Miss Foxy gets the low down on Leo Williams and Greg Roberts from Dreadzone, as they get ready to headline Nozstock Festival 2012.
Miss Foxy: I’m just here to get a bit of info about you, what you’ve been up to and how you’re getting on. So firstly is this your first Nozstock and if so how are you finding it so far?
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): Ah it’s an interesting place, I think it’s our first time here right?
Dreadzone(Greg Roberts): I think so yes, yeah we finally found it!
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): Yeah , we saw a party going on, and we were like oh, there’s something up there, something’s going on and so here we are!
Miss Foxy: Well, this will be my third year it’s an awesome festival!
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): It must be good then!
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): It’s a very young festival, I’ve noticed.
Miss Foxy: Yeah, it’s lovely it’s got a great vibe, and an infectious atmosphere since everyone is really laid back and chilled. I’m really looking forward to your set later too.
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): I’m glad you’re excited about our set; I hope to see you bouncing next to the amp at the front!
Miss Foxy: Great stuff! Ok so at the moment how many other UK or European tour dates to you have in the pipeline this year?
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): Over the summer we have a few dates In Europe
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): Yeah we were in Croatia last week, and we’re in Portugal next week. And then we’re heading to Poland, which is where Leo’s wife’s from.
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): She’s just had a baby actually!
Miss Foxy: Oh lovely!
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): A new edition to the Dreadzone family.
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): So yeah that’s what’s going on at the moment.
Miss Foxy: So you look to be very busy, you’ve got a good summer ahead of you.
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): Yeah we’ve been busy all round.
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): We’re making a new album at the moment. We’re in the studio recording new material and in between that doing some festivals. So we’re doing Kendal Calling tomorrow in the Lake District, and we’re doing Beautiful Days. So the festivals have been on the minimum while we finish the album a bit, but nearly there.
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): And then we have a tour sorted for the autumn.
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): Yeah so we’re going to be doing all the little clubs. But same thing as the festivals this summer, not too many this year but next year, with the album out we aim to do as many as we can.
Miss Foxy: Awesome, because as I understand your last album ‘Eye on the Horizon’ back in 2010. It was quite an electronic sound, I really loved the album. What can we expect from you new material, are you looking to go in a new direction?
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): It’s an interesting question, because somebody who said that the other day who loved ‘Eye on the Horizon’ hoped we would be keeping the same vibe, and I thought it’s very difficult since every album of Dreadzone is different. And obviously you can’t progress, so we are keeping the Dreadzone vibe.
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): But we’re pushing it a bit further, it’s quite exciting. It will be interesting. When we put the albums out there, we’re not putting something out that we don’t like, so it’s going to be interesting.
Miss Foxy: Definitely. When I’ve looked into different reviews everyone talks about lots of different styles that you have going on over the time you’ve been together. It appears that experimentation is quite a key concept to your music; would you say this is correct?
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): Yeah it gives us a great chance to expand, and do different things, so we are able to show that things are possible.
Miss Foxy: Would you say that your music is quite influential to your backgrounds?
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): I should definitely thing so.
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): I guess so, yeah. But the thing is, we’re not spring chickens, so we’ve been around through quite a few decades of music. We were lucky enough to grow up with lots of good types of music. And rather than stick to one or another, we’ve soaked it up. We were in a band in the ‘80s called Big Audio Dynamite, which had rock ‘n’ roll, reggae, hip hop and all kind of things. So we’re full of different influences which we use regularly.
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): It keeps us fresh.
Miss Foxy: Is there anyone currently on the music scene who inspires you or that you’re interested in?
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): Maybe a bit of drum n bass stuff.
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): There’s always good electronic music going on, dubstep and drum n bass. Particular artists? I always sight Tombola, he’s the last or most exciting artist I’ve heard. He’s from Denmark. And I really listened to the Drive soundtrack.
Miss Foxy: Oh that’s an amazing soundtrack.
