Gig Review: Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth Anniversary Bonanza @ The Boileroom

Featuring: Actionmen, PMX, Drones, Fair Do’s, The Affect Heuristic and many more!

Review by Joëlle Laes. Photos/videos by Mirjam van Reijen, plus some snaps from Joëlle.

After so much anticipation created by the advent calendar announcements via social media, I couldn’t wait for the Bonsai Mammoth anniversary all-dayer, hosted by Darko, an event celebrating a year since the release of their epic debut album. Every announcement seemed like a gift that was personally selected for me. “You like this band? OK cool, we’ll book them.” Thanks guys. Perfect lineup.

26731070_10156148207607873_6453732130473442402_n

Some of my friends decided to get the ferry over the UK from Belgium, and I was lucky enough to snatch a seat in the car. Getting up at 5am the day before to make the trip over and paying a fortune for a hotel was a bit of a faff, but hanging out with friends and seeing fantastic bands makes up for the lack of sleep and the hole in my wallet. After a good night’s sleep, it was time.

It couldn’t have started better than with a Punk Rock Yoga Session by Jo from Bad Juju Yoga! I, however, got my myself in gear too late and missed it.

Though 2pm seemed like an early start for most attendees, the room filled up nicely for the first set of the day. Darko kicked off their anniversary all-dayer by playing Bonsai Mammoth in its entirety (Sarah recently talked to the band about it – check out the interview here). Watching them, for once completely sober and still half asleep, was an experience to remember. With nothing clouding your judgement, you begin to realise how darn good they actually are. Mesmerised by their guitarwork and vocal harmonies, head bopping commenced amongst the crowd. It definitely set me up for a good mood the rest of the day.

Totally new to me, Wild Tales follow them in getting people hooked by some more indie-ish, danceable tunes and good vibes. This new project from members of Trails and Atiptoe are rather different from the rest of the lineup, in a good way. I was sad to see that they don’t have any music online yet, however I’ve been told this bunch from Guildford will have an EP out soon.

The moment I had personally been waiting for finally arrived. The Affect Heuristic, a band consisting of both Belgian and Scottish members, started setting up for their first gig ever. It’s a strange feeling seeing them live for the first time after witnessing the whole writing process happen in my house. It’s safe to say the crowd was blown away by this shredfest, intertwined with Scottish banter and deep lyrics. The tracks Against The Grain, which addresses toxic masculinity, and Tightrope hit especially hard. For those eager to listen, you can check out two demo tracks here. Continue reading “Gig Review: Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth Anniversary Bonanza @ The Boileroom”

All Talk #2: Are You Trying Hard Enough?

Mark Bartlett dissects the magic of recording, songwriting democracy and why we should all contribute to the art we enjoy.

Check Out: All Talk #1: What’s The Point Of Being In A DIY Punk Band?

Hi, I’m Mark Bartlett, lead singer of obscure London emo/pop-punk/post-hardcore/whatever-punks Our Lives In Cinema.

Bands, let’s all examine our work ethic for a moment…

I want to look as excited as I actually feel but I’m just really, really sleepy (and still recovering from a nasty bout of flu). It’s the first of 5 days of recording our new EP All Talk at The Clubhouse in Tunbridge Wells with Ricky Beetlestone. The spirit is absolutely willing but there are giant fuck-off bags under my eyes and a tired rashness to my cheeks that’s making me look like Phil Mitchell at peak booziness.

27661757_2036906659915145_471384418_n.jpg

I finished work at 2am last night, which meant I was forced to get the N199 night bus outside Charing Cross with all the pissed up Friday night misfits, thus eventually crawling into bed at 3:45am. This isn’t ideal for a 7:45 wake-up time. To be fair, I don’t have to do anything today apart from be here and give approving nods and dismissive headshakes.

I know absolutely fuck all about the technical aspects of the recording process so, after meeting all round nice chap Ricky and lugging a few drum bits around, I snuggled into the leather sofa at the back to try and have a nap. Actually, I did pause to be suitably impressed by the monolithic mixing desk, which seemingly had 500 different dials and doohickeys that a luddite like myself could never comprehend.

27721145_2036906656581812_1602321800_n.jpg

Despite my sleepiness (that I hope didn’t come off as apathetic rudeness to our new producer friend), I am excited. This is the best part of being in a band. We’re making a record; it’s going into the digital cloud to live forever and provide some evidence to future society about exactly who their silly ancestors were.

And this is where the internal panic sets in and confidence turns to doubt. Are all the parts up to scratch? Are the songs too long? Will people hate my voice as much as I do? Are the lyrics cringey? Is this the best we can do? Continue reading “All Talk #2: Are You Trying Hard Enough?”

