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THE VAN PELT CAME TO LONDON, I WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN

This blog post wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had worked it out in my head completely different, in my head there was a happy ending. But things haven’t gone to plan, so, instead of Is This Thing on? Blogs 100th post being one of celebration, it is now one of utter disappointment and frustration.

Today, (16/08/2014), was supposed to be spent at the Excel centre in London at All Tomorrow’s Parties Jabberwocky festival, you may have seen (not that you could really miss) the fact that the festival was cancelled just 3 days before it was due to take place. I had bought my ticket earlier this year in March, primarily because of one band, The Van Pelt.

I couldn’t quite believe the poster for the event when I first saw it. It was a great line up with plenty of other bands that I would be really excited to see play live (Cloud Nothings, Metz, Pissed Jeans etc..), but the fact that the Van Pelt were named on there too made my jaw hit the ground. In fact, I was so surprised to see their name on the bill that I had to google them to make sure it was really THE Van Pelt playing and not some indie upstarts who had stolen their band name. As soon as I had confirmed enough to satisfy my suspicions that it was actually them, I bought my ticket. The price for the day ticket that I was about to purchase was a nice surprise too, £38.50 for the day! I would have been willing and was expecting to pay more, I bet I wasn’t the only one who thought this. At the time I thought I was getting a bargain, in hindsight it seems like a big error of judgement on behalf of the promoters.

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After weeks of exchanging excited texts and messages with friends who were going and telling anyone who would listen that I was going, it came as a shock to find out ATP were pulling the plug. Jabberwocky was cancelled. Initial disbelief quickly turned to anger and frustration, which was mainly aimed at ATP themselves. How could this happen? How could they operate with this level of incompetency?? Why hadn’t this decision been made weeks ago?? The line up was stellar, unrivalled by other festivals this year so how could they fail to deliver?????!!!

What followed the statement from ATP was really bizarre to be caught in the middle of. The fallout from the announcement went in 2 directions, a massive argument about who was responsible to refund everyone and also a mad dash to find out if the bands booked to play Jabberwocky would still be coming over and playing somewhere. Pretty quickly a facebook group and website started up with the sole purpose to salvage something from this weekend. With the cancellation of the event being so close to the date it was supposed to take place, it made sense that most of the bands would already have their travel arrangements in place and were either in the UK or on their way here. If bands are coming then let’s get them shows to play and get them an audience to attend. When I joined the Jabberwocky fallout rumours Facebook group it was already a few hundred people strong and it was thrilling to see what was happening. The members of this group were disappointed ticket holders taking things into their own hands, sharing information about whatever they could find out trying to ensure that even if the event was cancelled, we weren’t about to miss out. The number of members of this group grew with lightning speed and didn’t take long to realise that things weren’t going to work out well.

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I scoured the page for news of a Van Pelt replacement show. It was quite nice to find out that this was a hot topic of conversation. People seemed desperate to see The Van Pelt, a lot more so than the other bands and combining this with the knowledge that they were already in Europe meant that a replacement show was inevitable. Taking my eye off the ball for a brief moment made me miss the announcement that they were going to play with Metz at The Shacklewell Arms for free. By the time I clicked on the link for the free tickets I wasn’t surprised to see they were all gone. As it turned out, they were taken off the bill for this show and rumours flung round that ATP had used a contractual obligation to not let them play (something which ATP have said is completely false). Instead they were now going to play on the Friday night at the Ace hotel at the cost of £11 a ticket. It wasn’t just the fact that by the time I found out about this that it had sold out that left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It felt like my opportunity to see a band I thought I would never get to see play live had been snatched away from me. I had secured my place at the festival to see the Van Pelt 5 months ago and now they were going to play exclusively for those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, some of whom you just know weren’t original Jabberwocky ticket holders.

Meanwhile, a very public argument had started regarding who was responsible to refund everyone who had bought a ticket. In the original ATP statement they advised punters that a full refund would be given from the point of sale, for many of us it was Dash tickets. Dash Tickets were very quick to respond to my email and to state publicly that they would not be responsible for the refunds as they had only offered software for ATP to use to sell tickets and that all money brought in from ticket sales had already been passed to ATP. Dash also wanted it known that they were looking at taking legal action against ATP for the handling of this. When Dash emailed me they included some terms and conditions that looked to prove that they would not ever be responsible for refunds, ATP have since come out to say that these terms and conditions were changed without their prior knowledge after the tickets went on sale and that they had not received any money from Dash for over 2 months.

Like most of the other disappointed ticket holders I vented my frustrations on various social media platforms and vowed to never buy tickets for an ATP event again. Since their last statement I have calmed down a bit and now don’t really know what to think and who, if anyone, to blame. ATP seem pretty genuine, even if they do have past form in allegedly not paying out and mishandling events. It’s not really in my nature to hate independent companies trying to organise really interesting events in the current economic climate. To be fair as well to ATP they have continued to release statements with advice about refunds, my last email from Dash had the heading ‘Your request has been deemed solved’. Things will probably blow over for them and I hope they do so. Look at Hevy fest for example, last year they were the complete laughing-stock of the festival circuit after cancelling last years festival because, even though they had been selling tickets for a number of months, they had never actually secured a venue for the festival. A lot of anger and hate was directed at them but as I type this, Hevy 2014 is taking place. People put their faith in them and seem to have been rewarded with 2 days punk and metal bands.

