INTERVIEW: Joe House – Outlander

The Valium Machine - Outlander / Richard Lambert

Words by Ed King / Pics By Richard Lambert

Outlander will be supporting Mutes at The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday 22nd June – for direct gig information, including venue details and links to online ticket sales, click here.


“It’s more thematic than anything really; a lot of the themes are about hopelessness and loss… all the big ones. But the narrative we tried to apply to it was very much a local one. We’re very keen on our music existing within a context, and that context being Birmingham.”

Back in April, Outlander released The Valium Machine – the latest in a line of post rock shoegaze, spawned from their rehearsal lock up in the backstreets of Hockley. Or from the rooftops of Hockley, depending on whether it’s time for work, rest or play.

Out on the Birmingham independent label FOMA (home of Mutes, Repeat of Last Week and Hoopla Blue) some called The Valium Machine an album and some called it an EP. But considering each track on Outlander’s latest record stretches between five and nearly fourteen minutes, the words ‘long’ and ‘extended’ all seem a little moot.

Birmingham’s answer to Explosions in the Sky are unperturbed: “I guess it must feel right to us, to play longer songs,” explains Joe House – one Outlander’s two guitarists. “We’ve never been able to come out with something that’s in the three to five minute area. But as the years are coming and going, we’re trying new things; we try and add new elements.”

'Sinking', The Valium Machine - Outlander / Richard LambertThe “most noticeable” of which on The Valium Machine are vocals. But no Whitney Huston sustained high note, or even Leonard Cohen gravel fed lament – more an ethereal cry through the rising waves and walls of sound that define this genre. “We’ve definitely taken influence from bands like Hum,” continues House, “that are more on that space rock kind of tip. It’s been nice to experiment with something more… I suppose it is more conventional, in a sense. In terms of the song structures, maybe not the length.”

Conventional is not the word I’d immediately run too, which is no bad thing. But is there ever a desire to be more… radio friendly? “‘Sinking’ off the new record (The Valium Machine) is, I think, the closest we come to something that makes sense on the radio. But even that’s like nine minutes long…” Free Radio will have to hunt elsewhere for their playlist.

“I’d heard Ian (Grant – guitar/vocals) doing bits in rehearsals,” continues House, “but we didn’t apply vocals to the songs until we got into the studio.” Sam Bloor’s Lower Lane studios, in Stoke-on-Trent, are the home from home where Outlander have recorded all but their debut release. “I’d read the lyrics and I knew more or less where the they were going to be, like the chorus in ‘Sinking’. But I didn’t hear it until we were in Sam’s studio, about a week in by that point. Sam and I sat there listening to Ian doing the takes and straight away we thought this is a new dimension – we’ve become fairly competent at doing these lengthy instrumental tracks, but then you apply the vocals… I didn’t think we could sound like that, but I’m really pleased that we do.”

Evolution is a tricky thing, just ask the Dodo. Or any vertebrate fish. But as House states “one thing I’d hate is if every record came out the same… that’s Outlander again doing the same thing they always do,” change is set to be an inevitable challenge. And that can be hard enough amongst artists themselves. But what about their audience, what was The Valium Machine’s reception like when it grew legs and crawled ashore? 

'Return', The Valium Machine - Outlander / Richard Lambert“Muted,” is House’s immediate and impressively honest reply, “but that’s always the way with us – we’re trying to do something quite niche, so it doesn’t tend to explode on the Internet.” Ouch, cries the ego. Well, mine would. But despite the kudos of having “a couple of interested parties in America and Germany,” wouldn’t Outlander want a bit more support from the home crowd?

“Not really, it’s one of those things. In Birmingham there is a scene for a lot of different niches of indie, but we don’t really fall into any of them. Not particularly well. What we’re doing is more on the shoegaze post rock side of thing, and there isn’t a lot of that – it’s more psych and garage… which is fine. I suppose we don’t really go too well on a bill with that sort of thing. But we don’t feel aggrieved about it – we just do our own thing and hopefully, eventually people pick up on it… which I think is slowly happening.” 

