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INsiders Guide: SOLAR EYES, PLANET, MOONWOOD, Akz, Little Victories, Grace Davies, ALIAS KID, Catching Cairo, Simon Ward….

Lowslung sonic explorers SOLAR EYES are set to release their third single in the space of six hectic months. Following on from ‘Acid Test and ‘Naked Monkey On A Spaceship’ they now have the film score-esque cracker ‘I See The Sun’ ready to unleash upon the world.LISTEN HERE | WATCH HERE ‘I See The Sun’ was concocted after a conversation between Glenn Smyth, Solar Eyes’ main protagonist, and Jeff Knowler, the band’s mixer. Glenn had commented that he had written this cool ’60s-sounding Tarantino track on a newly acquired 12 string guitar. Jeff had suggested Glenn watch ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ (the fantastic Tarantino film) before recording it.  Glenn duly did and then decamped to his loft to catch the ‘I See The Sun’ sun. There, at the top of the stairs and within touching distance of the stars, Glenn fully immersed himself in the late ’60s, a hazy era of resounding reverb and echo chambers liberally topped with sultry Morricone-coded twanging’s. Glenn contemplated putting his dad’s old flares on for full on authenticity, but luckily was unable to find them. Once Glenn had completed his work and delivered a fistful of melodies Jeff set ‘Once Upon A Time…’ on loop on in the background as he mixed the track to fully get the vibe, and the supercool ‘I See The Sun’ was born.  With warmth not really a major factor in modern day recordings, where the chilled beat and the clinical hook rule supreme, there’s a sense of the future and nostalgia colliding in this three minute psychedelic pop song. That warmth comes partly from the fact that ‘I See The Sun’ was recorded in the sweltering summertime of Glenn’s attic, so you can feel the heat sizzling right through the track. But the heat is also on in the propulsive, muscular alt.indierock grooves, piling right on through to the lovely mournful ending. Because this is is music for the masses then, and, quite definitively, the missus as well. The lovingly animated video for the track is by Gorillaz cohort Matt Watkins, who once again creates a suitably intense visual world to illustrate the ideas spinning around Glenn Smyth’s mind. It’s quite the place to visit.

“Australian group PLANET aren’t short of ambition. The group have an innate urge to communication, something that leads them to build songs that are capable of filling arenas.”

CLASH

“Soaring indie rock from a band that knows how to write.”

TRIPLE J

WATCH ‘NEED MORE’ HERE

One of Sydney’s finest indie exports, PLANET return to the new music scene to unveil latest single and visual ‘Need More’.

Another guitar driven delight, ‘Need More’ soars with blazing electrics and luscious drumming for an upbeat indie-rock groove. Lead vocalist and frontman Matty Took delivers another emotive performance, lyrically exploring the need for someone to fill the space in life meant for someone special.

Accompanied by a dim, red-hued video where we see the quartet’s friendship bond, it visually mirrors the heavier rock-edged sound from the band, contrasting to some of their previous dream-pop anthems.

Speaking on the track, Took said “‘Need More’ has been in the vault for a few years but pretty much with only the pre-chorus done. There were a few variations of it – slow, fast, folky… ultimately, we decided to revamp it with a fat beat and big guitar strums.”

Guitarist Tommy Peppitt added “It’s the first time we’ve had a piano feature more prominently on a track. We also explored the synth world a bit and tried to push the song a bit further sonically. For me, it’s definitely a bit of a curveball track on the album and I can’t wait to play it live.”

On the inspiration behind the video, the band said “Out of all the singles, we wanted this track to have a clip that focused on lighting a bit more and re-creating that feeling of being at a live show. It was directed by Paul Liddle and produced by Jeremy Hancock from HOWL production company. They took our simple idea and helped heaps in bringing it to life. Was a really fun clip to shoot.”

MOONWOOD are a Sydney-based band made of five friends from Australia, the United States and Canada. Jake (lead vocals), Justin (drums), Aaron (keys), Will (bass) and Paul (guitar) take their untamed analog synth lines, with dreamy guitar leads and introspective storytelling, resulting in a sound that is a fresh take on alternative rock.

“Sydney Lights” speaks of looking towards the future and leaving the rest behind. Written about Jake’s own experiences transitioning from America to Australia, the beautifully melancholic track touches on the weight of not being able to travel, and consequently finding a new appreciation and gratitude for your city. Jake shares, “As a result of the pandemic, a lot of us have been sitting still, not being able to travel or leave the state. We have had no choice but to stay in our homes to think and reflect. It was in that place that this song was born. I remember growing a deeper appreciation of Sydney.  Not being able to travel allowed me to fall in love with this city all over again.”

“Sydney Lights” is slow and steady, with its simple arrangements and organic instrumentation showing off the band’s polished musicianship. With a warm, passionate and emotional vocal delivery, the track tugs at your heartstrings, resulting in a sentimental and nostalgic release.

