Category Archives: music

INTERVIEW: MINERAL

You can’t have read this blog without knowing our feelings on Mineral. From naming ‘&Serenading’ as the no.1 emo song of all time to the love letter/tribute to Mineral we published last year we have made it quite clear how much this band means. On the eve of their first ever UK tour, it is a complete honour to share with you a Q&A with Mineral drummer, Gabriel Wiley, we conducted by email.

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Is This Thing On? – Hi. On the eve of your first European tour as a band, how is everything in the Mineral camp?

Gabriel Wiley – Doing well, real excited about playing Europe.

ITTO? – I heard that Mineral reuniting was Jim from Jimmy Eat World’s idea, had you ever discussed reforming before then? When did you first start realising how much people still loved Mineral?

GW – Yes, Jim wanted to put together a show with many of the bands they toured with in the beginning of the band. We were among those asked which caused us to get together and discuss it. Due to many problems the show never happened but we had started practicing and figured we might do a show or two. A nice fella from the windish agency said he’d like to book us some show out east and so he did. Everything has grown from there. After mineral, we were all in other bands and through shows with those bands we would be asked a number of times if and when mineral was getting back together. So we had some idea of the interest yet, it is very enjoyable to see how excited people have been.

ITTO? – Have you talked as a band about why you split up when you did? Was it an amicable split at the time? And was there any awkwardness when you first got back together?

GW – No, we haven’t and it would be counter-productive. I would not call it amicable but no knives were thrown. I don’t remember much awkwardness, at least for my part.

ITTO? – You’ve already completed a lengthy tour in America, how has the reaction been?

GW- It’s been fantastic and a bit humbling. There are times when I can hear the crowd singing louder than Chris’s vocals. The band that opened the US tour, Into It-Over It is awesome and we had a surprise in NYC when Frank Turner opened. That was incredible.

ITTO? – Have you discovered anything new about these songs that you’ve not played together since the last century, some of which you never played live?

GW – No, I know it’s not a very interesting answer, but they seemed to be just as we left them. I would like to say that I had some kind of spirited re-kindling with the songs, but didn’t happen.

ITTO? – I have friends who have seen you numerous times on this tour already and they’ve all commented about how you just keep getting better every show, have you noticed a progression? Are you a better live band now than you’ve ever been?

GW – That is true. Nothing prepares you for tour like touring. I believe we are better now than when we were actually a band. It definitely hurts more now.

ITTO? – In 2012 this blog counted down the top 100 emo songs of all time and ‘&serenading’ was number 1! What’s your favourite Mineral song and has it changed since you’ve reformed?

GW – Favorite is parking lot, and no. We would be a damn fool to change any of it. But &serenading is my wife’s favorite as well.

ITTO? – Do you have anything special planned for your Euro/UK shows? Do you have any idea what to expect over here?

GW – Nothing special, we’ve added a new song, 80-37 to the list (well new to the list but not a new song, as it were). I have been over here with a couple of bands and have a rough idea as far as some cultural differences and the like. (In Germany they like to make you pay to use the toilets!). But as for how people will receive us, I try not to expect or assume how a crowd will react to us.

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ITTO? – There has been a massive resurgence in bands playing this type of music over the last few years and many bands have cited you as a major influence, do you feel part of the current ‘emo’ scene? Or do you still identify yourselves as still very much a 90s band?

GW – I feel much more like a 90s rock band, but I can use the word emo in the same sentence as Mineral. As for a current emo scene, I’m not sure I know who that would be. I am 43 and listen mostly to podcasts and music recorded before 1980. I never made music with the intention of influencing anyone, but it is nice that some bands point to us as inspiration.

ITTO? – I see you’re still announcing tours/festival appearances, what else is next for Mineral? Any plans to bring back any post Mineral bands (Gloria Record/Imbroco/Pop Unknown) ?

GW – After this tour, we play a festival in Belgium and Spain in May. After that, maybe nothing, not sure. There is some talk of South America, but difficult to say. I don’t see any of my old bands doing anything, but might talk to the other fellas about their intentions.

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Sorry kids, Dad has some new babies now!

 

ITTO? – And finally. I bought my first Mineral album in 1998 when you had already split, I never dreamed that almost 17 years later I’d get to see you play live. Is there any band you would absolutely love to see reform?

GW – If I could go back to 1977 and see led Zeppelin that would be my wish. But without time travel, ummmm a Seattle band called these arms are snakes, a fantastic Seattle band. Super kick ass. See you at the show.

ITTO? – Thanks so much Gabriel

Get in touch. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, Twitter @alex_itto, ittoblog@gmail.com

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Review: Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

Band – Sleater-Kinney

Album – No Cities To Love

Label – Sub Pop

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I’m going to start this review with a story. I have a few set stories that I seem to tell every time someone mentions a certain band, it drives my wife, Hannah, nuts so I thought if I commit my Sleater-Kinney story to print it might stop my retelling it at every available opportunity and save my marriage. It’s not even a great story but here goes anyway. Back in 1998 I was 18 years old and had gotten in to Sleater-Kinney in a big way, ‘Dig Me Out’ was blowing me away every time I heard it and when they announced they were touring over here my best friend, Paul, and I snapped up tickets.

