Don’t Believe in Guilty Pleasures (Playlist #03)

Looks like we made its ladies and gents! Friday night has arrived, I’m not working or on call for once (**smug dancing lady emoji x10**) so get your dancing shoes on and grab a cheeky glass of wine (or maybe put your feet up with a nice cuppa tea – no one’s judging here, promise).

Tonight I’m bringing you some incredibly guilty pleasures, including some Northern beauties, and I’m not even sorry.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

In Conversation: Mercury Machine

The modern music scene is a tough nut to crack, and new music can come and go in the blink of an eye. Every now and then, a band comes along that stops you in your tracks, and you know you’re hearing something special; on that note, let me introduce you to Mercury Machine.

Another great addition to the world of Manchester music, this band is about to make their mark with the release of a new album. I was lucky enough to catch them in between their busy rehearsal schedule, to find out a little more about what makes them stand out from the crowd.

First things first, introduce us to ‘Mercury machine’. How did you all come together as a band?   

Mercury Machine was founded by Lee 7 years ago in his Stockport studio; he had the central vision for the band, is the chief songwriter, lead singer and guitarist. In the early days, he would invite musician friends to his studio and host parties, whilst creating tracks for people in order to add their creative input. These events sowed the seeds from which Mercury Machine has grown. Long time friend, Carl (bass), joined him around that time, alongside our visual artist and friend Liam, who now makes our videos and designs our artwork.

MM2
Keeping it local: Mercury Machine rehearse in an old 19th century cotton mill

A number of different musicians passed through the band until the perfect line up was established- Tim has been the guitarist for 3 years now, along with Gav on drums. Kade (Keys/Synth) joined a little later, and has been with us for just over a year. The great thing about this line-up is that we all bring different skills that compliment each other, which is how we feel a band should be.

Where are you all from?

We are a Manchester band and this is central to our identity.  It permeates our music and we are very proud of it.

Mercury Machine’s home/ rehearsal studio is in an old 19th century cotton Mill in East Manchester- there’s a boxing gym upstairs, a mini golf course next door and all kinds of community based projects happening there. This is great, because it means we are situated in a hub of activity. It’s also very inspiring architecture to be surrounded by– all the red brickwork, large windows and lots of old world internal fittings.

Our name itself is of local significance, as it links to one of the first commercial computers ever to be developed here in Manchester- The Mercury ‘Machine’. There are more details on our Facebook pages about this if people are interested.

There has always been a buzz around the Manchester music scene- do you ever feel pressured to fit into a certain mould? What do you think makes you stand out?

We’re very proud and comfortable about being a Manchester band. There’s a really good feel around things here at the moment.  Lot’s of independent promoters, bloggers and online Radio shows. If anything it means we’re spoilt for opportunities here to connect with people. In terms of fitting into a mould, we have our own thing going on but there’s no doubt, there a bit of Manc swagger in there.

How would you describe your music style to anyone who hasn’t heard your music before?

There are many influences on the band’s sound- I think we should say 80s inspired, although we suspect this is quite obvious when you listen to our songs! It’s been previously described as dark electro, synth-wave, indie and industrial- all these terms are fair. We use synths and this is a central part of Lee’s song writing.  We’re also a band that loves technology, Sci Fi, Marvel, superheroes and all things futuristic.

What can you tell us about the new album? Are there any standout songs for you?

Lee has literally just finished mixing the new album last week, after an epic period of late nights and coming close to madness! We’re obviously biased, but we think we have something really special- there is a link between the songs; they connect and fit together to create an overarching story.  Ultimately, we’re excited for other people to hear it and get some feedback.

MM3
A little sneaky peek at the set list

Each member of the band has a different favourite, but I think we all share a love for ‘Aurora’.  The overall structure, central piano and synth parts make it really stand out. Our album launch gig is at Night People on Saturday 16th Feb in Manchester, in partnership with Scruff of The Neck promotions. We’d love for people to come down and see what they think.

Which artists do you look up to?

As a band we are massive Gary Numan fans.  He was a pioneering artist who used synths in new ways, his performance style was and still is very inspiring. We see massive parallels between him, Lee and our music. To be honest we’ve already been tweeting him, as our dream is to do collaboration with him in some way. If we keep knocking on his door, hopefully one day soon he’ll answer!

Finally… are there any artists that you’re particularly enjoying listening to at the moment, or anyone you would recommend to the Blue Light Beat readers?

To stop any arguments, it’s probably easier if we answer this individually..!

MM4
Practice makes perfect

Tim (Guitarist): Depeche Mode Live in Berlin.  Awesome album, the way they build the atmosphere and connection with the Audience is amazing.

Lee (Songwriter and Singer): Ha, Mercury Machine. I’ve not had a chance to listen to anything else recently!

