Thursday, 15 August 2013

New Artist Alert: Harmful if Swallowed

Hailing from the heart of Los Angeles, Harmful if Swallowed are a hard-hitting punk outfit who have shared the stage with the likes of Green Day and Weezer and will, later this month, be opening up for Unwritten Law. The power-pop quartet formed in 2006, and since then have been featured in numerous MTV shows and their latest offering, a 6-track EP titled 'Allergy', was produced by Grammy award winner Matt Hyde (No Doubt, Slayer).

The band claim to be taking on the music industry with all guns blazing, and the EP's title track certainly holds them to this. Allergy kicks off with a major-sounding, feel-good chugging electric guitar and lead vocals as the track builds steadily before kicking into the verse surrounded by the full-band. Still building with the hi-hats opening up slightly, the chorus settles nicely with a prescribed American rock/punk feel and a little more depth courtesy of the backing vocals. As a prelude to what I think is to be the second verse, we're treated to a short solo section from the lead guitar before building all over again and heading instead for a double chorus; the track feels short but coming in at just over three minutes it's a great length for radio and would certainly hold its own on the airwaves.

You can catch the video for Sabrina (Little Angel) below which packs a little more passion and grit than its predecessor with a feel in the vocal melodies and harmonies akin to Hinder and of course has the added visual element to support it.

Allergy is available for sale on iTunes alongside the band's back catalogue, and be sure to keep up with the guys on Facebook for up to the minute news.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

An Insight into the Workings of a Record Label - Coffee Jingle Records

Coffee Jingle Records have provided me with a few artists to share with you over the past year or so, but I thought it would be nice to bring you something a little different. For many bands, approaching a record label is difficult ground to cross, and very few achieve the often-considered 'making it' platform of getting signed. If you're after some advice about what labels love (and hate) or you're interested in how the day-to-day running of a record label pans out, I caught with Martin of Coffee Jingle Records.

How did you come about owning a record label?
It was an idea I had when I was at Highbury College in Portsmouth where I studied Music Production, before going onto Southampton Solent University, where I finalised the idea to start a record label. And with the support of the University I researched as much as I could for about 18 months before finally going ahead with the record label.

Talk us through an average day at the office for you.
I usually check my emails 4 or 5 times a day, I also network and promote about 3 or 4 hours a day and I also record and mix/master as much as I can. It’s basically a full time job at the moment however the team is growing for next year, so I will have more manpower (or people power I should say).

Do you scout potential artists or wait for them to come to you?
At the moment our roster is full, but I still scout for potential future projects I could be a part of, but all emails from bands get read and responded to ASAP. I do rather prefer to scout out artists as seeing them live and reading up about them does give me a head start as how to work with that particular artist.

What are the best and worst things bands can do to get your attention with an interest of being signed by you?
Best thing - Have good songs, as the strongest requirement a band can have is a catalogue of good songs.
Worst thing - Show unprofessionalism in any way

What's your favorite thing about your job?
Being a part of bands and artists developing and progressing throughout their careers and contributing with them to get their songs as they want them to sound. Also doing what I have dreamed about doing for a long time is very rewarding, it’s very hard work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What's your least favorite thing about your job?
The time it takes to get releases done, however I hate rushing projects as there is nothing worse then looking back at a completed project and thinking 'if only I had spent more time on it I could have made it sound like this or this'.

How do you feel about the music industry in general at the moment? Are you excited or anxious for its current state and future?
A bit of both really, there’s no denying the industry is changing as rapid as technology is changing, and keeping up with it all is a daily challenge, which I am trying to keep up with at the moment. And for people like me who grew up listening to music in the late 80’s – early 90’s it does seem all a bit alien at times, but I have to change with the times which is both worrying and exciting. As for the state of the industry, it’s clear that the big money is in live events and touring, as CD sales are not what they once were, and regarding the future of music, it does seem to depend on what the next big technology breakout event is going to be.

What's new for the label at the moment, and what does the future hold?
Right now I am concentrating on getting more releases out there ASAP from the bands on the label, and hopefully in the future we will be working with an A and R company (who I am contacting this week) and getting our own studio equipment by the end of the year.

Finally, can you tell us a secret?
Don’t get carried away with spending thousands of pounds, make sure you have good, solid songs. Raw Power by The Stooges cost pennies and sounds like it was recorded in a sewer. Chinese Democracy costs over $12 million and is as polished as can be, and which album has gone down a classic? Songs make classic albums, not spending thousands on trying to polish them.

So there you have it, some sound advice from Martin at Coffee Jingle Records and a great insight into his label which is working hard and progressing well. Be sure to pay a visit to the label's website to check out all the artists on their roster and any upcoming events that might be happening near you.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Playing the Numbers Game

I couldn't believe it when I had a look back over my posts recently and discovered that I've been running this blog for four years now! My blog started life with a rather conspicuous nod to my favourite band Bon Jovi, including reviews of releases and live shows. I opened my umbrella up further to include reviews of other established bands but sought reward in more regular posts of reviews of local and/or up and comping artists in dire need of all the free publicity they could get.

It was interesting, though I suppose not so surprising, when looking at the stats for individual posts to see that when the content was based around Bon Jovi or other established bands, the view count was off the scale as compared to reviews of indie artists, and even peaked at an unheard of 7000+ for a review of a John Mayer/Ellie Goulding concert! Other spikes tend to be focussed around guest posts which I welcome, so if you've something in mind and would like to contribute, please do get in touch!

