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Owl and Mouse – Somewhere To Go EP

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Owl and Mouse – Somewhere To Go EP

Posted on 17 June 2014 by Joe

The last time I saw Owl and Mouse perform was in a railway carriage at the Indie Tracks festival on a sweltering July 2013 afternoon. The carriage was packed and the sweat- soaked crowd of around 50 or so were left enthralled by this friendly band that is focused around the intimate vocal delivery and melancholy lyrics of Australian born, London based singer songwriter Hannah Botting.

Owl and Mouse at Indie Tracks 2013

Owl and Mouse at Indie Tracks 2013

Using the template Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris perfected on her track Tallulah, Botting’s delivery and subject matter are beautiful and sad in equal measure, especially on this EP’s standout track Don and Anna, about the hopelessness of the relationship between Mad Men’s Don Draper and his wife on paper Anna. I remembered it instantly from their Indie Tracks performance.

This is their first full EP from Owl and Mouse, following a couple of single releases and certainly has a nice full band feel, with bassist Tom Wade handed vocal duties on Western Skies, written by Botting about homesickness and further echoing Morris’s Tallulah.

Don’t Read the Classics is arguably the saddest of the quartet of tracks, unsurprisingly given that their press release tells me it is about the ‘rollercoaster of trust and subsequent disillusionment.’ The lyrics are harsh to say the least and takes the whole ‘divorce/break up’ song to new levels of bitterness, vulnerability and sadness. There’s someone out there who wronged Botting and is surely feeling more than a little sheepish right now.

Less is more is a key feature of the Owl and Mouse sound, especially on final track Terrible Things, which was previously available on last year’s Indie Tracks sampler. It’s wonderfully simple, with mainly ukulele and subtle keyboards from Emma Winston, who is also a regular with Darren Hayman’s band and Enderby’s Room. This gives Botting’s vocals added intimacy, which is crucial for a song like this.

Across the four tracks there is enough to show great promise and prove that Owl and Mouse grabbed a justified place on our bands to watch out for in 2013 list.

But not all four tracks work. Botting’s strength is creating three minutes within a song where she and the listener feel like friends. On Don and Anna, Terrible Things and Western Skies that comes across clearly as the listener is drawn in by her whispering delivery. It is hard not to form a bond with her.

But on Don’t Read the Classics the lyrics feel just that little bit too personal and its lack of subtlety jars with the other three tracks, threatening to break the nice illusion of friendship that Botting and Owl and Mouse had so expertly created over the rest of the EP.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

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Indietracks Festival 2013

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Indietracks Festival 2013

Posted on 08 August 2013 by Dorian

Has Indietracks grown up? It’s a worry, and this nagging concern has been, well, nagging us. A couple of years back the campsite was bursting at the guy ropes. People were camped right up to the indie disco marquee entrance, it was that packed.

This year, while not exactly an unbroken sea of green pasture, there was enough spare capacity for several games of French cricket. Would Indietracks itself be similarly roomy?

It turned out that we Indie-campers were the minority. These days the done thing is to bed down in the plushest of Butterley hotels and train it in. Indie kids are better off than we thought.

Or is it that they are not indie kids? What they are, is indie dads. It’s an oxymoron. It’s a mutually exclusive concept. You can’t mix happy making indie where anything goes and a dad’s panicky concern over his little ones. It’s bipolar.

Indie-dad leans out at you, holding his loved ones by the hair, when you are driving a little lost at two miles an hour making a turn and says in an incredulous tone “indicators mate”. Indie-dad is shocked that they let so many people into the shed to watch Camera Obscura, making it unsafe for little Jakob and Elvira. Indie-dad is up at 7.30am playing French fucking cricket whacking tennis balls at your tent.

We even suspect that indie-dad had a quiet word with the bearded chap that walks about in a full length dress every year before 2013, so that children are not exposed to such rampant transvestitism.

The most outre indie-wear this year was a tie-dye t-shirt and a couple of tutus. What’s happened to all the beautiful youths that used to pour out of their tents like coloured smarties out of a tube? That’s not the only thing that’s changed for 2013, making Indietracks almost unrecognisable. This year they had live owls on the Friday, as well as Saturday and Sunday. And, the model railway had been moved.

The only thing that remained constant was the fantastic atmosphere, and a line up of truly great artists. But then you kind of expect that anyway from this particular festival.

Friday

Big Wave

Big Wave

Glorious weather and a promising three act bill for the Friday night proved to be a great start to the weekend, a decent crowd of early arrivers sitting on the grass in anticipation. First up was Big Wave from Torquay, and the fresh faced act proved to be the perfect start. Slightly cracked vocals and a C86 influenced pop sound that was fun and just on the right side of noisy. Only a few hours after arriving at the site I had a new name on my “bands to check out after” list.