God bless FOMA, who are backing a few of the Midlands’ more talented waif and strays – and who threw the “really nice and intimate” album launch party for The Valium Machine back in April. “There were a couple of other shows on the same night in Birmingham,” tells House, “so it was a quieter event. It ended up being about 30 people, but 30 really close friends and family. The Hoopla guys are always amazing. Mutes… James is always doing amazing stuff, incredible musicians. I love Muthers as a venue too, there’s a real community of more outside the line artists rehears there. It was a really nice vibe, a good atmosphere – we got to play for a bit longer than usual as well. As you can image, playing ten minute songs… most support sets we get to play two or three songs at most.” 

'Sinking', The Valium Machine - Outlander / Richard LambertHaving programmed a few gigs over the years, I can sympathise with the issues around support slot times. And whilst The Valium Machine is a worthy way to spend 45mins, it doesn’t feel like an album that should be broken up into more set list sized pieces – not too often, at least. The packet says swallow whole, further compounded by the fact “the middle three tracks… were one song that we divided up into a song with three movements – which then became three separate tracks. But in concept it was one piece of music.”

Plus, there’s a significant side to The Valium Machine that is more visual than audio, with local photographer, Richard Lambert, being brought in to help deliver the album’s aesthetics. A series of photographs accompany the physical album, “helping to tell the story (of the album) and figuring out that narrative in general. I actually first spoke to him (Lambert) about the last record, but it wasn’t the ideal time.” I am reminded of the cover photograph on Outlander’s previous release, ‘Downtime’, which features children playing amidst a partially knocked down housing estate in Ladywood, “…you see the kids in the main shot, that are playing despite the ruins around them. I just thought it was a really beautiful shot.”

So, which came first – did your environment effect the sound of The Valium Machine from the start, or was the egg hatched way before Lambert and his camera got a phone call? “The thing with Birmingham is that it wears itself on its sleeve,” explains House, “you walk through Digbeth and see all the old warehouses. Then you walk through Hockley… Our sound is quite doomy, quite heavy – in places anyway. And we’ve always been influenced by the harshness of the very functional utilitarian architecture around us, like the brutalism that you can still see everywhere in Birmingham. The city’s got a really distinct vibe, cut halfway between something that’s being invested in and is a shopping metropolis – very modern in places – but that’s set on a backdrop of functional utilitarian spaces that have started to decay and stand as relics to a time gone by. You can see as things sort of change and money comes in, old buildings get knock down to make way for these new futuristic things. It’s just a really odd place. It’s quite unique in that sense, which is an influence on us.” 

'Threadbare', The Valium Machine - Outlander / Richard Lambert The word that sprung to my mind, when I first heard The Valium Machine and flicked through the black and white images that accompany the album, was ‘dystopian’ – a cordial nightmare, somewhere between a Terry Gilliam film and a Raymond Briggs picture book. And I’m a born and raised Brummie. And perhaps more of a cynic.

But Outlander’s eyes are seemingly much more optimistic in their vision, with House assuring me, “We’re all regular people, we like to have a laugh. I wouldn’t say that any of us are particularly miserable.” Plus, the fourpiece (three from Birmingham and one from neighbouring Stourbridge) clearly have love at the heart of the second city – especially when it comes to their creative hotspot in Hockley.

“We all really like the Jewellery Quarter and Hockley,” explains House, “because of the red bricks, it always looks like it’s had a long day in the sun. And it’s uphill – I always look at Digbeth as a bit dingy and in the shadow of the city, where as Hockley is a bit above it, in a sense. It’s more open. And even though there’s some definite urban decay, and some very big horrible looking flats, I always find it quite an uplifting vibe.” A feeling many people will recognise, as the north side of Great Charles Street Queensway continues to be a hub for burgeoning independent businesses and creatives with a penchant for city centre living. And perhaps a bit more money.

And whilst The Valium Machine is an homage not just to Birmingham, but to the “Birmingham Metropolitan Area, the Black Country, Wolves… it’s all part of the same vibe. In the bigger picture there’s no point distinguishing between those areas,” – it does leave a warm fuzzy feeling to imagine it being born from the skylines of Hockley.