“Sydney Lights” is off of their highly anticipated EP, which will include a collection of songs that are influenced by past pain. Explaining how the EP has acted as a form of therapy, Jake confides, “I have learned how to process grief, pain and my complicated trauma from the past in the form of writing. I find the overall theme of this music cathartic, uplifting, and confrontational.” Inspired by the likes of The National, The 1975 and Kings of Leon, with elements of Bruce Springsteen and U2’s enrapturing storytelling, MOONWOOD have crafted a beautifully emotional, yet rugged and raw compilation of songs, which both demand your attention and deserve it too.

Straight from the talent spot that is Broadwater Farm where successful artists Headie One & RV have also come from, OFB’s rapper Akz is back with his new single ‘Trust’ produced by Don Diligent.

Akz is one of the youngest members of OFB who shot to popularity after his ‘Plugged In’ session with Fumez the Engineer hit over 2 million views just last year. This year we have seen the London based rapper take new heights with the success of his single ‘Staycation’ and freestyle ‘Smokey’.

OFB are known not only for their unapologetically raw style but also as one of the most notorious estates in London. The crew aim to change this through their music. OFB have collectively received millions of YouTube views and became one of the most hyped crews in the London scene.

On this track the young spitter delivers his raw and rugged rap style over melodic drill vibes. His effortless flows are a match for this contagious number. The visuals come courtesy of TV Toxic, as we see Akz showing us his flashy new lifestyle. The energy throughout the video matches that of the lyrics. Featuring appearances of his crew in the clip, the lyrics let us know the importance of trust amongst crews in London.

Akz is looking to follow the success of his fellow crew members with this one. ‘Trust’ builds up to the release if his anticipated mixtape ‘The Come Up 1’ which will be released on the 26th of November. The mixtape features fellow OFB members Bandokay and Double Lz, as well as other thriving UK drill rappers Headie One and Abra Cadabra.

The rising star that is OFB’s Akz is just getting started.

Little Victories are a British three-piece, alt pop band laced with dancing guitars, twin vocals and a homemade 6 string bass. A kaleidoscope of genres, the band is a one stop shop for all your emotional needs calling on influences such as The 1975, Bon Iver and Oh Wonder. Consisting of three different musical souls, Marcus Gooda, Nay Shalom and Sam Rose, collectively the trio pen relatable music with the hopes to connect with audiences around the world. 

Covering topics from mental health, self-love, relationships and being generally understood, the band want to reinforce a sense of unity and connection that has been lost recently. The band reveals, “We want to instill a level of hope and connection that reassures our audiences that we all go through ups and downs – and that’s life. Everyone has their own story with their own challenges/heartbreak/highs and lows and when we realise that, the situations/feelings that often overwhelm us become less daunting and we feel less alone. Each day becomes about the little victories that get us through i.e. family, friends, music, small wins, faith, etc, hence the band name.”

 

Their latest single “Love Gets Me Down” is a confessional track detailing a rough patch with mental health whilst the people around you can’t or don’t understand why. The band confides, “We wanted to be personal and relatable whilst also keeping the reasoning ambiguous.” The complementing tones and harmonies from both Gooda and Shalom add a unique dynamic that is a rarity in the music of today. Along with Rose’s playful melodic guitar lines and echoing synths, there is a depth to the track which allows for contemplation and a time to reflect. Inspired by Bon Iver and The 1975 and their ability to fuse electronic elements with traditional band compositions, “Love Gets Me Down” blends these two worlds to create something which is comfortingly familiar, yet excitingly new.

Singer-songwriter Grace Davies releases her long-awaited EP ‘i wonder if you wonder’; a personal collection of tracks marking Grace’s astounding progress since she embraced the journey into releasing independently. Available to buy and stream now via Believe.

 ‘i wonder if you wonder’ will be Grace’s second EP, with her rapturously received ‘Friends With The Tragic’ EP being released last summer and welcoming a sea of success, having been streamed more than 12.5M times. This follow-up collection comprises Grace’s popular recent releases; ‘i met a boy online’, ‘testosterone’, ‘toothbrush, ‘used to you’, and most recently ‘roots’ which hit an impressive #3 in the UK iTunes Singles Chart along with entering the Official Chart Company Top 100 and the UK Big Top 40, as well as plays on BBC Radio 1Xtra, BBC Radio 2, Heart and Capital FM.

 ‘i wonder if you wonder’ takes you on an unfiltered ride from hope to heartbreak. Whilst lyrically the collection tells a story, it also carries a message of Grace’s growth and strength over the last year, as she’s embarked on releasing under her own musical direction and retaining full creative control. Grace has co-production credits across the EP, further showcasing her undeniable passion and love for the music she makes. ‘i wonder if you wonder’ is the epitome of rawness and honesty, something Grace is proud to display to her dedicated fans.

 Grace talks of the EP, saying: “The songs are the six stages of a relationship going wrong; I’m looking for love, finding it, losing it. The EP captures my many emotions – happy, sad, angry, upset, feeling lost, grief. I get progressively worse until I finally reach the ‘fuck you’ stage. Hahaha!” She goes on to say: “The concept came after the songs, which were written a few years apart. I realised that if I put them in a particular order, they would tell a story, but really they’re just ballads about my still tragic life.”

ALIAS KID are back with the energising new single: “Out With The Boys”.

