NME & PRS For Music Present: Happyness, Girl Band, Hinds, Ultimate Painting, Honeyblood, Arrows of Love at the SXSW British Music Embassy
The final night of British music discovery at South by Southwest (SXSW) was selected by New Musical Express, more commonly known as NME music magazine both online and in print. NME.com is the world's biggest music website, bringing in over 7 million users per month. Based in London, NME is in a prime position to have their pulse on British music trends, not to mention the rest of the world's. In fact, NME is credited with inventing the term Britpop, first used as a descriptor for Blur's music in the 1990s.
The magazine's focus has long been on familiarizing readers and users with new bands on the scene, ones with at least a little indie cred. For a week of shows focused on introducing Americans to the UK's shiniest new performers, it makes sense that a company with NME's cred would assemble the last night's slate. The chosen ones for the evening showcase on Saturday, March 21, 2015, were Girl Band, Ultimate Painting, Hinds, Bizerk, Happyness, and Honeyblood.
Get to know these bands along with us at Indiezone.TV in the interviews that follow. In addition to interviewing most of the players that night, we also grabbed some time with surprise guests Arrows of Love, a UK punk band with unrelenting momentum that may propel them into the stratosphere this year.
Happyness is comprised of a trio of jokers, if our interview is anything to judge by. With that band name, it seems quite fitting, as do all the kisses exchanged on camera! By the time ours stopped rolling, we were pretty sure Happyness may also be related to truthiness. But their music strikes a different chord, as "songs on this impressive debut album are lovely but droll; equally capable of making you feel fuzzy and anxious," according to NME reviewer Phil Hebblethwaite http://www.nme.com/reviews/various-artists/15384.
Will they make you happy, too? Check out their "A Whole New Shape" video to find out.
Girl Band: This Irish band assaulted Austin during SXSW, giving America what Andrew Flanagan of Billboard called "its first treatment to the band's singular sandblast of maniacally contained noise." If you think that means Girl Band is a punk band, you'd be right, though in truth, they're more of a techno-punk hybrid.
We talked with frontman Dara Kiely, who is surprisingly not a girl. Guess all labels can't be believed! Learn the origin of the band's name, and judge for yourself how funny it and Dara's jokes are. In our humble opinion, he's much more successful at describing the Irish music scene as well as his most recent Austin meal.
If Dara made you hungry for what Girl Band serves up, then be sure to watch their entire performance at Seattle's KEXP.
Hinds: This band of Spanish origination used to perform under the name Deers, but we think the switch to Hinds, a lesser known term for female deer, suits them quite well. They also used to be a duo, but the popularity of tracks "Bamboo" and "Trippy Gum" last year inspired originators Carlotta Cosials and Ana Garcia Perrote to expand to a foursome. That ambition was evident during their SXSW stay; they managed to fit 16 shows into 4 days of performances!
We are thrilled they managed to fit us in too. Carlotta and Ana were joined by fellow band member Ade Martin after their final performance to discuss their guitar-heavy garage pop music. That music has qualified them as one of NME's top ten bands to watch in 2015. So get to it!
Catch Hinds in their original video for "Grounded in the Barn".
Ultimate Painting: The Guardian's Michael Hann was effusive in his 5-star review of Ultimate Painting's self-titled album: "The playing is precise, subdued and autumnal; voices are hushed and expressionless, in those muted two-part harmonies familiar from thousands of indie albums in this lineage. But, oh, the songwriting! …Every arrangement is perfect for the melody, and every melody sticks: the cardboard-box drum machine, walking bassline, cheap keyboard and simple guitar arpeggio of Riverside would be nothing individually; together they’re perfect"
Nothing we can say could measure up to that gushing praise! So we'll let this duo speak for themselves. Or at least one half of the duo, Jack Cooper. Ultimate Painting's other half, James Hoare, was MIA, likely recovering from their set. Cooper informed us that they weren't quite as ambitious as Hinds, only playing 10 total SXSW shows (only 10!). He compared his different experiences at SXSW over the past couple of years and explained how they all bleed together now that Ultimate Painting is touring throughout the US. Their band name actually has a Colorado inspiration! Click on that play button to learn all about it.
Does Ultimate Painting measure up to the Guardian's glowing review? Here they are at the Windmill in Brixton last summer.
Honeyblood: Honeyblood is another dynamic duo that has been running all over the States before descending on Austin for SXSW. Their charming pop belies the stinging roots of feminist songmaking. As Mark Beaumont describes it in his NME review of their self-titled album, listening is "like getting a cannon blast of marshmallow direct to the face."
Scotland is Honeyblood's stomping ground, though we've been happy to have Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar tred on us here—don't tell our founding fathers. Stina spoke with us about the thrill of a full-capacity SXSW show, the other Scottish bands playing the festival, and that full US-touring schedule with Belle & Sebastian!
Time to see if Honeyblood's catchy but fiery music will hook you in! Here's their official video for "Killer Bangs."
We didn't catch Bizerk Saturday night, but we did find a renegade gang of rockers that weren't even on the roster! They had already played at the British Music Embassy earlier in the day during one of their several SXSW appearances.
Arrows of Love: Drummer Mike Frank and bassist Nuha Ruby Ra, with a little help from another of their band members in this five-piece grungy punk band, joined us. They attempted to make their band name's origin from a William Blake poem sound legitimate, but we aren't quite sure the poet would have agreed with "blah, blah, blah" as a word choice. A near riot occurred when Mike offered a questionable description of the band's sound. Miley Cyrus? If only we could let the cameras keep rolling on these guys all night.
Arrows of Love
Here's Arrows of Love with their newest video, "Pretend Friends."
Thanks to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, UK Trade & Investment, and PRS for Music for a week's worth of memorable new faces and more importantly, noises, coming out of the Motherland! We may even be inspired to give "God Save the Queen" a spin—but only a spin.