Night Beats With Support From You Said Strange At Hare & Hounds 18/09/22

Writer Mark Roberts / Photographer Connor Pope


 
As I walk into the Hare and Hounds on Sunday evening, I am disappointed to see I am the third person to enter, but it’s unsurprising considering the Queen’s funeral is tomorrow and the country is in mass grief.

After saying hi to Brummie staple Mazzy Snape, one half of Side Step 9 who are DJing in between acts at this event (and pumping out some pure bangers might I add), I wait with anticipation for You Said Strange.

The band comes dressed in broody dark clothes, opening the night with some big dreamy psych riffs. The tones from the guitars and the bass are spot on and the psychedelic harmonies are pitch perfect. These Normandy lads are playing exceptionally well, which is a shame because the audience feels thin and a mile away.


 
The lead singer’s hair flops about his face, whilst the bassist sways backwards and forwards. The other guitarist, seemingly in a trance, provides atmospherics.

The songs undulate between various styles, large walls of noise pierce through the room before falling into groove after groove. Not a note seems out of place, the big blooming chords fading into angular rhythms, descending into ghostly noise. Every aspect of sound has been carefully curated here and it’s as tight as pushing a marshmallow through a keyhole.

The aesthetic of the band juxtaposes with the psychedelic genre; this is psychedelia with post-punk characteristics. This is psych going in a new direction. The bassist thanks the crowd for being there, which has by now filled out somewhat, the humility in the words is honest and reflective.

These Normandy lads are very happy to be touring the UK.

On the last song, the chords give way to a cacophony of noise, a guitar stuttering in time, reverberations colliding off every wall before coming back to a groove and finishing on another soundscape. Which continues as You Said Strange walks off stage.


 
Night Beats come on shortly after and the first thing of note is that the lead singer’s hat is ridiculously cool. In fact, all of the members look super cool, as if they were born in a spaghetti western – and some of their songs sound like it too (or am I just reading too much into the bolero hat?).

The sound starts off rough, and clearly Night Beats know because they are near constantly requesting adjustments to their monitors between songs. About half way through the set the sound becomes clearer, which is nice. I really like hearing the vocalist.

The guitar snaps around with spring reverb on it, giving it that space-shotgun effect, the bassist glides up and down the neck and the drummer holds it together with true precision.

This is classic psychedelia, blues drenched and sun-kissed. I am transported to a place where cowboys are breaking through the fourth wall, the solos are stunning, full of personality, the tones are iconic and fitting, and the pace of the band is ballsy.


 
The drums are close to the ground, I don’t quite understand how they can be that low, surely the drummer is sitting on the floor at this point, and yet his beats are fat and timely. They push the music through the speakers, allowing it to run along with the tunes.

Night Beats feel somewhat revivalist in their approach and normally I have a bit of an issue with bands that sound like they could be from another era, but Night Beats are so effective at what they do, so sonically perfect, I just can’t fault it.

As the night finishes, I think to myself how amazing a gig this was considering that it was less than half full.

I hope to see both bands in the future; You Said Strange are going places, and Night Beats are a tour du force. A bunch of Kings to make you less upset about the Queen.


 
For more music from Night Beats go to: www.thenightbeats.us

For more music from You Said Strange go to: www.you-said-strange.com
For more music from Side Step 9 go to: www.instagram.com/sidestep9

For more gigs at the Hare and Hounds Kings Heath go to: www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk

Svirgo19 Has A Point To Prove With Anti-Love Track ‘On & Off’ – Released 16 September

Writer Sadie Barnett / Photographer 2wothousand3hree


 
Hailing from Sheffield, Samuel Virgo – known by his artist moniker Svirgo19 – also has plenty of links with Birmingham. His family originally settled in Birmingham when moving from Jamaica to the UK, and Virgo himself moved back to the city to study in 2019.

In more recent years, Virgo performed at Birmingham’s 2021 MADE Festival as a newcomer on the LEVELS stage. And Svirgo19’s new track, ‘On & Off’, came out just last week on 16 September.

