After touring with the likes of Ed Sheeran and Django Django, Norwegian singer-songwriter Eric Ness is most certainly one to watch. The title-track from his debut EP All The Things You Are is a lively up-tempo number complete with cheerful honky tonk piano, mischievous brass, and a fanciful video to match.
WORDS: Laura Seely
Produced by German filmmaker Sergej Hein, the video sees Ness transformed into London’s very own Scandi-Superman, performing a unique flying manoeuvre around the capital that is best described as a mid-air quasi-breast-stroke. Aided by his bizarrely bodiless bandmates, Ness concocts a plan to achieve that most admirable of ambitions, getting the girl. Chaos inevitably ensues.
The ‘All The Things You Are’ EP is due for release in September and you can catch Eric Ness performing across the summer. For more details, check his website here.
This week we have a guest-piece from one of our American Readers Joel Patterson from Mountaintop Records, New York who talks to us about why we should love his local blues act Holly & Evan. And he’s convincing…
Brutality, anyone?Holly and Evan have just finished playing one of her searing, original numbers, here in this crowded and hazy bar on a gritty backstreet down by the river. It’s titled ‘123’ and, like all of her tunes it’s built around a few simple words strung out over a few choice blues licks. “1,2,3, baby. It’s just that easy.” Stark and riveting, it sounds like some classic lamentation from the Delta.
The next one has a pounding, enraged rhythm. “Hurry up! Hurry yourself! I’m losing my mind!” Holly’s voice is effortless, a soft husky growl – her guitar playing struts and swaggers. Evan attacks his upright bass like he’s tussling with a schoolyard playmate, lurching to and fro, nearly strangling it, keeping up a steady slapping beat on the strings like a snare drum – he’s a whole one-man rhythm section. The two of them together create a slinky, irresistible, bobbing, swaying groove. But instead of stark rivets, the patrons here drone on oblivious, lost in their dreary Wednesday night.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’d realize these two have become a fixture on the local scene, but it seems like no one here has ever heard of them. (Such are the anomalies of local scenes – this thirty-something pair were described in one local paper recently as “that teenage folk-rock duo.”) There’s not even the smattering of applause that’s usually a reflex action. But the waitresses on their hurried missions toss them glances of heartfelt approval, and by the end of the evening a small crowd is dancing before the alcovish stage.
So this is Holly and Evan, 2011– finding their footing in a harsh, indifferent world- fragile, klutzy creatures obsessed with rootsy, lusty acoustic blues music. This is their story.
The pair met at an open mic night in 2009; Holly was looking for a way out of the pseudo-nightmare her life had settled into, supported by her second husband, with kids from a first marriage – a bitter detente that was nevertheless an improvement over the first marriage (betrayal, thievery, the whole soufflé.) She revived her guitar practice and started writing songs spiced with autobiographical lyrics. “I’d rather be dead/ by the side of the road/ than to spend one more minute of time/ with that man of mine.” A pivotal encounter with a video documentary of the 1930′s blues legend Robert Johnson opened up a whole world to her, with its charred landscapes of emotion and pain and without understanding much in the way of music theory, she taught herself to mimic the progressions and began to experiment.
Evan had been in various bands – as lead and sideman – since high school and was at the open mic with his bass guitar to accompany a friend. “This girl plays two songs, one of them’s good,” he remembers being told. Evan actually liked the other one, the one with a slick key change. He volunteered to play with her and even if that first performance was a disaster, they found an instant rapport, showing up at open mics as a team, texting constantly, each of them finding in the other a perfect cohort and partner and not to get too sappy about it, a friend.
Two years later, they are playing a steady gig-and-a-half a week. Evan’s Hyundai Accent gets packed like a game of Tetris with his bass, Holly’s guitar, and all their various and sundry PA and gear; a briefcase with “Holly & Evan” stencilled on it; the latest preamp/direct box Evan’s fashioned for Holly’s guitar; copies of their live CD, while Evan slaves over the studio debut, scheduled for the fall, using real tape and vintage gear he’s personally rebuilt.