(The second statement from ATP can be read HERE)

As it turned out, The Van Pelt did play the show at the Shacklewell Arms this afternoon that had been originally announced the day after the festival was cancelled. So that’s twice they played in London within 24 hours and I was nowhere to be seen. Apparently the shows were insane. A friend of mine managed to get into the Friday night show and said the atmosphere inside the venue was ‘bordering on mania’, and the set was filled with classics such as ‘The Speeding Train’, ‘ABCD’s of Facism’ and ‘Yamato (where people really die)’. My friend said that on ‘Yamato…’ ‘the crowd sung the “aaaaah” backing vocals and the band seemed to love that!’ It sounds like it was an amazing show to be at.

The Van Pelt are a really special band, I have never once listened to them and not found something new or interesting about their songs and the way they sound. Their original two albums haven’t dated whatsoever. And their “new” record, ‘The Imaginary Third’, which was released on the Spanish label La Castanya earlier this year to coincide with record store day, sounds as current and relevant as anything else I’ve heard this year. I say new, the album was recorded when the band were originally together in the late 90’s and is made up of 5 songs that ended up on the Lapse’s first record and the ‘Speeding Train’ 7″. They are a band I first got into as a teenager that I haven’t stopped listening to now long in to my thirties. A band I thought I would never get the chance to see play live and now, as it turns out, seems to be correct. Although there is a rumour they might come back next year, they mentioned on a reply to a comment I left on one of their Instagram pictures that they were at least considering it. I can at least hold on to this hope.

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If they don’t my only encounter with Chris Leo (singer/guitarist The Van Pelt), as mentioned a couple of years back on this blog, will be when he shouted at me because beer got spilled on his amp at a The Lapse show in Germany. At least I have the memory of that night though, and a funny story I can always bore my children with.

The Van Pelt playing ‘Yamato (where people really die) in 1996

Thanks for reading.

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

 

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INTERVIEW: BEEZEWAX

I have been a massive fan of Beezewax ever since their debut album completely blew me away as a teenager in the 90s. They played locally several times in the late 90s/early 00s and every time was incredibly special. The band recently announced a mini UK tour which kicks off in less than 2 weeks so I caught up with singer/guitarist Kenneth Ishak to discuss the tour and his memories of UK tours past. Enjoy!

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IS THIS THING ON? – I first saw you when you played the tiny cardinals cap in Canterbury and instantly fell in love. It must have been 1998, what do you remember about that first uk tour?

Kenneth Ishak – Hey, glad you were there!
Well, I think that was our second UK tour, i can remember that show bit I can’t link it to any other shows, but the first and second tour in the UK was just a big change for all of us. We didn’t have that sort of scene at home, we were compared to many bands we had never heard about- we didn’t know what emo was. We were basically 4 kids who had hung together growing up- listened to dinosaur jr, hip hop, we were definitely not part of a scene except for our norwegian label LaNuGo which was a hardcore punk label.
Yeah, in Norway people didn’t care but we had just started anyways but got to go to the UK right away to tour with Spy Vs spy, they were the greatest band and people- we became pretty good friends and influenced by them. I almost puked before our fist show, we were on after them- they were so amazing and i had never heard anything like it- i was in shock! Then we had to play. But then people sang along to our songs, i sorta understood that whatever it was we were doing, people were into it.

ITTO? – I bought ‘A dozen summits’ at that first show on cd for £3, later someone told me that you’d made a mistake with the price and I’ve felt bad ever since. Is that true?

KI – Haha, we never felt bad- we just figured, lower the price and sell more. I remember in Manchester the whole crowd got in line after we played, yeah everything really fell into place for us on those first tours.

ITTO? – The other times I saw you were all in Margate at the legendary Lido. You had a big following here, what are your memories of Margate and did you get a similar response throughout the uk?

KI – We did, nice! We know there were at least some people there who liked us- someone told me they played a couple of our songs at practise even. I have many great memories playing at the Lido- especially one show that was packed and just really loud, probably one of my favourite shows ever. Last time we played there Stian our drummer was sick, and to be honest- we were not the same band, but yeah- there was a great crowd but we did not deliver so i am glad to come back. It will be our first show in 7 years so there might be a couple of fuck ups!

ITTO? – You’re playing Margate again as part of a UK tour in May with one of the most exciting uk bands at the moment, Playlounge, how did touring with them come about?

KI – It was just our label that did a little research- seems there are people discovering our older records, people who were 4 or something then- anyways Playlounge seemed to be into our stuff, and we sure like them so we asked if we could play some shows together, and they were into it. I am sure we will be blown away!

ITTO? – Have you got anything special planned for these shows? Will you be playing songs from all of your albums?

KI – Nothing special, to be honest- I don’t know what will happen but we have had fun during rehearsals.

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ITTO? – Do you have any plans to come back again yet?

KI – Yes, this fall we hope to cover places we couldn’t get to on this little tour.

ITTO? – And finally, what is your favourite band that you’ve ever played with?

KI – Again, Spy vs Spy, we have played with plenty of bands in different countries but nothing made a bigger impact i think.

ITTO? – Thanks Kenneth!!

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Beezewax will be playing the following shows this May:

May 22nd – Margate, The Bracket

May 23rd – London, Birthday’s

May 24th – Brighton, The Hope

May 25th – Portsmouth, The Registry

Is this thing on? is putting on the Margate show, please come down if you’re in the area. Here is the link to the facebook events page for the show – https://www.facebook.com/events/1425538981029584/

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

 

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Thank you Kurt Cobain, for everything!