Carl (Bass): My playlists always feature Led Zeppelin and Radiohead. My parents were both Led Zep fans and this influenced the rockier side of me. Radiohead, particularly The Bends and OK Computer came out at a pivotal point in my life and inspired me to learn the guitar and want to be in a band.

Kade (Keyboards): Gunship and their new album ‘Dark all day’.

Gav (Drummer): Gary Numan’s first solo album ‘The Pleasure Principle’ Great synth hooks and warm drum grooves.

A big thanks to Mercury Machine for giving up their all important gig prep time to speak to Blue Light Beat – catch them at Night People on Saturday 16th February – get your tickets here!

Welcome to The Slow Readers Club

If I were to ask you to think of a city known for it’s music scene, I have a sneaking suspicion that Manchester would be fairly high up on your list of answers (said the unbiased Mancunian girl).

With this in mind, let me talk to you about The Slow Readers Club. This band has, with much determination and a loyal following of fans, steadily snowballed into a giant of the Mancunian music world. They’ve been releasing and performing music for nearly ten years, have toured the UK several times over and even filled tents at festivals such as Kendal Calling and Victorious Festival – but here’s the twist. While ticking off this huge list of achievements, The Slow Readers Club members were all still holding down their regular 9-5 jobs, and were an unsigned band. Long live rock and roll- but only out of office hours, naturally.

Relatively recently, the band’s popularity exploded to a whole new level, with the help of radio plays from the likes of BBC Music Introducing and XS Manchester.

The first time I heard ‘Supernatural’, with it’s heavy guitar coupled with the incredibly versatile voice of Aaron Starkie, I knew I needed to hear more; there were unmistakable hints of Joy Division, Editors and Depeche Mode all mixed into one, addictive sound.

slow readers club1
The Slow Readers Club acoustic set, October 2018. Albert Square, Manchester.

Shortly after becoming hooked on their latest album, Build a Tower, I heard on the grapevine, about a small acoustic set they would be playing in Albert Square in Manchester. Needless to say, I rolled up to the gig and couldn’t help but get caught up in the atmosphere; it was impossible not to feel lifted by the energy of the dedicated crowd in such a small space. They mentioned their upcoming gig at the 02 Apollo, and I for one, after what I’d seen that night, had every intention of being there.

Cut to December – since the acoustic session, there had been a huge buzz about the sold out Apollo concert on radio and social media. I’ve always felt that that there is something quite special about a band playing in their hometown; it’s something that perhaps can’t be explained in words, only felt in that moment the band walks out and that first chord plays. I’ve been to my fair share of gigs at the Apollo and it has the potential to be an incredible venue when the band feels and responds to the vibe of the crowd – I had a good feeling about this one.

src_19672
The Slow Readers Club, 02 Apollo Manchester, December 2018

Just like the acoustic session, the diversity of the audience was such a beautiful sight- young, old, couples, lone wolves, families – you name it, they were there. I’m not sure why (and feel free to call me the cheesiest human on earth after my next comment), but it really did bring me a warm, little feeling of joy to see music bringing people from all walks of life together.

It’s okay, I’ll see myself out.

The lights dimmed and through the haze of the spotlights, Starkie appeared in a thick black coat, collar popped, closely followed by Kurtis Starkie (guitar), James Ryan (Bass) and David Whitworth (drums). By this point, the bands words were barely audible over the noise and chanting of the crowd. Blasting straight in to ‘Lunatic’, all expectations I held were immediately exceeded – this was clearly a band that had honed their set and blended perfectly well together to create something extraordinary.

src_19675
The Slow Readers Club, 02 Apollo Manchester. December 2018.

The set spanned several albums, meaning that fans were left happy, regardless of when they had joined the band’s journey. We all knew what we were waiting for though, and the encore didn’t disappoint. The two final songs, ‘I Saw a Ghost’ and ‘On the TV’, saw the crowd turn into a collective superpower. ‘I Saw A Ghost’ is one of the band’s older tracks, from the album Cavalcade, and is probably one of the most well known from their back catalogue. It’s the final song, though, that brings with it a catchy, chant-able loop of guitar goodness. If you don’t believe me, have a look at this video on their Instagram, filmed by the boys themselves… I must warn you, I take no responsibility for this tune being stuck in your head all day/week/year.

The Slow Readers announced at the end of their set, that they would finally be giving up their day jobs in late December, in order to live the dream and pursue their musical careers full time.

Playlist #02 – Arctic Monkeys

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since the last album release, and the moment that the infamous intro to ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ became a staple of every late night playlist. I vividly remember listening over and over to AM in both disbelief and awe, at the fact that such a strong return could come seemingly out of nowhere.