Not every single gig has cash rewards, but well-attended and karmically blessed shows will net them $100 apiece on a good night. Their monthly gig as the house band at a New Orleans themed restaurant is less but includes dinner and gives them steady exposure. The intelligensia of the venues they play at have no trouble recognizing that something’s happening here, but by the same token, they don’t have a bunch of screaming buddies traipsing to their shows and riotously whirling around like dervishes, like the “cults” surrounding some of their contemporaries. Beyond these gigs, neither of them is technically “employed,” so the support of their families is the linchpin and accelerator pedal and automatic transmission of their career.
Evan’s mom has been tireless in seeking out opportunities and radio airplay and promoting them – relentless in a good way – unfazed by the often baffling inconsistency or downright craven bastardry of the people she has to deal with. There are bitter ironies involved in playing music for fun and profit – the joys and rewards of performing and the grim real-world bartering- -overlapping, in infinite shades of greyscale.
Why should you love Holly and Evan, British readers who’ve never seen them play? You should love them because they don’t really know what they’re doing. They pursue their goals not always objectively but always passionately, and they are fun to watch. The time is ripe for a stipped-down, back to basics approach to music. And this revolution will be televised.
Got a band that you love and think everyone else should too? Tell Creature about it!
Hey Art, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your musical background? I was born and raised in Iowa. At age nine I inherited a kind of spaceship-looking organ from the 1970s. After about two years of lessons I switched to piano. I moved to Oakland, California to attend Mills College for music composition. In school I was writing new chamber music (along the lines of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Gyorgy Ligeti) and got to the point where I was composing string quartets that lasted half an hour and pieces that used paintings as scores. After awhile I found writing and singing my own songs to be more satisfying.
You’re independent right? Where are you performing? I’m based out of Oakland, California and am independent at this point…
If I were to say ‘who are your biggest influences’, how would you respond? Well… the one artist who covers all of those fields of influence [music, literature, films etc] for me is John Cage. Other influences in music would include Frank Zappa, Randy Newman, Ben Folds, Colin Blunstone (with the Zombies and solo) and Billy Bragg to name just a few. As for literature I like classic sci-fi (Philip Dick, Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, et al) and Kurt Vonnegut. For Art, I’m drawn to abstract expressionism particularly Mark Tobey and Clyfford Still.
What message are you trying to communicate with your music? I tend to write lyrics that could possibly have multiple meanings. I like leaving things open so you can bring your own meaning to a song. Other times I just like to tell an interesting story.
Who would you file yourself next to in terms of a ‘sounds like’ category? If Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Colin Blunstone shot themselves into outer space moments before the apocalypse went down and became the progenitors of a new musical style upon landing on a new home planet I think the result might be something similar to what I sound like…
When you’re not recording you can be found doing… what? I work in a library, accompany a church choir, drink copious amounts of coffee and enjoy tending my potted plants. I have a soft spot in my heart for the music of Iron Maiden and Burt Bacharach. For what it’s worth I have a little piece of paper stashed away somewhere that says I’m officially qualified to write music. I also have one that says I’m qualified to perform marriage ceremonies.
It’s that time of the month again, and July’s artwork theme was ‘Surreal’. This summer marks the 75th anniversary of the Surrealist movement and that took the theme for July’s offering. We’ve had artwork from Nick Willis, George Rosu and Anko and tracks from Eric Ness, Grandfather Birds, Wye Oak, Veronica Falls and MIA.
1. Eric Ness – I’ve Been Bad
Combining elements of indie, folk, punk and ragtime, Eric Ness is creating noise that’s more than just a little bit different to the usual junk you’ll hear on the radio. With his sense of fun, squawking self-depreciation and sunny disposition, we’ve been charmed by this Norway native. Londoners, you can see him playing across the summer.