Recently, my wife and I got a call from our letting agents that our landlord was selling up and that we would need to find somewhere else to live. Thankfully after a few very stressful months we did just that. Whilst packing up for the move I stumbled across some awesome things from my youth that I’ve been holding on to, hidden deep inside various cupboards. The thing that stuck out the most was a folder I had made in year 8 of school which contained clippings from magazines and newspapers about Nirvana. Year 8 of school for me was 1992 and the clippings dated from then until the middle of 1994 when I had filled up all of the sleeves in the folder.

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Amongst the various clippings, which were mostly from Kerrang and Raw magazine (both of which I never missed when I was a young teenager, which made Wednesday my favourite day of the week), were articles cut from newspapers the day the news had broken that Kurt Cobain had taken his own life. Reading the dates these articles were written made me gasp, can it really be almost 20 years since Kurt died?? This made me feel incredibly weird and emotional and it got me thinking a lot about the last 20 years and how those couple of years of being a Nirvana fan before Kurt’s death had had a massive impact on my life as a whole.

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Now, inevitably with a big anniversary looming you will find article after article about Kurt and the legacy he left behind. A lot of these will say very similar things, probably along the lines of ‘he was a spokesperson for his generation’ or that ‘he changed the musical landscape for the better’. Which is all fair enough but so much has been written in this vein that it feels like white noise, it starts to detract from the truth because you get bored of hearing it. From my perspective, Nirvana were around at a time when I was at the right age for them to make a big difference and they really did. To look at the US billboard chart pre-Nirvana and post-Nirvana clearly tells a story of how alternative music suddenly became the mainstream. It is remarkable, but if you just concentrate on the fact that a different kind of band was now occupying positions on the pop chart then you’re looking at something that means nothing to me. We all know major labels will jump on any old bandwagon if it makes enough money and looking at the state of popular music in the last 10 years you can see that this didn’t last as long as was once thought. In the short term Nirvana paved the way for me to discover more bands that I would really like but in the long term it’s so much more than that. I can look at my life as a whole up to this point and can say wholeheartedly that Nirvana had a hand in shaping most aspects of it, from the music I listen to now to the way I view things, the friends I have and the woman I’m married to. I am not overstating it when I say that Nirvana has had an incredible influence on my whole life whether they meant to or not and I can safely say that Kurt Cobain is my hero.

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I was awoken on the morning of the 9th of April 1994 by my brother, who at the time was a paperboy. He came in to the bedroom we shared and tried to wake me up, I was fast asleep on the top bunk of the bunk bed we had in our room. I remember waking up to the sound of him telling me Kurt Cobain was dead, he had said it a few times before I came to the conclusion that he was being a dick and as such I told him to piss off. Kurt couldn’t be dead so I went back to sleep. Later that morning I got up and found out that was probably the only time my brother hadn’t been winding me up about something and had actually been telling the truth. It stated in the newspaper as a fact that he was dead, a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head and that he had been found the day before on the 8th of April and had possibly been dead for a few days. I was shocked and gutted but didn’t really know how to process these feelings. I remember being back at school the following Monday and it being a weird topic of conversation amongst my friends. I also remember talking to my guitar tutor about it later on in that same week and telling him how I’d cried when watching a hastily put together programme about him on MTV but it seemed weird to be saying these things. I don’t think this had ever happened to me before, I knew what it felt like when a family member died but this was someone who I had never met or even seen in real life. Someone who only existed in magazines, on the telly or on the CDs/tapes I had collected. Initially I had felt really upset that I would never see Nirvana play live, I had been begging my dad to get tickets to see them at Brixton Academy where they had been due to play 4 nights later that year, he said he would try but he was having trouble getting them and then after Kurt had been in a coma in Italy a couple of months prior to his death had given up completely. I don’t know if he had tried or not but I had been convinced I was going to that show and the fact that that was no longer possible upset me a lot. These days a celebrity seems to die on a very regular basis which is dealt with by a standard tweet or Instagram tribute and then moving on. This wasn’t an option in 1994, I spent the day I had found out about his death asking my dad to buy most of the newspapers so I could cut out the bit about Kurt and stick them in my folder. I has been in love with Nirvana for less than 2 years at this point but in that short time a lot had changed.

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Before the long hot summer of 1992 I had already become a big fan of music. I liked it when, as a young boy, my mum and dad would play the Beatles or the Beach Boys in the car and then towards the end of the 80s I had become obsessed with Michael Jackson. I spent hours watching live videos of him and playing my copies of Bad and Thriller on cassette. My cousin Becka would always teach me a Michael Jackson dance routine when she came to babysit, she was also a massive fan and responsible for introducing me to other music too. When I was 8 or 9 she made me a tape of all the songs on Appetite For Destruction by Guns N Roses that had no swearing on and this set me off on my obsession with music, records and bands. Soon after, in 1989, I bought my first record. I spent my weeks pocket money on a 7″ vinyl copy of ‘Poison’ by Alice Cooper from Woolworths. I remember getting home and asking my Dad if I could put it on to which he said yes and then became annoyed at the sound that was pouring out of the speakers, he didn’t like it which didn’t make sense to me as I thought it was incredible. My brother and I would then go on the regularly spend our pocket money on 7″ singles of varying genres. Our favourites were, Groove is in the heart by Dee-Lite and Batdance by Prince. About the time I started at Secondary school in 1991 something happened that opened me up to whole new world of music, my parents bought a new washing machine.