Svirgo19’s move around the country is evident in his music, which draws from various UK influences, with traces of trap, lo-fi, hip-hop, and grime evident within his UK rap style. When describing his influences, Virgo talks about a variety of fairly different artists saying:

“My music style is for fans of Tyler the Creator, Kota the Friend, Knucks, Sainté, and Night Lovell.”


 
We see some of these influences in his earlier tracks, ‘The City of Steel’ and ‘Something in the Water’ being reminiscent of the mellow, jazz-flecked production of American rappers such as Kota the Friend. Whilst his measured vocal style – dark, slow and verging at times on spoken word – is reminiscent of UK rappers such as Knucks or Kojey Radical.

However, his new track ‘On & Off’ seems to mark a tonal shift for Svirgo19. Gone is the mellow production of earlier tracks, replaced by a UK trap style beat with rolling 808s throughout and a simple, echoing melody, reminiscent of church bells ringing through the night.

In short, this track is spooky, with a darker energy than I’ve come to expect from Virgo.

It is not an unwelcome change, but it is a surprising one. And one that I wonder if he has fully committed to, as the unchanging nature of the production here wears slightly thin by the end of the track.


 
Listening to his vocals, I can tell why Virgo cites Tyler the Creator as an influence. Bleakly distorted vocals and pointed insults coming together to tell what I can only describe as an ‘anti-love story’, with lyrics like “Get off my dick, respectfully” and “Don’t question my actions, you’re just a distraction”.

This single is from his upcoming album The Path to Paradise Begins in Hell, a title that suggests this shift to a darker style from Virgo will be an ongoing one. Where previous tracks showcase a creative contrast between upbeat production and more serious alternative rap vocals, ‘On & Off’ bridges this gap and completes the jump to a darker style of UK rap.

While I feel it is a style that Virgo has yet to fully refine, I am excited to see his experimentation and look forward to listening to his debut album.

‘On & Off’ – Svirgo19

For more from Svirgo19 visit www.linktr.ee/svirgo19

Dave Sear Releases Jazz Album – I Always Thought My Thoughts Were Me – 9 September 2022

Writer Henry Hanssen / Photographer Chris Neophytou


 
If you’ve been around the Birmingham jazz scene long enough, chances are you will have encountered a stylishly-bearded, beanie-wearing trombone player by the name of Dave Sear. Over the last few years, Sear has been heavily involved in some exciting new projects in Birmingham, playing with the likes of Xhosa Cola and Emma Rawvicz.

Upon hearing Sear was set to release a solo record featuring a lineup of equally rated musicians, the vibe in the air was one of high anticipation.

I Always Thought My Thoughts Were Me is an album that speaks to the extremes of human emotion.


 
The album’s title track has a steady forward momentum which naturally works itself into the following track, ‘Eyes That Speak a Thousand Words’, a ballad that balances itself between fragility and sensitive beauty. This track establishes itself as a standout on the album, happily planting itself in the middle of what is otherwise a swinging tour de force.

Sear delivers a ripper of a solo on ‘Reservoir Retreat’ which goes down as one of my highlights of the eight-track record.

The lead single, ‘Visual Balance’, springs into action like a bolt of lightning. Pianist Elliot Sansom provides a memorable solo halfway through, bringing remarkable interaction between drummer Jim Bashford and bass player James Owston.

Sear shines in his ability to write some of the simplest, yet catchiest and well-formed melodies I’ve heard in a long time. In doing so, he provides a perfect jumping off point for a series of burning solos for himself and band members.


 
Trumpet player Percy Pursglove signs off each track with his unique phrasing and instantly recognisable sound that brought out several “Yeahs!” when listening.

Other standout tracks include: ‘Inner Urge’, one of two covers on the album, and ‘Blues for Rockydella Rascal’.

I have no doubt that I Always Thought My Thoughts Were Me is an album that the Birmingham jazz scene will receive with high praise.

While the listening experience is genuinely exciting, seeing Sear play with these musicians live brings the music to a higher place.