Up next was The Tuts, a band that had already impressed me with their songs online, and had a bit of a reputation following their invitation to tour with Kate Nash. Live they were even better, bursting with energy and putting on a really confident show. Musically they reminded me of Go sailor, only a bit punkier and with a very British sound. Dressed in matching outfits and offering a lot of irreverent stage chat, this was a first rate set.

Bis

Bis

Watching Bis start their set I was initially confused, how come they weren’t the same fresh-faced teenagers from two decades previous? It is always strange to see a  band make a come-back when you have seen so little of them in the intervening years. I also didn’t know what to expect from them, would they have anything to offer live and do they have enough good songs for a headline set? The answer to both these questions was an emphatic “yes” and this would prove to be one of the best sets of the who, weekend. Songs like ‘Eurodisco’, ”This Is fake DIY’ and even the theme tune from the Powerpuff Girls Movie are fun and skillfully played. I was left with the impression that this was a band that history hadn’t been kind enough to and a desire to check out their back catalogue.

The evening ended shortly after for us, after a biref trip to the train shed disco. The only place you’ll here Hefner songs following a chip-tunes version of the Smith’s ‘This Charming Man’.

Saturday

Finnmark!

Finnmark!

As the sun panned across the firmament, no self respecting shoe-gazer would be anywhere else but deep inside the train shed. And that’s exactly where our day began with Finnmark! whose billing belies their ability.

They are way too good to be an opening act and although they probably don’t yet have enough great songs in their canon, they are well on their way. Stark gnarling guitars, nerdishly simple keys, and the sort of drummer everyone wants in their band combined to propel their singer’s baritone vocals marching through the set like a Roman legion. Closer and new single Everyone’s Dying was a highlight but I’m Considering a Move to Sweden is that bit more special.

Our next highlight appeared in the church, in the form of David Leach – so slight that if you chopped him in half and found just foam, you wouldn’t be surprised.

Having slipped in at the nave to a packed venue, we arrived halfway through a number about maternal sexual fantasies. Bending over to empty the dishwasher, quiet nights cuddling on the sofa, it was already awkwardly steamy just from the sheer heat of being stuck in a tin church without that kind of oedipal prurience. So it was quite some relief to work out he was singing about his mate’s mum.

Leach is indeed a true wit and in the most fearless sense. His charm is not just wry songs about the perversity of our prosaic existence, it’s his delivery. If he could sit on everyone’s lap and sing them a song one by one, he’d do it, and he’d be there all weekend with a queue out the door. He’s just that engaging.

The Magic Theatre

The Magic Theatre

Then via a brief sojourn to catch the wild scratchings of the fantastic Tunabunny on the outdoor stage we took a ride on the Butterley Express for Owl and Mouse. Turned out we weren’t the only ones with that idea.

Owl and Mouse, fronted by Australian Hannah Botting, proved the perfect act for a crowded, sweaty guard’s carriage aboard the event’s steam train venue. Botting’s voice on tracks such as Don and Anna, a bittersweet tale of Don Draper’s plutonic relationship with the widow of the man whose identity he stole, and their 2013 single Canvas Bags, proved even more beautiful and tender live.  We named them one of our Top Ten Bands To Watch Out For in 2013 for good reason.

In the hot-box church venue The Magic Theatre presented another change of pace. Stories about Victorian seamstresses set to sampled strings,  time travelling lovers are sung about in a song that sounds like late XTC, albeit with soft female vocals. A brief technical failure even brings an unplanned Russian folk song – these aren’t just any run-of-the-mill indie band. The corer of the band were almost famous in a previous life as Ooberman  and a mid-set run of their songs was very popular with the crowd.

Why have I never seen the Wave Pictures before? And why don’t I own any of their records? Their connections with other artists like Darren Hayman and, on the evidence of this set, a brilliant batch of songs makes them right up my street. The sound is great, and brilliant played with African guitar noodlings, showy drumming and steady bass supporting David Tattersall’s witty intelligent songs. This is three piece pop at its best and I’m already planning on picking up their albums before they finish their final song.

At this point our coverage enters something of a climatic hiatus. With clouds pouring over the horizon it was pretty clear a mad dash was needed to secure the tents and grab a coat. Damn indie-dad and his luxury hotel room.

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura

Just get back for Camera Obscura. That’s all that mattered.

We needn’t have rushed. Having been relocated from the outdoor stage to the train shed there was a significant wait for the main event.