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Now, it wasn’t the washing machine as such but more to do with the thing that came free with this new purchase, which happened to be a massive satellite dish. And this thing was massive, I remember being scared yet completely excited on the cold November night while my Dad was trying to attach the dish to the chimney on top of our house. Once this was operational, what seemed like an endless list of new tv channels became available to us, most importantly of which was MTV. MTV or MTV Europe as it was back then was nothing like it is now. Apart from The Real World the schedule wasn’t packed with reality shows, it was music video after music video interrupted by programmes about music and I fell head over heels in live with it. At this point in time, I had moved on from my Michael Jackson obsession and was developing a passion for rock music, most notably of which were Metallica and Guns N Roses. This was the Use your Illusion and Black album era, both of which we’re providing plenty of MTV friendly videos that had captured my attention. Around me, friends were developing similar ideas. My best friend at the time was already in to Iron Maiden in a big way and pretty soon all things metal became a big topic of conversation.

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But then, watching hours of MTV led me on to discovering Nirvana and things quickly changed. There was something new and exciting about this band, the music was loud and powerful, the lead singers voice was raw and beautiful but this was very different from the other loud rock music I was listening to. I seemed to be able to identify with Nirvana more than I could with other bands I had been getting to, even as a 12 year old boy. Metallica, Guns n Roses and other bands of that type and their fans you’d see in the crowd in their live videos always looked like definite grown ups. They were identifiably a lot older than I was but Nirvana and the people you’d see in the crowd at their gigs looked young. I may have had ideas above my station but I could say that this was my generation, when people started talking about generation x then I felt that they were talking about me, my friends and people my age. Also, there wasn’t this macho, tough guy bravado going on that always left me feeling a bit detached from proper metal bands. I had found a niche that worked for and made sense to me.  This was the first time I had ever noticed a movement was happening and I wanted desperately to be part of it. The word Grunge had started appearing everywhere and there were other bands with similar appeal that were being mentioned under this umbrella.

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Pretty soon my group of friends at school were kids from all different year groups Who shared a love of music. Without really noticing we all soon had long hair and wore Dr Martens boots and had picked up the nickname from all the other kids at school, ‘grunge club’. This term was used by everyone to mock us consistently but I didn’t care, I felt proud to be part of this club. I didn’t care if this was making us unpopular or outsiders because we had found our identity and with that a really close knit group of friends who shared the same views and tastes.

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On Christmas Day 1992 I got my first guitar and by the time Kurt died I was forming bands and writing songs. My first proper band that actually played in front of other people held Nirvana as more than just an influence, half the songs we played were Nirvana songs. We were called ‘Toothpaste’ and we made a point of covering the more obscure songs from Bleach like ‘Big Cheese’ and the punkier songs from other albums like ‘Tourette’s’. It had already seeped into our subconscious that the more obscure the better. Nirvana probably never set out to be a life changing band, a gate way for so many people to discover an alternative to the mainstream but that’s exactly what they became. Armed with our Nirvana covers and original songs, which were all written using the Nirvana template which ventured further out than just playing in our school hall. Our first show must’ve been disastrous but at the time I felt like I had arrived, it was at a venue that became a big part of our teens and early 20’s, the Lido in Margate. I was 14 at the time and this was early summer in 1995, we got through our set and it was enough to get the attention of someone who would become my best friend to this day.

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That person was Paul, he is now my best friend and was in attendance that night, he thought we were awful but liked the fact we liked good music and were nice people. We soon, after several Friday night visits to the lido and other haunts that let bands play around Margate, became good friends. Being a few years older than me he became someone who would pass on a vast musical knowledge and open me up to several new bands and ways of finding new music. Paul had seen Nirvana play at Reading 1992 so I knew I could trust his judgement, it was in his company and under his guidance, at a record fair that I bought my first Fugazi album (Red Medicine) and it was in his bedroom that I first heard Sunny Day Real Estate. We would talk for hours about bands, record labels and everything that that entails. We would read fanzines and go to shows. We played in bands together which would take us around the UK and Europe, opening us up to experiencing first hand what D.I.Y and underground culture was all about.

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I’m not close friends with everyone from this time or who I went to school with but all my friends and my wife are in my life right now because of this time. We still hold all of the values of punk rock and D.I.Y culture that were introduced to us by growing up and finding similar bands at similar times. We are left leaning, music obsessives, many of us are parents who want to be able to pass these views on to our offspring.

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I hope all of my kids find this kind of influence that takes their lives off into an amazing direction. It’s hard to think that someone will come along and change their world like Kurt and Nirvana did for me. Maybe if Nirvana hadn’t broke big then I would still have somehow found my same way to discover everything that I did, but they did and I can relate it all back to them. I will always love Nirvana and I will forever miss Kurt. I hope all the teenagers I see from time to time who walk around looking awkward with weird hair and Nirvana t-shirts are getting the same benefit as a teen now as I did from discovering Nirvana in the early 90s. I hope that, even with the benefit of the internet and all the luxury and ease of use it brings with it, kids these days learn to dig deeper and explore an alternative world that exists outside of the mainstream.

Thanks Kurt for everything  xxxx

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

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INTERVIEW: HUMAN HANDS

If there is going to be one band that defines the emo underground in the UK this year it will be Human Hands, if you have just one listen to their debut full length, self titled LP you’ll know exactly why that is true. It is an incredibly beautiful and powerful record and with plenty of other releases and tours planned for this year I thought an interview with the band was well in order. So here it is! (Ps the interview was conducted just before the release of the record so a couple of the questions are slightly out of date, but don’t let that spoil your enjoyment)

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Is This Thing On? – Hello. You’re on the cusp of releasing your debut full length record, can you tell us a bit about the background to the record?