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It was September of that year that we made our way to Kings College, London, for the show and decided to watch from the upstairs balcony. It was our preferred way to watch bands at the time, especially if the show was at the Astoria, the view from upstairs on the left so you were virtually on the side of the stage was unbeatable. Sleater-Kinney began to play and they sounded great, it was then that we noticed that someone was stood next to us to our right. It was Jarvis Cocker. Now, we were never big Pulp fans and the whole Britpop/cool Britannia thing was definitely fading at this time but that didn’t stop us tapping each other on the shoulder and saying ‘Look, it’s Jarvis Cocker’. We went back to paying our full attention to the band, when I did look back to where Jarvis was standing he had gone, we looked back to where there were some booths with tables at and they were some proper smug, sharp suit wearing, twats with expensive haircuts guffawing loudly and drinking heavily. We soon realised these were Jarvis’s friends and he was sat with them. We gave them so filthy looks to show our annoyance at them, not that they noticed. And after that I noticed Jarvis only came back to look at the band one more time for a couple of minutes during the whole set and spent the rest of the show with his ‘friends’. We obviously managed to watch the rest of the show ok, Sleater-Kinney were incredible and totally cemented my feelings for them. But after the show the Jarvis thing had really wound us up and took up much of the conversation on the way home. What a scenester, what a fake, bet he got in free, bet he spoke to them afterwards and said how great they were, hope his yuppy friends choke on their own vomit, were the kind of things we were saying to each other. It left a bitter taste in the mouth. Thinking about it, he might just happened to have been there, maybe he and his friends always hung out there but that didn’t stop us drawing our own conclusions. In our eyes he was no better than the idiots that would turn up to the local punk shows just to hang outside and get drunk. He has since become revered as some indie godfather, some icon of cool but every time I see his weasley face all I wanna scream is Fraud! Fraud! Fraud!!!

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The poster for the show that I pinched from outside the venue, I now have it framed obvs

 

Ok, hope I didn’t bore you too much with this weeks trip down memory lane, on with the review.

It feels strangely like I’ve woken from a coma to discover that Sleater-Kinney are now the biggest band in the world. This band that I have completely loved since I was a teenager in the late 90s seem to be everywhere right now. It’s weird yet exciting. Weird I never knew anyone, bar a few friends, really cared and obviously exciting because they really are one of the best bands in the world and I can’t believe how lucky we are to have them back.

Sleater-Kinney are an anomaly. Over the course of the 10 years or so that they were actively together putting out records they never put a foot wrong. They consistently released incredible record after incredible record, constantly reinventing their sound without ever losing their identity. They never phoned it in, never lazily put out a live record or submitted anything below par. It didn’t matter how popular they got, they never changed for anyone except themselves. How many bands even get to release 7 studio albums? Let alone their 7th being one of the best albums of their career, yet Sleater-Kinney did just that with their 2005 classic ‘The Woods’. They ended their initial run on a total, overly distorted and noisy as fuck career high. As they’ve said in recent interviews, stopping when they did has made it easier to ‘comeback’. They left us wanting much more and now they can pick up where they left off. Instead of cashing in on former, early career glories, with reunion tours of one crowd favourite record in full, they are properly back. And with ‘No Cities to Love’ they have delivered the goods.

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‘No Cities to Love’ is there most concise record to date, gone are the extended, improvised, noise solo’s and general rocking out that made ‘The Woods’ such a classic, here they have stripped everything back to leave 10 songs that barely exceed 3 and a half minutes all of which have a massive focus on hooks. This record has more hooks than a Peter Pan convention, it’s so flipping instantly catchy that you won’t be able to resist its charms, ‘Gimme Love’ will find itself lodged in your subconscious for quite some time. Even when lyrically mixing in the politics of wage slavery and cultural identity they will be making you wanna get up and move. To back these hooks up, Sleater-Kinney sound big on this record. The production leaps out at you like ‘The Woods’ did, it’s loud but with a crispness to it. Even with the multiple effects laden guitars, there is a clarity to it all which makes it all the more special when Carrie Brownstein’s lead guitar is given free rein to go off on a Sonic Youth tangent like it does on ‘A New Wave’.

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Sleater-Kinney when I saw them at Koko, Camden in 2005

 

Everything that has ever made you love Sleater-Kinney in the past is still all here on ‘No Cities to Love’. The lo-fi indie sound of ‘The Hot Rock’ and ‘Dig Me Out’ are there in the guitar lines and chord progressions, Corin Tucker’s other worldly vocals shine through like only she can and Janet Weiss’s drums are just as solid as ever. This is definitely not a nostalgic cash cow, this is a continuation of an unparalleled, consistently astonishingly brilliant career.

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Again at Koko, amazing show!!

 

‘No Cities to Love’ sounds so relevant it is hard to believe they’ve been gone for almost 10 years. All this talk of guitar bands being dead, albums being a thing of the past and a lack of bands good enough to headline festivals has been made to look ridiculous by 3 friends from Portland making one hell of a fucking brilliant record. Long live Sleater-Kinney!!!!!

Thanks for reading, get in touch: ittoblog@gmail.com, @alex_itto on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog

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The Is This Thing On? Top 20 Records of 2014

Working out this list has made me realise that, although this hasn’t been the best year for new music (found myself at some points being much more excited by old music than new), there has been some flipping brilliant records this year. Deciding upon a top 20 has been harder than I first imagined, but I did it!! So here we go:

20. Hightide Hotel – Naturally

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After announcing they would be splitting up in 2012, there was always promise they would release one more LP. Luckily we got it this year and it was worth the wait. A brilliant swan song record that reminds of how bummed you were when you heard they were calling it a day.

To stream/download click HERE

19. Gnarwolves – S/T

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I think Gnarwolves played a blinder not rush releasing their debut full length record. They have been relentlessly gigging for years but this year seemed the perfect time to put this record out and with it they’re likely to take over the world. Some bands have been trying to defend pop punk for ages but Gnarwolves have delivered a record which makes that an actual possibility. Fantastic!!

