[Interview] Level Up Festival: Ska-punk is Alive and Skanking in South London

We had an in-depth chat with the collective of promoters working on the UK’s best ska-punk festival.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

Now in its second year, London’s Level Up Festival is proof that ska-punk certainly ain’t dead. Last year was a sold out skankstravanganza, but 2018’s line-up is even more exceptional, featuring the likes of Random Hand and Lightyear as headliners. In terms of DIY-level festivals, this by far the biggest and best ska-oriented event, taking place at New Cross Inn on July 20th – 22nd.

The event is an unusual collaboration between three promoters, bringing three distinct tastes to their bookings. Paul and Mike Smith who run Be Sharp are London based, with Paul spending his days as the Events Manager at the up-and-coming New Cross Inn. Chris Fishlock runs Bristol-based Fishlock Promotions, known for booking DIY all-dayers, including the well-known Fishstock event. Finally, Jason Berden brings his influence all the way from Belgium, where he also books the incredible El Topo Goes Loco Festival. We spoke to all of them, to get an in-depth insight into Level Up Festival.

LUP17
L-R: Paul Smith, Jason Berden, Chris Fishlock, Mike Smith

Level Up festival is looking incredible this year! Tell us what we can expect.

  • Paul: Some of the best bands in the world and happy faces. Last year was one of the most positive events I’ve been involved with, and that’s mostly down to everyone that travels from all over, purely to have a great time. The floor will be fine too.
  • Jason: Some old legends, such as Lightyear or Random Hand, making their return, as well as some of the best upcoming bands of the UK ska scene. I also added my fellow Belgians in Koala Commission to the Saturday bill, to show our island friends that the mainland scene is as strong as ever before!

Continue reading “[Interview] Level Up Festival: Ska-punk is Alive and Skanking in South London”

Guest Article: How To Prepare Your Merch for Festival Season

Guest Article: Random Hand’s Joe Tilston gives valuable advice on how to prepare your band’s merch set up, to make the most of summer’s festival season.

Guest Article by Joe Tilston, originally published at Merch Stall.

The weather is getting better, this can mean only one thing: festival season is upon us once more. Are you ready?

Is this your band’s first year playing a festival, or are you on your 10th run through the circuit? No matter how well versed you are, you need to give your merchandise preparation some serious thought. Too often I’ve found myself two weeks before the first big festival date of the year, and we haven’t got any new designs drawn (never mind ordered!), once again making an already stressful situation far more complicated than it needs to be.

So learn from the mistakes of those that have made them before you: prepare!

Keep it simple. It’s easy to get carried away on a merch stall at your own show or a support gig when there are only three bands, but at festivals all the pins, badges and lighters, bumper bonza deals and mega collections should disappear. You want to get through the queue as fast as you can, so show some restraint. If someone wants to haggle or make a deal, let them, but keep the options for people to look at. Simple: t-shirt price, CD price, vinyl price. Done.

Do you have a merch person available to join you? Have you made sure there is space for you to sell your merch; do you need to book it? Make sure whoever is selling your merch is able to spend most of the day there. People will be looking to buy merch all day, not just right after your set. That said, some festivals will only give you a small window to sell, so be prepared for that and communicate it on stage!
Continue reading “Guest Article: How To Prepare Your Merch for Festival Season”

Gig Review: Random Hand’s Comeback Show @ The Key Club, Leeds [17/04/2018]

Ska-core legends Random Hand return to the stage, with support from Mr Shiraz and Sounds of Swami.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos by Tom Marshall.

I’ve just walked out of a Random Hand gig drenched in sweat and spilled beer, having shouted my lungs hoarse and skanked non-stop for 45 minutes. It’s like 2013 all over again.

I can’t recall dancing quite so enthusiastically for a ska band since Random Hand went on hiatus in 2015; there are very few bands who give 110% live the way that they do at every single show. Tonight’s gig at the Key Club in their local city of Leeds is a special return to form ahead of a handful of festival shows this summer.

20180417_194533.jpg
Sounds of Swami (photo by Sarah)

Sounds Of Swami open the show, beginning with a slow, quiet section with just a bit of guitar and a gentle vocal. It’s the calm before the storm that they tear into late into the song. From Random Hand’s hometown of Keighley, they lend the show the vibe of a party with all your friends. They served as late replacements for Jesus & His Judgemental Father, but I’m much more excited to catch them, having gotten deeply into their album Furniture for Modern Living last year.