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): Yeah so there are things taken from everywhere. I mean I also listen to a lot of classical music or old dub. And you discover lots of influences, you sample things. And you discover something new from that, as you look for new music.
Dreadzone (Leo Williams): Yeah, I mean we’re not old and jaded.
Dreadzone (Greg Roberts): Yeah, we DJ as well, so we like to stay on the cutting edge of some kind of dance music. But I think when we make our own music, we just put ourselves in there, so what feels natural. This new album is going to be a bit more live, so trying to capture the live sound that we’ve had over the years. I think the song writing is better; we’ve gone onto the next level. The influences are all over the place again. I mean, there’s no good being static.
Miss Foxy: Exactly, it’s all about moving forward. [MC Spee enters]
Dreadzone [MC Spee]: Hi I’m in and out but I’m Spee, the vocalist for Dreadzone but nice to meet you!
Dreadzone [Leo Williams]: Would you like a beer?
Miss Foxy: That would be amazing!
Miss Foxy: So obviously Little Britain is a big favourite. I’d like to know what’s the story behind the song?
Dreadzone [Greg Roberts]: Originally the song sampled a line from British film ‘If’ by Lindsay Anderson. And then we started building the track around it, it tells the juxtaposition of British things. Like the first thing that came after the strings was the bass line. So Little Britain itself was kind of summing up all the good things about Britain, like West Indian communities, Celtic influence, the way England and Britain has always welcomed in other cultures, and ideas to regenerate their own. And instead of being Great Britain, here we are falling over everyone, let’s make it Little Britain. And then all of a sudden somebody came along and had a comedy programme [laughs]. We did have it first! But yeah it kind of fitted in with the whole album which had a sound adventure around the world, encompassing different music from different backgrounds. Which is today celebrating a lot of things, such as The Olympics. And we were hoping that somebody would say ‘that would make a good song for it’.
Miss Foxy: I was just thinking that!
Dreadzone [Leo Williams]: But they didn’t!
Miss Foxy: So you’re set tonight, what material can we be looking out for? What are you going to be playing?
Dreadzone [Leo Williams]: A whole mix from different albums. Some from the new album, but also taking it back a bit too. So back to the Little Britain album.
Dreadzone [Greg Roberts]: Yeah, because this year Virgin re-released ‘Second Light’ in a new format, so a new mastered version with a live album. So some of the live shows we’ve been doing this year, we’ve been featuring a bit of Second Light. So we’ll be playing some from that tonight, and material from our last six albums.
Miss Foxy: I have to say I’ve got a favourite. It has to be ‘So you wanna be gangster?’
Dreadzone [Greg Roberts]: Oh great! So did you discover the dubstep mix of it or just the original?
Miss Foxy: I like the original. But I think the Trolley Snatcha remix of it also favourite. I thought that was amazing.
Dreadzone [Greg Roberts]: It was amazing. It’s one of the best remixes we’ve ever had. And out of all the dubstep tunes that are around, that’s still a great, great dubstep tune.
Miss Foxy: Definitely, every time I play everyone loves it.
Miss Foxy: Is there anyone currently that you would like to collaborate with?
Dreadzone [Greg Roberts]: Probably, I mean saying that on this new album I don’t know if we should be mentioning it yet but we collaborated with Mick Jones from The Clash. He’s very influential, on our live stuff. He’s such an inspiring guy; we managed to get him on one of these new tracks. So you’ve got an exclusive there! It’s great working with him. Who else? I dunno…Prince? I love to do David Bowie.
Dreadzone [Leo Williams]: It’s about time he came out with something else!
Miss Foxy: Yeah David Bowie would be amazing, he’s been a bit in the shadows recently, I haven’t heard much from him!
Dreadzone [Leo Williams]: But he does that, he does something and then he goes away for a while, and then he comes back again. To keep things fresh.