To buy click HERE

18. Playlounge – Pilot

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I must start by saying that the 2 guys that make up Playlounge are two of the nicest people you’re ever likely to meet. It was an honour to put them on in Margate at the start of the summer, I listened to ‘Pilot’ so much around that time, when I put it on now it takes me right back!

To stream/download click HERE

17. Dikembe – Mediumship

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That difficult second record handled perfectly with all the usual heart you’ve come to expect from Dikembe, backed up by a big slab of 90s grunge. A mix that works so well, ‘Mediumship’ is an album I’ve returned too lots over the last few months. It’s a really relaxed and easy listen, love it!

To stream/download click HERE

16. Three Man Cannon – Pretty Many People

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American Indie music in the great tradition of bands like Pavement, Grandaddy and Built To Spill will always make me weak at the knees when done well. It completely bowls me over when done as well as Three Man Cannon do on ‘Pretty Many People’. I didn’t really know what to expect when I put it on for the first time and have been consistently blown away by it on each listen since. Great record!!

To stream/download click HERE

15. Cosmic Thoughts – S/T

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It’s been a really great year for Cosmic Thoughts and the local scene that they’ve had a big hand in reinvigorating. Their S/T debut record is infectious beat after infectious beat and far too good to be ignored. If you haven’t already please check the album out, you won’t regret it.

To stream/download click HERE

14. Cayetana – Nervous Like Me

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The early promise shown on their demo and 7″ is fully realised on ‘Nervous Like Me’. A lot of people had high hopes for this record and I’ve not heard of anyone being disappointed. Lo-fi indie punk in the form of 3 minute pop gems delivered to perfection!

To stream/download click HERE

13. Acid Fast – Rabid Moon

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This was the first new record I got this year and I knew I’d be discussing it here with you now even then. ‘Rabid Moon’ bounces along with plenty of energy and not a fuzzy note out of place.

To stream/download click HERE

12. Baton Rouge – Totem

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Kicking myself that I missed the opportunity to see Baton Rouge on their recent UK tour, in fact this year has not been the best for me getting to shows, something that will hopefully be rectified next year. This album is an amazing progression from a superb debut record, it’s beautifully packaged and completely sets them apart from being just another French screamo band.

To stream/download click HERE

11. Prawn – Kingfisher

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Whilst never quite reaching the dizzy heights of their last EP ‘Ships’, ‘Kingfisher’ definitely cements Prawn’s position as one of the leading lights in the current wave of Emo bands. They have really made this post rock/indie Emo crossover sound their own and have been consistently brilliant on every release, ‘Kingfisher’ is no exception.

To stream/download click HERE

10. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere else

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Fucking ATP! Cancelling Jabberwocky just days before I was supposed to attend, meaning I missed out on seeing an array of incredible bands – namely Cloud Nothings. ‘Here and Nowhere Else’ is perhaps the catchiest and fastest indie rock album of the year. Love it.

To buy click HERE

9. Crows-An-Wra – Kalopsia

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It’s amazing that in 2014 bands can still push the envelope of what post hardcore is and how it sounds, but that’s exactly what Cornwall’s Crows-An-Wra do on their debut LP, ‘Kalopsia’. The result is terrifyingly brilliant. The electronic melody mixed with the vain bursting screams of 2nd track ‘Perseus’ make for one of my favourite songs of the year.

To stream/download click HERE

8. Sport – Bon Voyage

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As I said in my review of ‘Bon Voyage’ at the start of the year, if you’re gonna include on one of your songs a sample of Steve Buscemi talking from my favourite film of all time, Fargo, then you’re gonna get me on side straight away. Sport did just that. Obviously it helps that it’s backed up by some of the best indie/Emo/punk music of the year. Still can’t believe they’ve called it a day.

To stream/download click HERE

7. Kind Eyes – It’s ok, It’s not ok

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I don’t even this has been or will be released apart from being made available on bandcamp, hopefully it will and if it does, buy all the copies you can. It’s fucking brilliant. Margate’s finest smashing out riff after riff, it just gets better and better throughout the record. Love these guys!!

To stream/download click HERE

6. Tigers Jaw – Charmer

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Deep down, everyone knew Tigers Jaw would be just fine. They are one of the most consistently brilliant bands of the last few years, something which they further proved with the amazing ‘Charmer’ released earlier this year. They are the ultimate downbeat indie/Emo Rock band.

To stream/download click HERE

5. Human Hands – S/T

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After being completely blown away by Human Hands when I saw them live for the first time in 2013, I knew their debut LP would be one of the highlights of 2015 and I wasn’t wrong. 6 songs so gut wrenchingly beautiful and heartfelt that they leave you exhausted by the end. The gloriously lo-fi packaging tops off what is a must have record!

To stream/download click HERE

4. Plaids – Plaids

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Plaids recently called it a day, which is way more than an utter shame, but not before releasing a killer record. Channeling influences like Dag Nasty/Jawbox etc.. into what is an essential and relevant modern punk record. This band will be missed :(

To stream/download click HERE

3. Braid – No Coast

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I’m sorry but did Braid not only reform but come back with one of the albums of their career? Yes they bloody well did. It still surprises me (in a really good way) just how amazing this record is, in a year of disappointing ‘nu-emo’ records it’s a big relief that some of the forefathers of this movement can come back and show everyone how it’s done. Hopefully they’re here to stay.

To stream/download click HERE

2. Papayér – Boo

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What could possibly make an Emo band even better? Well, one answer may be to take a huge Pavement influence and put out an album of incredibly well crafted pop songs. This is what Papayér have done and the results are astonishing. British independent music is in a really good place right now and, for me, Papayér are right at the forefront. And if they keep making music as good as this it won’t be long until they’re my favourite band. Incredible!