This humble four-piece are at the forefront of current post-hardcore, channelling bands like Sonic Youth and Fugazi in their own expert DIY fashion. They create a really gripping soundscape sweeps you up, lulls, then hurls you around the room. It’s lush, complex composition that’s interesting on record but utterly captivating live. There is an overwhelming amount of skill in this band that’s enabled them to be inventive and experimental with their sound. It also allows them to look totally at home with themselves on stage, producing a depth of sound that you wouldn’t think possible with just four instruments. They look like they’re having a great time doing it. Continue reading “Gig Review: Random Hand’s Comeback Show @ The Key Club, Leeds [17/04/2018]”

Shout Louder Podcast #4: Manchester Punk Festival Special

Mark and Sarah discuss all things MPF 2018 including insider tips and line-up clashes, plus we announce the Wotsit Called Fest headliner!

We are so excited to share Podcast #4 with you! This is our favourite one so far; we just hope you love it as much as we do. You can listen on iTunes, Soundcloud and many other podcatchers, or on the link below.

Recorded in the extremely silly, hungover aftermath of Dugstock Festival Mark and Sarah discuss all things Manchester Punk Festival in detail. We pick through the whole line-up, talk about the festival’s history and give you insider tips on surviving the weekend. Even if you’re not attending the festival, it’s worth a listen to hear some fantastic punk tunes and to laugh at how tired we are.

Stay tuned till the end as we will also be proudly announcing the Friday night headliner of Wotsit Called Festival. Wotsit Called was one of our top festivals of 2017 and it’s growing even bigger this year. It takes place on the last weekend of September at The Palace in Hastings – you can book tickets here. We can’t wait to tell you who they’ve booked!

The podcast is available on iTunes (here) and all other good podcatchers, or you can listen to it right now:

These are the songs we play:

Continue reading “Shout Louder Podcast #4: Manchester Punk Festival Special”

Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In April

We’ve done all the hard work for you and found the best punk gigs across the country in April.

Article by Sarah Williams.

At Shout Louder, our April revolves the smorgasbord of sonic splendour that is Manchester Punk Festival. Now in its fourth year, MPF takes place over April 19th – 21st and, besides featuring many fantastic bands, it is also a major friends-fest. Every year the festival inspires punk rock pals from around the country to descend upon the Rainy City, this year seeming to pull even more attention from around the UK and further afield.

That said, it’s already sold out so we’re not going to bang on about it here. We will be banging on about it soon, with a series of related interviews and articles highlighting some of the acts you may be less familiar with. Keep your eyes peeled for pieces over the coming weeks, plus a very hungover episode of our podcast.

If you’ve got cash, time and energy leftover from Manchester Punk Festival, there are our top picks of this month’s events:

Gig of The Month: Nosebleed Album Release & Tour

  • When: April 7th
  • Where: Wharf Chambers, Leeds
  • Who: Support from Riggots, Snake Rattlers, Batwölf , Bones Shake and Guns On The Roof
  • Check out the Facebook event

Nosebleed are always jaw-droppingly entertaining live, so imagine how good they’re going to be in their hometown, surrounded by friends, at the launch of their debut album. It’s going to be complete rock ‘n’ roll carnage. Just don’t forget to give Dickie some love when Ben and Elliot abandon him to roam around the dancefloor.

The line-up they’ve organised is the perfect complement to their stripped-back, raucous style. Every act puts their own unique twist on the punk rock that we love, be that minimalist hip-shaking venom from Snake Rattlers, Bouncing Souls-esque perfection from Guns on The Roof or entropy-made-audible in the form of Riggots. Continue reading “Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In April”

EP Review: Traits – Illuminate

The new ballsy, melodic punk rock EP from Leeds’ Traits will gnaw its way into your subconscious. FFO: No Use For A Name, Lagwagon, The Human Project.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

The Traits were a garage rock band formed in 1967 who had a hit with Nobody Loves The Hulk in 1969…this isn’t them! It’s amazing the blind alleys Google can lead you down when you’re researching a band for a review. Traits, minus the ‘the’ are a new four piece band from Leeds featuring members of Random Hand and The Human Project, and a guy called Jon who is apparently lovely, according to one of the write ups my Google search threw up. I’m sure they’re all splendid chaps equally. [Ed: Sarah W personally vouches for this!]