As House surmises, “when we started practicing there that’s when the influence started creeping in – we spent a lot of time on the roof of our lock up complex just looking at it (the surrounding city). It’s an interesting place; it’s quite an impressive thing to look at.”

Outlander released The Valium Machine on 19th April 2019 – out via FOMA. For more on Outlander, including links to The Valium Machine, visit

Outlander are also supporting Mutes at The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday 22nd June – alongside Magik Mountain and Exhailers. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit


For more from FOMA, including links to all Outlander material on the label, visit

For more on The Sunflower Lounge, including full event listings and links to online ticket sales, visit


NOT NORMAL NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

ALBUM: Pareidolia – Mutes 21.06.19

Mutes / Courtesy of FOMA

Words by Ed King / Pic courtesy of FOMA

Pareidolia: ‘The perception of apparently significant patterns or recognisable images, especially faces, in random or accidental arrangements of shapes and lines.’

It’s been nearly two years to the day since Mutes released their debut album, the nine track No Desire that was self-described as ‘urgent noise-fests, slow-burning drone sequences and seductive siren songs with assured ease.’ Honestly, I love a Mutes press release. But packed with angry jam, dark imaginings and the occasional pop-rock sacrifice to the Gods of radio friendly playlists, whatever words you throw around it was a pretty impressive debut.

But that was then, now is sometime later, and the sophomore proffering from James Brown & Co is an altogether different affair. Pareidolia is released through Birmingham based FOMA, as with No Desire, and will be available in the big wide world and web from Friday 21st June onwards. And for those too busy to read on, here’s a single word review: corker. But for those of you who can spare a few more syllables…

Pareidolia opens with the expected fuzz and distortion that must be permanently squatting in the back of James Brown’s head – sweeping in with just over a minute of echoed guitar tuning and white noise gone rogue. No surprises. Then the curiously chronological ‘Swallowing Light’ stamps Mutes across the front of this new LP, mirroring all we’ve grown to love, loathe or lament about this one-man-band split into three. Still no surprises. But no complaints either.

Then it changes. Everything shifts. Soft strumming and softer vocals cascade across the record, as the gentle melody of ‘Guarded Young’ moves us into an arena of almost indie pop – until the Swervedriver effect takes over at about 2mins 32secs. And despite the deluge of spangly guitar music in the Midlands, this Steve Lamaq championed single still feels fresh. Let the surprises begin.

The rest of the album jumps from one wonderful edge of this dichotomy to the other, combining Brown’s perfect homage to the ‘Stala’ side of those battered butternut sqaushers with what could, would, and perhaps should be described as even tender acoustic-electro.

Tracks such as ‘What It Takes’ and ‘Systematic Bliss’ bring out an almost vulnerability to this LP, whilst the unashamed freneticism and rabbit punch percussion of tracks such as ‘False Promise of Protection’ and ‘Men of Violence’ break this eleven track experience into an opposing battle of wills.

The production is superb, throughout, which the press release tells us is the silver lining when ‘principal songwriter James used the lack of any real support network as an opportunity to go it alone.’ Someone give that man a hug. Or a whiskey. But with a Mogwai-like intensity and sensitivity embellishing an album that is already melody heavy, whatever drove whoever to this point of wherever is no bad thing. For us, at least.

A few pockets of mad glory stand proud, with the dark dream instrumentals of ‘A Coloured Loss’ and ‘A Mercenary Change’ woven into a track listing with moments that would make George Martin blush. And as for the closing track, the curiously titled ‘Form/Colour’… well, I’ll leave that to you and your audio God. But lay me down on my flag and let the fields wash with blood, the king is dead. LONG LIVE THE KING.

However, as with many great works the strength of Pareidolia could also be its downfall. Accessibility. James Brown has long been a voice of dissent amidst the crowded cacophony of the Midlands’ music scene, challenging – verbally and musically, rightly or wrongly – the carbon copy creations that he often claims grab all the attention. From the crowds, from the venues, and from us, your humble music media. And he’s right, to a point.