To stream/download click HERE

1. Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

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They made us wait a hell of a long time for the full length follow up to 2009’s debut LP ‘What It Takes To Move Forward’ but 2014 finally bought the long promised new record. And what a blindingly brilliant record it is. Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) are unique, not in the style of music they play which follows a great Emo tradition, but in the fact that they have made this sound completely their own. You who it is as soon as you hear the first notes being played. Also, switching to a straight, autobiographical narrative to the lyrics set this record apart from anything they have put out before. ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is a really wonderful record, and thoroughly deserves to be album of the year. Thanks guys x

To stream/download click HERE

Thanks for reading. Get in touch. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com, or Twitter @alex_itto

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INTERVIEW: DIKEMBE

A couple of months ago Dikembe, the band whose name I recently realised that I have no idea how to say out loud, made an emphatic return with their sophomore record, ‘Mediumship’. Their debut record, ‘Broad Shoulders’ got a lot of love from this blog and I’ve been wanting to write about how great their new record is since I first heard it. But instead of listening to me badger on for 700 words about how their subtle grunge influences coupled with the bands innate ability to write moody but very infectious melodies make for one of this years must hear records, I thought it would be a much better idea to get Dikembe to agree to an interview. As luck would have it they did, so here it is. Answering the questions is drummer David Bell.

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Is this thing on? – Hi. You have a new record out, how did you go about writing and recording this time round?

Dikembe – Our last record, Broad Shoulders, was written and recorded on the fly, so much so that there were a couple songs we had to learn to play together after the album was sent for mastering. We wanted to avoid that situation this time around. New songs were pushed into our live set as often as possible so that we could get a sense of how the tracks felt to play. If something felt weird we would bring it up during our next practice and try to make it feel better. When it came time to track the record we decided to track everything live, which saved us a lot of time and reaffirmed for ourselves how comfortable we would be to tour with these new songs.

ITTO? – The songs are recognizably Dikembe but there seems to be a progression in the sound from your previous records, has this evolved naturally or have you made a conscious effort to change your sound?

Dikembe – I would say we made a conscious effort to go with our gut and give little to no thought on the expectations of others. We just focused on writing and recording a group of songs we knew we’d all enjoy playing live and not worry about whether or not elements fit a predetermined genre or sound.

ITTO? – I love this record but found it to be a grower. Sticking with it has paid off really well, how has the reaction been to the record? Have you been nervous about how this record will be received compared to your previous records?

Dikembe- Feedback about the album has seemed pretty positive. I don’t think we were too worried going into the release. We were just excited for people to hear the jams we were having fun with during our live sets, especially since it felt like a lifetime since we finished our first album. I think Steven was the most nervous about Mediumship’s general reception, but we were on tour when it dropped and it wasn’t too hard to distract him from the twitters and such.

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ITTO? – I’ve noticed a grunge influence to the record with some of the riffs used and the loud/quiet/loud pattern on some songs. What have you been listening to recently and what has influenced your writing this time round?

Dikembe – Steven had the sudden realization that Pearl Jam’s Ten is an amazing album about two years ago. He has also been claiming that Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days” is his favorite song ever. Most of the musical elements to Mediumship were developed during practices, so I think this album displays more of the group’s collective tastes than our previous releases. Randy and I grew up heavily influenced by our fathers’ CD collections, which they probably attained through some sort of Columbia House Record Club style subscription. Late 80’s, early 90’s “alternative rock” feels very familiar to our ears, and it probably seeps into our song production style.

ITTO? – Steven Gray’s voice does weird things to me, it melts my heart like an emo Eddie Vedder. What vocalists have this kind of effect on yourselves?

Dikembe – Jeff Buckley’s voice in “Hallelujah” gives me goosebumps every single time. It’s disturbing.

ITTO? – You recently put out a split with veterans the Jazz June, how did that come about? Any other bands you’d love to do splits with?

Dikembe – I believe they contacted us in some way and pitched the idea about a year ago. We were blown away by the idea that they had heard our music, let alone dug it enough to let us be part of their long-awaited return.

Randy says a split with Creepoid would be cool.

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ITTO? – Are you guys able to commit to the band full-time or do you have to fit everything in (touring/recording etc.) around your regular lives?

Dikembe – As much as we would love to commit our full-time to life on the road and in the studio, Steven has a big-boy job teaching middle school kids and Ryan just produced a real-life baby human. We practice maybe once every two or three months because Steven lives in Orlando, a two-hour drive from the rest of us in Gainesville. It’s astonishing how much we’ve been able to do and how often we’ve toured given how little time we commit to this band as a whole.

ITTO? – What would have to happen for you guys to come and tour the uk?

Dikembe – We’ve gotten close, but scheduling issues continue to kill off plans. We would need a UK band to agree to a summer tour, let us squeeze into their van, and allow us to use all of their gear every night. I don’t think we can afford to fly over, rent gear, and rent a vehicle with our own finances.

ITTO? – Bands keep getting robbed on the road, seems to be an everyday occurrence at the mo. Have you had bad experiences yourselves? Does it put you off going on the road? What security tips can you give aspiring bands?

Dikembe – Thankfully, we have not had any bad experiences on the road so far. It helps that we tour in a 2013 Dodge Caravan that features an alarm system, slightly tinted windows, and an overall look that suggests it carries a family of six around instead of hundreds of dollars in musical equipment. Nevertheless, we still are very careful about where we park it. There are only two things I can think to suggest for a band going on the road in a 15-passenger van:

Get an alarm system installed or insurance on your gear. It’s obviously an investment, but you don’t want to have to rely on internet donations if the worst happens. Plus, it would really suck to have to cut a tour short because someone popped a lock off your van door with a screw driver.