Album Review: Actionmen / Dead Neck – Defections (Split)

This split from Italy’s Actionmen and Manchester’s Dead Neck is an exciting and rare fast-punk find. FFO: Strung Out, Millencolin, Mr Bungle and having your mind blown.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Actionmen are a band that defy description. I’ve heard this Italian group called punk, funk, thrash, gypsy and psychedelia, which barely begins to sum up the fantastic, frenetic racket they make. Their sound is a flabbergasting melting-pot of different genre influences, although ultimately there’s the heart of a melodic hardcore band beating fast underneath it all. This is where they converge with Dead Neck, who are a similar melodic hardcore band from Manchester, with more traditional skate-punk influences evident in their intensely fast songs. Although Dead Neck don’t share Actionment’s flagrant disregard for genres, the two divergent sounds gel well together on this diamond of a split.

Actionmen are up first on the CD, which features four songs from each band. Opener Lion is the single they’ve chosen to stream ahead of the release, presumably because it’s the most accessible of their four tracks. The punk element is incorporated via machine-gun drumming under every second, however the guitars and vocal have more in common with trippy ‘indie’ rock sensibilities. There’s a depth in the distorted words, so gentle and slow in comparison to the percussion, that’s deeply appealing.

Born To Be High opens with a slightly mad little guitar riff. The combination of instruments and paces paints an intricate soundscape in your mind, like an artist daubing varied brushstrokes across your cerebellum, leaving you unsure whether to dance or nod appreciatively. Flowers has more traditional musical structure, nonetheless incorporating a variety of slightly disparate sounds, particularly in the higher-pitched guitar. Actionmen have a progressive approach to composition that borrows from a lot of different influences, bouncing between tones and time signatures with abandon, and yet they tie it together in a way that sound completely natural, flowing beautifully. It’s no surprise, considering two of the band are jazz musicians outside of this project, something which is clear in the skill and freedom of their songs.

If there’s one thing that unites the two bands on this, then it’s a love to short, fast songs. Actionmen’s contributions to the record are all within the under-two-minutes bracket, apart from C’est Dada which is by far the strongest (and maddest) song on the record. It begins with a staccato guitar part that grips your ears, before delving into a short punk section. The riff returns later on in an almost call-and-response section, that’s oddly reminiscent of the Mario Kart soundtrack (in a good way). The song descends into odd guitar twiddling that’s unusual but also intensely appealing.

Continue reading “Album Review: Actionmen / Dead Neck – Defections (Split)”

Album Review: Only Strangers (S/T)

Agonisingly good gruff, melodic punk rock with hooks aplenty. FFO: Hot Water Music, Iron Chic, Leatherface and Leagues Apart.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

One thing that punk rock needs is to be delivered with passion. It’s the passion that separates punk from guitar-based pop and stops bands sounding like Blink 182. Stoke-on-Trent 4-piece Only Strangers ooze passion from every pore on their debut full length album. Since their inception in 2010, the band have honed their craft with some independently released EPs and a split release with Liverpool’s Pardon Us, but it’s this album, on Manchester-based Horn And Hoof Records, that should and, I’m confident, will put them on the map.

Punk rock is a many hued genre, from the indecipherable noise of bands such as Chaos UK and Extreme Noise Terror, to Fugazi’s dub-infused grooves to Siouxsie And The Banshee’s gothic drama to NOFX’s nasal thrash. Only Strangers sit firmly in the middle ground with an excellent set of emotionally charged, high-energy punk rock songs. Taking their cue from punk rock Americana, Only Strangers are the UK’s answer to Hot Water Music. The similarity cannot be denied but does that matter? When a band releases as strong a bunch of songs as this, that bristles with a sense of urgency and energy as this does, then that is what counts. Let’s face it, if you’re going to be compared to another band it may as well be an awesome one. That said, beyond the quality of this release, Only Strangers show a huge amount of future potential and will continue to grow and develop into a world class band.

Continue reading “Album Review: Only Strangers (S/T)”

Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In February

February has a landslide of shows to bust you out of your January drought in style!

Article by Sarah Williams.

Thank fuck January is over. The darkest month is always a death note for gigs. People are too busy pretending that they’re going to save money, stop boozing or start dieting, when in reality we’re all cramming our faces with leftover Christmas chocolates and eyeing up the crème de menthe. No wonder it’s the month we’re most likely to off ourselves.

Fortunately, February is absolutely chock-a-block with noisy fun times. I’m double-booked on three of the four weekends and curating my top gigs was a right mission. I hope you all appreciate the effort and, in turn, make the effort to get down to one of these splendid shows.

Now, firstly, some shameless self-promotion. I’m not going to announce a Gig of The Month in February because I’m a tad biased…

Actionmen & PMX UK Tour

  • When: February 1st-4th
  • Where: Manchester, Ipswich, Guildford, Portsmouth
  • Who: Actionmen and PMX are playing with the likes of Darko, Fair Dos, Riggots, Drones and many more.

The first weekend of February sees four gigs from two incredible bands, including one hosted by Shout Louder in Ipswich.

