In the first Nottingham scene round-up of 2013, Drowned In Sound's man in the East Midlands looks at the best new releases and live shows the city has to offer in the coming months and talks to up-and-coming three-piece Kagoule.
2012 will go down as the year Nottingham was finally taken seriously by the music industry. Jake Bugg's success in hitting the number one spot with his debut album culminating in a BRIT nomination for "Best Breakthrough Artist" (he didn't win) will hopefully pave the way for others to follow.
Not that we're advocating a production line of carbon copy Buggs-in-waiting hanging around Slab Square. Check out the city's thriving DIY scene in places like the Chameleon, Maze or Jam Cafe and you're more likely to find everything from metal to abstract noise, thrash punk to darkwave indie and pretty much any other genre known to man in between. Then there's Nottingham's burgeoning electronic and dance scene, with nights like Contrast emerging to rival the hugely popular Dollop and Sounddhism events currently residing in Stealth and the Bodega respectively.
A spate of new venues such as JT Soar on Sneinton Market and The Corner in Hockley have recently opened housing live music from artists based all around the globe. The more established likes of Rock City and the Rescue Rooms has also played host to several sold out shows already this year, most notably the Deftones, Frightened Rabbit and the aforementioned Jake Bugg's eagerly anticipated homecoming gig last weekend. Even The Music Exchange, arguably the finest record shop in the whole of the Midlands has decamped to bigger and better premises.
There's also a bunch of exciting new releases which we'll come to later. Before that, DHP announced the first batch of bands for this year's Splendour and Dot To Dot events...
It's that time of year when festival promoters start to announce who's playing what this summer and Nottingham's two largest events Splendour and Dot To Dot are no different. The former, now entering it's sixth year, takes place in the historic grounds of Wollaton Park on Saturday 20th July. Headlining will be local sensation Jake Bugg (yes, him again) and among those joining him will be Squeeze, Maximo Park and KT Tunstall with many more to be announced.
Meanwhile Dot To Dot will take place across multiple venues over the Bank Holiday weekend of the 24-26 May, alternating between Manchester (Friday 24th), Bristol (Saturday 25th) and Nottingham (Sunday 26th). Artists confirmed so far include Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Dry The River, Lucy Rose, Chapel Club, PINS, Bo Ningen and Wolf Alice with lots more to follow in the coming weeks.
Also happening on Sunday 21st April is Hit The Deck Festival which takes place across four of the city's venues - Rock City, Stealth, REscue Rooms and The Forum. This year's line-up at the rock, punk and metal orientated bash includes Sonic Boom Six, Attack! Attack!, Dingus Khan, Summerlin, Maybeshewill, Lost Alone, Rolo Tomassi and We Are The Ocean. Tickets can be purchased here.
With Indietracks due to announce its line-up shortly, we're very excited indeed for what this summer has in store.
First up is the excellent Hookworms album Pearl Mystic. Yes, we know they're from Leeds but the good folks at Gringo Records responsible for unleashing it on the Great British public aren't and for that reason alone, it merits a mention here. Well, that and the fact it's one of the most flawless debuts we've heard in many a moon. Released on Monday 4th March, the band will be out and about around the UK at the end of next month and the early part of April. Here's 'In Our Time' off said record.
Shoegaze collective Spotlight Kid return with their long-awaited comeback single 'Budge Up' on March 11th. The band made a successful live return to the city in the early part of February, playing to a nearly sold out Rescue Rooms with the also returning Amusement Parks On Fire. They're currently putting the finishing touches to their as-yet-untitled third long player which hopefully will be with us later in the year.
Eclectic folk combo The Golden Troubadours release their new EP next month. Entitled Beautiful Revolving Jane, it will be available from the band's website on March 1st. They'll also be playing a special launch show that evening at Nottingham's Malt Cross with The Listeners, Gallery 47 and Alexa Hawksworth. A track from the EP, 'A Moth Into Your Flame' can be heard here.