It meant the venue was indeed packed to the steel girders, making for a fantastic sound. By the time they came on the audience was visibly rabid with enthusiasm.

After all, with a new album Desire Lines to promote and an enthusiastic home crowd, this was going to be a shoe in for the highlight of the entire festival.

So why the long faces? A set bristling with favourites: “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken”, “Tears for Affairs”, “French Navy”. What a band, what songs, what a voice.

And yet there’s this disconnect between this joyous stuff going in the ear and sight of these dour-faced static people on stage. They surely can’t be one and the same.

A great gig frustrated – even the set ended with the last song as the encore. No extra treats.

Did they have to get home early? Are they in fact indie mums and dads?

Even so, Camera Obscura loomed large over everything on Saturday – theirs is such a complete sound you can’t fail but be drawn in. Like Father Christmas finding out his missus is having an affair – you feel mildly concerned he lacks his ruddy cheer, but at least you’re still getting the presents.

Sunday

Enderby's Room

Enderby’s Room

After the downpours it was good to wake-up to relatively clear skies and the possibility of an unbroken day of music ahead. A more relaxed plan was also a relief as so few of the people playing were familiar to me and a day of discovery is always a pleasure.

Seabirds provided a pleasant, if unexceptional, start to proceedings with a set of upbeat poppy songs. The band played them well and it was an encouraging start from a band who had only played a handful of live sets previously.

Back on the train Enderby’s Room showed their level of experience (members of Darren Hayman’s band and Owl and Mouse on show) with a short but accomplished batch of songs. The instrumentation, vocal harmonies and melody was the perfect accompaniment to a gentle train ride and their soft folky sound was as good as anything else I’d hear all weekend.

The cavernous train shed space is far less intimate, but still a pretty unique venue and Alpaca Sports, the Swedish act backed by a collection of British musicians they have assembled from other bands, fill it with an insanely chirpy set of songs.

Kid Canaveral

Kid Canaveral

The Soulboy Collective, viewed from the church pews, are a little more distinctive. The male members in matching Fred Perry jumpers and a (slightly samey) Northern Soul drum beat on every track sets the scene. The band sound like a more Euro version (the band hail from Germany) of St.Ettienne but miss the polish of that band by some distance. They sound like a studio act and struggle to get the timings right throughout the set. It isn’t until the final song that it all comes together, and at that point they sound pretty wonderful – the whole church clapping along. One to watch, but by no means the finished article.

Out in the open again the pace switched back to rock guitars with the power-pop sounds of Scottish act Kid Canaveral. The songs and style was likeable and had plenty of energy, a great soundtrack to a sunny afternoon. To top it off was an amusing anaecdoete about strong cider and vomit, what could be more festival appropriate than that?

The winner of the “most band t-shirts worn” competition must have been won by Martha, a punky four-piece who themselves were wearing a uniform of matching black and white t-shirts. Shouted vocals sound pretty good sometimes and it was easy to see why they are developing such a following. A decent version of Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ is a lot of fun and the final song stage invasion (including the ever present Tuts) is one of the highlights of the weekend.

Still Corners

Still Corners

Helen Love’s performance is one of the most puzzling shows in my many years of gig going. I do get what it is all about, I understand the Ramones references and the deadpan (borderline bored) delivery. I like the plain faced cultural reference points and repetitive lyrics. I also think the show presentation (complete with glitter confetti canons) was a nice change from the straight-up kids with guitars at most of the festival shows. What I don’t get is the music, which is (I’m struggling to find a polite way to say this) terrible. It is like music I’d expect to hear on CBbeebies, how I imagine the Wiggles live on stage would sound. But the crowd love it, easily the best audience response of the weekend, so who really cares what I think?

Due to a delay to the running times on the indoor stage, difficult to avoid at a festival, it is a relatively small audience that greets Still Corners for their headline outdoor set. The band are a big noise new on Sub Pop and it is a pretty impressive show. The sounds is very atmospheric, the projections and lights effective and the voice and instrumentation sound like nothing else I’ve heard over the weekend. It is a little downbeat for a headline act, but no less pretty for it and it is a shame that more of the festival wasn’t there to finish their weekend on this particular musical high.

And so this year’s glorious weekend of wall-to-wall steam-powered Indie drew to a close.

The only negative for Indietracks 2013 is that we think indie-dad quite enjoyed it and might come back.

Will we be going next year? Doubtless. It’s such an inspired concept and comes with a guarantee of great music and moments at every turn.

But maybe we’ve grown out of camping after trying to find the toilet in a roaring downpour at 2am. Maybe next year we’ll get a hotel. Maybe, maybe next year we’ll bring the kids.

