of Nothing which was also the last single from Portraits they released in order to give that last hurrah to the first album before moving onto new material which they would play at gigs for the rest of the year.

Onwards to 2013 as MR were right at work developing the sound for their second album and announcing the year’s tour dates on social media which would include Hit the Deck in Bristol, Takedown in Southampton, TRUCK in Oxford (the Uni’s brilliant minds at work!) and a SIXTH SUCCESSIVE YNOT! They are to YNot what Arcade Fire are to…every festival!

In between these festivals, they released their first single Breakers from their then upcoming second album which was played on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show in June as well as having a music video.

Your visual aneurysm for the day!

Also in between the festival performances, they would gain two support slots with well-known punk acts (Of course!) with one being a 14 date tour with DINOSAUR PILE-UP and the other being with Alkaline Trio at the Islington O2 Academy.

September saw the second single release England Breathes on the 2nd and a free digital download of Grace and Favours on the 29th before the album itself Mother’s Ruin was brought out on the 30th to some damn good reception from fans and critics again!

This was just in time for another line-up change in October which saw Gilbert replaced by Winnington which was described by the Burton Mail as a ‘Doctor Who-like regeneration’!

Hopefully it wasn't this frightening!

Hopefully it wasn’t this frightening!

With a memorable performance at the UK Vans Warped Tour in London and having Radio 1 airplay once again in November (Must Work Harder was played), they announced two co-headliner tours with one in December with Attention Thieves and We Are Fiction and the other in January 2014 with Fort Hope.

Speaking of, with 2014 having rolled right around and with the festival announcements of Camden Rocks and goddamn Sonisphere being on MR’s minds along with new material, only time will tell how much more will come their way!

NOW! After all that, the gigs all over the country with many well-established acts and a whole nation of fans accrued, I bet you’re wondering how Brewtown Music thinks the music itself holds up? Well…………..

Property of Orion Studios and Warner Bros. Standard copyright procedure, sorry!

Alright, alright! I think that these four lads (seven if you count all members past and present) have made for some damn exciting press for the Brewtown scene and rightly so! With a band name inspired by the Guatemalan god of drinking and smoking and a dinosaur, you think they’d make a big impression wouldn’t you?

With crashing chords and thunderous vocals, Max Raptor have a hard rock/punk sound that is all their own and doesn’t come across at all whiny or petulant unlike some other bands who try to pull this style off. Each song has the potential to stick with you and have you screaming and chanting along with them, though there are some softer songs thrown in to calm you down (Heavy Hearts).

The lyrics of their song paint vivid pictures whether they be of domestic violence and broken families (Carolina) to painting a pretty cynical view of life in Britain (a good chunk of their discography)! If I were to choose two of these to check out, I’d go with The King is Dead and England Breathes.

The first of these selected tracks The King is Dead is a great primer for those who want to get into MR’s sound as it gives you a raw, visceral and blaring sound that is sure to give you the impetus to want to punch the guy moshing next to you in the face! (Seriously though, don’t do that. Use the nearest wall instead)

Ray gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect vocally with guttural conviction to what he’s singing and can lead you in unison to chant along the chorus of a song which gives you a taste of that Max Raptor brand cynicism and anger. The backing harmonies for the bridge only egg you on to join in further!

It paints, or should I say hammers on the canvas, a picture of a successful man’s life falling apart with the video above helping that image along (yay bondage!). Towards the end of the song, anger management is attempted with cool calm winter seas being the calming image in place which does no good in this scenario as we get right back to the anger. Definitely one for those down on their luck and wanting an empathetic release!

When the horse jumps it’s jump and it falls at the fence

You’re the first man to know.

What a joke that it is, there’s a time and a place

For this hole in the floor…

THE KING IS DEAD! THE KING IS DEAD!

Second out of the two, England Breathes sounds like a pretty patriotic number, but if you know the irony that permeates through punk music, you’ll know it’s got quite a sarcastic and biting side to it. The heavy guitar work, rumbling bass, pounding drums and passionate vocals are all there but it’s the lyrics that make it stand out.