But even if he’s not (everything by nature is subjective) it’s an important counterpoint to have in the conversation. And Pareidolia is dangerously close to making him popular with the pack, as the wolves of Radio 6 are already howling out around him.

But that’s me, perhaps I think too much. Perhaps I should just put my earphones back in, skip to track eleven and walk home enjoying the sunset. And as I stumble into the world’s most subtle framing technique, perhaps it’s just a beautiful body of work and I’m making something out of nothing. Regardless, Pareidolia is an exceptional album.

Mutes release Pareidolia, on Friday 21st June – out via FOMA. For more on Mutes, including links to online purchase, visit 

For more from FOMA, including links to all Mutes material on the label, visit

Mutes are also celebrating the release of Pareidolia with special gig at The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday 22nd June – support comes from Magik Mountain, Exhailers, and Outlander. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit

For more on The Sunflower Lounge, including full event listings and links to online ticket sales, visit


NOT NORMAL NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

BPREVIEW: Mutes – Pareidolia album release party @ The Sunflower Lounge 22.06.19

Mutes / Courtesy of FOMA

Words by Ed King / Pic courtesy of FOMA

On Saturday 22nd June, Mutes celebrate the release of their new album, Pareidolia, with a special gig at The Sunflower Lounge – support coming from Magick Mountain, Exhailers, and Outlander.

Doors open at 7pm, with tickets priced at £7 (+booking fee) – as presented by FOMA. For direct gig info, including venue details and links to online ticket sales, click here.

Ah, the tortured artist… we have a small gooey soft spot for the one-man whirlwind of frustrated angst that sits at the centre of Mutes. Not just because, let’s face it, the man is pretty damn talented. But also because he’s kind of right. Most of the time. Some of the time. A bitter pill that leaves you a little sore to swallow, but one that will probably help clear away the mucus and bile that rests in the belly of Birmingham’s musical guts. Or who will one day go fully mad and burn down half the venues and recording studios in the city, so you know – either way, there are worse things than the occasional clean slate.

So… what’s all the fuss about, eh? Mutes have a new album coming out, that’s what – on Friday 21st June, Pareidolia will be set free into the world and you all are being invited to embrace it. You lucky lot.

Mutes - Pareidolia / UK tour posterMore about that later… but what we can do right now is plagiarise the press release, which describes Pareidolia as ‘a meandering, exhilarating record that sees the Birmingham post-punk group delivering something entirely new.’ And whilst I’m not sure about ‘meandering’ (more a sneaky creeper that kicks you square in the throat) it’s certainly a step into more digestible territory than its predecessor, No Desire. Although we did like No Desire.

Currently being toured across the UK, with The Sunflower Lounge show being the midway mark, Mutes’ new LP has already been picked up by the great and good of Radio 6. Lamo (a nickname that reminds me of bullies at a Grammar school) even debuted the single ‘Guarded Young’, so for that we salute you Sir Steve. And you can’t get much more of a high profile new music endorsement than that.

Although it did, with Pareidolia also having a healthy thumbs up from Tom Robinson, DIY Magazine, Louder the War, and The Line of Best Fit – so prepare your greasy hands Birmingham, there’s a rising balloon leaving soon and you’ll want a firm grip.

It’s a pretty stonkin’ line up at The Sunflower Lounge release party too – with those ‘playful proto punk’ers, Magick Mountain, coming down from Leeds to play in the second city. Or third city, depending on which tour bus you’re on.

Lining up the local support are the ‘three-headed apeoid’ art-rockers, Exhailers, who also have a release on the table – their latest single, ‘Planetary Spin to the Stomach’, is now available via the usual online suspects.

