Another great piece of dream-pop from Liverpool outfit HAARM, Love In A Different Way is out today and continues their track record of wonderfully crafted songs.
The four-piece will play their final live show of 2017 at a special release party on 25 November at EBGB’s in Liverpool.
HAARM – Love In A Different Way
Here’s an duo that are on our modest list of acts that can seemingly do no wrong. The Modern Strangers are brothers Max and Archie Davenport from Kent, and the pair have the Midas touch when it comes to creating ridiculously catchy tunes. Hot Rain is their latest effort and follows where our previous obsessions Margarita and Coco Hello left off.
The Modern Strangers – Hot Rain
We’ve been huge fans of the blissfully laid-back sound of Australian indie-dance outfit Tora for a while now, and this latest release is nicely seeing us through that always-difficult middle part of the week.
Blame is taken from the band’s debut album Take A Rest which is out now. Watch out for them live too as they’re embarking on an extensive European tour in the autumn, including stops in Manchester (7 October), London (9) and Brighton (10).
Tora – Blame
These are exciting times for Icelandic band Vök. Not only will they figure prominently on the upcoming 10th edition of our Sync List (an honour that, let’s face it, any band would be excited about!), but they are also about to release their new album Figure on 28 April which, if there’s any justice in the world, will see them come to far greater prominence.
Since forming in 2013, their indie-electronica style has drawn comparisons with a whole host of luminaries such as The xx and Portishead, and the sound is broadly mellow, reflective, but above all, totally atmospheric. For full effect, they need to be seen and heard live – and the UK dates on their extensive month-long European tour include stop-offs in London (17 May), Salford (18) and Bristol (19) – buy tickets here.
Given how their music has been captivating us over the past few months, we were keen to catch up with saxophonist Andri Már ahead of their tour, and find out more about the band, its inspirations, and the forthcoming live dates…
SYNC: So please tell us a bit of the background to Vök, how you guys got together etc, and who’s who in the band.
ANDRI: The beginning for us was a fluke! We started the band to try out playing live and we got hooked! Me and Margrét have been friends for the last 10 years and her and Óli grew up together. We got to know Einar about the same time we started the band but it took a couple years for us to start working together! Margrét and I write most of the music and Einar being a sound tech polishes with us and then Óli is the social media expert! We are all very different individuals but we find that it works to our advantage.
Vök – Show Me
SYNC: Although of course there have been a couple of EPs, you must be very excited about the imminent album release! How long has Figure been in the planning/making?
ANDRI: Oh yes! We are ecstatic! Figure has been in the making basically since we first started playing music. We had a very steep learning curve and had to experiment with a lot of things before we felt we were able to make this album the way we wanted to make it. But I feel it has worked in our favour, as we’ve been able to lay a good foundation for this release.
SYNC: Although there are a few obvious comparisons with the likes of The xx, the album is a way more complex package than any such simple generalisation suggests.
ANDRI: Thank you! It is always fun to hear the comparisons but you are right, I don’t think that generalisation really works anymore. Our influences range from The xx and Portishead to the Arctic Monkeys and all the way back to Frank Sinatra! So it’s a very wide range of influences. There are for instance some books that have had an influence on our lyric writing, i.e. the Discworld series and Grass for His Pillow to name some.
Vök – Waiting
SYNC: You’re about to hit the road for an extensive European tour. What can fans expect from your live shows, and what are the challenges in bringing certain elements of your studio sound to the live performance?
ANDRI: We want to bring out our and your emotions and try and take you on a journey through the concert. There are very powerful chapters and there are some downlow as well so there is hopefully something for everyone.
We have always been a band that is more about the live performing than the studio and so far we have translated the live element more into the studio than vice versa. There are definitely challenges to overcome but I personally like it when musicians have the courage to deviate from the album and make some sort of unique atmosphere for those that have gone along to the shows.
Vök – Breaking Bones
It was as recent as November that New York duo Phantogram were last in London as one of a few dates on a UK tour. This time, their stopover was even more brief as it was the only UK show of their European tour. Last time they packed out the ‘under the arches’ venue Heaven, but this time around were in the somewhat more spacious environs of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire… not that it felt especially spacious, with a close-to-sell-out crowd packing out the stalls.