As a blog that associates itself with Bon Jovi, I have refrained from passing comment on the recent dramas and happenings among the band, whilst supporting both Richie and his solo endeavours and the band in theirs (it's sad to refer to both as separate entities). I have my own opinions, but have decided to focus my blog content on exposure and free publicity for indie artists; providing this is more important to me, as a musician myself brimming with empathy, than higher numbers of visitors -  I don't make any money through advertising on the site, it's more a labour of love. I'm sure this isn't an admission of exclusivity but it's important to provide a service to those who need it most, and I enjoy offering critique and opinion on those who might actually listen and heed my advice or celebrate my comments most of all.

Thanks for your support over the past four years; life has evolved as it has a habit of doing and with that has come more and less activity over the years but I'll always try to find time to post and can only hope people continue to seek new music in this way.

When We Were Beautiful

Monday, 5 August 2013

New Artist Alert: Jake Meeking - Walking on my Own

Fresh out of the Bath music scene is Jake Meeking and his debut EP Walking on my Own. Heavily influenced with jazz and blues undertones, you'll find all manner of artists influentially nestled among this wonderfully produced 4-track offering, which Meeking is pushing heavily around the Somerset area following performances at Moles Club in Bath, The Godney Gathering in Glastonbury and some radio airtime on Glastonbury FM.

The EP begins confidently with its title track, a mid-tempo jazz-inspired song in 6/8 featuring delicate lead vocals and a lazy lead-guitar line which has a great feel as it pushes against the straighter, more minimal drum track. The chorus appears unannounced, making a strong feature of the lead vocals as it forces the listener to really pick out the well-considered lyrics. Verse two features a slight embellishment, cautiously adding to the thin texture with sultry-sounding chords on the piano at the start of every bar before the intensity builds, but only slightly, before relaxing into the second chorus. It feels like a backwards way of structuring a song but it's soon clear as the chorus itself steadily progresses, with the whole track behind it, always building towards the rather short instrumental section. On my first listen, I'm willing it to go on and on, the texture thickening as the guitar steps into the spotlight showcasing a wailing solo but in its simplicity is where its effectiveness lies; the solo does come but is based around just two notes and a whole lot of sustain. Musos and fair-weather listeners alike will surely have their appetites whetted as Meeking cleverly leaves us wanting more but without compromising the genre nor laying out all his cards on the table in the very first track. As the music fades away, it's clear we're experiencing something quite fresh and exciting.

Keep My Eyes Open begins minimally with just vocals and guitar, leaving the listener guessing as to the feel and time-signature of the song which is quickly established with the introduction of the rhythm section, authentically featuring an upright bass. The track has a more popular-blues feel to it, as the chorus opens up slightly on the ride cymbal and with a little more intensity in the vocals and a new arpeggiated guitar part lying a little deeper in the mix. The second verse enters without introduction, maintaining the feel and up-tempo nature of the song, before getting quickly to a double helping of the chorus. There's a momentary lapse as the listener isn't allowed to get too comfortable; the bare bones of the track feature in this middle-8 section whilst it builds, showcasing a little embellishment on both the bass and electric guitar as they stray away from their home chords in search of a little more flamboyancy. The climax is lead by the drums quite suddenly, as the intensity is revamped for an extended musical section, but only for four bars, before the vocals take the reigns atop the much thicker chorus section. As we go around the chorus for a final time, some dual-layered harmonies in the vocals feature somewhere in the back of the mix, showcasing Meeking's top register for the first time and really displaying what he can do. As the track fades away, the backing vocals remain a strong and constant force, standing their ground against each dying ounce of the track and bullishly making their way to the centre of the mix as the music finally leaves the listener with a rather unnerving finale.

Breaking Out picks up where Keep My Eyes Open left off before settling into a 6/8 groove with a real Jeff Buckley-feel to the music. Picky acoustic guitar surrounds the delicate lead vocals, before the drums bring the song in and out with a mixture of the conventional and slightly less-so, playing on the rims of the drums at times. The chorus feels like the darkest on the EP, driving forcefully but lazily, and there's a lot going on behind the scenes if you really listen out for it. Things settle for the second verse as we return to the picky guitar and then the second chorus in time and it's here that I think the production of the EP is to be truly appreciated. It's clear a lot of time and consideration has gone into the post-production of the CD which really pays off for the listener. Meeking dips into his top register again, calling an end to the extended second chorus, as the track finishes going around the chorus progression but with a rhythmic twist at the end.

Closing the EP is At Its Best, the real gem in the crown for me, and a masterpiece deservedly left running around the listeners' minds long after the CD has finished spinning. It begins simply with a picky acoustic guitar part and vocals, relying on this simplicity as the song's foundation to carry it through the track. It changes gear without notice, a subtle chord change to mark a new section, and that's all it needs. Verse two differs only in the addition of the single chords on the downbeat of each bar, and it's here the listener first gets the feel the track is effectively a gradual crescendo to its destination, progressively building since the first note was struck and heading towards the end. More guitar tracks appear as the vocals ease off in the latter half of the song, allowing the music to do the talking; just as the music needs somewhere to go, it does, and ends. The track, and indeed the EP, has been building up to this pinnacle finale, this climatic ending, and it was there under our noses all along. I could wax lyrical about the piece but feel it speaks for itself and truly needs to be heard, or experienced, to be appreciated. A real defining moment, and highlight, of the EP.

Walking On My Own is available to stream, and purchase, from Jake Meeking's Bandcamp page and is also available for sale on iTunes. Be sure to catch up with him on Facebook where you can get the latest on where Jake is performing next. Help support our independent artists and get yourself a copy today, you won't regret it.