Then breaking the magic number rule on this bill are Outlander, who’s latest five track release, The Valium Machine, came out in April this year – more about that later too…

So there you have it. And if all this well rounded/meaning foot stamping hasn’t convinced you to shimmy on down to The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday 22nd June, then perhaps a little AV persuasion is in order. In fact, have two. We’ve got a few minutes (seven) to spare:

‘Overfed’ – Mutes

‘Guarded Young’ – Mutes

Mutes perform at The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday 22nd June, celebrating the release of their new album Pareidolia – with support from Magik Mountain, Exhailers, and Outlander. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit

For more on Mutes, visit

For more on Magick Mountain, visit
For more on Exhailers, visit
For more on Outlander, visit

For more from FOMA, including new releases and back catalogues from all the artists on their roster, visit
For more on The Sunflower Lounge, including full event listings and links to online ticket sales, visit


NOT NORMAL NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

INTERVIEW: Jo Jeffries – Birmingham Music Awards 16.05.19

Jo Jeffries at the Birmingham Music Awards 2018Words by Collette Williams / Pics courtesy of the Birmingham Music Awards

Back for its sophomore year, the Birmingham Music Awards (BMAs) returns to celebrate the bright stars of our city’s music scene at The Mill in Digbeth on Thursday 16th May – with categories recognising both the artists and industry that supports and surrounds them. VIP and standard tickets are available, for online sales click here.

Co-founder of the BMAs, Jo Jeffries, has been a part of the music industry for over two decades – both on stage and off. Birmingham Review caught up with Jeffries ahead of this year’s ceremony, to peak behind the curtains of Birmingham’s only industrywide annual music awards.


BR: The Birmingham Music Awards (BMAs) are now in their second year, following a debut that got a lot of attention from the local music community. But what prompted you to organise the BMAs to begin with?
JJ: Thanks! Initially I was approached by a client, Dean Williams, who hosts the Birmingham Film Festival.  He had wanted to start a similar project in music but didn’t know where to start; I’d built up a big network in the business and had twenty years’ experience under my belt, so I consulted on the project initially and when we realised it had legs, we partnered.

BR: Was it difficult to start such an endeavour from scratch?
JJ: Not really, but again that had a lot to do with our existing audience/network. It also helped that Birmingham’s music scene was crying out for a mechanic to bring everyone together and create opportunities. Very quickly, artists fed-back and shared successes and the momentum gathered organically from there. When there’s a will, particularly from a sizeable group of people, amazing things can happen.

BR: What was the initial response from Birmingham’s music community – both artists and industry?
JJ: On the whole, hugely positive. And our strength is that we focus on the positivity. There is always a contingency of naysayers, but I tend to find that comes hand in hand with doing something great! Awards can attract a few raised eyebrows, but we come from a good place and in the main the results of our work have been celebrated, which is lovely.

BR: Having experienced the industry from an artist’s perspective yourself, do you feel there is enough public appraisal for artist achievements?
JJ: It’s a vastly different business and landscape compared to my days as an artist. What’s particularly exciting is the ease at which (and low budget with which) you can take your work to the public domain today. With that of course comes an amount of public appraisal. But local public appraisal on the level we have created isn’t so common, and we feel strongly that we need to focus on the talent coming through, so we can be a platform upon which said talent can emerge.

I probably wouldn’t be on this ride in any other city, but for Birmingham I think initiatives like ours are crucial, particularly given our wider ambitions for other music projects. Brum isn’t recognised as the world music city it should be. Our talent doesn’t break through the way it deserves to. We lose a lot to London and many of our brightest and best give up, finding it too challenging to sustain a music career here. We’re working to help combat that and rally the community to do the same.

Jack Parker at the Birmingham Music Awards 2018BR: Talk us though the selection process – how do you start shortlisting?
JJ: With great difficulty!! Year one and year two have been completely different ballgames, given the growth year on year. This year a small team of directors and ambassadors read/watched/listened to over three thousand applications over several weeks, starting at 9am and sometimes still debating at midnight! It was very important that we were thorough and subjective, and where we had whittled entries down and could no longer separate them in each category, our shortlist was the result.

BR: Have there ever been any… heated debates about nominees for a category?
JJ: Of course.  We’re all so passionate, and we understand how much the results mean to so many – a good tête-à-tête (or two) is unavoidable!!

BR: What are the qualities you look for across the categories?
JJ: The categories cover the business, the media, the community projects as well as the art, so that’s difficult to qualify in a couple of sentences!  Essentially, we’re looking at each nominee’s body of work and their achievements over the previous twelve months. Their contribution to the city and their passion for the city (we love to see unapologetic flag-flying) is always a bonus!