The aforementioned Gallery 47 also releases his first new material in over a year this week. The Dividends EP features three brand new compositions and can either be purchased here or picked up for free at one of his many forthcoming live shows.
Industrial electro duo I Am Lono release their debut single 'Leland'/'In Silence' this coming Monday (25th February) on limited edition seven-inch vinyl of which we're told only 250 will be pressed. There'll also be a single launch the following evening in the Rescue Rooms with Sleaford Mods supporting. Having been previously compared to the likes of Suicide and The Big Pink, Rough Trade recently described them as "...punks who've ditched the cool tag and gone straight for big, big songs." Judge for yourselves. Here's the title track, 'Leland' in all its widescreen glory.
One EP that caught our attention during the busy run-up to Christmas was the excellent Bear On Ice by local singer/songwriter Joe Danks. Recorded and arranged by Danks with Denizen's Pete Fletcher at Nottingham's First Love Studios, it's a worthwhile introduction to one of the city's hottest new emerging talents and can be purchased here. As a taster, here's a version of 'Hook Line Sinker' off the EP that was recorded in the early part of last year.
Regular readers of this column will know we've been singing Indiana's praises for some time now, and her latest single 'Bound' is possibly her finest three-and-a-half minutes to date. There isn't a video as such but here's the song set to a still of the record's sleeve. I'm sure you'll agree it's insatiably mesmerising.
Lo-fi electro pop sensations Yunioshi have been busy recording their self-titled debut album with Bloodgroup in Iceland. Before that, they'll be releasing a single, 'Tanlines', on 25th March which you can listen to below, and playing a release party with Wave Machines at London's Village Underground the next evening (26th). Be there or be square!
It doesn't require an honours degree in logistics or geography to work out Leicester isn't in Nottingham, but it's in the East Midlands so the next band qualify via a technicality. Silent Devices hail from just down the A46 and opened the Drowned In Sound stage at the now sadly-departed Summer Sundae festival two years ago. New single 'Marchlands' takes their anthemic, post-rock inspired grandiosity to the next level, and is well worth checking out. The band will be releasing a new single every month from now until April, with an album set to follow before the end of this year.
Finally, Nottingham's other most successful musical exports of recent times, Dog Is Dead, released their latest single earlier this month. 'Do The Right Thing', one of the standout tracks from last year's excellent All Our Favourite Stories coincides with the start of their current European tour which sees them share stages with the likes of Two Door Cinema Club and The 1975, before returning for the UK leg in April, culminating in a headline show at Nottingham's Rock City on Friday 3rd May.
Hot in 2013: Hot Tropic
Formerly the guitarist with Nottingham nearly-men Frontiers, DJ turned producer Hot Tropic has turned his back on the indie rock scene for now. Instead, he's chosen to embark on a more electronic, dance-based project and if the first fruits of his new venture are anything to go by, it may be a wise decision indeed. A single, 'Q-uest', will be released shortly, but in the meantime here's his remix of Secret Diaries' 'Prayers'
Nottingham-based three-piece Kagoule are the latest of the city's emerging talents to attract a wave of attention in recent months. Having met at school, the trio of Cai Burns (vocals/guitar), Lucy Hatter (bass/vocals) and Lawrence English (drums) became a real going concern just over two years ago. Having first attained local recognition as one of the supports at Dog Is Dead's hometown Xmas show in December 2011, they signed to local imprint Denizen Recordings soon after. This week sees them release their debut single 'Monarchy/Mudhole', a double-a side featuring two of the first songs they ever wrote together. Prior to that they played a launch show at a jam-packed Chameleon, which is where Drowned In Sound caught up with the band post-soundcheck.
DiS: Did you expect such a wave of interest at this early stage?
Lucy: No, definitely not. The speed at which people have picked up on us is quite surprising. Without meaning to sound like a dick, I think Cai's so talented that we always had a chance of going somewhere. Just not this quickly.
DiS: One thing that's stood out every time I've seen one of your shows is that you always play at least one new song. You must be quite prolific when it comes to songwriting. Is that something you really focus on?
