The Road to Pouzza Fest

Read Joelle’s insightful journal about her trip to Montreal’s Pouzza Fest – a both heartwarming and heartbreaking account of travelling thousands of miles for the love of punk rock.

Article by Joelle Laes.

Monday – May 14th

5AM

I wake up as if I’ve just been given the biggest fright of the century. Turns out it’s only my alarm.

I feel confused. Anxious. Almost in a state of panic. I need to rush and get to the airport.

After spending the weekend at El Topo Goes Loco and being home for two hours to pack before heading off to another gig to catch The Affect Heuristic again on Sunday, I had a slight panic when my Airbnb host failed to reply in a timely manner (according to my standards). I had a bit of a meltdown once back home and turned to the only people I know to keep me sane no matter what: the Punk Rock Women’s group. Lots of love and reassurance later, I finally managed to fall asleep. This morning: still no reply. No time to call him, as I run for the train.

7.30 AM

“You could be stuck an office with a guy wearing a tie telling you what to do. You are living the fucking dream,” Richie Cooper (Eat Dirt.) comments on my obligatory Facebook airport-check in.

Am I? Living the dream? I can’t tell as I’m stood queueing at Brussels Airport, stressed out to fuck. I haven’t had a proper sleep in weeks (too many festivals and work); I still feel a bit fragile after the boozy blinding madness that was El Topo Goes Loco.

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Shout Louder vs. The Affect Heuristic antics at El Topo Goes Loco

I could use a cuddle to be fair. Or a straight jacket. That might feel like I’m being hugged too? I don’t know. I feel like I might cry.

I am tired, stressed out and alone. Why do I do this to myself? The pity party continues on and I contemplate sitting in a bathroom stall to have a cry. Could I still be hungover from the weekend? Or is this another case of post-trip-depression?

Whilst I make my way through border control, my phone buzzes. It’s my Airbnb host. He confirms the booking and tells me where to find the keys. The tight feeling in my chest loosens a little bit. At least I won’t be sleeping outside in a fort made of pizza boxes. I can breathe a little again.

Moments later I get a PM off a good friend: “Lovely to see you this weekend, don’t have too much fun in Canada x” I sense a stupid grin appearing on my face. I feel my muscles relax as I think of where I’m headed and why I’m heading there.

I’m about to embark on an adventure some can only dream of, about to spend money I don’t have on things that most adults consider irresponsible. Sometimes I think, should I be spending this much money on punk rock? Is It worth all the stress and anxiety?

Does my Mom worry? Absolutely. After all, if you are somewhere on your own, the only person you can rely on is yourself. But it is worth every ounce of stress it gives me. Like me, my Mom’s come to accept that this is the only way I can make myself happy.

Never have I forged more genuine bonds with people as when I’m singing along to bands, surrounded by people who love them just as much as me. It doesn’t matter if we don’t live around the corner from each other, there is a connection there that some people will never understand. Looking into other people’s eyes, seeing that moment of pure joy when they hear their favourite song. Watching bands pour their heart out on stage; these moments mean everything to me. In these moments I am truly happy. Continue reading “The Road to Pouzza Fest”

The Affect Heuristic: Melodic Hardcore’s Best Kept Secret [Interview]

Scottish/Belgian melodic hardcore newbies The Affect Heuristic are the most exciting thing to happen so far in 2018.

Interview by Joelle Laes / Intro by Sarah Williams.

The Affect Heuristic are one of the single most exciting things to happen so far in 2018. They teased a short burst of Tightrope last year, before releasing an absolutely stunning split with Money Left To Burn in February. This is a record that deserves to be spun to breaking point; we’ve had it on non-stop since we got our hands on it.

Shout Louder aired an exclusive stream of Vs because we think it’s the most exciting record we’ve heard all year. It’s now out in a gorgeous digipack format on Lockjaw Records. If you haven’t heard it yet, you need it in your life. It’s intricate, technical melodic hardcore with a sweet twist of metal, erring more on the side of Shai Hulud or Between The Buried and Me, but maintaining all the wider appeal of Darko or F.O.D.. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s been mixed by PMX’s John Harcus, so the end product is tight as fuck.

Conveniently, Shout Louder’s writer and Less Talk More Records’ lovely Joelle happens to live with The Affect Heuristic’s guitarist Dave Gourlay, so he was easy to pin down for an interview.

Hello. I know you quite well but maybe our readers don’t. Can you introduce yourself? Who are you, what is your role in the band?

I’d like to just kick this off by saying it’s a real honour to be doing this. I bloody LOVE Shout Louder and what you’re all doing for punk and music in general. Podcasts are a tour de force of relevance, bizarre ranting and comedy. (All credit to Sarah!)

Now, to business. Hiya, I’m Dave, I play guitar and awkwardly fumble with any dates we’re given to the point of utter confusion of everyone else in the band.

Hi Dave. Congrats on your first release!