If you can’t throw down that kind of money, invest in making your van look like a difficult job. Buy a fake alarm system with a flashing LED light on the dashboard, or get some tint on the back windows so that the value of heist is less defined. Carjackers and thieves look for easy wins, not possibly complicated scenarios.

ITTO? – Since the World Cup, we’re told that America has fallen in love with football (soccer) and football (soccer) is about to surpass regular American sports, such as basketball, as the national sport. can we now expect a Dikembe football (soccer) themed EP?

Dikembe – The United States’ love for football is as transient as it’s love for the Olympics. We’re just big fans of the concept of national pride. I’ll believe soccer is reaching the hearts of Americans when I can watch an MLS game on basic cable. I think Steven and I are the only members in the band that have any interest in professional sports, and that is solely reserved for the NBA.

ITTO? – Everyone says the UK is always a year or two behind America. What is the next big thing (TV, music, fad) sweeping America we can expect here in a years time?

TV personalities taking selfies while on the air and constantly mentioning their twitter handles. Be prepared, it’s awful.

ITTO? – Sounds awful. Thanks for talking to us!

You can buy ‘Mediumship’ on vinyl in the UK from Monkey Boy Records HERE

Or you can stream/download it HERE

Thanks for reading. Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto on twitter or ittoblog@gmail.com

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TheLastWordIsRejoice: A Tribute To Mineral

You can’t possibly have missed the fact that Mineral are BACK and playing live again. Even though I bought my first Mineral album 15 years ago, I, like many other fans desperately excited to see them play live, had gotten into them when it was too late. They had already broken up by that point. In 1999 I completely fell in love with Mineral. I took the train on my own to London at some time that year with a weeks wages in my pocket with the sole purpose to find CDs I couldn’t find locally, I found ‘EndSerenading’ in the alternative section of Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus. I had heard of them but had never actually heard them, that was until the train ride home when I unwrapped the case, put the cd in my discman, put my headphones on, pressed play and shut my eyes. I was totally sold from the first note plucked on the guitar. ‘EndSerenading’ became one of my favourite records of all time, with ‘&Serenading’ my favourite song. It was hard, at the time, to find out much information about the band, the cover sleeve gave nothing away and I was gutted to find out from friends that they had split up already.
At the age of 19 I never would have believed you if you had told me that at age 34 I would have tickets to see them play, and yet here I am aged 34 with tickets to see them play live twice next February (February!! How perfect is that?) when they come to the UK for the first time ever.

I wanted to do something on the blog as a tribute to this legendary band and try and share with them the outpouring of love that has emanated since their reunion. This is a collection of writing containing the memories and feelings towards the band from friends, fellow blog writers, musicians and label owners.

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Tom Mullen (Washed Up Emo)

I was introduced to Mineral thanks to a giveaway bin at the college radio station my freshman year. My first week I had signed up for a show and went to hang with the music director to find out what he was into and talk about the hardcore show I wanted to do. During that meeting, there was a box in his office that was labeled for giveaway. I caught out of the corner of my eye “Static Prevails” on vinyl and perked up to ask if I could pick through it. He said, by all means, that stuff was going to be given out at the next radio station meeting. In that box, among a treasure trove of emo goodness, was the first Mineral album. I was floored by this album and still are to this day. I never saw the band as I missed a show they played near my college by a month or two back when message boards and flyers were the way to promote a show. This band always left before saying goodbye and now we’re lucky enough to be around to see this band come back and play for those that never got to see them. Mineral may have been typecast into the emo genre, but if it’s a band people mention every time, I won’t be mad. They’re the true definition of the loud/soft, heartfelt and loud sound I miss when most of the “emo revival” is derived from the midwest. Mineral’s impact and influence will still be intact regardless of this tour and what’s next. It’s right for them to reform, so it should be right for us to show respect to a band that for many thought would never reunite. For myself, I’ll be screaming along right next to you and smiling every second.

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Oliver Craven (Crash Of Rhinos)

I’m not usually the guy from our band that does this sort of thing, but when asked to write a few words about Mineral I felt I had to. Through my teens, twenties and now into my thirties, they probably mean more to me now than even then.

A lot of people have come and gone in the time since I first heard Mineral. Family, friends, girlfriends, bands.
leaving school in 1999 and wanting to do nothing else except smash the fuck out of a drum kit and skate, I ended up meeting like-minded people through record shops and rock clubs.
I’m still close friends with most of these people now. Four of them were in Crash of Rhinos. It didn’t seem to matter back then that none of us really gave a shit about much else except jamming and skating. There’s a sense of freedom from that age that you don’t really get again. Mineral was the soundtrack to pretty much all of it.

Times like that are rare, bands like Mineral are rare, and kinda should be.
Makes it all the better.

A lot of those people will be back together for the first time in a long time the night Mineral play Nottingham in February. We’ve all changed a fair bit over the years, but I’m pretty confident as soon as Scott McCarver plugs in and the feedback starts wailing, it’s not gonna seem like it.

Favourite song then: A Letter
Favourite song now: A Letter

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Lindsay Minton (Football, Etc)

I’m not totally sure, but I think I found out about Mineral on a message board the summer before I started high school. The song “Slower” became my anthem of the next 4 years. I somehow managed to put Zookeeper on in a basement in New Brunswick in 2007. Not only was Chris Simpson in the room, but also Kyle Fischer from Rainer Maria (playing lapsteel in the band Balthrop, Alabama). What an impact playing a show with my two biggest influences was for me…
Last Friday, I saw Mineral play their first show in 16 years. It was a smallish venue (capacity at 180). It’s kind of hard to describe it– but it was perfect. A bunch of mid-twenty to thirty-somethings standing around with their arms crossed, singing along to themselves. Hearing Mineral come from the stage, instead of the various sets of speakers and headphones I have heard them from over the years was absolutely refreshing. It was something my 14-year-old self never thought I’d be able to experience.