Chaz: It has been in the works for ages now. We hatched a plan with Andy sncl at a basement gig in Manchester over 2 and a half years ago now, so yeh, it’s taken a while, but I think it benefited from that time and space. We recorded it at the end of May 2013 at JT Soars (aka Wine Vibes)in Nottingham.
Clyde: It has had a slow gestation, but that has mostly due to me moving away and touring rather than writing whenever I was back. When we got to it, it came together pretty quickly.
Rob: I can’t add much, I reckon we practiced most of the songs when playing shows! When we’re all together I think we’d rather play gigs wherever we can, so writing sometimes takes a back seat. Although it’s taken so long to surface, I think that we’re all really happy with the end result.

ITTO? – What themes does the record tackle? Is there a running theme throughout?

Chaz: Don’t think there is a particular theme that runs throughout. Most of the lyrics are about the bullshit I see in everyday life.

ITTO? – Listening through your back catalogue there seems to have been a real progression in sound, from the urgent to the epic. Is it just a matter of circumstance that it’s taken you this long to put out a full length or was it that you wanted to wait until the band was ready, sound wise?

Chaz: Mainly a matter of circumstances I guess (Clyde now lives in Iceland), but I’m glad we took a little more time with it. I think in regards to progressions in sound, when we started I think we just wanted to make something fast and noisy. I think from the first 7” we started slowing things down a bit, and have taken that ‘sound’ from there, I guess.
Clyde: There wasn’t really too much of plan. We just started writing that way. When we started it was to do a band in the vein of Swing Kids, Assfactor 4 and The Red Scare. As a consequence we came into it initially with more aggressive material to work on…in time I think we’ve settled into something a little more natural to us.
Rob: I would say circumstance. I think that we play much more comfortably together now and the LP has benefited from maturity, distance etc.

ITTO? – The two songs off the new record you have up on bandcamp at the mo showcase a really lush, gorgeous sound. Did you spend a lot of time getting the sound right or is that more down to who you worked with?

Chaz: We recorded with our friend Phil (who has recorded everything for us except the demo and split tapes with verme and deergear). We took a fair bit of time getting sound right, and then recorded everything live. I think it’s a combination of recording in a bigger room (JT soar venue) and Phil getting better and better at recording bands, and us taking a little bit more time with stuff. That said we recorded 11 songs in 2 days.
Rob: I think because we have been consistent with who we’ve recorded most of our material with, it gets easier and improves each time.

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ITTO? – Can you tell us about the artwork for the record? I’m always wary of asking people into music if they like football because you can get some really dodgy looks but are you guys football fans?

Chaz: The cover is just a collage piece I’d been working on for ages and thought would look good as a cover. I spend far too much of my energy getting upset by football, supporting Villa and the mighty Stratford Town.
Clyde: I’m not a football fan, but anything that helps get our songs sung on the terraces is good with me….
Rob: I’m a West Brom fan and watch Stratford when I’m not at work.

ITTO? – What have you been listening to recently and has that had any influence on the album at all?

Chaz: Some records I have been enjoying recently are; Flesh World – S/T MLP, Saccharine Trust – Worldbroken LP, Can – Lost Tapes LP, No – Great Space MLP, V/A – Enjoy The Experience LP, Robbie Basho – Seal Of The Blue Lotus LP, V/A – Classroom Projects LP, Madlib – Rock Konducta LP, Peter Gutteridge – Pure 2 X LP. Can’t remember what I was playing lots when we recorded the lp, but like to think everything comes through in some way.
Clyde: I need to get that No MLP. I’ve been blasting the Party of Helicopter’s Abracadaver recently. Also, Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov, Ulver – Messe i.x–vi.x, Springsteen’s Born To Run. Eagerly awaiting the release of Carpe Noctem’s album on vinyl too. Not too many of these had an influence on the album.
Rob: I’m listening to a lot of Iron Lung, Asthenia, Grand Detour, Moloch, Jeru the Damaja, Disciples of Christ and Yaphet Kotto at the moment.

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ITTO? – I wasn’t the only one in the crowd at About Time 2 being completely blown away, how was that show for you and can you really feed off the energy of an audience even though they aren’t going nuts or screaming the lyrics in your face?

Chaz: That gig was great, and was pretty terrifying playing to that many people. I think most people watching us tend to feel tense or bored, so it was a pleasant change.
Clyde: The show was nerve-wracking for me as it was the first time I’d had to do lead vocals on a song. Overall though, it felt pretty together. It was a big crowd, but we had enough friends in the audience to make us feel comfortable. And it’s always good to know a crowd is digging.
Rob: Yeah both About Time gigs have been amazing. It was great to be asked to play again, and I think we held a crowd, which is always good.

ITTO? – It’s a real credit to the state of music in the UK that you can have an incredibly popular all dayer that is predominantly all UK bands. What do you think about the state of underground music in the uk at the moment?

Chaz: Yeh, it was a great day. UK is great at the moment for new music particularly punk and hardcore.
Clyde: Entirely. There are so many good bands out there at the moment from all across the spectrum. I think all of us have been into this music for a long time, and I’m not sure that I’ve personally ever experienced it this thriving.
Rob: I think the UK is doing awesome things at the moment. A lot of new, good bands are appearing all the time, from all over the country, which is great.

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ITTO? – What are your plans for when the record is released? Any touring plans yet?