The chorus in particular sums up a sincerely straight-forward attitude that is displayed by many English people who just want to get on with things and live their lives. It’s personal pride, not patriotic pride.

That’s not saying it as a local music fanboy, that’s the overall music fan in me wanting to scream “England breathes as it does, in and out and get over it!” because it gives me something to feel at least happy or content with the country I live in that it takes a Midlands band to produce a response like this! Still though, check it out for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it!

Whew! In closing, it’s been a long and epic journey for Max Raptor who have served as one of the biggest examples of Brewtown’s scene hitting the big time and leaving a massive dent in it! I can’t do their work justice, even with this massive post dedicated to them, so do yourself a favour and experience their stuff! It’s the 20 Brewtown brew, come on!! Either way, this has been Brewtown Music, serving you a big helping of Midlands tunes!

Max Raptor’s stuff

Official Website: http://maxraptor.co.uk/

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

Naim Label page: http://www.naimlabel.com/artist-max-raptor.aspx

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

Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/maxraptor

Myspace: https://myspace.com/maxraptor

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Raptor

maxraptor_logo_black

Max Raptor 2

Brewtown #16: Mario’s Nicotine Parlour

This is not how they usually look from left to right: Chester, Mines, Knight and Skellet

Sadly, this is not how they usually look from left to right: Chester, Mines, Knight and Skellet

We return to regular Brewtown programming here with a young quartet that have made a decent impact in their first year of being part of the Burton music scene a la 5 Days of November. It’s-a-them, Mario’s Nicotine Parlour!

Jack Mines (lead vocals, lead guitar), Rhys Knight (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jack Skellet (bass guitar) and James Chester (drums) have brought a solid punk alt rock sound that comes as an interesting addition aside the Indie and hard rock that is common in the scene.

MNP describe their sound as “Arctic Monkeys meet Half Man Half Biscuit.”

"I bet that you'd look good in those Joy Division Oven Gloves!"

“I bet that you’d look good in those Joy Division Oven Gloves!”

The story for MNP starts in May 2012, despite not officially starting to do gigs as a band for nearly a year. Mines and Knight had always been playing music as a duo either at open mics or at friend’s parties.

The original line-up consisted of Mines and Knight in their usual roles with Luke Mousley on bass, Richard Bates on drums and Skellet as a deputy bass in case there was any hang-ups.

They spent the good part of 2012 and early 2013 writing material and practising said material, as you do, getting it ready for their awaiting public. Well I should say they were waiting after their first music video was released!

A video budget bigger than Texas, on a US map.

During the Spring of 2013 is when they started performing live officially, in April when they performed at the Navigation Inn in Swadlincote and at the Victoria Inn in Derby supporting Get Cubs and Great Scott. In May they would perform at the Wetmore Whistle for the first time as well as The Royal Oak supporting Sam Garrett, Fantastik 4 and Lucida Scroll.

In June, they would end up on the bill for Soundcheck’s Best of Burton event that took place at the National Brewery Centre run by Burton College students for their final course so their grades were in the band’s hands! Not really, but they were helped out by Star From Ivy, Phoenix Salvation and Fantastik 4 again.

The next month they would return to the Whistle to support The Vibe‘s Eyes EP launch along with 5 Days of November and support Kitten Pyramid and Lady and the Tramp for the Moira Beer Festival. In August was a major break for them as they performed on the main stage at the Rosliston Forestry Centre for Gladefest which also featured Tilted Smile, Wildfire Folk and The Roz Bruce Infusion. Knight would pull double duty that night (no typing error there) as he would also play percussion in folk band Green Fortune with Ma and Pa Knight, Kay and Mark.

Though nobody does a family band like the Partridges!

Though nobody does a family band like the Partridges!

MNP got their first bit of radio play with Knight and Mines being interviewed on Radio Ashby (Internet radio but hey it’s a start) where they were also promoted by Green Fortune. Family musicians helping each other? Take notes Oasis! (Dated I know but still)

October and November would bring them a line-up change with Chester and Skellet replacing Bates and Mousley on drums and bass respectively and a number of big gigs including a return to both the Glade for a Food and Drink Fair/Farmer’s Market, the Victoria Inn supporting Nottingham-based Indie rock act The Steady Sound and back to the Whistle once again, this time for their OWN EP launch!