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Glen Bushell (Punktastic)

I was a bit of a latecomer to Mineral if I’m honest. I only cared about punk, grunge and metal pre-2000, until I saw At The Drive-In at Reading 2000 and it changed my life forever and opened my world up to a whole new area of music. After that I started to go to emo and hardcore shows in Margate and Canterbury, and I picked up the Mineral/Jimmy Eat World/Sense field split because I had just started getting into Jimmy Eat World, and I really enjoyed Mineral’s cover of Crazy. I picked up Endserenading after that, and it blew my mind. It was raw, impassioned, and very honest. It embodied every feeling I was going through turning from a teenager into an adult. From then on I forever compared every emo band to them, and even now in my 30’s when I need to find solace in a record, Endserenading, and also Power Of Failing are still my go to records. Finally getting to see them in the UK next year will be the end result of 15 years waiting and wishing to see them, and I’ll be honest, I may shed a tear or two with no shame during Walking To Winter, which is still my favourite song.

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Frank Turner (Kneejerk/Million Dead/Mongol Horde/Frank turner)

I first heard Mineral rifling through a friend’s record collection in 1998 or so, about a year after they broke up. I fell in love pretty quickly, and they became one of my foundational bands musically – I think I subconsciously still try to write and sing like Chris, and the production is pretty perfect for me as well. When I found out they were reuniting this year I lost my mind, booked my flights, and ended up playing an opening slot at the Brooklyn show, which was a dream come true.

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Ray Harkins (100 words or less podcast)

My exposure to Mineral was a complete blur. When you are 16 years old and shoving a bunch of music in your head, it’s hard to discern exactly when/where you heard something but Mineral immediately stuck out. I had begun the process of accepting that “non-screaming” music was okay and I was allowed to listen to it after my initial punk & hardcore blitzkrieg. “Gloria” was placed on the stereo by the guitarist of my band at the time and it was loud, fast but had these things that I later called “dynamics” that I wasn’t used to. It felt good to have a moment to reflect on the song, while it was still going on. This was 1996 and ever since that small exposure, Mineral loomed large in my life. I do remember that I specifically ordered the LP because I had HEARD that it included a lyric sheet (which the CD version did not). I was ecstatic to receive the LP (before I was a full fledged collector) and poured over the lyrics all night. Long live Mineral.

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Paul Waller (OHHMS)

I don’t remember how I came across Mineral but I do know that I was listening to Sunny Day Real Estate, Boy Sets Fire and the UK’s very own Sunfactor and Spy Vs Spy before I got wind of them. Somewhere along a very fuzzy line I had bought ‘End Serenading’ and just fell in love with it straight away. My initial reaction was that I really dug the vocals. It was slow to mid paced pop music with this askew melancholic edge that kept pulling me in. But that voice, this guy was so obviously upset about something… I don’t know his name and I don’t need to but that singer guy, he was the real deal, he had almost as great a voice as Jeremy Enigk from SDRE but there was far more passion in the vocal delivery. I wanted to give him a cuddle.

A big plus with ‘End Serenading’ was that the bass lines were pretty easy to learn. I remember spending a night on my own figuring out each song track by track until I could play all of side one and then doing the same for the flip side. Don’t know why I did that. I’m not a bass player, but if I could do it then anyone could.

Every now and again somebody asks me what I think of their first album? They say it’s better, harder, even more emo. Well, I do have a copy of it but I never listen to it. The front cover is so awful that I refuse to give it a chance. If a band is going to take so little care about the way in which they present a record then I dread to think what the actual music is like.

‘End Serenading’ is the only emo album I still regularly listen to.

I can’t wait to see them play some of it live next year.

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Lewie Peckham (Bearded magazine/Is this thing on?)

I first heard Mineral through a Pop Unknown track on the second Emo Diaries compilation ‘A Million Miles Away’ (those titles) in ’98 and the sombre pace of ‘Writing it Down For You’ reminded me of Red House Painters (A favourite at the time and pretty much still to this day). I saw that Pop Unknown had ‘Ex-members of Mineral’ printed in the little catalog you got with every Deep Elm release and took a chance on a mail ordered copy of The Power of Falling and was hooked from the opening notes of ‘Five, Eight and Ten’ and by the time ‘Parking Lot’ faded out in a screech of feedback i was a devoted wreck and i still am 16 years later.

I can never listen to Mineral in the summer. Much like American Football I know when to break out The Power of Falling and EndSerenading and it’s not during July and august, save that for Something to Write Home About and Clarity. When that first hint of autumn hits you, be it a slight chill in the air that stays there all day or a walk through a park with its grass obscured by fallen brown leaves. That’s when you can find Mineral filling my ears, their songs tightly held in place by my headphones and just for me only, an exclusive club for one.

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Kristy Diaz (www.recordnotcommodity.co.uk)

When The Power of Failing was recorded in 1995, I lived in Austin, TX. Just 11 miles away from Music Lane Recording Studios, in fact. However, the first time I heard that record, like many Mineral fans I imagine, was around 10 years after its release. I mean, it’s probably for the best, I wouldn’t have ‘got’ it when I was 8. My main concern was looking for snakes in the front yard.
I don’t recall anyone introducing me to them, but I was listening to a lot of Sunny Day Real Estate that year so I guess it was just association. I have a bias toward the urgency and imperfection that comes with a band’s first record, so whilst EndSerenading was great in its own right, The Power of Failing was, and still is, my favourite. In terms of highlights, it would be hard not to mention the guitars in If I Could and the intro to Take The Picture Now, but, perhaps predictably, Gloria always stood out.
To be a dick and choose a song that they didn’t actually write as a favourite, I was always super into their cover of Crazy, from the split 7” with Jimmy Eat World and Sense Field. The guitars are interchangeably gorgeous and infuriating, but mostly I love it because it’s a bit silly, too.