Oooh! Thanks so much for the enjoyment of the finished record! Glad you’re digging it after hearing it ad nauseum while I wrote it in our flat.

The fact that I still enjoy it after having to sit through it a million times shows how brilliant it is. I rather enjoyed watching it come to life.

Seriously surprised at that.

I’m not.

I’m more excited about the launch of the hot sauce than anything else. Bernie Bumhole is an aptly named winner. It actually dissolves toilets. First time I had it, I left teeth marks in the sink. If you didn’t pre-order it, you’ll have to wait to try it.

I’ve heard it numbs buttholes to the point where you can’t tell if you’re farting or not. Risky business that.

Every fart’s a gamble. It’s sneaky cause it can be a slow burner. It definitely isn’t slow the next day.

Yes, I’ve seen your face change and run for the bathroom a few times…

Apart from that time I sharted on the chair.

May it rest in peace in the tip.

Now let me ask the obvious questions first. You and the singer (Sean) are from Scotland. You’ve lived in Belgium for a few years and you’re about to move back to the UK. The rest of the band is Belgian. How does that work? How do you write songs or rehearse?

So far as writing and rehearsing goes, I’ll have to really knuckle down and start demoing more. I absolutely hate that stage of writing cause I can’t play it tight yet and hearing all those duff notes drives me mental. But this is going to be key.

I absolutely love those spontaneous moments we have in the room together where I have an idea and by the end of practice, we have a song (in this case, Tightrope). But this is a double edged sword, since I can sit down with Sean and involve him waaaay more while maintaining a regular actual practice schedule with the band back in Belgium.

So we’ll demo everything, do our homework and hopefully by tour time, it’ll all be sorted. They’re incredible boys, they never disappoint.

So you’ll be going back and forth to rehearse?

As much as I can. Ideally I’d like to get over twice a month. Or once a month but a full weekend of rehearsals. Practice is everything.

Ooft! Expensive! So if people want more new music, they better go buy your CD to help fund trips, eh?!

You are the main songwriter, correct? What is your writing process like?

Incorrect! I usually come up with a cool little lead riff and maybe a few other parts, we go over it in the room til we’re all happy. Or I write stuff I can’t play in Guitar Pro and pitch it to the band. Guitar Pro is both an amazing song writing tool and a curse (give me free stuff Guitar Pro).

Those bloody midi tracks… Very enjoyable.
Who have been your main influences as a songwriter? Who do you look up to?

I love guitarists like Billy Corgan, Erik Mongrain, Noel Gallagher, James Dean Bradfield, Graham Coxon but the guy that really kicked it all off for me was Matt Fox. I saw Shai Hulud for the first time and I was just glued to his hands. No-one on the planet can mix aggression and melody like he can. He really got me started on the through-composed, endless riffing, weird chords thing. (Note: check out Shai Hulud Food Puns on Facebook)

I also worship Paul Waggoner of Between the Buried and Me and Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan. I have many guitar heroes but we’ll keep it PG for now. The only real, ‘punk’ guitarists I’ve ever truly worshipped have been Jake Kiley and Jackson Mould.

What type of music do you listen to when writing? Does it differ?

Anything but punk of any kind. Mainly techy/metal bands like Animals As Leaders, The Helix Nebula, Within The Ruins, (old) Veil of Maya, Black Dahlia Murder, etc. I also love all the pop music. J-Pop, old school rap, grime and that. I am fully down wit da yoof. Notable mentions go to Save Us from The Archon and CHON.

Now, moving on to the actual songs…Those lyrics, wow. My heart broke. When it comes to mental health there’s still a lot of stigma and taboos, especially when it comes to men’s mental health. What’s the core message you want to deliver with these lyrics?

Sean would be the best person to answer this since he wrote those lyrics but I can definitely relate. Toxic masculinity on the whole is just another part of the bullshit patriarchal society that should be dying out.

The idea that we’re so near the technological singularity and I can get pizza from a train station vending machine 24hrs a day but we still have gender inequity is a wholly archaic notion along with DVDs, shoes with wheels in or getting slapped for crying at a film and called a ‘poof’ (has never put me off The Outsiders or Stand By Me). It’s fucking laughable. Examples of this are everywhere and we can only do our best to be better and to do better. Writing songs about it is a definite start.

How has music affected your own mental health?

I’ve been pretty up and down lately. I suffer from depression and anxiety and this band has been a massive help in controlling my loud brain. There’s a real catharsis in playing/writing music. It gives me something to focus on and control when everything else around me seems to spiralling into oblivion.

If it wasn’t for music, I probably would’ve hurt myself a long time ago. Which isn’t good.
But it comes with its hazards. I get the worst post-show/tour blues. I hit a really rough patch especially after tours, particularly when I was trapped in that dead end job. Mind that? Carpets and the people who clean them are shit.