Lawrence: Yeah, too much sometimes, to the point where we tend to forget about our current set! We're always practicing so it seems quite natural to be trying out new songs regularly.
Cai: It's like a reward to have written a new song. I see it a kind of achievement.
Lawrence: It's just a normal process for us to jam around new riffs whenever we rehearse. Some of those we've actually been practising for years.
Cai: We're always progressing and changing our sound.
Lucy: It's much more interesting than just playing an older song for the sake of it. Particularly when that song is really representative of what we're into as a band any more.
Cai: It's not that we're saying we don't like our own songs...
Lucy: ...we do but it's always good to try something fresh.
DiS: What's the oldest song in your current set?
Cai: 'Monarchy' by a long way. I wrote that when I was 14.
Lucy: We're surprisingly not sick of that yet!
Cai: 'Monarchy' and 'Mudhole' are the two really early ones, so it seemed right to release those as our first single.
DiS: Your sound seems to be influenced by a lot of American bands.
Cai: I wouldn't say we're exclusively influenced by American bands but it's a fair point that we do listen to a lot of American music.
Lawrence: It's not a conscious decision to sound like American bands or even choose to listen to them. It's just the US alternative scene of the early 1990s appeals to us more than anything else.
DiS: Do you think that the UK guitar scene has become stagnant in recent years because too many new bands are trying to emulate successful British acts like Oasis and The Libertines rather than branch out?
Cai: It certainly hasn't changed much in recent years. I can't think of anything new or interesting that a UK band has done in a long time.
Lawrence: There's no exceptional UK guitar bands that spring to mind.
Lucy: I guess it depends on what kind of guitar music you happen to like. You could argue that The Vaccines make guitar music but it's not the same. It's not the kind of thing we'd ever listen to or be inspired by.
DiS: You've still not played that many live shows, especially outside of Nottingham?
Lawrence: No, only one so far. We've got three coming up at the end of this month in Leicester, Leeds and Manchester.
Cai: We played Y Not Festival last year which is kind of outside Nottingham but apart from those, we've only played here.
DiS: Do you prefer playing live to working in the studio at this moment in time? The 'Made Of Concrete' demo captures both aspects really well.
Cai: I don't think we're either really at the minute.
Lawrence: I suppose we're a better live band because we've more experience of performing than recording.
Lucy: At this stage anyway. We've not really had a chance to go into the studio for a long time and work on stuff. I tend to have the most fun playing live.
Lawrence: We really like being loud, and it's easier to achieve that by playing live.
Lucy: It's more spontaneous. Whereas in the studio if we make a mistake we have to do it again.
DiS: A lot of people first became aware of the band when you supported Dog Is Dead at Rock City in December 2011. How did that come about?
Cai: Mark Del from NUSIC ran a competition for unsigned local bands and Dog Is Dead chose us and Kappa Gamma to support them.
Lawrence: A lot of people got in touch with us through that. It was our first step on the ladder.
Cai: We met Peter (Fletcher) from our label Denizen at that show.
DiS: Do you see yourselves working with Denizen Recordings for the forseeable future? Would you ever consider leaving Nottingham and signing with another label if the opportunity arose?
Cai: We really like them and appreciate everything they've done for us. Without them it just wouldn't be the same. They understand what we're about and helped us become a better band.
Lawrence: We really enjoy working with them. You can't really predict what's going to happen in the future. I'd be happy working with them for a long time to come.
Cai: We've not had any serious offers from other labels up to now, which is good in a way because it gives us less to think about and gives us more time to concentrate on achieving good things with Denizen.
DiS: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Cai: I think we're going to put out a couple of singles throughout the year, but we're mainly focusing on getting the album finished.
Lucy: And really make sure we work on the live show.
Lawrence: I guess our aim in twelve months time is to be in a similar place to where we are now, only more experienced.
DiS: When's that likely to be released?
Cai: I've no idea at the minute. Hopefully this year.