Words: Matt Whipp, Dorian Rogers and Joe Lepper | Pictures: Dorian Rogers

This review was written by two indie-dads and an indie-uncle. No offence intended to any indie-dads, indie-mums, indie-aunts, indie-uncles, indie-grandparents, indie-kids or indie-toddlers

Our full Indietracks 2013 gallery on Flickr

 

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Indietracks 2013

Posted on 30 July 2013 by Joe

Here’s a short film Neonfiller.com’s Joe Lepper made of his time at Indietracks 2013. No words, thought it best to use the excellent track Tut Tut Tut by The Tuts, one of the highlights of the event. Thanks so much to The Tuts for letting us use their track.

Set at the Midlands Steam Railway Centre, Derbyshire, the event spans four stages: an outdoor stage, a train shed, a steam train and the station chapel. The clip below features a host of bands including The Magic Theatre, Bis, Camera Obscura, Owl and Mouse, Enderby’s Room, Fever Dream and of course The Tuts.

 

 

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Top Ten Acts To Watch Out For In 2013

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Top Ten Acts To Watch Out For In 2013

Posted on 04 December 2012 by Joe

Each year we give our run down of ten acts that have caught our attention over the last few months and are set for bigger things in the coming year. These are artists that we’ve either seen as emerging artists at festivals or as support acts, or those that have released teasingly good singles and EPs during 2012. Some are old stagers, some are brand spanking new bands. To be boastful for a moment, we  have a pretty good track record with our lists, with the likes of Tigercats in our bands to watch out for in 2012 list  more than delivering this year with the release of their album Isle of Dogs. Tigercats also played at our Oxjam gig in October among a raft of gigs across the UK, France and Spain. Even when we mess up we just about get it right, our top act to watch out for in 2011 Django Django ended up spending most of that year in the studio, but did eventually become a huge success in 2012 to spare our blushes.

10. Owl and Mouse

Owl and Mouse, a four piece from London, fronted by Australian born songwriter Hannah Botting are self confessed lovers of “ukuleles and bittersweet pop songs”. They came to our attention on a set of free Christmas releases by Fika Records last December in which their tender track Sandwich Day was the perfect way to showcase Botting’s intimate, beautiful vocal style.

During 2013 they have plans for a UK tour during June and July and possibly some European dates too.  A split 7” picture disc single featuring their track Canvas Bags is due for release in January and you can catch them at the Hangover Lounge, at the Lexington on January 6, 2013, where they will be launching the release. An album release is also a possibility during 2013. Hannah says: “We’ve been at Soup studios with Giles (Barrett) from Tigercats and have enough material for an Album which we’re determined to release in 2013.”

Their five track EP, called EP One, is available for just £1 here. Incredible value.

9. Evans the Death

The summery indie pop spirit of the mid 1980s courses through the veins of this London band, which released their self titled debut in 2012.  Cut them and they bleed Shop Assistants and Mighty Lemon Drops. We just missed out on reviewing the album through time constraints, but are making amends now by recommending them for 2013, when they attempt to take the next step in their career by impressing the great and the good at the South By South West annual music meat fest.

Signed to Slumberland in the US and Fortuna Pop over here they already have two respected labels of the indie pop world to promote them and further their credentials as one of the UK’s most interesting new bands. Fans of Allo Darlin and Veronica Falls will find a lot to like in their music and we’ve been particularly impressed with the vocal talents of Evans the Death singer Katherine Whitaker.

8.Southern Tenant Folk Union

One of our favourites since the release of their last album Pencaitland. While broadly speaking this is a bluegrass act, they exhibit a range of influnces from soul to cinematic music to indie rock that gives them a real edge. Those that like Miserable Rich and Leisure Society will have a lot to like here and 2013 looks set to be a busy year with the release of their album ‘Hello Cold Goodbye Sun’ and a string of dates planned. This is set to be an excellent follow up to their previous album Pencaitland, which was among our highlights of 2011.

We caught their live set in Frome last year (pictured above) and urge you to go and see them when they play near you. Superb music that adds further depth to the vibrant British folk and roots scene.

To hear tracks from Hello Cold Goodbye Sun check out their soundcloud page.

7.Soccer 96

Brighton drums and keyboards duo Soccer 96 make some of the best low budget electronic music around. Powerful and catchy hooks that adorned their self titled debut album impressed us this year and during 2012 they were named as one of BBC 6 Music presenter Steve Lamacq’s ‘new favourite bands.’ They are primed for more live shows during 2013 to build on the good publicity they’ve already received during 2012.  This includes a show at The Green Door Store in their hometown in March with Can singer Damo Suzuki and members of Sons of Noel and Adrian.

