Instant Reply Culture… And Why I Haven’t Replied To Your Messages

Expecting an instant response is part of the way we work in 2020, but is it asking too much? Sarah explores why she’s left you on read.

Written by Sarah Williams.

I walk around every day carrying a dizzyingly-advanced dystopian-sci-fi computer in my pocket. Every day, I clock up multiple hours of screen time and I send countless messages. I am constantly connected… and yet I frequently fail to connect.

I am notoriously bad at replying to messages… and emails, phone calls, comments and voice notes especially. Honestly, I fear listening to voice notes in case it’s someone yelling at me, because the written word wouldn’t suffice to convey their anger. This is an entirely irrational thought, but it’s there nonetheless.

Continue reading “Instant Reply Culture… And Why I Haven’t Replied To Your Messages”

Punk Rock and Mindful Hope

Mark McConville reflects on the importance of punk rock in uncertain times, and its power to mentally uplift us.

Written by Mark McConville. Cover photo by Cold Front Photography.

Punk rock can save us from the mundanity of life. It can aid us in silencing the demons at large who thrust their voices in our heads.

They say punk is a lifestyle, one which only some can endure. That’s not true, as punk is a universal genre of music and culture, instilled in the framework of this breaking planet. To be truthful, punk is needed more than ever in these unprecedented times where animosity is overthrowing human affection. People are changing, they’re frightened, which is understandable, but love has been undermined by stupidity and panic.

Punk rock isn’t a cure, nor is it a foundation to lay problems upon. What it does is create collaborations amongst musicians and writers, even in virtual terms. It also has the charm to build friendships and conversations.  

Continue reading “Punk Rock and Mindful Hope”

Volunteers: The Unsung Heroes of Manchester Punk Fest

Manchester Punk Festival is a large multi-venue festival taking place in April each year. Remaining fervently DIY, it is staffed by a dedicated volunteers who come back every year. As part of that group, Sarah endeavoured to find out what makes MPF’s volunteer team so special. 

Article by Sarah Williams, originally written for the Manchester Punk Festival 2020 programme. 

The heart of DIY is a willingness to dedicate your time and energy for the love of punk. While MPF is run by a collective, there’s a supportive group of volunteers working behind the scenes at the event: packing and selling merchandise, running the stages, looking after the bands, wrist-banding and making sure that you’re having the best festival possible.

The volunteers are such a crucial part of this weekend, we wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” says Kaz Hinsley, who helps to head up the volunteer team. “Each and every person that helps in some way really does make the weekend run more smoothly.”

Volunteering at MPF is unlike volunteering at any other event. Everyone pitches in a few hours, with a big grin on their face, proud to be helping the festival run without a hitch. It’s a stark contrast to commercial festivals, where volunteering can mean struggling through a six hour shift on a comedown, covered in glitter and mud, doing the bare minimum to earn yourself a ticket. MPF’s volunteers are all keen to see that the festival operates at the highest standard possible. Continue reading “Volunteers: The Unsung Heroes of Manchester Punk Fest”

Advice for Surviving Lockdown from Someone Who’s Overcome Severe Depression

#MentallySound: tips for managing coronavirus panic and isolation, from someone’s who’s survived their own mental hell

Written by Sarah Williams. Gratuitous cat photos by Cold Front Photography

As stricter rules have been imposed by government in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, my anxious friends and I have joked that ‘normies’ will suddenly know what it’s like to feel mad all the time.

Anxiety: sweats, shakes, racing thoughts, imagining impending catastrophe. Depression: solitude, sadness and worthlessness. We’re being told that if we don’t wash out hands well enough, it might kill our Nan. We’re scared to leave the house. There’s an omnipresent, invisible threat, lurking around waiting to take us out. Coronavirus panic has an awful lot in common with good ol’ run-of-the-mill depression. Continue reading “Advice for Surviving Lockdown from Someone Who’s Overcome Severe Depression”

Knife Club: The Power of Hype Marketing

We explore the intentions and hype of punk rock’s new, secret band Knife Club.

Written by Sarah Williams.

It’s likely that by now you’ll have heard of Knife Club. Their distinctive switchblade graphics and their provocative ‘#WhoAreKnifeClub?’ hashtag have been spread across social media since August 2019.

They have been announced to play enviable slots on big name festivals like Manchester Punk Fest and Rebellion, plus a smattering of club gigs, beginning with a spot high up the bill at April’s edition of Garlic Bread Club at Manchester’s Retro Bar

How is it possible for a band to exist, get bookings, tease an album recording and create so much controversy… without anyone knowing who they are? Continue reading “Knife Club: The Power of Hype Marketing”

Press Club: The Transformative Power of an Album

Sarah discusses the joy of falling in love with ‘Wasted Energy’, the new album from frenetic Melbourne indie-punks Press Club.