Lawrence: But it wouldn't be until the back end of this year at the earliest.
DiS: What about festivals?
Cai: Nothing definite as yet, but we're hoping to put together a UK tour for September.
Lawrence: I think next year's a more realistic aim for getting on festival bills. Now we're just concentrating on practicing and getting better. I'd imagine we will do a couple of festivals but not many.
DiS: What do you think of Nottingham's music scene at present?
Cai: It's difficult to say. A lot of people seem to only focus on the same three or four artists and I don't think that's a very accurate way to look at it. When we first started, we didn't really know anyone but once we'd played a few shows we realised there were lots of really good bands that haven't had the recognition they deserve.
Lucy: There are a lot of really bad bands here though at the same time!
Lawrence: It's got to be a good thing that people are talking about certain artists from the city as it draws attention to everything else going on here.
Lucy: At least it shows people are trying.
Cai: I've never really looked at what other cities' music scenes are like so it's difficult to compare really. It doesn't seem better than anywhere else, but it's obviously under the radar so someone must be doing something right.
DiS: Finally, what advice do you have for new bands just starting out?
Lucy: Practice! Don't think you're really good from the start because you're only going to be disappointed.
Cai: You can never be good enough. There's always room for improvement. And be nice to people. You can be the best musicians and songwriters in the world but if no one likes you as people you won't get anywhere.
Lawrence: Networking is everything, really.
Here's a selection of what Nottingham has to offer its gig goers over the next couple of months...
22nd February - Hookworms + Cold Pumas + Hang - Stuck On A Name Studios
23rd February - Weikie + Ghostletters + V.Sunjetti + Remi Fox Novak - Lee Rosy's
26th February - I Am Lono + Sleaford Mods - Rescue Rooms
28th February - English Singles + September Girls + Mascot Fight - Chameleon
28th February - Richard Dawson + Rattle + Red Trees - The Maze
1st March - Kappa Gamma - Nottingham Contemporary
1st March - Beards + Shield Your Eyes - JT Soar
1st March - The Golden Troubadours + Gallery 47 + Alexa Hawksworth - Malt Cross
5th March - Disclosure - Stealth
7th March - Robyn Hitchcock - Bodega Social
9th March - Consumer Electronics + Sleaford Mods + Creation Lily - Chameleon
9th March - Crushing Blows + Breathe Out - JT Soar
12th March - Foals + The Invisible - Rock City
15th March - The Strypes - Bodega Social
15th March - Paper Plane Crash + Injured Birds + We Show Up On Radar - Jam Cafe
19th March - The Stranglers + The Godfathers - Rock City
27th March - Eels - Rock City
27th March - Kins + Dark Horses - Spanky Van Dykes
28th March - Kodaline - Rescue Rooms
29th March - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club + The Big Pink - Rock City
29th March - Squarepusher - Rescue Rooms
29th March - Fiction + Crushed Beaks - Spanky Van Dykes
30th March - Gunning For Tamar + Some Skeletons + Bloody Mammals - JT Soar
31st March - The Invisible Orchestra - Nottingham Contemporary
5th April - Echo Lake + By The Sea - Spanky Van Dykes
6th April - Kate Nash - Rescue Rooms
10th April - British Sea Power - Rescue Rooms
11th April - Brilliant Colors - JT Soar
13th April - Zea + Grey Hairs - Chameleon
20th April - Pere Ubu - Rescue Rooms
23rd April - Public Enemy - Rock City
24th April - And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Rescue Rooms
25th April - Lunar Park - Chameleon
27th April - A Hawk And A Hacksaw - Bodega Social
29th April - Johnny Foreigner + The Sidekicks + Hop Along + Martha - The Old Angel
2nd May - Arrows Of Love + Navajo Youth - Spanky Van Dykes
3rd May - Dog Is Dead - Rock City
Drowned In Nottingham will be back after Easter, so if anyone has any gigs, releases, links, events or club nights they wish to add please do so in the comments section below.