WATCH VIDEO HERE

STREAM ON SPOTIFY HERE
A shot of straight-up rock’n’roll, the Manchester scene staples return with a song that oozes with a lust for life and living-it to the full.
 
“Where you gonna go when you find yourself running right into rock and roll” sneers Maz Thrills, his gravelled tones rising above a glorious cacophony of razored guitars in overdrive.
 
Written in the heart of lockdown of last year when a night out seemed like both a distant memory and far flung prospect, “Out With The Boys” was written by Alias Kid’s songwriters-in-chief Maz and Sean as they dared to dream of the world outside and its dormant nightlife. 
 
“It just came from being locked up and wanting to get back out in the world to have a bit of fun” reflects Maz. “At the time there was just nowhere to go and people were crawling up the walls stuck in their houses. Dreaming of being free I suppose.”
 
Swapping demos and ideas between Zoom, Whatsapp audio messages and more as they passed the time, by the time the restrictions had lifted the pairing had fleshed out what we now hear as the fully formed “Out With The Boys”. Taking it straight into the studio, the finished version was recorded at Big City Jack‘s and produced by Alias Kid’s new lead guitarist Tony Long (who has been producing records in NYC for some years already) with added input from the rest of the band.
 
Reconnecting with long-term supporter Alan McGee this year, “Out With The Boys” is the first release on his latest label venture It’s Creation Baby. Signing a record deal with the kind of tale we’ve come to expect from the Creation Stories legend, Maz remembers: 

“Alan (McGee) wrote out a record contract on the back of a hotel lunch menu when he met up with Sean in town. Sean obviously signed it immediately and now we are releasing with Creation.”

Using influences from past relationships and life experiences, north London R&B talent Catching Cairo captivates us with stunning visuals for her recent release “When It’s Over” – the title track from her upcoming EP.

Fresh on the scene from her latest video “Surface”, Cairo gives her perspective on an endless chase for true love, her soft, powerful vocal delivery intoxicating and transcending you into a place of infatuation. Pulling together a Jamaican heritage, with inspiration from multiple aspects of the musical spectrum, Cairo “combines that with my lyrics and melody – exploring how that translates into a mood that represents me.”

“When It’s Over” explores the exciting and daunting reality leading up to a new relationship. The nervous energy one might feel when stuck at a crossroads, a burning desire for something wonderful to blossom. “In its sweetness, it makes a picture of desire and loneliness in my mind.”

Simon Ward’s musical monogram is marked by his knack for camouflaging a downhearted song within a cleverly constructed poppy tune.  Oftentimes, listeners will be singing at the top of their lungs and dancing along, when they suddenly realize the rawness that courses through the lyrics, making the music all that more relatable.  In his day job as principal songwriter and frontman of The Strumbellas, Simon, along with the five other members on stage, engulf sad songs with big, glorious sounds.

Ward’s cut deep to-the-bone realism is evident in every song he pens.  He openly, and with great abandon, espouses what so many of us aren’t able to say out loud.  In particular, the song, Spirits, that plucked his band, The Strumbellas, from middle of nowhere obscurity and placed them on the world stage, clearly struck a chord.  It’s honest ambling through an unsettled mind that led, and continues to lead, thousands of people to confess to Ward how he spoke directly to their pain and comforted them.  Exercising the demons through song is evident in so many of his songs over the four full length albums the band has created, including crowd favourites We Don’t Know, Salvation, and their latest, Greatest Enemy.  It’s earned him Juno Awards, gold and platinum records, number one radio hits, festival plays and late night TV appearances.  

Unchartered waters are something familiar to any fan of Ward’s music, and that continues with Simon and the Island, his solo voyage. Unlike his work with The Strumbellas, with Simon and the Island, he purposefully chooses to air his songs in their raw, undressed state.  The self-titled body of music simultaneously draws tears, inspires hope and illuminates a journey. A sliver of solace in dark times, emboldened in blind faith and brazen determination, the album is relatable, relevant, and resonant, strong and structured, honest, humble and full of heart. Delicate strings, cavernous piano, and sparingly appointed instrumentation allow doubt, reflection and resolve to flourish in this suitcase that carries nine songs waiting to be unpacked.  

Lead track, Muse, is a glorious entry to the album, with its proclamation of unconditional love and the foundation one firmly finds in another.  Ward promises “Oh my god, I know you’re struggling and oh my god, I know you’ll love again. I’ll take your side.  No matter what you do. You’ll be my muse”. Moving through the waves, On My Own embodies prose that flows like the propelling chord progression Simon orchestrates – there’s an ebb that is forward movement. While verses depict solitude, they emote moments where acceptance is met with grace to proceed on the path. 

On I’m Not Doing Fine, the solitary piano rings out every single note, like a confessional church bell rings out 12 o’clock in the cold winter air. Moon is the shoegazer of the album, with Ward wistfully dreaming “All my friends are staying in, but I’m headed to the moon.  I hope to see you soon.  And all the lies that I have told you, have always been my truths.  I’m nothing without you”.  

neillfrazer@hotmail.com

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Written by Neill Frazer

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