Miss Foxy: So just to wrap things up, so obviously I’m really looking forward to your new album, and hoping to get down to some of your upcoming shows. Is there anything you could say for anyone that wants to get into the current music scene, is there any advice you could give them on what they should be actively doing?
Dreadzone [Greg Roberts]: Try and write your own stuff. Try and be original.
Dreadzone [Leo Williams]: Try it as a hobby and enjoy it first.
Dreadzone [Greg Roberts]: There are a lot of people climbing in all at the same time. You’ve got to think about it long term. I mean yeah you come in and make a great tune in your bedroom, and it can blow up. But you’ve got to think about what you’re going to be doing in 10 years’ time, or in 20 years’ time. We’ve been doing this for 30 years; and we’re still making a living out of music. So it’s about longevity. So yeah write your own stuff, be original, and don’t do cocaine! [laughter].
Miss Foxy: Amazing, well I’m really excited for your set later. I shall be in the front row!
Dreadzone [Greg Roberts]: We’ll wave to you!
Miss Foxy: Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk, it’s been a pleasure meeting you and I wish you all the best for your new album!
It’s that time again when I will heading to sunny seaside town Brighton for this year’s Great Escape Festival. I’m extremely excited about the line up having bookmarked a variety of artists to see. One in particular I’m yearning to catch a glimpse of is the ethereal Grimes, who is going to be playing Friday 10th May at Digital Venue. There seems to be a collective of beautiful female vocalists emerging at the moment against an electro backdrop with the likes of Berlin based Dillon, Ninja Tune artist Emika not to mention Marina Faib who’s subtle vocal perfectly depicts the desolate plains of her surrounding Russian landscape.
Grimes is able to combine minimal rhythms with aspects of dance, in which her use of upbeat electronics beautifully conflicts against her melancholic, ghostly vocal. Grimes, (also known as Claire Boucher) not only produces an amazing performance as a musician but also as an arist, in which she is able to project both music and imagery within her shows. She weaves together the arts of 2D, performance, dance, video and sound. I have even had a glance over her paintings and sketches on her website, in which her illustrative style reminds me of a a darker Ladyhawke.
Boucher was originally born in Vancouver, Canada, coming to Montreal in 2006. Her career as a performer was heavily influenced by the illegal DIY loft culture of Montreal, in which she grew up and was surrounded by a range of scenes stemming from punk to pop music.
Her recent release of Visions is to be Boucher’s fourth release in a two year time span. This follows on from Geidi Primes release in 2010, followed by Halfaxa the same year, which is thought to be one of the first lo-fi R&B releases. Darkbloom in 2011 shows the beginnings of Grimes becoming not simply an artist but a producer, experimenting with her early work as well as drawing upon pop aesthetic.
I find that each album explores a variety of styles and influences for Grimes, in which we are able to see how her time in Montreal greatly influenced her exploration into differing techniques. It is said that her newest release Visions, includes influences as wide as Enya, TLC and Aphex Twin, in which she is able to draw upon such genres as New Jack Swing, IDM, New Age, K-pop, Industrial and glitch. Grimes is not simply an musician, but an artist in which she curates her own show, her own style, her own performance. She is constantly evolving; someone you can’t help but be drawn towards as she is both musically and aesthetically interesting, and one to watch for the future.
Have you heard of Dear Shed Festival? If not this is one event you do not want to miss out on this coming July. Based in Baldersby Park in rural North Yorkshire countryside, Deer Shed promises to bring you a jam packed weekend of music, entertainment and a lovely chilled atmosphere for all the family to enjoy. This is one fun filled festival for all.
So who’s going to be playing this year? Deer Shed 2011 saw the likes of Matthew and the Atlas, Mumford and Sons, The Go Team, and I am Kloot to name but a few. But Dear Shed 2012 looks to be an amazing year with Saint Etienne, School of Seven Bells, Los Campesinos!, Dutch Uncles, and Cherry Ghost to name but a few of the acts this year. However, one of the artists I’m most excited about playing mainstage at Deer Shed this year is Villagers who have been on my music radar for a while.