BR: There are some strong contenders in line for the ‘Rising Star Award’ – what are the specific qualities you look for in that category?
JJ: This one is 50% open to public vote, then 50% panel. We had so many entries this year we were blown away. We’re looking for artists who are in the early phase of their careers and have gained significant momentum this year, are building traction and whose music excites us; artists who are pushing hard, progressing, developing and have set their sights high. Artists we feel have a buzz around them and are championed.

KIOKO at the Birmingham Music Awards 2018

BR: This year’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ is going to one of Aston’s finest, Trevor Burton – beating some pretty strong competition. How did you land on Burton as the winner?
JJ: Trevor’s career has been formidable. He honoured the city by creating its first major supergroup in the 60s (The Move) – his journey has been the stuff of dreams and he just keeps on giving. He’s still a major influence on the rock and roll scene and an inspiration for musicians today. His health has deteriorated this year so it’s really important to us that his city gives him the thanks he deserves.

BR: Do you feel awards events such as this should have a competitive nature?
JJ: Competition is inevitable, we are human beings! But what’s so lovely about this event is that the competition is healthy – it sits alongside graciousness; everyone saluting each other, willing each other on. There is a real understanding that if we work together, everyone wins. We see camaraderie and hear some great banter.

BR: How do you maintain a balanced event that’s inclusive to all, even those in the music scene who haven’t got nominations?
JJ: We try to reach as many musicians and industry professionals as well as students and aspiring musicians.  We partner businesses, organisations, education providers who help us spread the word. We haven’t reached everyone yet, not by any stretch of the imagination, but we are growing our audience by the day and we work as hard as we can to ensure the inclusive message is our mantra – even when we meet adversity or scepticism. We make sure half the ticket allocation is open to the public/non-nominees, and we reserve the other half for nominees; we invite and welcome everyone.

BR: And what about accessibility, if a band that had been nominated couldn’t afford to attend would they still be able to win?
JJ: Of course. Our motivations are not financial. We have to be commercial in order to deliver our events (there are ten additional free to attend monthly networking events around the calendar, and all eleven carry significant costs) but we are here to celebrate the talent and the contributors to music in our city.

Our ticket price is discounted for nominees too; last year the event was free for nominees and we took the hit.  The response was tremendous, and the general feedback was that people would be more than happy to pay to sustain and grow the event rather than force us to re-mortgage our homes.

Lady Sanity & Brian Travers at the Birmingham Music Awards 2018BR: The Birmingham Music Awards have a wide range of ‘Ambassadors’, from all corners of the industry. How do you select those on the BMAs team?
JJ: Yes, we’re very lucky to be able to draw upon people who have had such successful careers. Whilst their experience is crucial, we try to focus on recruiting those who bring real value for our nominees – people who display the willing and drive to guide, mentor and create opportunities/open doors.  They must personify integrity, ooze passion for the city (and shine a light on its talent), as well as share our common goal for more Birmingham music success.

BR: You work with a range of event partners too, including local education providers BIMM and ACM. With both institutions having a lot of active musicians, how do you ensure an unbiased relationship is maintained throughout the process of the event?
JJ: We are very honest and open with everyone from the outset. It’s crucial that everyone understands that we want to reach and include everyone who wants to be involved with Birmingham music, and all entries are on a level playing field. Sponsorship from competitive education providers of course comes with its challenges as there are so many across the region, some with budgets others with little to none.

But we try to navigate these with a clear message; we are accessible for everyone and we will try to help everyone. We will not compromise our integrity, or we risk affecting those we are trying to help. And that message has actually served to bring them closer together, and even collaborate, which is awesome to see.

BR: How about the charity Changes UK – what prompted you to work with them?
JJ: Changes UK is an incredible organisation based in Digbeth, supporting people in recovery from drugs and/or alcohol. This help comes from a place of real authenticity and an understanding that addiction comes from a place of pain. I’ve witnessed so many cases where Changes have turned ‘pain into purpose’ and quashed service users’ dependence; the team is a real inspiration. Mental health issues are all too common in music and since we want to give something back, Changes is the perfect charity to support.

