Despite being a pretty big deal in her homeland, Swedish singer Tove Styrke has remained mysteriously under the radar in the UK. With this, her comeback gig after a period of time in the studio, she did much to further the mystery of why she isn’t more up front and centre, with a powerful, high tempo performance that suggests she should be on a far bigger stage – metaphorically as well as literally.
Her long-standing domestic profile is due in part to a third-place finish in Sweden’s version of Pop Idol back in 2009, but the music that immediately followed that TV experience in her youth is a far cry from where this sassy lady is at nowadays. New song Say My Name offers a good handle on the strong and creative approach to pop that Styrke is taking, but her hour-long London show was nicely varied, stringing together a mix of material old and new.
Kicking of with Samurai Boy and Borderline from her second album Kiddo, she followed that with another from the same LP, Ego, which is arguably the most accomplished song of her career up to this point.
She excitedly announced that she had a couple of new songs to play for the first time, and they went down a storm; Mistakes and On The Low giving some indication that her third album will represent another major step forward for her material, full of hooks and energy.
She returned to tracks from Kiddo, mining the album for Who’s Got News, Number One, and Snaren before launching into new tune Say My Name, which was delivered with panache as the crowd sung the lyrics back to her. But it was encore tune Even If I’m Loud It Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking To You which really sums up what she is all about. Bold, confident and fun – it’s pure pop… and she’s brilliant at it.
We caught Sundara Karma‘s headline set at the Bristol leg of the Dot To Dot Festival the other week and they certainly justified top billing. Frontman Oscar Pollock brought his usual formidable stage presence to proceedings which, as well as all the hits from their album Youth Is Only Fun In Retrospect, also featured all the mess you might expect from the firing of two huge confetti cannons.
For Canadian pop outfit Marianas Trench, May was a particularly busy month. The band’s Final Countdown tour [Europe – geddit?!] took in much of Europe in a marathon 17-date tour in support of latest album Astoria and recent single Who Do You Love (check out the video for that track too!).
With a set made up primarily of tracks from the new album plus a smattering of older material, the band are clearly made for the live show, bringing a real sense of energy and excitement to their music, which itself is a seemingly impossible blend of 80s rock/metal, 70s glam and contemporary pop. It sounds like it should never work but it really does, and makes for a memorable evening out.
The band will be in action again in their home country over the coming months, playing a string of festival dates in Canada during July and August.
Photos: Becca Arnold
Performing as part of the Bristol leg of the Dot To Dot Festival, The Big Moon brought their spiky, vibrant indie-rock to a full capacity SWX. It was unsurprising that they drew such a crowd – the group has been earning high praise while extensively touring debut album Love In The 4th Dimension. But the considerable hype surrounding Juliette Jackson’s band is not unjustified; their live proposition is particularly impressive.
As is always the case with festival sets, their show was all too short and sweet, but they crammed the favourites into their half hour timeslot, including Formidable, Cupid and ending with the superb Sucker. There was also a brilliant cover of Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger – a great song, given a cracking twist by the London four-piece.
Flyte returned to Winchester to perform their dreamy indie-pop to a packed Railway Inn. This was essentially a hometown show for the lads, with the room being filled with family and friends as well as fans.
The show opened with the band performing a stripped back cover of Archie, Marry Me, by Alvvays. They then went on to play an old favourite, Closer Together before performing a string of unreleased material due to be featured on their upcoming debut album. The crowd listened intently and danced along to these songs they’d never heard, and sang along to more recent singles Echoes and Victoria Falls and old song Harley Street.
The band also performed their own rendition of Wings of Love in which their bassist, Nick Hill and drummer, Jon Supran switched their instruments for lead guitar. I felt this, mixed with the band’s harmonising vocals throughout the night, really highlighted their talent.
Their set finished with the first song they wrote together, Faithless, which the crowd went wild for. After three years together, the band announced they have recently recorded their debut album in Australia, which we should hear more about next month.
Words and photos: Phoebe Reeks
Upcoming indie four-piece, The Magic Gang proved that they are very much ones to watch at a lively show at London venue Heaven.
After the release of their third EP – the imaginatively titled EP Three – the group ended their UK tour by playing to an enthusiastic crowd in the capital. Opening with song Lady, Please, fans were already alive with energy in the pit. This continued through old song She Won’t Ghost and single All This Way as the crowd swayed back and forth in time to the melodic guitar riffs.