They are also in the studio working with producer Dan Swift on some new tracks which, accordng to the duo,  “promises to be a real step up production wise” A second album release is pencilled in for 2013 and a  collaboration with Stereolab’s Joe Watson is also on the cards next year for the duo, who go by the pseudonyms Danalogue and Betamax to hammer home their back to basics approach to electronic music. As our review said of their debut album “The drums are heavy and the analogue synths pleasingly squelchy and bassy, with 8-bit style squeaks and beeps adding retro texture.”

6.Fever Dream

Fever dream play music you can lose yourself in. It’s what some might call showgaze, others call indie rock and they call “dark, fuzzy menacing music that blurs the line from noisy new wave to angular post punk.”

We were first introduced to them via 2011’s Vostok 5 compilation CD about space flight and since then they’ve released a self titled EP, which they will continue to promote during 2013.   They are back in the studio this month to record some new tracks. As Adey from the band tells us: “If we can scrape ten or so songs together, I’m sure we’ll call it an album.”

They played the Long Division and Land of Kings festivals during 2012 and more festival appearances during 2013 are sure to follow. Adey adds: “As we’ve only played one foreign gig so far – in a toilet, in Berlin – it would be good to spread our wings and creative juices all over the World, so if anyone fancies inviting us to play abroad we’ll jump at the chance.”

Fever Dream’s Soundcloud page can be found here.

5.Ralegh Long

This London based singer songwriter’s EP of piano ballads The Gift left us really impressed in 2012. There’s more to come in 2013 with a follow up EP planned, plus the possibility of a full band record. Heavily influenced by the likes of Bill Fay and John Howard his songwriting is full of subtleties few others can match.

Long is an emerging talent that you should keep an eye out for in the gig listing, where he tours with his band Primary 3 as well as solo, as well as the new release sections. Among our favourite of his tracks is Elizabeth from The Gift.

4. Boomgates

If you are in Australia next year we urge you to check out this Melbourne based indie supergroup Boomgates, who are oozing with DIY punk spirit, catchy indie pop hooks and fronted by one of our favourite singers, Brendan Huntley from Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Other members include Teen Archers’ Gus Lord, The Twerps’ Rick Milovanovic, Sean Gionis from Trial Kennedy and Steph Hughes, ex of Children Collide.

They’ve got a raft of gigs planned in Australia during 2013 to continue promoting the release of their 2012 debut album Double Natural and are sure to continue to pick up interest in the US, where Brendan’s stock is high after  a string of Eddy Current Suppression Ring releases on US garage punk label Goner. 2013 will also see them support Wilco during the Australian leg of their tour, which is certain to bring their ramshackle pop to a wider audience.

To here more tracks from their debut album click here.

3.Rotifer

Robert Rotifer has been knocking around the indie and alternative scenes of Europe and England for a while now and with a new album planned for 2013 we sense this will be one of his band’s most successful year’s yet. Now a three piece, Robert has assembled two of the UK’s most experienced  musicians , Death in Vegas’s Ian Button and The Television Personalities’s Mike Stone.

They were our headliner for our October Oxjam gig and have one of the best live guitar sounds around thanks to Rotifer’s playing and Button’s electronic wizardry. Their last album The Hosting Couple, which featured Darren Hayman on bass, was one of our highlights of 2011 and is worth checking out while you wait for their new album.

Rotifer’s Soundcloud page can be found here.

2.Esben and the Witch

Another Brighton band on our list, who are set to release their second album Wash the Sins Not Only The Face on indie heavyweight label Matador in January 2013, followed by a 12 day UK and Europe tour ending on Feb 26 at London’s Scala. Described by NME as “gothic not goth” they are as haunting and unsettling as that description suggests.

While their 2011 debut album received a reasonable response, from what we’ve heard of their latest release it’s set to  bring them to a far wider audience and make 2013 the busiest year yet for the band.

For more information visit their website here.

1.Stealing Sheep

This Liverpool trio with a folk surf feel somewhere between Pentangle and a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack have the accolade of being the best support band we saw all year. They quite simply  blew the crowd away when they supported Field Music on their sell out tour this year. By the end of 2012 their debut  album  Into the Diamond Sun, with great tracks such as Shut Eye, had received similarly excellent reviews and they were headlining shows in their own right.

It’s at 2013 festivals where you should particularly watch out for this band, after a run of successful festival gigs in 2012 garnered them even more attention. Great live band with a wholly original sound. A deserved number one in this list.

For more information about Stealing Sheep visit their website here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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