Chaz: Yeh, there will be a small UK tour with Carson Wells in April and then a Euro/UK tour in the summer at some point. Following the LP there will also be split 7”s with Mars to Stay and Carson Wells and a 5 way split 10” with Manku Kapak, Asthenia, Nebraska and Duct Hearts.
Clyde: Pretty much that. Maybe another UK tour later in the year if we can afford it…

ITTO? – (Corny last interview question) If you could play with any band from history, alive or defunct, who would it be and why?

Chaz: Sabbath at any point during the first four lps.
Clyde: Can’t believe the others haven’t already predicted my response. Slayer.
Rob: Minor Threat, I think.

ITTO? – Human Hands, thank you!!

To buy Human Hands self titled LP click HERE
Or to stream/download it click HERE

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

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IS THIS THING ON’S TOP 20 RECORDS OF 2013 PART 2 (No’s 10-1)

Previously on ‘Is this thing on?’s top 20 records of 2013:

20 – Tancred – S/T
19 – Pity Sex – Feast Of Love
18 – Touché Amoré – Is Survived By
17 – Wild Moth – Over, Again
16 – Dowsing – I Don’t Even Care Anymore
15 – Sed Non Satiata – Mappô
14 – State Faults – Resonate/Desperate
13 – Placeholder – I Don’t Need Forgiveness
12 – The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever
11 – Nai Harvest – Whatever

To read more on no’s 20 to 11 click HERE

So, as promised, here is the top ten. Thanks so much for reading and sharing and everything this year, it’s been awesome!!!!

10 – Brave Bird – Maybe You, No One Else Worth It

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This album seemed to come out so long ago that I had to check it was definitely eligible for this list. One of the early indicators that 2013 was going to be another superb year for good music, this album is full of top quality emo noodling and more hooks than a fishing tackle shop.

9 – California X – California X

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I spent an evening in the summer browsing through the ‘related artists’ section on spotify looking for something I may have missed and stumbled across California X. A couple of days later my best friend is sat in my lounge telling me that they’re playing in Canterbury a week later, a very happy coincidence indeed because that show was amazing. They well and truly blew us all away and the album has become a firm favourite ever since. Summery grunge with massive riffs giving some credibility to a drop d tuning!!

8 – Lemuria – The Distance Is So Big

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A mark, for me, of how catchy a record is is if, after a couple of hours of playing it, my kids are still singing along. And that happened a lot with this brilliant album by Lemuria. I was a big fan of their last album but I think they excelled themselves with ‘The Distance Is So Big’, indie emo rock of the highest quality.

7 – Reiziger – Kodiak Station

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Just when I thought the whole ‘reunion’ thing had peaked one of my favourite 90’s emo bands returned and with a new album to boot. It had never occurred to me that Reiziger might make new music, I was so excited to get ‘Kodiak Station’ and even more excited to find out that it’s really, really good. It may sound a million miles from the ‘Don’t Bind My Hands’ EP but it is unmistakably Reiziger, now with a more polished production to their discordant, indie gems.

6 – Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

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‘Weird Sister’ is raw, lo-fi, indie punk at its best care of Cardiff’s finest, the brilliantly named, Joanna Gruesome. This is a debut album that marks the band out as one of the most exciting new bands to come out of the UK this year, I’m still gutted that I had to leave ‘About Time 2’ before they came on because I bet they’re awesome live.

5 – State Lines – For The Boats

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If it’s quality songwriting and anthem after anthem that you’re after then look no further than State Lines. A nod to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ here, a fantastic Hip Hop intro there and a whole record packed full of straight up, indie punk rock with vocals delivered like an emo Tim Armstrong are what you’ll find on ‘For The Boats’. And trust me when I say that you’ll want to listen to this record time and time again!!!

4 – Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual

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After all these years an Appleseed Cast record is always something to get hyped up about and all the more so when the record is as good as ‘Illumination Ritual’. The current line up have injected energy and a new creativity to the band, making a memorable record with plenty to enjoy. Seeing them play most of these songs live, back in October, also heightened my love for this record too. They were brilliant, if you used to love this band and haven’t thought to check this album out yet, what the hell are you waiting for?? Do it now!!

3 – Football, Etc. – Audible

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Football, Etc spoil us rotten, not only do they tour the UK with admirable regularity, they also release music of the highest quality on a very consistent basis. I love their last record, ‘The Draft’, but ‘Audible’ certainly feels like a step up. It seems like they’ve got a new found confidence as a band now which has increased the quality of the songwriting and delivery. ‘Audible’ comes across as a band that are having immense amounts of fun playing as a complete unit, Football, Etc have definitely found their feet. Amazing stuff!!

2 – Foxing – The Albatross

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I did try to review ‘The Albatross’ a few weeks back but ended up going out on a more personal tangent (you can read that by clicking HERE) so I should probably say some more things about the record here. But what else is there to say apart from the fact that ‘The Albatross’ is an earth shatteringly beautiful album that will take you on an exhausting journey through a range of emotions but still leaves you wanting more. I can’t think of another band that has made such an impact on this emo scene in such a short space of time as Foxing have, they thoroughly deserve all the plaudits and I had thought that no other band would come close to usurping my number one album this year but with ‘The Albatross’, Foxing came damn close to doing just that. Absolutely incredible.