Who said guitar music was dead? Certainly not these four, as they play indie anthem after indie anthem with the full heart and soul of the crowd accompanying them. Feeling Better and new single How Can I Compete provoked an enthusiastic response from the fans, as some took to crowd surfing in a desperate attempt to get closer to the front. Lead vocals were shared by members Kristian Smith and Jack Kaye as they sang bittersweet lyrics like ‘And I really wanna know if it’s alright because it’s getting really hard to tell’ from single Alright – words that speak to any heartbroken teenager.
The Magic Gang – How Can I Compete
It shows that these four are destined for greatness as the energy from both the fans and the band could barely be contained in the small London venue. Hopefully looking to release an album sometime in 2017, The Magic Gang have big things ahead of them.
Words and photos: Tabetha Parrick
Almost a month after the release of his debut album Sweet Dreamer, Will Joseph Cook played his biggest show to date at London’s Heaven.
He opened with the title track from the album, a song that radiates energy which was reflected back from the crowd. Going on to play tune Plastic followed with single Take Me Dancing – no one was standing still in the venue. He went on to ask if anyone knew what day it was just before playing the song For Thursday, adding that he had been waiting all tour for that opportunity.
Cook’s melodic voice filled the venue as much as he filled the stage with his presence, taking breaks from dancing only to play guitar. All eyes were fixed on him as he got fans to crouch down during the verses of song Alive only to jump up during the chorus ready to shout the words “it’s good to be alive” at the top of their lungs.
However it wasn’t all upbeat party tunes, with the singer playing heartfelt ballads Water’s Gone Cold and Habit towards the end of the set. It was a captivating moment as he stood alone on the stage singing with hundreds of voices in the crowd.
He looked like he was enjoying himself as much as his fans, saying “I’m trying not to make long speeches between every track but it’s very hard. It’s such an exciting time to be releasing music. I just want to say thank you.” And an exciting time it was, finishing with songs Biggest Fan and Beach (I Wanna Make You Mine) – both instant classics from the album – and everyone was singing along.
It’s Will Joseph Cook’s own words that capture perfectly what everyone in that venue was thinking by then: “Look around us, this is fucking mental.”
Words and photos: Tabetha Parrick
One of the most exciting emerging pop acts of 2017 proves why she’s worth the hype at her second ever headline gig.
Sigrid kicked off the show with some unheard tracks including Go to War and later Raw which stand on their own against the already-known material giving the crowd a glimpse of what’s to come in the next year. As she quips that she’ll ‘crack on’ and asking if her British slang is right she kicks her huge raspy vocals into gear for Plot Twist, another stellar pop song matching up to her debut, which carries throughout the set. During this track she catches sight of some fans in the audience who know the words and bounds across the stage looking shocked at the thought that anyone would – but with the catchy choruses and infectious production it’s no real surprise.
The comparisons to Lorde are clear when you listen to Sigrid’s tracks as there is a hip-hop influence in both production and lyrics – Don’t Kill My Vibe is a clear nod to Kendrick Lamar’s mainstream pop culture influence – however seeing Sigrid live that’s where the comparisons begin and end. Her high-energy is something to envy and she throws shapes to each beat of the huge pop tracks including her previously mentioned breakthrough hit.
Not surprisingly, the empowering anthem has the biggest reaction of the night as the lyrics ‘You shut me down, you like the control. You speak to me like I’m a child’, offer solace to anyone being undermined by friends, lovers or bosses. In Sigrid’s case it was born after being patronised by male writers in the studio and of that came a warning in Don’t Kill My Vibe – she is an artist who shouldn’t be underestimated.
An encore prompted by her backing band (who all seem to be enjoying this set as much as she does), sees Sigrid perform a stripped back song which she apologies for but says Savage In Our Blood is an “important song” to her. As she references populists in the unheard track, her voice soars with emotion, she is once again showing her ability to write a pop track with depth. It could be open to interpretation as it seems to be a commentary on the currently unstable political landscape which is something many young music listeners are looking for right now – a voice fighting back.
She tells us this is only the second ever headline Sigrid show and it’s obvious that she’s enjoying every second of it. The shock on her face as the crowd sing back tracks like Plot Twist and Fake Friends proves she may not quite realise the waves she’s currently creating amongst her listeners and just how damn catchy her songs are. It’s exciting to see a young performer on the verge of great things and looking ready to smash any stage she stands on winning over crowds across the globe. And most importantly, she has the pop bangers to back it up.
Words and photos: Jonny Yates
Sigrid – Don’t Kill My Vibe (Live – Vevo dscvr)
A warm, sultry Friday evening in London got even hotter in the basement environment of Birthdays in Dalston, East London. The biggest show so far by emerging soul-pop trio Rumours saw this compact venue packed out and enthralled by an hour-long set that included sublimely chilled out tunes alongside more uptempo material.