BR: Organisations such as Attitude is Everything work with venues to make sure deaf and disabled audiences can still access gigs. Many places in Birmingham still don’t have wheelchair access, how can the city become more accessible?
JJ: I wish I had an answer that involved anything easier to drive than awareness, investment and serious hard work.  But that’s the formula. We must get better.

BR: And how about the issues of sexual harassment and violence in live music venues, as being tackled by campaigns such as Ask for Angela and NOT NORMAL NOT OK?
JJ: Again, I wish I had an answer that could be implemented overnight. I too have experienced some pretty appalling things in my time, in a business where impressionable young dreamers are preyed upon by those in power.  So much so that you come to expect it. And heaven forbid, accept it. So, these campaigns are a Godsend. It’s back to awareness and rallying the community together to commit to care and look after each other and to make a stand, side by side, en masse. We need to be looking out for each other today more than ever.

BR: What do you feel are the most prominent pros and cons of Birmingham’s music community – on stage and off?
JJ: Birmingham has a vibrant, diverse and independent music scene and some of the most incredible talent. Its live scene is supported by awesome venues and indie festivals. Our education provision is second to none. But we lack a really strong music business infrastructure (when compared to other UK cities including Manchester, Liverpool, Brighton) that can sustain music careers and retain the best of our talent in our city.

As a non-Brummie who made albums in both Liverpool and London before settling here, I found it tough in the beginning to find collaborators and sensed an amount of unhealthy competition, lack of belief and often self-sabotage in the city too… But this seems to be increasingly stamping itself out and it’s a very exciting time that has started with everyone coming together, communicating, supporting, believing, creating together. That’s when the wider UK business notices us and takes us more seriously. We become a force to be reckoned with. That’s when they invest in us, they consider a Birmingham base for their businesses (ACM and BIMM, for example, have arrived in the last two years), they realise this a great A&R pool, they head to our venues. Then more entrepreneurs pop up with new music ventures, our students graduate to employment, our artists are supported with managers, labels, publishers, promoters, radio stations etc.

BR: Do you feel the city gets enough recognition nationwide?
JJ: Not yet, but it will.  Birmingham has a nationwide battle for recognition across multiple sectors as we continue to build ourselves up after the decline of our manufacturing base and infrastructure twenty plus years ago. Things are changing though; excitement is building and momentum is gathering pace as we are fast-establishing ourselves as a key business destination.

Big wins in the city organically lead to national and international opportunities. Resorts World Genting has quickly established itself at the NEC site, HS2 will eventually catapult the city into a ‘transport hub’ – Grand Central Station, John Lewis and The Mailbox’s multi-million-pound refurb, as well as the airport’s extended runway and impending development, further demonstrate the economic opportunities about to come our way.

BR: And how about tour operators that skip Birmingham, as it’s reportedly seen as a difficult city to sell?
JJ: Because it is more difficult to sell than the cities aforementioned at the moment. But also, because we still have to win the respect of the rest of the UK. We do that by implementing the above and shouting about how great we are.

BR: What role in the evolution of the city’s music scene do you see the Birmingham Music Awards BMAs) taking?
I hope the BMAs help to empower our music community with the belief they need to keep driving forward. We can continue to shout about it and shine as bright a light on it as we can muster, but when everyone comes together on that mission, that’s when we’ll be able to pack the punch we need.

We’re so much about delivering those ‘right time, right place’ scenarios and opportunities that were drummed into me as a kid: “Get out there, play as many gigs as you can; you never know who’s in the audience…” At the ceremony last year, we had a classic manifestation of this with those pop/reggae maestros KIOKO and the legendary UB40. We gave the KIOKO boys the heads-up that UB40 were in the room, told them to play a cheeky UB40 cover, they went out there, owned the stage and blew the roof off. And were invited to head out on tour with UB40 for their fortieth anniversary. From three songs at the Glee Club to a support tour at arenas and the Royal Albert Hall. Stuff of dreams. Just as they deserve.