Watch the music video for the first single ‘Visual Balance’ here:

Details regarding Sear’s upcoming gigs and projects can be found on his website: www.davesear.com

The Howlers At The Sunflower Lounge With Support From The Masses + Flake 07/09/22

Writer Laura Mills / Photographer Ewan Williamson


 
We’re back at The Sunflower Lounge again and as per it’s busy outside with the air reeking of cigarettes. Straight to the bar for a cheeky tipple because even though it’s mid week, we’re at The Sunflower Lounge right?

It does feel like a quieter night compared to the last time I was here but sometimes those gigs can be the best, so I take my leave down the sticky stairs and into a dark room with a spotlight highlighting all of tonight’s instruments waiting patiently on the stage.

First up are a band from Brum called The Masses, can’t say I’m mega familiar with the name but it’s always great to discover someone new, and God I’m blown away.

In front of my eyes are these three lads; the singer is booming his voice down the mic and it’s arguably one of the best voices I’ve heard in some time from someone in a rock band. The bassist is tackling this gritty base head-on and the riffs he’s creating with those magic fingers send a shiver down my spine… and the drummer, I mean wow.

The drummer is absolutely smashing the shit out of those drums and it’s immense to watch his facial expressions because he’s using every bit of energy he has.

All I’m thinking while watching The Masses is please don’t go and I am almost hypnotised by that voice. It’s deep, it’s husky, there’s this clear element of soul delivered with complete power.

The sound this band is creating is so hard you can feel the room vibrating and shaking.

“Next up is a song called ‘How Long’.”

And within a matter of seconds, I’m in love.

It’s a sensational mix of layering and sections. At some parts the tempo is completely slow and steady, and then it increases. The atmosphere in the crowd is immense, everyone picking up the lyrics pretty quickly and singing along.

I can hear people talking about the vocals and I’m so glad others have highlighted how good they are too.

A quick 15 minute break until band number two grace the stage, so time for another cheeky tipple and a quick trip to the smokers. We’re back down the sticky stairs and into the dark room again for set two.

I can’t really explain it but the mood around me seems to have dropped so much. It’s like everyone went for a top up from the bar and took the atmosphere with them.


 
Hey ho, here comes Flake to rock The Sunflower Lounge on this rainy Tuesday night.

It’s a slightly different vibe from the previous band, this feels more indie and less rock, more groove than grit so to speak. As I look around the crowd really has dwindled in numbers but who cares when the band is creating this amazing sound?

These are brummie lads, yet the sound their instruments are making is almost like the sound from the Madchester era with bands like The Stone Roses.

The facial expressions from this band are nowhere near as prominent as the first, but this singer has one hell of a voice too. It’s raw but it has this endearing charm too.


 
I can see clearly how much fun the band are having up there and this becomes even clearer as the band launches into an original called ‘Kid’. It starts with these focalised vocals with bare instrumental as we fade out of the vocal, then fade into an electric jam together.

Just before the end of this set, I see the singer from The Howlers standing by the stairs, so I check in with him to see how he’s feeling about tonight’s show.

“Anything can happen on a Tuesday.” and quite right he is too.

As Flake’s set finishes, I head off for another quick tipple and search both bands on Spotify to get them straight in a playlist.

Round three, back in the dark room and it’s time for our headliners all the way from London Town – The Howlers.


 
As the lads step on the stage, I look around the room and my God the crowd really has dwindled even more. The atmosphere feels particularly sombre, not what you’d expect at this point in the night, and just to add to that there’s about five different photographers standing at the front of the stage blocking the majority of the crowd’s view.

Up first is ‘The Boy I Was Before’ – there’s so much energy, it’s pure rock but with so much fun early 00’s energy.

They introduced it as a golden oldie despite it only being released last year, but no bother ‘cos I love this one anyway, and the band starts to play ‘I Don’t Love You All The Time’.

It’s quite groovy and slow for a matter of seconds, then the tempo completely changes as we hear this massive electric riff screaming through. Then, the pace changes again and we revert back to the groovy, drifting sound.

The lyrics are fun and playful delivered with unique, classic vocals.

The genre is quite hard to pin down with this band because they have some songs where it’s just a raw rock and then the sound appears as more indie, soulful with a clear melody shining through.