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Kevin Duquette (Topshelf Records)

My earliest Mineral-related memory is having a bunch of records recommended to me after I had just recently discovered toe, Pele, Jimmy Eat World and American Football in high school. Mineral was in that bunch and I never quite made it to listening to it because — as a designer — I thought the album cover art was pretty awful (“The Power of Failing”) and chose to try many of the others first, eventually forgetting that one altogether. I went on a road trip that summer and a friend was DJing from the passenger seat, playing their albums over the car speakers. I eventually asked what it was we were listening to and realized I’d overlooked a pretty important band. I quickly remedied that when we got home.

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Morten Andre Samdal (Youth Pictures Of Florence Henderson)

I grew up being a skatepunkdude in the mid 90s (still am!), and me and my friends had this band. While the others listened to mostly fast punkrock, I looked for something a bit different. I tried my way through britpop, grunge and some other straight forward rock bands, but nothing really hit as hard as the fast paced melodic punkrock I loved. Not until I bought a bunch of records, with bands like Hot Water Music, Mineral, Alkaline Trio, Christie Front Drive and Jimmy Eat World, if I remember it correctly. Mineral was life changing. The record I first got was The Power of failing, and it hit me in the guts. The tender melodies wrapped in distorted raw guitars, and the way Chris Simpson dragged the words much longer than I ever thought was possible – I’d never heard anything like it. I got the other guys in the band to give it a listen, but they just laughed and said it was music for pussies. Not long after my band parted ways, and I started an emo-band. Mostly because of Mineral, I guess!
While bands like JEW, HWM and Alkaline Trio just got worse and worse over the years, Mineral and CFD were smart and disbanded, like a real emo band should do ;) To this day, these two are my favourite 2nd generation emo bands, and I still listen to them regularly. I am so coming to London in February (hope they play that song).

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James Benwell (Fan)

I found Mineral through The Gloria Record and I found TGR through the guy working downstairs at Tempest Records (R.I.P) in Birmingham. It’s been a 15 year love affair that hasn’t faded. The rawness of The Power of Failing still sounds as visceral as ever and EndSerenading became the soundtrack to my winter nights, and made me wish it was winter the rest of the year round.
They’ve always touched a chord lyrically. Stories of love, the beauty in the world around us, and then songs like MD, perhaps a precursor to the likes of the latest Empire! Empire! album; so personal, so simple, yet so heart wrenchingly beautiful when told over a soundtrack that can make you feel like you want to tell everyone you know that you love them, or to fall in love just so you can find some words of your own.
I never thanked the guy at Tempest, I wish that I had. He’s the reason that I’m not deaf at 31 to the sound of the greatest band that i’ll ever got to hear.

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Gary Sleith (Good post day records)

I first heard Mineral thanks to the (Don’t Forget To) Breathe compilation CD. I bought it from Amazon, and at the time I was heavily into a few of the bands on it, bands like Promise Ring, Knapsack, Hot Water Music & Fireside, but I had never heard of Mineral. For me, their track on the record, ‘Rubber Legs’ was a real Jerry Maguire ‘You had me at hello’ moment…5 seconds in I was hooked and by the time Chris Simpson sings “your boy is all alone tonight but i will never forget how you taught me to stand on these rubber legs and fight.” at the end I was head over heels. I bought EndSerenading online immediately and connected with it in a way that I had only done with one record up to that point; Clarity. My favourite song on it initially was ForIvadell but when I listen to it today, I’m always blown away by &Serenading(probably the influence of Alex!) but if I had to pick a favourite Mineral song, I would have to go with ‘February’ from their self-titled 7”. For me, that track perfectly encapsulates Mineral despite being perhaps one of their, for want of a better word, “heavier” tracks and to this day I use it as a benchmark for truly great emo music, up there with songs like ‘E. Texas Avenue’ ‘For Me This Is Heaven’ & ‘Never Meant’

Thank you so much for reading xx

Contact us: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com, twitter @alex_itto @BonersaurJR

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Review: Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again

Band – Joyce Manor

Album – Never Hungover Again

Label -Epitaph

By Lewie Peckham

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One of the most divisive arguments that follows Torrence, California indie-punks Joyce Manor around is about the shortness of most of their recorded output. Some listeners feel cheated that many of the bands songs rarely exceed the 2 minute mark and albums can be finished in as much time as it takes to watch an episode of Seinfeld (or insert any U.S sitcom in its place..you get the idea). The other side of this debate is that Joyce Manor are the masters of concise punk rock songwriting, trimming the fat of their songs until perfect blasts of hook-laden Indie/Emo/Punk/Whatever you want to call it remain.

Never Hungover Again lasts for about 19 minutes (give or take a couple of seconds) but in that time Joyce Manor have found enough space to make their most musically ambitious album yet. The usual hallmarks of their sound remain, Barry Johnson’s impassioned vocals over gritty Pinkerton-era Weezer and Jawbreaker guitars and Guided By Voices melodic exuberance, but now with added instrumental depth and influences excavated from outside their usual sound.