Done on Hallow’s Boxing Day (Nov 1st), they launched their first EP Proof of Identity (produced by Dan Gallagher, yes him again!) and because it was the day after Halloween, they all daubed black and white makeup on their faces and that explains the first picture so…yeah there’s that.

But does that explain this genius editing job? Probably!

But does that explain this genius editing job? Probably!

The night after their EP launch, they were down to Kidderminster and pretty soon they were performing in Leicester, Derby, Sheffield and wherever else wanted their hands on them! In between these gigs going into 2014, a new demo track Organism was released in December and have attempted to be a part of the 2014 YNot Festival. Go for it!

Time for the actual music! Though they have only been around for a short time, behind the scenes and before officially performing live, their music has made a connection with a good number in the Brewtown scene as well as helping them go down a storm in the outer reaches of the country.

Their music is a hybrid of alternative, indie and punk which seems like a no brainer of styles especially from a rock band their age in this generation or music. Still, they own their music in both instrumentals and vocals with Mines and Knight showing some gruff and cig-ragged singing on their tracks. Speaking of, let’s look at two I recommend.

The first is the third track off their Proof of Identity EP, Time Will Wait. It starts off like a grunge track with the slow start and rough yet restrained vocals. But at about the 1:40 mark, it kicks into a higher gear like it literally should be a song that you speed up to along the highway while listening on the car radio. Definitely one to check out if you’re looking for some really up tempo and gritty music, coming out of Burton-on-Trent at least!

The second is, oddly enough, the second track from the EP, Crumpton Blues which sounds like something a depressed Chippy Minton would sing, if he could speak of course! Although there’s Blues in the title, you wouldn’t take that from the song itself as it is an up tempo, dare I say, jolly sing-along track. Oh it still keeps the rough vocals and dirty rock sound, but it is a pretty catchy tune itself.

It does appear to be in the lyrics though where the downer blues lyrics come in so it’s not an entirely misleading title. While tinged with the optimism the song does seem to give off, there’s definitely an acceptance of bad things happening to the singer:

Alcohol stained, it’s like a bullet to my brain and I know

These long, long days, they make me feel whole again and I know

I’m on a freight train and I’m just singing again oh!

Granted there’s a na-na-na sing-along refrain to step into give us a chorus as well as some trumpets thrown in which Bates himself is known for playing, but it isn’t without it’s slightly depressing moments. It’s a good mix of the downers and the uppers (don’t take that mix literally kids, drugs are bad mkay?), but that’s just me. As always, see for yourself.

Mario’s Nicotine Parlour are ones to watch out for, in terms of newer and younger acts. They show great promise in both their music and entertainment value and are being received well wherever else they go. If they’re round your way, drop by their parlour and smoke the night away, I mean put on your Nicorette patches! I wouldn’t want to upset anyone would I? Still though, this has been Brewtown Music serving you another fine brew of Midlands tunes.

MNP’s stuff

Official Website: http://mnpofficial.webs.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mariosnicotineparlour37

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/marios-nicotine-parlour

Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/mariosnicotineparlour

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MNPofficial

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

MNP

MNP 1

Brewtown #12: Jamie Beau

Beau Diddley!

Beau Diddley!

It’s soloist time once again in Brewtown with a finger-picking guitarist from the Mining town of Swadlincote who has made quite an impact in his first year of performing. The dandy young man Jamie Beau!

Beau (real name James Burton, fitting given this website!) is a singer/guitarist by performance and mix engineer by production which has him both sides of the glass when it comes to recording. Despite only being around for just over a year in the scene, he has made a great impression gaining opportunities to perform at the best festivals.

The VERY best!

The VERY best!

Beau comes from a family with five siblings and grew up in Swadlincote. He first started playing the guitar at 7 years old, took a break from it (since you have a very busy schedule at 7 years old) and then developed his musical interests further by taking up singing and performing in his teens as he rediscovered his passion for music.