Their particular brand of bombastic beats, rock riffs and swirling synths puts the band in a fairly unique place – too dark to be considered pop, yet not really a natural fit for the rock, electronic or indie tags either. Lyrically, the tone is certainly on the bleak side, but that’s counterbalanced with a fierce, high octane sound that makes their live show such a compelling one.
A little late to the stage – as seems to be their style – Phantogram rattled through a 75-minute set that was full of energy and volume. Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter manage to keep the between-song chatter to a minimum. Sometimes, this can create a sense of aloofness from a band but somehow, they still seem to manage a strong connection with fans old and new. The setlist kept fans from both camps happy too. There were tracks from the early days such as Mouthful of Diamonds and When I’m Small from 2009 debut album Eyelid Movies, as well as a generous helping of new material from most recent album Three, including Same Old Blues, Destroyer, and Run Run Blood.
They saved the best for last though with a three-song encore that capped the evening superbly. Firstly, Carter took up the vocal duties for the intense and mesmerising Barking Dog, before what was perhaps Barthel’s peak moment of the night with the wonderfully-sung Cruel World. They wrapped up with their uptempo anthem You Don’t Get Me High Anymore, performed with the kind of bounce and swagger that’s only possible when a band knows it has a seriously great song to end with.
DRGM are a trio from East London who create a unique blend of commercial beats and electronica that puts them in and amongst categorisation with the likes of Rufus, The XX and Disclosure. Out on Thursday (16/3) EP Etc somehow manages to be powerful, energetic and morose all at the same time.
The band will be putting on a handful of dates this month to support the release of the EP. You can catch their launch parties in London (16 March), Portsmouth (24) and Brighton (31). But before they hit the road for those, we caught up with the band to find out a bit more about their intriguing sound…
SYNC: Please tell us a bit of the background to DRGM, including how you guys got together… and the attributes that each of you brings to the group!
GREG: Goosey and I met touring as session players and started producing a few tracks together, just for fun. A sort of side project. He knew Ellen from the scene and we thought her voice might sound good on one of our mixes. It did! We put out a little mixtape, just over a year ago, to see what the reaction was. We managed to get quite a lot of airtime from that record and from there we decided to knuckle down and get a solid EP recorded. We produce all of our own media: mixes, masters, photos, graphics, music videos, live sessions etc. so it’s a lot of work to get from an idea to a fully fledged launch, but we hope it’s been worth it.
SYNC: Websites like ours love to categorise bands but it’s pretty hard to ‘allocate’ your sound to a narrow genre. How would you like to be described, and who/what has influenced you to develop to where you are now?
GOOSE: It’s hard to really pin down who our main influences have been. Everything from electronic sounding bands like Rufus to jazzers like Miles Davis. Our sound is pretty layered and we’ve tried to make each part as unique as possible. I write beats which can be quite linear and angular, which tend to complement the guitar sound Greg’s coming out with. Ellen’s got a real jazz voice, so we try to bring that out in the chords. There’s definitely an emphasis on modern electronic sounds, like Disclosure or, to an extent, The XX, but we hope we’ve managed to make something new with this record.
SYNC: How has the EP come together? Has it been a long time in the making?
ELLEN: We’ve probably been working on the project for around nine months. We work differently from other bands in that none of the writing is really done together. Greg writes the music and then he and Goose tweak the project before adding drums. They then send me over demos and then the tracks sit with me for a while whilst I write the lyrics. EP Etc is four tracks, but we must have written at least twelve over the summer – some which worked, some which didn’t. We ended up choosing four tracks which we really felt complemented one another. We wanted the EP to feel like one piece with direction, as opposed to four seperate tracks, and we’re really pleased with the outcome.
SYNC: What are the plans for live dates, and what can people expect when they come to see you?
ELLEN: We’re hosting a series of launch parties, the first being in a Dalston basement on the day of the EP release – 16th March. We’re following up the launch with parties in Portsmouth and Brighton. We wanted the launch parties to have a relaxed feel, and this is how Greg has designed the set. It’s meant to be a fluid 40 minutes of entertainment where we take you through our EP, some other original tracks and some covers of artists who we admire, in our own style of course! We have a couple of other surprises to share at the parties, but the main emphasis is on having as much fun as possible.
DRGM – Felt
Boxed In wrapped up their UK tour with perhaps their biggest show to date for what was a triumphant return to their home town.