1 – Crash Of Rhinos – Knots

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If you’ve read this blog or spoken to me this year at all then it’ll come as no surprise to you that Crash Of Rhinos genius record, ‘Knots’, is my album of the year for 2013. This is the record that I’ve been waiting years for, the kind of record I had thought would never be made again, emo/post hardcore at its incredible best. Crash Of Rhinos make no point of trying to hide their influences but manage to push things forward to make, what is not, an album that is trying to revive the past but a completely modern and relevant emo record. ‘Knots’ is five accomplished musicians at the very top of their game coming together to make magic. To top things off they’re also a brilliant live band, they really can do no wrong. If for some reason you haven’t heard this record yet the click HERE to go to their bandcamp page where ‘Knots’ is currently available for free, you have no excuse and you definitely will not be disappointed. WELL DONE CRASH OF RHINOS, YOU’RE NUMBER ONE!!!!

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

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IS THIS THING ON?’S TOP 20 RECORDS OF 2013 PART 1 (No’s 20-11)

It definitely is that time of year again and you’re probably already sick of album of the year lists but here I am to give you what I consider to be the best records of 2013. This year it’s a top 20 for 2 reasons, 1 – there has been a LOT of great records this year and 2 – because I’ve been so slack at posting reviews this year I thought this would be a good way to catch up. So here goes:

20. Tancred – S/T

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I had no idea what to expect with this record, hadn’t heard anything before and hadn’t read anything about it but as soon as I pressed play I was an instant fan. Brilliant grungey indie rock in the style of Juliana Hatfield, with plenty of catchy songs and charm.

19. Pity Sex – Feast Of Love

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Always love it when a band with a great name also turn out to be a great band and Pity Sex are no exception. Shoegazey, poppy, punk rock with superb, dreamy, downbeat vocals is a pretty lazy description but it hits the nail on the head. I would’ve listened to this record more but every time I looked at a distro they’ve already sold out of their copies, damn hip kids with their pocket money taking all my records!!!!

18. Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

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Touché Amoré are a band that just get better and better with every record they release. I have completely fallen in love with this new record, whilst being instantly recognisable as a Touché record it is also quite a departure to a more melodic and heartfelt sound. There’s still all the power and attack that you would want and expect but there’s also melodies and hook after hook. Very highly recommended listening.

17. Wild Moth – Over, Again

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Became aware of these guys through the SNCL mailing list, they came very highly recommended and they certainly live up to the expectation. Mixing brilliant post hardcore with indie sensibilities and the song writing ability of a band like The Cribs. (The first song really reminds me of The Cribs, which to me is high praise because I love The Cribs!). You’ll have this on repeat so definitely go and check this out.

16. Dowsing – I Don’t Even Care Anymore

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I’ve written loads about Dowsing in the past and the only reason I haven’t expressed love for this record on this blog already is because having four kids is so tiring and I just haven’t had time. I literally can’t go a blog post without writing lame excuses about why I’m so behind at updating this blog, I’m sorry. You know what to expect with a Dowsing record, you know the songs will be top notch and the melodies to be catchy as hell. This album requires a bit more work for the listener than the previous one but with work comes rewards. Check out the excellent title track ‘I don’t even care anymore’, sounds like a song that should be soundtracking the end credits of a 90’s teen movie, perfectly brilliant!!

15. Sed Non Satiata – Mappo

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This album is testament to the fact that taking recommendations from other blogs you love will pay off handsomely. First learned of this band through Cut and Paste and haven’t looked back since. Screamo/emo hardcore always sounds better in French, a brooding intensity blasts out of the speakers here, thrilling stuff!

14. State Faults – Resonate/Desperate

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This record hits the ground running and keeps the energy up to the last note. Much more focused and precise than the first album, this record is the ultimate record to throw yourself about like a lunatic too. Hopefully they’ll tour the UK in the next 12 months so I can see a whole room of people throwing themselves round like lunatics to this awesome screamo goodness.

13. Placeholder – I Don’t Need Forgiveness

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A lot of bands have adopted a huge grunge influence into their melodic punk rock, but not many bands have done it in the brilliantly lo-fi way that Placeholder have. I probably won’t ever grow tired of bands using the 90’s as a reference point especially when they’re making records as good as this one!

12. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever

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BAND WITH MOST EMO NAME EVER LIVES UP TO THE HYPE BY RELEASING A GREAT RECORD, is the headline the tabloid press would run with if the world worked like it does in my head. Twinkly bits, post rock bits, synth melodies and everything else that is making the cynics, who have been put off by the band name, turn their noses up just makes me love this band more. I bought my ticket to see these guys in Brighton in April within seconds of seeing they were on sale and cannot wait to go!!!

11. Nai Harvest – Whatever

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I saw these guys play twice this year and both times they were on top form, even the time in the pub on Margate seafront at the height of summer when it was too hot for most in attendance to bother coming inside to watch the bands. Nai Harvest seemed to have been everywhere this year causing quite a stir amongst all the UK emos, they have become behemoths of the scene ready to conquer all with their overly catchy emo rock. Rumour has it their new stuff is leaning more towards lo-fi indie rock and that sounds pretty exciting to me, expect to see plenty more of Nai Harvest in 2014!!

The TOP 10 will be published in the next couple of days.

Thanks for reading.

Get in touch here or on Facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

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INTERVIEW: JOIE DE VIVRE

This time last year I was declaring that Joie De Vivre had taken the number 1 spot on my album of the year list. Now, these incredibly popular and dashingly good-looking young men from Rockford, Illinois are back and are on the cusp of releasing some new music. I thought this was as good a time as any to ask the band some questions, all of which they luckily agreed to answer. Here goes:

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IS THIS THING ON? – Hi, how are you? How is everything in team JDV?