Comprising Mark Borgazzi (vocals/keyboards), Federico Bigonzetti (drums) and Marion Solheim (vocals), the band are earning a reputation for finely-crafted songs characterised by a real depth of feeling achieved through wonderful harmonies between the vocals of Borgazzi and Solheim. We’re always keen to discover whether the recorded version of this magical vocal skill can be replicated on the live stage, so it was great to hear them nail it wonderfully on the night.
The set built nicely, from a low-key but solid first half through to a much more upbeat second. So Bad, Invitations and I Do It All were particular highlights – along with new single Hunter – but there were no weak links here. It was an impressive performance for a band still in its relative early stages.
They promised an eager crowd that more new material was on the way soon. If they can create more along the lines of what’s gone before then a very bright future lies ahead… and that’s more than just a rumour.
See also: DISCOVER… Rumours
We never tire of banging on about Fickle Friends. Not only have they put out a string of ridiculously catchy tunes over the past year or two, but they’re also a superbly polished-but-fun live proposition. We saw them late last year during their own headline UK tour (see review) but were so pleased to be able to catch them again, this time in support of The Kooks.
They made an impression with all their radio-friendly hits, including Swim and Cry Baby, with latest banger Hello Hello being a particular highlight. Catch them at a festival this summer if you can – they’re doing the summer big-time with appearances at Liverpool Sound City, The Great Escape, Secret Garden Party, Kendal Calling, Leeds and Reading. They’ll be capping that off with their biggest headline show to date at London’s o2 Forum in Kentish Town on 26 October – tickets here.
Photos by Phoebe Reeks
The Kooks returned to the O2 Academy Bournemouth for a sold-out date on their The Best Of… So Far tour, a mammoth 17-date run of shows that concludes on 13 May at London’s Alexandra Palace.
They rattled through many of their best-known tracks from a back-catalogue of music stretching back over a decade, including Eddie’s Gun, She Moves In Her Own Way, Sofa Song, and Junk of the Heart (Happy), as well as newer material such as current single Be Who You Are.
The Kooks have forged a solid reputation for strong songwriting and engaging live shows over the years since forming in Brighton more than 10 years ago. Frontman Luke Pritchard was in great form, clearly enjoying this extensive return to the road.
Other highlights of the set included Seaside, Always Where I Need To Be and Ooh La ahead of an encore consisting of Around Town and Shine On before ending with signature song Naïve.
The release of a ‘best of’ album and tour can often signal the beginning of the end for a band – a precursor to winding down and fading away. But everything about this triumphant performance suggested that there’s still plenty more to come.
Review and Photos: Phoebe Reeks
The best thing about live music is that it doesn’t matter if the crowd is 20,000 or 200 – if the music’s right you get the same feeling every single time… well, I do anyway! French duo Her have been making incredible music for a while now, but seemingly dong so underground in a way that means only a select few seem to know too much about them.
For their show at London’s Borderline – where even the hallway to the toilets (pictured right) was Instagram-worthy! – Victor Solf and Simon Carpentier were joined by their full live band, enabling their lush sound to be performed with the richness that was always intended.
Support act Alxndr London sublimely set the tone with some awesome deep, bassy tracks and got everyone pumped for Her. Then the main act kept things bubbling throughout with their blend of soul, funk and at times fairly avante-garde music. The noise and excitement for the main act belied the modest size of the venue – particularly the reaction to the first few notes of perhaps their most recognisable track Five Minutes.
Her – Five Minutes (Live for Deezer)
Their stage presence was strong, with stylish colour-coordinated outfits, but none of the over-stylised aloofness that sometimes come across with some bands. And they were smiling with each other the whole time, seemingly enjoying their evening as much as the rest of us.
As well as Five Minutes, other highlights of their set included Quite Like, Jeanie J and most recent track Swim – all of which should go down well during their extensive festival slots across Europe and beyond (ticket details here).
There are plenty of bands that build up a strong following elsewhere in Europe but, for some reason, have to work particularly hard to break it in to the London music scene. Judging by the reaction from the crowd at this show, it seems likely that we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more about Her at some of London’s bigger venues in the near future.
Words and photos: Chelsea Kostrey
Her – Swim (ft. Zefire)
London-based Rumours is an electronic soul-pop trio made up of Mark Borgazzi, Federico Bigonzetti and Marion Solheim.
Mark and Fede come from Italy and have been making music together since childhood until they moved to London at the age of 18. There they met Norwegian student Marion and they joined forces in 2014. The band is a cosmopolitan mix of Italy, Norway and London, which somehow seems to enrich their diverse and hard-to-categorise musical style.
