Ben Sherman & the UK Trade & Investment present Laura Welsh, Carl Barât and the Jackals, Circa Waves, Black Rivers, Dry the River, Public Service Broadcasting at the SXSW British Music Embassy
From Mods to the modern day, British rockers have flocked to the Ben Sherman brand and their iconic button-down shirts for a way to find themselves in fashion. The shirts, introduced in 1963, were just enough of a departure from the typical dressy options of the time—more color, more buttons!—to be embraced by the Mods, one of Britain's most significant subgroups of youth culture. The relationship between the men's lifestyle brand and musicians started then and has continued to today through Classic Rock, Northern Soul, BritPop, and now, the stage at Latitude 30 in Austin, TX. The Ben Sherman men's lifestyle brand sponsored the third night of performances at the British Music Embassy during South by Southwest.
That night's slate of artists has recognizable sounds and styles of their own, making them stand out from the crowd as polished performers no matter where they are in their careers. Some of them used their fashion sense to punctuate their musical statements while others concentrated on redefining themselves solely through their most recent albums. The artists included Carl Barât and the Jackals, Laura Welsh, Dry the River, Black Rivers, Public Service Broadcasting, and Circa Waves.
Indiezone.TV is proud to bring you the following interviews with each of those musical acts, filmed right before their SXSW performances. Our host covered a range of topics with them all, asking their inspirations, how they'd define their music, what makes touring fun, and the always important question of whether or not they'd yet had the chance to try Texas BBQ.
First up is Laura Welsh, who comes from a long tradition of soulful British artists of the female persuasion. Her debut solo album, Soft Control, has been called "a fusion of some of the best bits of many female artists, all of which have been successful before her" by Chris Sanders at Music OMH Welsh talks about debuting Soft Control the same week as making her SXSW appearance.
Check out Welsh's music video for "Ghosts" right here.
Carl Barât has pulled off several career reinventions with flair. Formerly with the Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things, Barât has put out what is essentially his second solo album with the backing of his new band, the Jackals. No matter how he's been reborn, he's kept his signature style intact. As Mark Beaumont of NME described it, Barât's newest album, Let it Reign, is "bloody-toothed British garage rock that sounds like it’s been dug out of the Somme on wax cylinder, and it rocks like a hand grenade suppository."
Barât joins us with the Jackals' bassist Adam Claxton and talks about the fun new way Barât undertook bringing this band together. He also discusses the Clash's ever-present influence on his music-making, and Claxton shares what 90s standard he learned while picking up the acoustic guitar.
Carl Barât and the Jackals
Here's Carl Barât and the Jackals playing "I Get Along" during their SXSW show.
Circa Waves hit the SXSW stage the week before their first album, Young Chasers, debuted. If Harriet Gibsone of the Guardian is to be believed, they're on their way to musically capturing the current British zeitgeist, just as Ben Sherman shirts did for the Mods back in the 1960s. As Gibsone describes the album, "Young Chasers is the sound of being 17, and specifically being 17 in 2005: retro(ish)-fetishism is rife…. What it lacks in boundary-pushing, it makes up for in sturdy songcraft and youthful exuberance – crowdsurfing, band practice, chasing girls, and missing Mum."'
Join our host and get the band members' takes on forming up after first being on opposing teams, best ways to seduce their audiences, and…tacos?
Catch Circa Waves' most recent video, "T-Shirt Weather," here.
Twin brothers Jez and Andy Williams, members of the popular UK band Doves that has been on hiatus since 2010, are making their own music with electronic stylings that stop just short of embracing progressive rock. They've released their first album under the name Black Rivers, and Jez talks all about the ways they've differentiated themselves from the Doves during our interview. With Black Rivers, they're creating a musical niche that honors their Doves' roots but is just different enough to stand out fully on its own. Hmm, that sounds kind of like a certain men's lifestyle brand sponsoring the show….
You can judge for yourself how successful Black Rivers has been at crafting that signature sound while watching this performance of their song "the Forest."
"Elegant arena rock" is not a descriptor we've heard often, but it's how Paul Page of Entertainment.ie describes the sophomore album, Alarms in the Hearts, of London-based band Dry the River. Page goes on to call it "a beautifully crafted collection that will only enhance their already burgeoning reputation" . Dry the River's first album, Shallow Bed, was received to widespread critical acclaim in 2012.
Before their SXSW performance, we spoke with band members Pete Liddle and Scott Miller about what it was like to record their album in Iceland after three years of heavy touring. Liddle also admits to not yet buying into America's bustling craft brewery scene—we'll forgive him for just picking whichever beer is handiest on the road. Finally, they reveal the truth about performing to American audiences: the British accent is their most valuable player.
Dry the River
Here's Dry the River's performance of "Gethsemane" at their Brighton Music Hall show in Boston last November.
We end our coverage of the Ben Sherman night of sponsorship at the SXSW British Music Embassy with the band that most closely emblemizes that Ben Sherman style of well-dressed, confident rebellion: Public Service Broadcasting. With whimsical verve, the musical duo performs under the names J. Willgoose, Esq., and Wrigglesworth. They are futurist archivists, artful rockers, and punk dancers who use film footage, classic public information films, and more to complement their instrumentation. That's about as unique as one can get while building on cultural movements that have come before them.
Our interview begins with Public Service Broadcasting claiming none of us should buy their music! Then they manage to sell us on how their sound has matured since their debut and give us a peek behind their processes, piecing together how they go from filmic and audio inspiration to musical track.
Public Service Broadcasting
Check out this live footage of the Public Service Broadcasting experience that took place immediately after our interview.