Throughout his teens, he was in various bands and got his first taste in music production in 1996 when he went to his then guitar tutor’s studio to record the first song he ever wrote. As much as he was drawn to performing music, he was just as interested in the production aspect of music which he described as becoming “hooked on the process of recording then mixing, the meticulous attention to fine detail, the musicality and expression you can create and ultimately, the satisfaction with the end result.”

After graduating college with a distinction grade in sound engineering, he went for various music-related jobs such as a music teacher in Long Eaton in 2003 and going from a freelance sound engineer (started in 2005) to starting his own SE business JBB Studios in 2012. That kind of dedication is why sound engineers are well-respected by musicians for doing the job they do for whatever price.

And if bands try to slip out of paying them, something like this could happen!

It was also in 2012 when he decided to officially get back in the gig game in September and writing some new material while he was at it. Having been performing on and off as a solo artist since the early 2010s, Beau started using the experience he had gained in the industry through bands and sound engineering to make it on his own merit.

After this new start, one of Beau’s next gigs was amongst other sultry performers as he was put on as live music entertainment as part of a burlesque show in Derby in November run by Spotlight Burlesque and Cabaret. One of the burlesque performers on this night was Beau’s girlfriend known as Cadillac Arrest.

Some steamy burlesque night action here for you!

Some steamy burlesque night action here for you!

He would go the next month to perform at another burlesque show in Birmingham with Cadillac Arrest on the card once again as well as Great Scott! Great Scott Boylesque that is! Not the two muppets I’ve already written about! If they did burlesque…I can’t even come up with a fun analogy. It’s not pretty to think of!

But it was this year that Beau’s talents were able to flourish on both sides of the recording booth as well as getting some big time exposure. An off-stage example of his growing popularity in January when gained a new follower on his Twitter in the form of The Darkness! Spangly falsetto singing metal band you know? Gotta love their solo acoustic balladeers!

In February, one of his first gigs of the year came to be at Burton’s Royal Oak which was unfortunately interrupted by an abrasive heckler who Beau was able to fortunately able to sort out to continue the show. In between plenty of other gigs in the Midlands through Spring, in April, he announced the title of his first EP Shedding Skin as well as releasing a rather unique acoustic version of the Terminator theme! Yeah you saw that correctly, Terminator meets James Taylor!

You've got a friend John Connor!

You’ve got a friend John Connor!

The next month he went from one sci-fi classic theme to another as he was booked for a Boxman Media gig in Burton called StarFest on, appropriately enough, May 4th which would also feature the likes of Chris Baldwin, Lady and the Tramp, For the Kill and The Vibe. Two weeks later, he would be back in Burton again for another varied musical event which was Get Cubs‘ post UK tour homecoming show.

In June, Beau got some radio airtime on BBC Radio Derby where he along with Matt McGuinness of Derby folk act Karl and the Marx Brothers were interviewed about all things musically in the Midlands by Sally Pepper.

Later in the month, he was not only an attendee but also one of the performers at the world’s most famous music festival Glastonbury! OK, not on the main stage like the Rolling Fossils but just having a low key busking session amongst the organised chaos at Glasto! Also, one of his tweets was actually favourited by the Rolling Stones’ Twitter so that was cool too!

Go on, see if you can spot him!

Go on, see if you can spot him!

A week after his time at Glasto, he released Shedding Skin to positive reception from the likes of BBC’s Phil Trow taking note of his “Really powerful vocals” and event organisers Sidefest who said: “I can imagine seeing him perform at Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, Strawberry Fields, and to an extent, Reading and Leeds, and believe he has the talent to do just that.” Well, he kinda has done one of those already so it sounds like he’s well on his way!

An official launch party for the EP took place on July 19th at The Blessington Carriage in Derby which also featured fellow Derby acoustic acts George Simpson, Brookfield and pianist Eleanor Lee.