BR: This year’s Birmingham Music Awards are being held at The Mill in Digbeth on 16th May, what is the main message you want people to take away from the event?
JJ: We want to add as much weight to the Birmingham crusade as we can and champion the importance of every single person in that resolve. Look what happens when we all come together, we create opportunities and successes for each other and for the city.

Celebrate, collaborate, support, believe, make things happen. Together. And fly the Birmingham flag as you do it. 

Birmingham Music Awards 2019 will be held at The Mill in Digbeth on Thursday 16th May. VIP and standard tickets are available, for online ticket sales visit 

For more on the Birmingham Music Awards, visit 

For more from The Mill, including full event listings and links to online ticket sales, visit 

For more on Changes UK, visit


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.

BREVIEW: Rosie Tee – launch of Chambers EP @ The Edge 28.03.19

Words by Emily Doyle / Pics by Jessica H Ingram

The Edge is tucked away on Cheapside, arguably one of the less inviting corners of Digbeth. On entry, however, it’s decked out like a disco in a greenhouse.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Birm_Rev-logo-MAIN-300x300.png

The space is awash with green lights and spacey projections, and houseplants occupy every corner. The stage is draped with vines and tinsel, and the DJ is playing a laid-back mix of ambient, jazzy electronica. It could be this reviewer’s imagination, but the room even seems to smell like a garden – although that may be the cocktail bar in the corner, where cucumber margaritas and beetroot G&T’s are being garnished with violets and sprigs of rosemary.

The venue is quite full, so experimental theatre group L Y N N E B E C manage to weave themselves into the crowd without anyone really noticing. However, the four performers soon make their presence known, launching into a performance that quickly has the talkative crowd hushed and watching.

Full of acrobatic lifts and captivating freestyle, L Y N N E B E C’s dance performance is devised to a mix of electronic music put together by Rosie Tee herself. Tracks from the likes of Natureboy Flako and Photay are threaded together with snippets of Tee’s new EP, Chambers. By the end of the performance the dancefloor is scatted with leaves and petals that have fallen from the performer’s costumes during the piece – each dancer is pulling members of the crowd out to dance with them, most of whom are more than happy to oblige. As well as an endearing end to the display, it’s a great way to break down the ‘inevitable semi-circle’ that crowds tend to form around the front of the stage, just in time for Tee’s set.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019_03_28_RosieTee-22-of-32.jpg

Rosie Tee and her band make themselves at home on the stage, bathed in the psychedelic projections. It’s the eve of the release Chambers and a stack of copies are already on the merch table. There’s an air of anticipation in the audience, from the crowd stood at the front to the people occupying the tired armchairs and Chesterfields dotted around the space. Within minutes of the band beginning, Tee has the room under her spell.

‘Wax & Wane’ is one of the first tracks from Chambers to make an appearance. Tee’s swaying vocal carries the song, gently conducting the rest of the band with the odd flick of the wrist. Skittering jazz drums from Kai Chareunsy and wobbling bass from Dan Cippico are a sturdy foundation for the glittering keys of Tom Harris, not to mention the ringing punctuation of Tee’s glockenspiel, which she stands poised over like a sequined automaton.

Tee is every bit a host as well as a performer. Between her jazz-pop compositions she shares insights into her writing process, introduces the band – proudly announcing that Cippicolay produced the new EP – and takes the time to thank everyone involved, from the sound team to the bar staff.

New songs ‘Watersong’ and ‘Siren’ close the set just as they close the new EP. The former sees Tee scat singing through a grin, while the shivering rhythm of the latter draws the performance to an uptempo close. Rosie Tee and her ensemble take a bow, but it’s only a few minutes before Harris and Chareunsy are back on stage with their own band, Trampette – who keep the room dancing with high energy grooves late into the night.

Rosie Tee – launch of Chambers EP @ The Edge 28.03.19 / Jessica H Ingram

Gallery not found.


For more on Rosie Tee, visit

For more on L Y N N E B E C, visit

For more on Trampette, visit

For more from Friction Arts and The Edge, visit


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this feature – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse, or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK website.