The four-piece, led by frontman Oli Bayston, performed much of their new album Melt, bringing to life an already superb set of material that somehow took on a whole new level on the live stage.
Right from the start, they set the bar high, kicking things off with Jist and, during a set of a little over an hour, included several from the new album, including Shadowboxing, London Lights, Black Prism, and Oxbow. There was also a pick from the first LP too, including Foot of The Hill, All Your Love Is Gone and a majestic performance of Mystery.
After a brief encore, the band returned with Open Ended and False Alarm, before concluding on a real high with the superb Melt.
Bayston was keen to emphasise his gratitude to an appreciative crowd for turning out on a Monday night for this show, but in reality, making such an effort to be here for this one – even at this ungodly start of the working week – was no hardship. The band gave an accomplished performance that was atmospheric, high-tempo, and full of the kind of substance that can be all too hard to find. It also felt way more ‘complete’ than very early Boxed In, with a live sound that brought the very best out of the whole band. It made you glad to have been there to see it, hear it and, most of all, feel it.
For a taste of Boxed In live, see their superb mini-set for Low Four.
A supremely chilled out track to start the week, this is Twenty by UK producer Marble Empire (Matt Berry).
The 20-year-old Guildford-based artist – who started out as a producer in 2015 before moving on to performing his own tracks live with a full band – takes inspiration from the likes of Jungle and Nao and you can spot these influences among the many elements going on in this tune. We love it and hope you will too.
Marble Empire – Twenty
Hailing from the Scottish Borders, ISLE are electro-pop duo Liam Rutherford and Ben Singer. Their latest track Faults has been included in the latest Sync List for no other reason than because it is superb. It’s a well-produced, uplifting tune of the type we’re always partial to.
The band are currently on tour supporting Ladyhawke with a string of dates kicking off in Bristol tonight.
ISLE – Faults
US duo Phantogram burst back onto the scene this year with their third album – cunningly titled Three – and this lead single certainly grabbed our attention. Bursting with edge, energy and attitude, You Don’t Ger Me High Anymore marked a shift towards a more polished, highly produced sound.
Phantogram – You Don’t Get Me High Anymore
Ok, so it may be the second time inside a month that we’ve featured New York indie-electronica duo Phantogram on Sync, but we can’t help it when they keep releasing tracks like this.
Cruel World is the third tune to be released from their forthcoming album Three, which is due for release on 7 October. For a sense of why this eagerly-anticipated album is likely to be such a stormer, take a listen to You Don’t Get Me High Anymore and Run Run Blood.
Phantogram – Cruel World
More proof if proof were needed that Phantogram‘s forthcoming album Three (out 19 September) is going to be a corker is provided by this latest offering.
Run Run Blood has a more brooding, darkly menacing tone than previous track You Don’t Get Me High Anymore, but has all the punch and attitude that we’re expecting the album to deliver by the bucketload.
The US indie-electronica duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter will be touring across Europe in November, with the UK leg taking in visits to Brighton (14), London (16), Manchester (17), and Glasgow (18).
Phantogram – Run Run Blood
We get quite excited about music that spans genres, and are always on the lookout for interesting mixes and combos of music styles. So we’re well used to hearing stuff that’s slightly ‘different’. Even so, our minds were blown by this multi-layered piece of innovative genius from Kishi Bashi (Kauru Ishibashi).
Even after listening to Say Yeah multiple times, we’re still not quite sure how to describe or categorise it, so we won’t. All we ask, is that you listen to it at least twice – maybe not back-to-back, but give it a try again in a few hours, or even tomorrow. If you don’t fall in love with it by the 2nd listen then, well, maybe Batman can help you but we sure as hell can’t.
The track is the lead single from Kishi Bashi’s upcoming album Sonderlust. Due for release on 16 September, it will be the third solo record from the US singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter.
Kishi Bashi – Say Yeah
US indie-electronica duo Phantogram (Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter) have announced details of their new album Three, due for release on 16 September, as well as an upcoming UK tour towards the end of the year that will include stops in Brighton (14 November), London (16), Manchester (17), and Glasgow (18).
We’re loving the stomping lead single You Don’t Get Me High Anymore and look forward to hearing more from the album.
Phantogram – You Don’t Get Me High Anymore