August proved to be even busier for Beau with performances at YNot Festival, Furthest From the Sea Promotions (A Derby-based arts promoter) this time playing with Karl and the Marx Brothers, down south on Newquay beaches and back in Burton for a Bank Holiday Sunday music evening at the Wetmore Whistle with Sam Garrett, Star From Ivy, Exile84 and 5 Days of November.

He would then be constantly going between recording and performing as a solo act and with KATMB, mostly performing in Derby and recording tracks at Piggyback Studios in Bretby.

Expect no big cigars or anyone calling each other comrade here though!

The whole autumn so far has not been any less busy for him as he gigged everywhere from Derby, Nottingham, Hartlepool and back again. One major highlight being Derby Folk festival pulling double duty as a solo act and KATMB member. His recording credits outside of performing have been mixing and mastering works for George Simpson, Hertfordshire-based Tail Dennerstein and a sterling recommendation from award-winning Welsh singer/songwriter Phil Lewis.

So after all that, let’s look at the man’s music itself and see what it’s like. It’s great to see how much Beau has done as far as music in the Midlands goes and as a solo performer, he’s just as great at that as he is a sound engineer.

Beau’s great voice, guitar playing, lyricism and production are all highlighted on Shedding Skin and features four tracks that all have their own merits and don’t submit to generic singer-songwriter syndrome of all the songs sounding exactly the same. Let’s have a look at it shall we?

A great poster for Tim Burton's new Bob Dylan biopic isn't it?

Great poster for Tim Burton’s new Bob Dylan biopic isn’t it? (Artwork design by Becky Ryan)

Beau announced last week that his debut album was in the works and if this work is an indicator, I’m looking forward to it! With the upbeat yet introspective The Mill, the soothing acoustic choir in All Late, heavily instrumental heartbreak song Piece by Piece and simple yet effective live recording Shame I Met You, there’s a variety to his songs that is to be appreciated in order to keep a simple four track EP fresh with each listen.

The two tracks in particular I will pick as my favs are The Mill and Piece by Piece since to me they show Beau’s best qualities on both sides of the recording booth. The first of these two The Mill as said before begins the EP with an upbeat feel with not only the strings of the guitar being used but the hollow body is used as percussion. This method is used not only for live performances but also on the EP but the recording has additional layers to it that makes it stand out.

So I keep head down in the dead end mill
I’ll find a new place to wait
And the Waifs and Strays of the dead end mill
Will keep until I stagnate 
Why forever do I take the long way around?

A look into a man’s repetitious yet jolly existence awaits you.

The second of these being Piece by Piece has the highest amount of production involved with many intricate layers and instruments including guitars both acoustic and electric, backing vocals and xylophone give this song a larger feel but still a subdued, calming nature to it that fits with a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

SideFest who I mentioned earlier said that this song was “written for a group to perform…a boy band perhaps…but handled and carried well single-handedly.” There are hints of an acoustic boy band song in there but it’s mostly a soothing folk number. Still I can sort of see where they’re coming from.

It’s mainly a well done song about heartbreak that serves as a great way for Beau to show off his performing and production talents through and through. Check these songs out for yourself with the links below if you don’t believe me!

Somehow baby I always came to your defence
And I couldn’t hear the voice of reason making sense
It was taking me apart
Taking me apart
Piece by piece 
All I want is to find peace 

Simply put, Jamie Beau/James Burton is an all-rounder in terms of music. Being recommended by many for his own music and music he has produced for others, he is a versatile addition to Midlands music, whether it be in Burton, Derby or anywhere he is needed. Keep an eye out for him if he’s coming your way, you’ll appreciate it I’m sure. This has been Brewtown Music serving you another fine brew of Midlands tunes!

Beau/Burton’s stuff

Beau Official Website: http://jamiebeau.com

Burton Official Website: http://jbbsound.co.uk

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

Bandcamp: http://jamiebeau.bandcamp.com/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jamiebeau

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JamieBeauMusic

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

Beau 2

Brewtown #6: Great Scott

From left to right (or just left from where they're looking) - Young Criss and Jaws

From left to right (or just left from where they’re looking) – Young Criss and Jaws

Yo, waddup, peace and all those other frivolous things to say on the street! I present to you, Burton’s premier (code for ‘only’) hip hop act and co-owner of the best beard in the genre with Scroobius Pip, GREAT SCOTT!