Traits (don’t go putting “the” in front of it!) are a straight ahead, melodic punk rock band. By that description alone you can probably start to build a mental image of how these guys sound and you’d probably fall pretty close to the mark. Now, being honest, there are a million bands doing this kind of stuff right now so the question is, how well do Traits fare against their peers? Fortunately they fare extremely well. For such a new band, albeit with plenty of individual experience, they have a fully-fledged and powerful sound with a keen grasp on song writing and an ear for a naggingly catchy melody. Each song here has at least one hook that will gnaw its way into your subconscious, whether it’s the insistent chorus of I’ve Made My Bed or the quirky riff that rears its head during Drop The Status Quo. If the band had a mission to grab your memory and hold on tight then they’ve ticked that box!

Traits Illuminate EP Cover.jpg

As you might expect, the energy remains high throughout, rarely dipping below an ADHD endorsed 100mph but, on the odd moments when the Ritalin kicks in and they slow it down, it provides a welcome breathing space and shows a strong grasp of song dynamics. The guitars of Jon Simmons are tight and edgy and stand front and centre in the mix whilst the rhythm section of Joe Tilston on bass and Dan Powell on drums lock together tighter than a pair of shagging dogs! Johnny Smith’s voice is an interesting one, and may be an acquired taste for some, although it’ll be a favourite for fans of The Human Project. He operates in the higher registers but still maintains some grit in his throat. In fact, and this may make him cringe, he would also make a pretty good metal singer, as evidenced on I’ve Made My Bed which flirts tantalisingly with thrash metal in places… fortunately staying just on the right side of the line though. He has a credible power and delivery to his singing though that should bring round anyone who might, at first, find his voice a little irritating. Continue reading “EP Review: Traits – Illuminate”

Random Hand: Can’t Stop Changing Plans [Interview]

Joe Tilston discusses Random Hand’s hiatus, their return to the stage and what they’ve been plotting in the meantime!

Interview by Sarah Williams. Photos nicked from Bev, from RH’s ‘last’ Manchester show.

It is hard to measure the impact that Random Hand have had on my life. They’ve been going since 2002, but I think I stumbled across them in 2007 when I first heard Scum Triumphant. They were one of the first small bands that I became properly obsessed with, so therefore they became my gateway into DIY. Literally, this website would not exist if Random Hand hadn’t been there to kick-start my gig addiction. I also wouldn’t own half as many sweat-encrusted band t-shirts.

For many years, Random Hand were one of the most explosive bands in UK ska-punk. Back in 2015 they announced that they were going on hiatus for a couple of years. Although they never used the words ‘break-up’ themselves, there was uproar in the punk community and many promoters billed their farewell tour as their last ever gigs. The news was especially shocking coming from a band who were a mainstay of the live circuit. No matter how many gigs they played, they always gave 110%, guaranteeing the best loud, sweaty and raucous performances you could wish for.

11889457_10153472240376488_3596757100510970591_n.jpg

The news of the hiatus was delivered alongside a crowd-funding campaign for a self-released album as a farewell gift to their fans. Hit Reset dropped on 13th September 2015, just as they came off stage at their final, incendiary gig at The Camden Underworld. The album was an unusual parting gift (particularly as they weren’t playing it live) and an opportunity to record with the final iteration of their line-up.

Robin Leitch (vocals/trombone), Joe Tilston (bass), Dan Walsh (guitar) and Sean Howe (drums) recently announced that they would be reuniting in 2018. Their first gig back is in their home town of Leeds, followed quickly by Manchester Punk Festival. They are also releasing their first album Change of Plan on vinyl via TNS Records. It’s a gorgeous red record, encased in an updated version of Si Mitchell’s classic artwork, due for release on February 9th.

Random Hand Change of Plan Vinyl Si Mitchell Cover v1.jpg

I sat down with Joe Tilston to discuss their plans for the new year and to get some insight into why they left us in the first place.

Random Hand are back! Why now?

We were very honest about it being a hiatus. I know some promoters weren’t quite as honest and said it was our last gig on occasions, but on our social media statuses and at every gig we always said it was a hiatus. It’s a break. If anyone asked anything beyond that we said, “We need two years off.” That was the watershed; having two years off and seeing where that took us.

It literally ticked over two years. I was on the phone to Robin just after he’d finished one of the projects he was working on and we said, “Shall we have a practice then?” That was it, really! It was one week less than two years that we had our first practice back. I think we all just needed the head space. We needed to let it go, not think about it and become our own people. Continue reading “Random Hand: Can’t Stop Changing Plans [Interview]”