I know that for many of those growing up around the time this band began to make music, there are plenty of memories, whether good or bad, associated with at least one of their albums or songs. Despite having seen the Arctic Monkeys in Finsbury Park in 2014 and absolutely loving their set, one of my most vivid memories around their music comes from a very different setting. It was Glastonbury 2007, nearing midnight, and I was sitting on my sofa (very much not at Glasto) on the phone to my best friend, who was also watching the festival. We sang along at stupid volumes down the phone to ‘This House is a Circus’ and then, suddenly, there was a point when neither of us spoke for a whole song- it was just too perfect to interrupt. Needless to say, 505 will always remain one of my favourite songs of all time, along with the associated memory embedded forever in my mind.

Here’s of a little celebration of the Arctic journey- from the glamour of Yorkshire all the way to LA. Let’s hope the release of ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ tonight is just as strong as albums gone by!

(There’s a sneaky little not-quite-arctic-monkeys track in this playlist, but it’s one of my favourite covers of all time- the last minute of the song is quite possibly my favourite minute of music ever made!)

 

Playlist #01 – International Women’s Day

Seeing as it’s International Women’s Day, it seems only fitting that my first playlist is dedicated to all the great gals of music. From front women, to drummers and solo artists, I think this one is self-explanatory.

I usually keep my playlists a little shorter, but on this occasion, there were too many wonder women to choose from! Who are your favourite leading ladies of the music world? Is there anyone you’d add to your playlist?

(On a side note- thank you to both Gwen Stefani and my mum, for teaching me that every day can be a red lipstick day…)

 

Back to Basics

Every music lover remembers their first gig- the sudden dimming of the lights, the rush as you catch the first glimpse of your heroes, the crush as the crowd moves in on the hits. Of course, there’s also the downside of the bruised ribs after being trapped against the front barrier (oh hello there youthful, eager, too-young-to-be-worried-about-spilling-my-beer Halyna), the sticky floors, and the blissful ignorance of not knowing what the suspiciously warm liquid that just hit your back was.

When I think back to my first gig, there are only fond memories. I was a 13 year old, who had discovered the happiness that combining heavy guitars, a disco drum beat and a well-placed bass part could create, and it was only just the beginning. Franz Ferdinand were playing at the MEN Arena (now known as the Manchester Arena), and as we queued at the entrance, little did I know I would become addicted to the gig life. I remember knowing the band’s first album, ‘Franz Ferdinand’, inside out; everything from the lyrics, to the fact there was a cough at the end of the song, ‘Michael.’ Looking back, it might seem pretty excessive, but I find something quite endearing about the idea that I was only just learning how much I really loved this genre of music, meaning every little detail felt so important at the time. Over the years there have been albums and bands that I’ve fallen in love with and who have become part of my story, but in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever known an album in as much detail as I knew that black and orange classic. Even if you don’t think you know any of their biggest hits, you do. After all, ‘Take Me Out’ is a staple of any self respecting Rock/Indie disco. ‘I say don’t you know, you say you don’t know, I say…’ – Let’s not lie now; you know exactly what I say.

I was recently lucky enough to be able to see Franz again at Manchester’s Albert Hall, a whole 13 years after the first time- be sure to look out for the review, including chats about their support, Albert Hammond Jr, which will popping up in the near future! As for now, back to the past.

Snap band
The snap band I bought at the gig – if you don’t know what a snap band is, you’ve never lived.

The support acts that night were two lesser-known bands, Editors and The Rakes. Editors were playing their new album at the time, ‘The Back Room’, which later went on to become one of their most well known albums to date. Their quick fire, whining riffs and ‘00s feel made their style unmistakable, with songs such as ‘Blood’ and ‘Munich’ increasing their fan base shortly after the tour. They’ve gone from strength to strength over the years, with their new single ‘Magazine’ having been recently released in 2018, plus an album to follow shortly. The Rakes unfortunately got lost in the indie madness that the decade brought with it, and didn’t go on to have many more popular releases- ‘22 Grand Job’ probably remains their most well known track of the noughties.

Looking back to my first real gig made me feel quite nostalgic, and got me thinking about the point in time when I first realised that rock was about to be added to my list of life loves. I can vividly pinpoint two songs that made me stop in my tracks and rethink music- I’ll give you a clue, it was 2002, and the video to one song involved a young Anthony Kiedis, a long yellow pipe and John Frusciante dancing in a dustbin. Any ideas? That’s another discussion for another time (or at least the next chapter).

Until then, have a little reminisce and get in touch to share your first gig experiences – even if it was the Spice Girls, I want to hear about the things that made it memorable for you.

Comment, tweet or share this post along with your stories – links on the Home page.