The first time I heard Villagers was back in 2010 when NME Radar were giving away a Coors Open House Festival Mixtape, and they happened to be on the tape with one of my favorite tracks ‘On a Sunlit Stage’, their first single to be released in 2009 before their debut album release 'Becoming a Jackal’ in 2010 on Domino Records.
Becoming a Jackal is a musical masterpiece, in which you can’t help but get drawn into the world of Conor J. O'Brien. The band’s music takes you away on a summer breeze to the sea coast, in which the background drone of an organ, followed by chilling strings and beautiful piano tones with hushed vocals truly send tingling sensations down your spine.
O'Connor opens the album with 'I Saw The Dead’ “Have you got just a minute? / Are you easily led? / Let me show the backroom / Where I saw the dead / Dancing like children on a midsummer morn / And they asked me to join”. Beautiful lyrics that will hold the listener captivated for the entirety of the album, in which the song truly gives insight into the colorful, rich narratives, moving lyrics and depth within each track.
There are 11 beautifully crafted tracks on Becoming a Jackal, that truly show the genius behind O'Connor, and his gift to create moving songs that uplift the listener as opposed to clouding them with a feeling of melancholia. When I listen to the Villagers with such tracks as 'Pieces’ I find the song rich in depth, with lyrics that hold my attention but don’t necessary make me feel gloomy and disheartened. There are literal howls in the song, as if the band were in fact a lost pack of Jackals, and not a band at all! This album shows why Domino has made them their latest signing.
I find the album is accessible to a number of people in terms of it’s theme which focuses upon change in a person’s life. Not just major change, but the little things be it physical or emotional. O'Connor perfectly highlights this in the following quote “I guess a large part of it is concerned with growing up; gaining and losing friends… these things change a person and I suppose this is my way of making sure I don’t become a bitter old mess! But I only realized this in hindsight. I don’t write in a conscious way; the only thing I start with is a visual image or color, and then it just happens. One line suggests the next, until I have a little patchwork quilt of ideas. If I stick at it long enough, it all comes together and makes narrative sense.”
So is O'Connor a one man band? There are a number of people who make Villagers who they are today, in which the lead vocalist is joined on stage by James, Tommy, Cormac and bassist Danny Snow, as well as sometime collaborators David Crean (on keys) and Richie Egan (of the Dublin-based bands The Redneck Manifesto and Jape); “They‘re central to all this. When we rehearse, my little dictatorial act is over and they find their own way of playing it.“
Whilst O'Connor opens the album with the deep, meaningful sound of 'I Saw The Dead’, there is diversity throughout with lighter, tracks such as Ship of Promises that has a rainbow video to match! It shows a new side to the Villager’s sound, since I’m used to Sunlit Stage which focuses far more on the poignancy of the lyrics as opposed to the song structure.
I have to say my favorite song on the album that I can’t wait to see performed live is 'Twenty Seven Strangers’ that encompasses everything I love about the band, in terms of their ability to make everyone stop and listen, as you rue over the beautiful lyrics, and reminisce over some past memory. It’s a bitter sweet song, but I truly feel it’s matches the intensity of Sunlit Stage because so many people can relate to the message within the song. O'Connor explains Twenty Seven Strangers “On a bus, people don’t communicate with each other – we’re crippled by all this social mundanity. But we come home to a loved one, and then we do it all over again next day. I wanted to express that repetition. I like writing about things that are universal and stifling, but that we don’t talk about. But rather than sounding morose, I always want to maintain a celebratory togetherness, which is the root of folk and blues.”
The album “Becoming a Jackal” was nominated for The Mercury Music Prize in 2010. In the autumn of 2011 Conor O’Brien was awarded a prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for Becoming a Jackal.
Villagers are currently working on their second album which will be due for release in the summer of 2012. If you haven’t got your ticket for Deer Shed then follow the link below and head over to Yorkshire this July for some musical treats.