Blending electronic production with emotive songwriting, a key ingredient of Rumours’ sound is Mark and Marion’s intertwining male/female vocal dynamic. Their voices strike a unique balance that just works beautifully, and adds a hugely captivating edge to their music.
As we look ahead to their headline London show on 12 May, we caught up with Mark to find out more about the Rumours sound…
SYNC: Please tell us a bit about the band’s background.
MARK: Rumours came to life about two years ago. There are three of us in the band; Federico, Mark and Marion. Fede and I go way back, we grew up together in Italy, and then moved to London as soon as we turned 18. Here we met Marion, who had also moved to London from Norway and was studying at the same music school as us. We met in 2015, had an instant connection and started working together shortly after.
SYNC: How do you feel that your different nationalities/backgrounds influence your musical leanings?
MARK: We all have quite different musical backgrounds which all have a pretty strong influence on Rumours’ music. Fede, who is a producer and drummer, has always been very interested in electronic music. He follows and discovers new music from all kinds of genres and he strongly features this variety of influences in the production of our songs.
Marion’s taste and musical background is also very varied. She is currently into Neo Classical and experimental ambient music, but has a background in singing folk and soul. I think that what she brings to the table, is a more edgy and unexpected twist, especially when it comes to melodies and harmonies. My influences have been songwriters in general, but the NeoSoul and R&B artists I grew up listening to have probably shaped me more than others.
Rumours – I Do It All
SYNC: How does the band’s songwriting process work? Does one of you typically take the lead or is it a more collaborative process?
MARK: So far we have developed a process where I will find an idea and shape it into a simple arrangement before I pass it on to Fede who will then develop and work on the production of the music. Marion writes with me at different stages of the process. Sometimes I just have a hook that I really like and we develop a song around it together, sometimes I get inspiration for a more complete song all at once and we then work on the details and make changes together. As I said before, I have always admired a well-written song. I see songwriting as a craft that you need to develop and evolve constantly. To write something simple and easy to listen to, but with a relatable meaning and expression, is not such an easy thing.
SYNC: New single Invitations has a particularly smooth and emotive vibe. What’s the story behind this track?
MARK: We hadn’t released anything for quite a long time after our debut EP Shapes last year, so we were eager to share and release something new, that would reflect our development and growth. Invitations is a very rhythmic song, where the harmonies and melodies play on the contrasting range of our voices. The song is about being inspired and we want to allow that to mean different things to different people. This track is not as easy listening, or as immediately catching as some of our other songs, but is definitely an indication of what’s to come.
Rumours – Invitations
SYNC: 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?
MARK: Our live show is probably what has developed the most since we started. The show is quite loyal to our recordings but the songs gain more energy and dynamics when performed live. We’ve got a little team of good friends that add a different dimension to our live music sets. We always work with the same sound engineer, Phil. He knows our music very well and has been such a big part of achieving the right sound when we play live. Recreating our sound live can be a challenge due to the high production level of our music. This is why we have recently added a fourth musician, our talented friend Jason. He brings a whole new dimension to our live performances allowing us to better capture our studio sound. We have also recently collaborated with Claudio, a great filmmaker, for creating some visuals for our show. We received some great feedback for this at Archspace where we played our last London gig with Soundcrash.
Rumours – So Bad (Live for Sofar Sounds)
SYNC: So what are the plans beyond your upcoming live shows? Is there an album in the pipeline, and further live dates or festival appearances?
MARK: On 12 May, we will be performing at Birthdays in Dalston, London, then the following day we will be playing The Funk & Soul Weekender Festival in Camber Sands. Also later this summer we’re heading to Croatia to play Dimension Festival. We haven’t got an album on the way just yet, but we will definitely be releasing more music before the summer so please stay tuned!
Tickets for Rumours’ London show on 12 May are available here.
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
If there was some way of harnessing the energy in the room from a gig like this then it would probably solve many of the world’s energy issues at a stroke. Showcasing tracks from their debut album Beyond Repair, Blood Youth metaphorically took the roof off Tufnell Park’s Boston Music Room.
They kicked off with Making Waves before launching through much of the album, including Savanna, I Remember, and Parasite. Their fairly short but very sweet set ended with the epic single Reason to Stay. It was a triumphant gig – thankfully without any of the unwanted drama of the previous night’s show in Leeds which was curtailed when a fan suffered a serious leg injury during the gig. This time around, the high octane fun was allowed to run it’s full course, safely but at full speed – and maximum volume.
Photos: Jessica Piochon