Jacob ‘Jaws’ Wilshaw and Christoper ‘Young Criss’ Nicol form what they describe as “White boys + Hip Hop + Back to the Future references.” Simple yet effective and that’s how I’d personally describe Great Scott. A duo that don’t seem much at first glance, but have the charisma and, dare I say it, swagger to pull off an entertaining and flowing set that can get the crowd jumping, bumping, crumping or all of the above (oh the spines that have been broken attempting to do so!)

It’s the typical old school hip hop drill with record samples and scratches but with a Burton spin. I don’t know how most hip hop purists would take that, but it’s my blog and I’m sticking with it!

The story of This is Heavy” starts with a young lad from the Midlands raised by the sounds of the street and…his parents I’d assume, Jacob Wilshaw. From the age of 15, he was already recording mixtapes and performing at small gigs and open mic nights which is very much an anomaly in Burton on Trent since the majority of the music being recorded and performed there was rock while rap was incredibly scarce. Despite this, Jaws pushed on and did the regular gig pattern as all other local acts do and gained a following with some competition among the way. Some bitter, senseless, angry competition!

Although I’m less offended by the production and rapping than I am by the Microsoft Publisher job on this backdrop!

Just to remedy this, here’s a bit of Jaws’ early freestyle work with a small cameo from MC Dogwalker!

But where does the other half come in? Well Young Criss came into the picture in a similar fashion to Jaws, writing poems which then graduated into rap songs. In a way it still is isn’t it? It’s just got a beat and some obscure as hell record samples now! The two met in 2009 through watching each others performances and a mutual love of hip hop which spurred them to pool their talents together and start collaborating on each others work.

However they did need a beat maker, a DJ that would be able to create the beats and sound they needed to make fully fledged rap numbers out of their words to a simple beat. That man, originally was ‘Kid’ Keith Barlow, a Burton college tutor who was quite proficient on the decks and could make the instrumentals that the two MCs needed. Thus, “1.21 GIGAWATTS?!” had officially begun to make some noise!

And make some noise they did! These three refused to be pigeonholed into just being a novelty act but at the same time aimed to keep it real because by Criss’ own admission in a Burton Mail interview: “I’m a geeky guy with thick glasses and a bad haircut and I’m not trying to be something I’m not.” That and a kickass beard which probably would explain their rise to prominence in Burton music!

Since their start in 2010, “Why don’t you make a like a tree?” released their first EP No Strings in November 2011, have set out on national tours spreading from Derby to London, have performed on stage at big UK festivals such as Strawberry Fields, Y Not and Glastonbudget and have had their work promoted on BBC Radio Nottingham, Radio 1 and 1Xtra, being praised by Professor Green of all people and being able to meet Fearne Cotton while they were at it!

Well Fearne is accustomed to some right 'Lemons' so it seemed appropriate!

Well Fearne is accustomed to some right ‘Lemons’ so it seemed appropriate!

Hear their side of the story between their acoustic performances on BBC’s The Beat

But even in 2013 will all of this hype and release of upcoming single Back To the Boom Bap, the members of “Buttheads!” each have their side projects. Jaws has another rap project which is a collaboration with fellow MC Skrufayce and DJ Joe Bird Raptorial. Formed in 2010, a big highlight that comes from this collaborative effort includes a rap remix of the Rush classic Tom Sawyer which I don’t know what many rock purists out there will make of it but I’d recommend at least one listen.

Young Criss has another project, but not a musical project, at least not primarily. An independent clothing brand no less! Young Criss co-founded Rhymesquare with Jon Paul-Kaiser in 2012 as a way of taking the artwork that the two had done for years on the music covers of “88mph” and put them onto T-shirts for a way to help fund the band. The brand itself is represented by it’s mascot: A friendly little bear!