Article by Sarah Williams.

It’s a rare and unique pleasure to discover an album that soundtracks a passage of your life. 

We’re swimming in music videos, live streams and status updates; bombarded with new music every day; our tastes made by algorithms and cookie-crumbs of personalised advertising. Where technology has opened the gates of production to any guitarist with a half-decent laptop, for listeners it’s created an overwhelming and (as much as we’d hate to admit it) often disposable deluge of singles and playlists.

Previously a big collector, even I have eschewed buying CDs and vinyl since I’ve had Spotify readily available on my phone. The majority of my listening takes places via playlists, either ones I’ve made myself or those curated by people I respect. Playlists are an exciting voyage of musical discovery and appeal to the romantic tradition of making mix tapes, but it’s a fast-paced and high-volume form of listening.

My life reflects my listening. I’m constantly on the verge of burn-out: trying to squeeze too many things into my waking hours. I listen to a vast amount of new music in the search for something genuinely interesting, but rarely do I take the time to fully absorb a new release. 

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Press Club have infiltrated my life in secret, and become the key to pressing the pause button when I need it. I saw them a couple of times earlier in the year, at Manchester Punk Festival and Groezrock. There’s no denying that they’re an exceptional band: everyone’s saying it and the jam-packed rooms of fans prove it. 

When Wasted Energy was released on 16 August 2019, I was excited. Moreover, my social timelines exploded with ‘album of the year’ accolades from peers I respect.  

I listened and I thought, “This is great, but I’m not sure it deserves the hype.”

Forever plagued by a snobbish and insecure habit of falling out-of-love with a band whenever they become successful (I’m talking about The Offspring, Green Day and Frank Turner here, not your local DIY heroes), I worried this old malady has come back to haunt me.

Despite my initial lack of excitement, I’ve found myself listening to Wasted Energy a lot. When someone pops round for tea, I stick it on in the background, as it’s easy to listen to. At work, I’ve put it on for the same reason – it’s good and inoffensive. In the car, it’s a great soundtrack to a long drive with a picky passenger.

Slowly, but surely, Wasted Energy crept into my life, gaining a slow-burn of repeat listens and charring an imprint on my daily consciousness.  Until, on my way to work, I realised it’s my instant first choice when I open my library of music. I’m mouthing the words on public transport in that mildly embarrassing but fuck-it-I’m-hardly-the-maddest-person-on-the-bus way.

The album had become background listening for me but, one day suddenly Behave with its impassioned refrain, “Behave, just like a woman,” stood out to me. On the first few listens to Wasted Energy, Behave hadn’t shone particularly brightly, but once I was deeply wrapped in Press Club’s sound it suddenly exploded when I finally took the time to listen.

Now I’m picking up Wasted Energy multiple times as a day, feeling its embrace like a warm blanket, synesthesia sparking muted autumnal auburns and forest greens in my head when I listen. At a time when my life is changing, Wasted Energy is holding my hand, helping me with the transition. When I listen to it, I feel renewed. 

The future is that I’ll play it to death, bordering on the point of private obsession. Like Fair Do’sLeopards and Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth in 2018 and 2017 respectively, I’ll repeat Wasted Energy until I know every intimate minutiae. Then I’ll drop it and it’ll become a warm shadow of that period of my life, intertwined with memories, smells and feelings of the autumn.

Self-described as, “The musical embodiment of the attitude of a generation experiencing impermanence in every way,” Press Club understand my passing obsession with their sound. It’s a theme on the album, through Obsession and Thinking About You.

All their recordings are put to tape live, using a console from the 70’s, rooting their recordings in a familiar, rich warmth, like a favourite jumper, whilst also capturing a transient sense of urgency. It’s the vintage sound that allows Press Club to stand out in a flood of new music. While fresh, frenetic and full of power, the guitars hark back to 90’s grunge, the rhythm conjures flashbacks of blurry basement shows, and the vocals call out glimpses of soul and timeless icons. Natalie Foster’s voice is a love affair in vocal form. 

Now, three months after its release, I can’t even begin to fathom how an album could top Wasted Energy in 2019. It’s a time stamp on this passage of my life, and a repeat listen in ten years will instantly bring back these autumn memories.

Here’s the self-care I’d recommend for you today: find yourself an album and fall in love with it.

To experience the joy for yourself, you can pick up Wasted Energy on one of the most attractive vinyl pressings I’ve ever seen from a range of outlets. It’s out on Hassle Records now. 

Territorial Pissings: Infuriating Queues To Women’s Loos

Em Johnson condemns the insufficient toilet provisions for women; getting pissed off about pissing whilst getting pissed in a brewery.

Guest article written by Em Johnson, who promotes shows in Manchester under the name Bomb Ibiza.

“Because I was an alien, toilets were not prevalent.”