Actionmen are an Italian trio who you’ll rarely catch in the UK. Deciding how to describe them is a bit of a challenge, so you best come check them out for yourselves. Fast-punk, metal, funk, psychadelia, garage, utter craziness? All of these things are good. Apparently ‘post-melodic hardcore’ is a term made up purely for them. You know the general rule that if a band have travelled from mainland Europe to play here it’s always worth seeing them? That rule has never applied more. They’ve been flooring audiences since 2000 and, if you’ve not caught them before, you’d be a fool to miss this opportunity.

PMX are also travelling all the way down from Scotland for four dates in England. If you’ve not heard me bang on about how great they are already, they’re a supremely talented bunch who’ve been peddling skate-punk and melodic hardcore for over 20 years. They’re preparing to release a new album this year and they’ll no doubt play plenty from their recent EP Dark Days. We had an exclusive interview with them last weekend, check it out: Part One and Part Two.

We also interviewed Darko who will be playing our show in Ipswich on February 2nd. They have put together an incredible line up on February 3rd to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Bonsai Mammoth – definitely a worth the trip:

26731070_10156148207607873_6453732130473442402_n

If that’s a tad to far for you, you can catch them at any of the following shows:

Continue reading “Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In February”

All Talk #1: What’s The Point Of Being In A DIY Punk Band?

Mark Bartlett examines the trials and rewards of slogging away determinedly in punk scene, in the first of a new series of opinion pieces.

Hi, I’m Mark Bartlett, lead singer of obscure London emo-punks Our Lives In Cinema.

I’m currently in my bed. It’s raining outside; the wind is fucking noisy. I’m really tired and I’ve got a stinking cold. My eyeballs hurt as I’m writing, probably because I don’t own a computer and do all of my writing on the pages app on my phone.

I get myself pretty stressed out, and I feel like I have too much on my plate what with having a full time job (with very strange shift patterns) and all the demands associated with that. Next week my band is going into the studio to record EP no. 2 All Talk. We are also hosting a big charity fest/release party on March 3rd in Kingston, with some of my favourite UK bands. We are going to make new videos, get new merch and press ahead full steam with our plans for 2018.

27267755_2031898213749323_1030309845_o.jpg

When I get stressed out, my wife Ruth always asks why I don’t just drop a bunch of stuff (and get off my phone). After all… hobbies are supposed to be fun and relaxing right? I agreed. I resolved to quit social media and stop being such a try-hard, try to write some songs and be ‘off grid’ for a bit.

This lasted for one week max. A fortnight later, I’ve started organising a festival and taken on all the other stuff that comes with releasing a new record. This forced me to think about why I bother and what the overall point is. I think it’s important every now and then to re-examine why you’re in a band in the first place, give yourself a little bit of self-therapy and re-adjust your expectations accordingly. Continue reading “All Talk #1: What’s The Point Of Being In A DIY Punk Band?”

PMX Interview #2: Some Things Always Seem To Change

Part 2: Perth’s perennial prodigies PMX discuss their plans for 2018, X-Factor auditions and lament the loss of Myspace.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

Yesterday, in the first instalment of our 2-part interview with PMX, we got an exclusive look at their history as a band. Check out the article for all the ups and downs that coming of age in the skate-punk scene brings.

As we learned, PMX have been going for over 20 years, although that did include a hiatus and a few variations in their line-up. 2017 has been an especially busy year for them and 2018 is shaping up to be even bigger.

They have just announced the release of a single-session live album, Clochridgestone, on February 26th, the aim of which is to the fund the recording of a full-length studio album later in the year. They’re playing a run of dates with Actionmen in February (including one put on by Shout Louder on February 2nd at The Smokehouse in Ipswich), a handful of festivals, plus a jealous-making jaunt to Japan.

To get us up to speed, singer and guitarist John Harcus and I discussed how they’ve changed and what they have planned for the future.

Your priorities must have changed a lot since you got started 20 years ago. When you first started out as a band, what was your main aim?

To be honest, Pmx has always been about having fun and that priority has not changed to this day. We have always strived to better ourselves as musicians and get our music out there to like-minded individuals who enjoy the music we enjoy playing. It’s always been that way.

What would you say is your main priority for the band now?

To last another 20 years!

PMX live at Punkle Fester cred Alia Thomas 3.jpg

What’s been the highlight of your musical career?

Too many to mention. I’ll put my X-Factor audition at the bottom of that list! We have been lucky enough to play alongside some of our favourite bands and tour in places we never thought we would ever see, let alone play in. We hope to extend that list in coming years.

Hang on, X-Factor auditon?!

Long story short, when I was playing solo my mate Tom filmed this rad video of me playing two of my tracks live (below). At somepoint in 2012 I was emailed by some A&R type who saw the video, asking if I would like to come to London to play my tracks to some music producers at Sony Music. There wasn’t really much more info than that other than it could be for publishing, performing or TV.

I went, and when I got there found myself at the Sony Offices. They took me to this casting couch setup where I played live to them and they asked if I would be interested in going for auditions for X Factor. I thought, “Fuck it, you only live once”, so I went to the Free Mantle Media/Syco Offices, did the audition, then fucked off. Never heard from them again! Continue reading “PMX Interview #2: Some Things Always Seem To Change”