I think it’s quite common amongst musicians:you’re on the road, hanging out with like-minded and wonderful people, only to come home and be treated like what you’re doing is, ‘Not real’ if you get me?

Kind of… it’s like post-trip depression for me, only a hundred times worse I assume.

We probably feel it the exact same. Going back to the real world after an experience like that is soul crushing.

It really is.

Your first gig was at the Bonsai Mammoth anniversary party in Guildford in February. It was amazing. What are your plans as a band for the rest of this year? I see you have a weekender in Belgium planned (El Topo Goes Loco/Brak&Skate) But you also mentioned ‘Tour-time’?

Yeah! That first show with Darko was just unbelievable, what a great weekend. That day was so nerve wracking! All the best bands and us singing about monkeys, it was scary and utterly amazing.

And El Topo is going to be an awesome party! Jason and the crew have really outdone themselves this year and I’m seriously happy to be opening cause that means I can watch bands and have a Gincident.

NO INJURIES PLEASE! Some explanation: our best friend split her knee in half and broke some ribs at El Topo (2017) whilst watching The Human Project. There was a pool of blood, some duct tape and a visit to the doctor the next day for stitches. Since referred to as the “Gincident”.

No! The original Gincident was when Byatt (No Contest) got leathered at Balloonfabrik in Augsberg on gin/radler and he fell out the van while trying to puke and he cut himself to ribbons. And landed in his puke.

Wonderful! We’re getting off track here. Back to the plans!

As for the rest of the year, we have a show in Glasgow in June then in July, we’re touring the mainland the 10 days leading up to KNRD (10th – 21st). We have some dates available, just get in touch if you want us to noise you up. We’re on the road with Head Honcho from Seattle. Ananananada is a KNRD regular and a wonderful guy. Cannot wait to introduce him to Slovenian Schnapps!

Love Ananda. Great news! If you had to pick one band that is your collective favourite, who would it be?

This is actually pretty impossible. We all listen to different yet similar things.
Collectively…Might be Vengaboys.

Excellent choice. Can’t go wrong with that.

They like to party, I hear.

Tell us something about TAH we don’t know yet…

We’re heading into the studio this Saturday to start recording drums for the album.

I already knew that.

Yeah, you do cause we’re roomies… for the next couple of weeks.

Ahh, don’t blow my cover now!

Mimimi. You’re too nosey for your own good.

…Shut up Dave. When can we expect this new album? How far along are you?

You can expect it next year, would be awesome to have it ready to go on the one year anniversary of the, ‘Vs’ release but we’ll just have to see. We’re still very much writing it but we’re ready to start the process so that’s always good. Either way we’ll be looking at 10-12 songs, some of which are monkey themed.

Awesome! If there is one Scottish saying you’d like our readers to know about, what would it be?

We’ll cover, “Hee-Haw” which is what you get when you’re not getting anything.

“He who hingeth aboot getteth hee-haw”

Exactly. Long may your Still Game obsession continue. Just try not to force it upon Belgians or Southerners again. It doesn’t work.

I tried and failed miserably.

Zat us?

That’s plenty. Thanks for taking time out of your busy guitaring-schedule to answer my questions.

Thanks to you for taking the time. And thanks again to everyone at Shout Louder for liking the songs and sharing and mentions and all that, very much appreciated.

Nae bother.

Pick up a copy of Vs, the split from Money Left To Burn and The Affect Heuristic, from Lockjaw Records now. It could well be the best thing you hear all year.

Album Review: Waterweed – Brightest

The new album from Japan’s Waterweed is the perfect mix of heavy and melodic, due for release on Lockjaw Records in April.

Review by Joëlle Laes.

“I have something you might like”, Sarah said. To say I was excited to review Waterweed’s Brightest is an understatement. I’ve been trying to get my hands on it since it came out in 2017 but outside of Japan it’s nearly impossible to find. Thanks to Lockjaw Records it’ll be widely available in Europe from April 6th!

That’s not all: this Japanese band will embark on their first European tour in April as well. They’ll start off in the UK and head to the mainland as well to play in the Netherlands, France, Czech Republic and Germany. Audiences can expect to be floored by their heavy approach to melodic hardcore… it’s a rare opportunity to enjoy bands from the thriving Japanese punk scene on our Western shores. This is a do not miss.

I must say I’m already a Waterweed fan. I am quite fond of their earlier records but was a bit worried when I heard mixed things about Brightest. “They became soft. It’s too poppy. It’s not fast enough,” some fans said. As far as I’m concerned, they are dead wrong. This album is a perfect mix of heavy and melodic.

The first song Red Eyes definitely sets the pace, though the tracks that follow appeal to me far more. From the second track Beyond The Ocean onward, the album becomes a lot more melodic and the vocal harmonies flow together smoothly, which leaves me excited for what’s left to come on the album. Continue reading “Album Review: Waterweed – Brightest”

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.

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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”