2. Chased by Wolves – Long Black Ribbon
Americana country-folk act Chased by Wolves are a Creature favourite so after the band sent us a copy of their new studio recordings last week, we couldn’t help but be re-infected with a love for these guys. With booming bluesy guitar riffs, weighted drums and delicious boy-girl vocals, this might be the best thing you can give your iPod this summer.
"Surreal" by Nick Willis
3. Grandfather Birds – Grandfather’s Bones
We could gush about how great this band are, or we could just let you listen to them… If these guys aren’t set for great things then we’ll eat our hats; ringing guitar licks, fresh drum arrangements and Matt Saxon’s husked vocals create a cacophony of pleasure for your ears.
4. We are Aeronauts – The House on Ash Tree Lane
It must be the summer making us love the brass, because here’s another helping of trumpet infused goodness! Brit-band We are Aeronauts released their debut E.P. Chad Valley last week, and it’s a belter. Filled with crisp 80s tinged indie-pop songs, these guys have an orchestral ensemble that’ll make you weak at the knees.
5. Treetop Flyers – Long Cold Winter
It’s not felt much like summer recently in the capital with the disappointing mix of cloud, rain and rain, so forgive us for including this slightly non-seasonal track by the awesome Treetop Flyers. Fresh from Glastonbury, these guys went down a storm at the UK’s biggest summer music festival and we think you’ll like them too.
7. Wye Oak – Holy Holy Holy
Baltimore duo Wye Oak have released their new single ‘Holy Holy Holy’ as a free download. Taken from their album Civilian, it’s the bands’ best effort to date offering a mature and rounded sound (with its trademark booming guitar riffs and quiet verses). Wasner shines both vocally and lyrically. They’re back in the UK later this year supporting the amazing National, so if you’re lucky enough to get tickets then you’re guaranteed a memorable show. We LOVE these guys.
"Surreal" by Anko
8. MIA – 27
Regardless of whether you were an Amy Winehouse fan or not, the news of her death last weekend came as a shock to all. What’s a personal tragedy for her family has the knock-on effect of being a sad loss for the music industry in general – when on top form, Winehouse wrote some of the best contemporary jazz tracks of the day. When the news broke, it was a truly ‘surreal’ experience ‘knowing’ someone yet not really knowing them at all, but feeling the sadness at their loss… We didn’t anticipate that our monthly theme would touch on reality, but it did in a strange and unexpected way. Her friend, rap and hip-hop star MIA released the track 27 a few days later in tribute to Winehouse, and we’ve decided to include it on here. The track itself has caused controversy with some feeling MIA has been little quick to ‘tribute’ her friend whilst others say because the track preceded Winehouse’s death it doens’t really qualify as a ‘tribute’ at all… Whatever, we’re not interested in opinions or in politics. The track is good, and the sentiment is something we applaud, so here it is. Our sympathies extend to the Winehouse family, and all of her fans across the world.
“Surreal” by Anko
“Surreal” by Nick Willis
We’re taking a break for next month- the next Mix Tape will be September’s. To mark the beginning of the new season, the theme is ‘fall’ – that’s open to any interpretation! Thank you again to Anko, Nick and George for their submissions. Please take the time to check out their websites below, they’re all pretty rad:
On our very first Mixtape we featured a track by Americana-folk band Chased by Wolves. Since then, the group have sent us their new video of them performing their track Lost at Sea live and it’s a complete corker. Based in the north-east, the band draw on a melting-pot of sound including americana, folk, blue-grass and indie influences to create music that will easily be the best thing on your iPod. Narrative-driven folk songs at heart, vocalists Richard Smith and Emma Williams combine to produce melodic waves that’ll imprint your brain long after the drumsticks have ceased the beat. The band benefit from intelligent instrumental arrangements that’ll please country-folk traditionals out there whilst stoking fire of interest for new fans of the genre. And we’re proud to say you heard them here first!
I reckon we might just have to collar these guys for an interview before too long…
Check out their website: http://www.chasedbywolves.com