Or: Pedobear's nude(r) urban cousin

Or: Pedobear’s nude(r) urban cousin

Rhymesquare is also a collaborative effort with other local rappers, MCs and R&B artists to help gain exposure for other lesser known acts who want a push towards greater things. The most recent effort being a free download compilation album RhymeSquare Volume Four – Bridging The Gap which feature “We don’t need roads” themselves as well as Derby based Ska band Alex Blood and the DIggers and R&B and soul singer Jamie Joseph.

This year, the role of DJ has been re-branded from ‘Kid’ Keith to ‘Sixth Letter’ Fletch whose own work has been heard not just in the UK, but in Japan too! The debut single was the original 7” vinyl version of Heavy Stepper, released by 7 Hills Records, the second being a single called Masquerade under the pseudonym Mr.F on Curli-que Records and the third was the EP Feather Your Nest, released and distributed in Japan by Tokyo based Chateaudisc. Heavy Stepper was also playlisted by the legendary John Peel back in 2003!

But we come to the time again when we look past the history and look at them as an act. I can definitely see from their live performances and manner that they don’t take themselves seriously, but they take what they DO seriously which is an important mind-set for many different types of performance.

Even as one of the few hip hop acts from Burton, they do hold their own amongst the many rock acts in terms of production, performance and song-writing ability. Jaws’ sharp flow and cheeky delivery sets him up as the diminuitive smack-talker of the pair whereas Young Criss’ straight-forward approach makes him the stalwart of the two.

Their songs range from a one night fling and the clingy aftermath (No Strings Attached Pt 1 and 2), frustration with a nightclub not playing the music you want to hear (Indie Rock and Jagerbombs) and being so poor you’ll proclaim to the world that you’d rather go to your Mummy’s for a curry…hell yeah! (I Need Some Money).

Two songs I like in particular though are Grapevine and Miss Music. The first being their own hip hop version of the Marvin Gaye classic Heard It Through the Grapevine complete with a sample from said classic. It treads similar ground of the original with it’s themes of discovering a partner’s cheating ways but is delivered with fury from both Jaws and Young Criss. It does take a turn in the third verse though, with Jaws revealing that he is no better than the woman/women who’ve cheated on him before.

“I ain’t gonna lie I’ve done the same,

felt fly and decided to run my game.

Man I messed up and it wasn’t even worth it

But I guess that I deserved it!”

This contrast of morals is a welcome change and spin on the original song and addresses both sex’s casual attitudes towards adultery.

The second song Miss Music is a much more positive song with a slightly more complex production than the mix and sample routine of some of the previous numbers. Despite having a sample of Barefoot Jerry’s “Smokies”, drums, bass and saxophone are added to the mix from Lee Gilbert, Robert Makin and Gemma Bower respectively. The metaphor of being in love with music is obvious when you listen to the lyrics:

“The first time she could tell I was nervous 
A virgin when it came to spraying my verses
I introduced myself like “Yes, Mic Check”
Ever since right then she’s been stuck in my head”

But both Jaws and Criss deliver the metaphor with style and a touching honesty which in a way, shows a commitment and a drive towards doing the best for their craft, but before I make this analysis too cheesy, I’ll also state that the production is just as smooth with great deck work from Fletch and the guest instrumentalists who blend right in to the “Do we become assholes or something?” mix.

Despite at first seeming like a bunch of goofy white guys trying too hard to stand out from the crowd, Great Scott (Yes, I’ve exhausted my Back To The Future quotes!) have become one of the most popular acts in Burton on Trent beyond their initial appeal as rappers amongst rockers. As a source of variety, they prove themselves a welcome, confident pair (trio if you count the DJ) with scene cred as well as street cred. Before I become any less cooler trying to sound cool, I’ll just say this has been Brew Town Music serving you another fine brew of Midlands tunes.

Great Scott’s stuff and other tidbits

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

Bandcamp: http://wearegreatscott.bandcamp.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeAreGreatScott

WhoSampled: http://www.whosampled.com/Great-Scott/

Rhymesquare: http://www.rhymesquare.co.uk/

Raptorial Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/rap-torial

The Sixth Letter: http://www.thesixthletter.co.uk/

Great Scott logo 2