The swells of gorgeous synths that appear in sublime highlight ‘Falling in love again’ recall the wistfulness of The Psychedelic Furs and the dual guitar lines that arrive in the middle of ‘Schley’ could have been lifted from seminal Ohio art-punks Pere Ubu’s most accessible record (1989’s Cloudland). It’s a testament to Joyce Manors songs that these nods to their record collection never throw the album off track or leave it scrambling to get back on its path. It’s the subtle compliments that make you realise that you are hearing something very special.

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There are still the usual blasts of pop-punk that will appeal to even the most casual fan of the band. The lovelorn ‘Victoria’ and self-deprecation of ‘Heart Tattoo’ are glorious, fuzzy gems that once again are the best examples of Joyce Manors sharp, concise song craft. The ambiguous amped-up Smiths riffage of ‘In The Army Now’ and Jangle-pop of ‘Heated Swimming Pool’ show the different and exiting musical paths the band may choose on future releases and how adept they are at incorporating these into Joyce Manors existing sound. Never Hungover Again is probably one of the most rewarding listens of 2014 and will, quite rightly, find itself lavished with repeated listens and justified acclaim.

Proving that there is still life in a genre that can sometimes feel stodgy and overladen with mediocre bands, Joyce Manor are one of the better examples of what heartfelt, interesting music can be made within the shortest bursts of noise.

Thanks for reading. Get in touch. ittoblog@gmail.com, http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter – @alex_itto, @BonersaurJR

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REVIEW: EMPIRE! EMPIRE! (I WAS A LONELY ESTATE) – YOU WILL EVENTUALLY BE FORGOTTEN

Band – Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)

Album – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Label – Count Your Lucky Stars/Topshelf Records

The first two songs of ‘You will eventually be forgotten’, the second full length album by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), each tell the story of how both the members of the band were separately involved in near fatal car accidents. Thankfully they lived to tell the tale but imagine for a second if things had turned out differently. Keith and Cathy Latinen, the husband and wife duo that make up Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), are more responsible than most, both as this band and as owners of the Count Your Lucky Stars record label, for reigniting the fire in this once almost forgotten genre. Their tireless output, with their own bands countless splits/e.p’s & debut full length and the consistently brilliant records their label has released, has brought a lot of credibility to the current wave of emo, making it as popular as it is today. Without these two would I even be listening to any albums recorded after 2002?

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Which segues nicely into giving a nod to the guest vocalists that are featured on this record. One of the biggest bonuses from bands playing this type of music again is proving to some of the legendary bands from back in the day there is still a loyal, devoted audience out there for them. You can’t have missed that Mineral are about to embark on a massive reunion tour and I hope you haven’t missed that Braid have come back this year with an incredible new record. Both Bob Nanna of Braid and Chris Simpson of Mineral make an appearance here and with these comes a sense of triumphant togetherness. We die-hard emo fans have found each other and our reward? One hell of a beautiful new record by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate).

The weather is changing, it’s getting colder and the nights are drawing in, autumn is coming. And what an album ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is to soundtrack this change in seasons. I always feel reflective at this time of year which has made me feel an instant connection with this record. The autobiographical nature of Keith Latinen’s lyrics, telling coming of age stories from his youth as well as asking questions about his own mortality really speak out to me as someone who, ever since turning 30, has started to question everything in life, constantly looking back at big turning points in my life wondering what could have been. All 11 songs here take on a linear approach, eschewing familiar verse/chorus/verse structures and preferring to take the listener on a journey propelled by the powerful story telling of the lyrics. Poetic tales of love, friendship, youth and companionship are told with such an attention to detail that I know feel, after numerous repeat listens, that I really know both members of the band personally. The album is the musical equivalent of those magical nights at the start of a relationship when you stay up all night talking to someone and in the morning you feel like you’ve known the person all your life.

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The lyrics to each song had been posted online in the weeks leading up to the album’s release, being a musician I normally find it takes me time to find a connection to the lyrical content of a song, usually long after I’ve fallen in love with the music. But in this case, the lyrics are strong enough to stand alone without already knowing the melody as a piece of work in their own right. So it was really nice to get to know the songs before actually being able to listen to them. Don’t let me take anything away from the music though, because musically Empire! Empire! are as strong here as anything they have ever released before. Gorgeous guitar tones and big thick drums compliment the vocals throughout, clearly the whole production here has been meticulously worked out with the band knowing when to hold back and when to let the feedback take over for added drama. Echoes of Sunny Day Real Estate’s ‘How it feels to be something on’ and Appleseed Cast, mixed in with Empire! Empire!’s own inimitable style make this a record to truly behold.

With the many songs Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) have put out in the 5 years since their last full length, it would’ve been really easy for them to cobble together enough for a follow-up album. I’m really happy they have waited until they had the time to commit to making something completely new with the sole focus of making a new record. ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is a concept album of sorts, using moments in their lives to ask big questions about life and what is the real point of it all. Keith Latinen has experienced near death but not had any great epiphanies about what it all means (“My life did not flash before my eyes”), he has witnessed two people who, after a lifetime of devotion to each other, became so entwined that they passed away at the same time, even though they died 2 years apart (“It took 2 whole years to convince his body”) and is left to wonder if what he is doing is really worth it.

How do we ever know that? We can always look back, and consider what would have happened if we had done things differently but it won’t make any difference. As long as we do what we think is the right thing to do in the present tense then there shouldn’t be any regrets. There is a lot of love on display here for each other and the vast amount of love about to be showered on these two after the release of this perfectly amazing album should at least let them know that they are currently doing everything completely right.

Please don’t hesitate to listen to this truly INCREDIBLE record!!

You can stream/download/order the record HERE

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This is me with Keith and Cathy after their amazing set in Brighton, November 2012

Thanks for reading. xx

Get in touch. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com

 

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