Queuing for bathrooms. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? That rush as the interval nears, as the band finishes, or as the seat belt sign comes off on a plane. That desperate drive to get in the queue. The knowledge that if you don’t get in early you will be trapped for twenty minutes of dead time and awkward chat.

Oh wait. Maybe we haven’t all been there. Women reading this are probably nodding. Many men have probably discarded this as an irrelevance to them, or cracked jokes about women taking longer because of putting on lipstick or gossiping (thanks to those who haven’t). Because guess what? Toilets are a feminist issue. Continue reading “Territorial Pissings: Infuriating Queues To Women’s Loos”

Top 10 Tips For Writing A Fanzine

“The biggest and best thing about a DIY zine is having the freedom to do and say exactly what you want. There are no rules and nobody to answer to so the possibilities are endless.”

Rob Stone has been working tirelessly on the brilliant Positive Creed Fanzine since 2001. In that time, he’s experienced the joys and harsh realities of DIY publishing, and he’s kindly shared this guide… for punks who aren’t afraid of a few papercuts.

Before I begin this article I would just like to make it clear that I do not regard the following list as any kind of rule book or structure to writing a zine. It is merely a catalogue of things that I have learnt over the twenty years that I have been involved in DIY publishing. I also do not consider myself as any kind of authority on the subject. I have made a lot of mistakes during that time, discovered some utterly fantastic music and made contact with some extremely talented people. I hope that the following will help people out and perhaps inspire some of you to produce your own fanzine. Good luck.

10: Safety In Numbers

It’s important to carry enthusiasm but don’t allow yourself to get carried away whilst organising your first issue. Start off small and get a good feel for the potential sales that are possible. Perhaps begin with 50 copies and then gradually work your way up with each issue.

9: Research

When I use the word research, I am coming from the angle of putting together interview questions. I have read more zines than I can remember over the past twenty years and have come across many interviews where a zine editor has managed to arrange an interview with an interesting band/musician, only to ask the most basic and mundane questions.

If your approach to writing questions is lazy and soulless then there’s every chance that the answers will return to you lacking in substance. With the internet and social media now at hand, there is no reason why you can’t delve into the history of a band and construct in-depth questions. This will not only get you a better response, but it will also give your readers a far better insight into your subject. Continue reading “Top 10 Tips For Writing A Fanzine”

Unsent Text Messages & Neglected Friendships

Notes from a downward spiral: Alan shares a relatable tale of the numb listlessness and anhedonia that comes with a bout of depression.

This article written by Alan Corcoran is part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music. Trigger warning: depression.

Mostly I just feel paralysed. If my head was in a better place I’d probably think that sounded melodramatic, but for now the only feeling is a lack of feeling. Options stack up in front of me. Impossible options. I cannot make any decisions today.

I know there’s work to be done. Life admin. Basic stuff. Exercise would be good. Shaving and a shower are definitely on both a mental and physical list. Relationships of every kind are going untended. Texts. Gigs. Invites to celebrations. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

A gnawing in my stomach reminds me that I’m at least still capable of some feeling. Anxiety, like a snake in a particularly on-the-nose fable, sidles up to wrap itself around in an embrace. Breathing exercises can get fucked, I can’t breathe. A headache fog fills my brain. Continue reading “Unsent Text Messages & Neglected Friendships”

The Thriving Culture of DIY Publishing & Fanzines

“DIY publishing is anyone who has ever taken an idea and made it a reality.” Martin Appleby shares a love of punk fanzines and independent publishing.

Guest article written by Martin Appleby. Martin is a Hastings-based poet and writer, and the founder of Paper & Ink Literary Zine: a high-quality collection of fiction and poetry. Catch Martin performing at Manchester Punk Festival at 13:00 in The Thirsty Scholar.

Fanzines are as old as punk itself, and have always been an integral part of the scene, especially in pre-Internet times: an open and unbiased resource for spreading the word about new bands, albums and gigs. A cheap and easy format to make and distribute.

You may think that the format is now obsolete and unnecessary, what with the world wide web at everybody’s fingertips, but zines and zine culture is thriving, and the internet has not hampered that.

If anything, it can act as a formidable marketing tool for zine makers, now able to reach a far wider audience than they arguably could have ‘back in the day’ when zines were only shared at shows and amongst friends in their own scenes.

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Many punk zines have come and gone over the years, but a personal favourite of mine, Lights Go Out, has been consistently putting issues out since 2008. I recently caught up with the dude who runs it, Mr T, and asked him about his zine:

“For me it’s an important part of the scene; it’s an honest opinion. It’s a way to find new bands for people and also for me, with the amount of stuff that comes in for the team to check out, I always hope that every record is going to be my new favourite. Continue reading “The Thriving Culture of DIY Publishing & Fanzines”