JOIE DE VIVRE – Hey man! Doing good! We just finally got all of our songs done for the two splits we have coming up and we are starting to write the new record! Brandon just got married and Mark has been busy finishing records with his other bands so we kind of laid low this Fall. We aren’t too stressful of a band haha.

ITTO? I hear you have a couple of splits on the way, give us some details, who are they with/how did they come about/how are the songs sounding etc…

JDV – We have two coming out soon as of right now – we got one with our friends in Prawn and another with Empire! Empire! The Prawn split came about while we were overseas touring. We played a show in Toulouse, France, with Prawn (which ended up being the first time we ever actually met those guys) on Tony and our old drummer Stevie’s birthday. Alcohol got involved and we ended up having TOO good of a time and somewhere in that night we decided to do a split. We FINALLY have a release date for that and it will be February 11th, 2014 on Count Your Lucky Stars/Topshelf.

The Empire! Empire! split came about from Jeff over at Run For Cover Records asking us to be a part of a split series that they do every year and E! E! ended up being the other band on it. We were honored that he asked and honored to be doing it with Empire! Empire!, so we immediately jumped at the opportunity!

We are all really stoked on how the songs came out; our friend Mark Gustafson (who recorded The North End and WABTT) did the Prawn split, and our friend Matt Frank (from Their / They’re / There) recorded the RFC split. It’s definitely crazy because it’s our first split with our newer line up, and I did all of the guitar work on it. Hopefully people enjoy it – we definitely have!

ITTO? – Are they any plans for a new full length record at the moment?

JDV – Yeah we definitely have plans on another record at some point in the next year or so. We just started writing a new record and have a couple songs in their baby stages right now. We are all pretty domesticated with full time jobs and relationships so getting together to make something happen takes scheduling. Not that it’s hard; we usually just end up watching dumb YouTube videos, listening to records, or drinking. Usually all three. Somehow a record comes out of it.

ITTO? – It seems an age ago now but when I saw you play in Brighton it seemed like you were all having the best time, how was that tour for you?

JDV – Brighton was beautiful by the way, the UK in general was amazing – you guys were so amazing to us. That tour was a lifetime moment, that’s something we definitely will never forget. It was crazy to think that playing in Chicago, an hour and a half away from home, was the biggest deal when we first started. I definitely never thought getting on a plane to Europe was ever in the cards. We made a lot of incredible friends while we were there, saw amazing sights, ate and drank amazing food and beer, saw amazing bands, and the people were so nice and welcoming. It definitely didn’t feel like we were gone for a month, it flew by!

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ITTO? – Do you have plans to come back to Europe?

JDV – Oh yeah, we will be back sooner than later. We need to do some US touring though before we head back over. I know we all are itching to get back and the UK is definitely someplace we plan on hanging out in for a bit haha.

ITTO? – There is a lot of talk and arguments about the term ’emo revival’, do you ever get annoyed with labels that are attached to your band? Would it ever push you over the edge so much you end up making a dubstep metal album?

JDV – Haha I don’t think any of us really think about it. All of the articles and lists coming out right now are a bit ridiculous. I do think it’s a misuse of the word “revival”, it never really left. But we get a good laugh at it and also at ourselves being mentioned, so it’s nothing that really affects us one way or another.

ITTO? – Is it true or is it not that the only reason you split up was just so you could reform thus making you the ultimate revival band?

JDV – Damn, you nailed it 😉

Noooo, the reasons we split up for were pretty legit at the time. We all were heading different directions and couldn’t really get the motivation to do Joie as much as we really wanted to at the time. School, work, moving, women – pretty much everything Brandon sings about. I think we just needed a breather.

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ITTO? – Your jimmy eat world covers set that was put on YouTube caused a lot of excitement among us emo nerds. What band would you do next and what songs would you play?

JDV – That was a blast – we did that with our friend Marky from this band The Felix Culpa who we were all were big fans of. It was pretty cool being able to play with him and hang out as much as we did for practice.

We always talk about covers we would like to do or cover shows we’d like to do. The problem with us is historically we’ve been very bad at pulling it off live. Marky whipped us into getting it down. Otherwise if he weren’t there, we’d be watching YouTube, listening to records, or drinking, like above.

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ITTO? – It’s about time for everyone’s end of year lists to start emerging, what’s been your album of 2013 so far?

JDV – Oh man, I have been listening to a lot of older records lately and polishing up on bands that I have been told to listen to. That new Foxing record is going to be one for the era man, seriously. I can’t stop gushing over it. I was actually listening to the new Into It. Over It. record today and I think that’s pretty amazing. I also really loved the new Mountains for Clouds record, “Maybe It’s Already Everywhere”.

The new My Bloody Valentine was pretty amazing, and so was the new Low and The National records. I also have to listen to the new Dismemberment Plan, Pusha T, Pearl Jam, and James Blake records, so I am not at liberty to give that trophy out yet haha.

ITTO? – And finally, tell us a secret no one else knows about another band?

JDV – Oh totally – Jamie from Prawn knows Snookie.

Andrew Stefano from Mountains for Clouds loves to play acoustic shows.

Keith Latinen from Empire! Empire! owns a mink coat that he got from “that emo money”.

Kevin Duquette of Topshelf Records has the best hair in emo.

ITTO? – Thanks!!!!!!!

For more Joie De Vivre greatness click here for their bandcamp/tumblr/facebook/twitter/Instagram

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