As a slightly slower track is played, I can’t help thinking that’s really not what this crowd needed. The vibe is completely different to any other set, it’s a bit bleak.

The shift in mood has had an effect on our singer, who’s facial expressions read like he’s had enough of playing this half empty room, and it is a shame because the sound is still so good to hear.

The band play ‘Nothing To Lose’ and even though we’ve still got far too many photographers blocking the stage, I’ve stopped caring because the sound is electric.


 
The atmosphere picks up, heads are moshing, mouths are singing, and I think maybe starting with this one could have given us all the boost the crowd needed the whole way through.

Each riff more electric than the other, each bang of the drum more powerful, and even more strength belting out the vocals. I’m completely in awe of this band right now.

We finish on a song that gives the biggest mid-western, Tarantino vibes ever, and it comes in the form of ‘La Dolce Vita’ which is arguably the best played song of the night.

The band leaves the stage and I can’t help sensing this air of disappointment. I’m not sure why, maybe the turn out. But hey, it is a Tuesday.

A night of mixed emotions but The Sunflower Lounge knows I’ll be back.


 
For more on The Masses visit The Masses Spotify
For more on Flake visit www.flakebrum.com

For more on The Howlers visit www.thehowlers.co.uk

For more gigs and events at The Sunflower Lounge visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com
For more gigs and events promoted by Indie Midlands visit www.indiemidlands.co.uk

Big Riffs Abound At Hare & Hounds With Sappho, Spits Milk and Knife Crime 03.09.22

Writer and photographer Emily Doyle


 
This summer, Camberwell noise-rockers Part Chimp announced their autumn 2022 tour, kicking off at the good old Hare & Hounds. Sappho and Spits Milk were announced as support.

A few weeks later, Part Chimp drummer Jon Hamilton broke his arm. The show had to be rescheduled to December, but the other acts knew better than to let a Saturday night slot at the Hare go to waste.

Mutes were due to play but also suffered an injury, so Brum punks Knife Crime opened the show. Treading the line between pop-punk and post-hardcore, the three piece gurn their way through a set, infectiously happy to be there.

Drummer John Maycroft is a powerhouse in Hawaiian shorts, setting a breakneck pace for fuzzed-up bass and breakneck shredding from Sam Bicknell and Geordie Blake respectively.


 
Spits Milk seem to have exploded onto the local live circuit this summer. The downtuned supergroup brought their scuzzy post-punk to Kaleidoscope last month and followed it up with a back garden gig somewhere in Cotteridge which allegedly involved as much spitting as their name suggests.

Thankfully their set tonight is marginally more Covid-safe.

Vocalist Tom Whitfield is captivating, perpetually roaming in and out of the crowd, coquettishly perching on the monitors, wandering out into the stairwell and playing peekaboo behind the blackout cloth.


 
His arresting vocals drown in the pummeling riffs, but they’re delivered with such vitriol it feels safe to assume the lyrics aren’t very nice.

That said, let’s all assume the song they introduced as ‘Supersonic Kids’ is a wholly good-natured jibe at Birmingham’s best-loved experimental music festival, eh?


 
Sludgy five-piece Sappho top the bill tonight, bringing a host of experience from the members collected via other projects: ​​Bee Stung Lips, Deadsunrising, Twist, Sally, Einstellung, Katastrophy Wife, Lash Frenzy, Super Yoko Space Cult… you could say they have some pedigree.

Stacks of green Matamps and orange Orange amps either side of the stage should give seasoned doom heads an idea of what to expect, but for the uninitiated – it’s about to get heavy. Rallying vocals lend the twin attack of stoner riffs, a melodic, grunge-y quality, with plenty of sonic heft for the crowd to chew on.

Sure, Part Chimp are going to be great when they come to the Hare on 6 December, but Birmingham’s heavy heritage means we can more than hold our own.


 
For more on Sappho visit www.instagram.com/sappho.band
For more on Spits Milk visit www.spitsmilk.bandcamp.com
For more on Knife Crime visit www.knifecrimeband.bandcamp.com

For more gigs and events at the Hare & Hounds visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk