3 Questions: Piney Gir

Kansas City’s Piney Gir delivered one of last year’s most memorable albums with You Are Here, the latest record in a body of work that showcases her deft, brilliantly obscure angle on love, life and everything in between. The album was originally titled It’s Been A Shit Year For Everyone, which was both utterly accurate and pretty miserable, so she changed it.

Her latest single from the album, the album highlight ‘Puppy Love’, was released on Valentine’s Day and features Piney accompanied by the distinctive Wille J. Healey. Following the release of the new single, Further. spoke to Piney about Muppets (I’m always happy to talk about the influence of The Muppets, FYI), Dolly Parton and the merits of writing on the move.

Read our review of You Are Here over at Documentary Evidence.

What’s your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is kinda odd, because I was an actual baby; it was in our old apartment before we moved (we moved when I was two) so I must have been younger than two – and the memory is a bit inconsequential! I remember sitting in a high chair eating something (I’m not sure what) and watching Big Bird on TV.

The Muppets have always been a big part of my life and in the early years they educated me on pop culture. I wasn’t allowed much secular music or pop culture as a kid, but I saw Elton John on The Muppet Show singing ‘Crocodile Rock’ with a bunch of crocodiles and I thought Elton was a muppet dressed in feathers and colours with crazy glasses. I figured if he wasn’t a muppet he might have been from another planet… from Sesame Street to The Muppet Show and all the Muppet Movies: Caper, Manhattan, Christmas Carol – they have all been a huge influence on me over the years and I still love them.

The Dark Crystal was frightening at the time and really triggered some deep fears of the dark side when I watched it. I should re-watch it and see if it still has that effect on me! We didn’t have fancy cable growing up so I didn’t see Fraggle Rock until recently, and it’s great! I guess anything from the Jim Henson Studio makes me happy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Hmmm… I don’t feel like people give me advice very often; I wonder why that is? I’m very open to receiving advice if anyone has any for me.

I think Dolly Parton put it well when she said, “You’ll never do a lot unless you’re brave enough to try.” I guess she was certainly a brave woman who I really admire and her courage gives me courage… she also said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Which is great advice for anyone.

She’s a bit of a legend, Dolly! I once sang, not with her, but at her, on the One Show on BBC TV… Me and Mike Monaghan (my drummer, but he also drums with lots of people, Gaz Coombes, Willie J. Healey, Young Knives, St. Etienne…), we were invited to be part of a ‘human juke box’ and Dolly Parton was a guest on the show. When she arrived we sang her own songs at her. There was about 20 of us, including a really bossy Dolly Parton look-a-like. It was crazy to be about three feet away from Dolly though, breathing the same air and singing her songs to her – pretty surreal!

I have a signed, autographed photo of her in my studio. She inspires me every day.

Where are you most productive or inspired?

Oddly, I write a lot when I’m on the move.

Something about the rhythm of walking, or the boredom of sitting on the tube or a train or a plane makes my brain go all prolific. It’s mundane tasks where my brain and creativity can function separately from my body that somehow make room for my muse to shine. If I feel a bit creatively blocked I’ll go for a walk or take a train journey by myself and I’ll get inspired.

I guess that’s in regards to songwriting. When it comes to recording that’s best suited for the studio, and I like to change that side of the process up quite a bit, so it’s never the same twice. That keeps recording fresh and playful and fun.

Puppy Love by Piney Gir was released February 14 2020.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

3 Questions: Novelty Island

Further. favourites Novelty Island release their new single ‘Windows’ on February 20 2020. The follow-up to the spacey, singalong electronic pop of ‘Saturn Alarms’, ‘Windows’ is a sedate and tender song full of chill-out reference points that eddy and spin from its gauzy core – languid beats, icicle-sharp melodies and delicate harmonies.

As he prepares the band’s debut EP Welcome To Novelty Island, we spoke to Novelty Island mastermind Tom McConnell about what makes him tick.

What’s your earliest memory?

Hearing ‘Hello, Goodbye’ by The Beatles in a car.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

It’s not really advice from a specific person, and it sounds very obvious, but I’ve realised how important it is to finish ideas. We take it for granted that our favourite artists not only had these great ideas, but that they saw them through and actually finished so many of them.

Where are you most productive or inspired?

I work from Abbey Road Institute which is a pretty inspiring place.

‘Windows’ by Novelty Island is released February 20 2020.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

3 Questions: Charlotte Spiral

Charlotte Spiral is a duo of Amy Spencer and Avi Barath, two former Goldsmiths students now writing complicated songs laced with lyrics loaded with emotional uncertainty; those words are only matched in their complexity by the many-layered musical architecture that supports Spencer’s distinctive voice.

“I kind of like it that people think my name’s Charlotte,” laughs Amy. “The name Charlotte Spiral came from a pose in figure skating. We started putting the music on top of old figure skating videos and then Avi and I decided that our band name should have something to with it because it’s so elegant. We wanted that to be reflected in the music.”

Upon the release of their debut EP, the gorgeous, mesmerising and haunting Ideal Life, Charlotte Spiral spoke to Further. about fake medicine and ‘A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts’ – very probably the one and only time that song’s going to get a mention here, and highly unlikely to feature on their debut album, I imagine.

What’s your earliest memory?

Amy: When my brother and I were kids my grandparents would look after my brother and I, mostly after school and also in the summer when our parents were at work.

I have a strong memory of them sitting together on a bench under the apple tree in the garden. My granddad loved music and he could sing beautifully – he could play the harmonica and even the spoons! My grandma would sing that song ‘I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts’. I’m sure she sang many other songs too but for some reason that one sticks!

Avi: There is a place in Rhodes that is meant to be very beautiful called Butterfly Valley. Sadly, my earliest memory is of being very sick there. My dad tricked me and gave me a Mentos sweet, which he told me was medicine. I think it actually worked…

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Amy: Stop worrying!

Avi: Trust your instincts.

Where are you most productive or inspired?

Amy: I often get ideas for lyrics when I’m travelling or walking somewhere. It’s usually just a line or two that I will finish once I have a chord progression and melody.

Avi: It changes all the time to be honest, but recently it’s been wherever there is a piano.

Ideal Life by Charlotte Spiral is released February 7 2020.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

3 Questions: Matthew Barton

No matter how hard I try, no description of Rugby multi-instrumentalist Matthew Barton’s latest single ‘Orchid’ is going to get anywhere close to his own: “‘Orchid’ was inspired by Prince minimalism and the Casio organ sound of the Young Marble Giants,” he advises. “I wanted to write something simple and direct. I think of it as like Prince having a baby with a Georgia O’Keeffe painting at a video game arcade. Or something.”

If that sounds brilliantly odd, it’s because it is. Driven by layered, sparse preset rhythms and a shimmering keyboard melody as hypnotic as it is absent, the vast empty spaces of the music act as the perfect setting for Barton’s distinctively impassioned, soulful vocal. There is tender anguish writ large here, spliced together with a vulnerability heralding the arrival of a singular musical talent.

Matthew Barton is working on a cassette release for Knife Punch Records that is due for release in the Spring. In the meantime, Barton talks to Further. about almost drowning and getting stuff done. Listen to ‘Orchid’ below.

What is your earliest memory?

Probably being fished out of a swimming pool by my dad, having fallen in, unable to swim. That wasn’t the last time that happened either. Maybe I can trace my fascination with water back to that moment.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

As a serial procrastinator, “You will never feel like you are ready – so just do it,” is useful and motivating. I’m trying to get better at that this year. Isn’t adulthood all about just pretending you know what you’re doing anyway?

Where are you most productive or inspired?

I find that new places, and new instruments, tend to spark ideas.

I have a lot of random voice memos on my phone recorded in weird places, usually while I’m just walking down streets, probably looking a bit bonkers.

New instruments too – my brother bought me a kalimba for my birthday and I’ve been writing some different stuff on that. You’ve just got to be open to everything around you.

Orchid by Matthew Barton was released January 21 2020.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

3 Questions: YOVA

YOVA are a duo of Jova Radevska and Mark Vernon. Their first single, ‘Moondog’, was released last year and found the pair accompanied by a diverse group of players including Grumbling Fur’s Daniel O’Sullivan and PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis.

On new single ‘Rain’, Jova ratchets up the mesmerising, enthralling innocence of her naturally soulful voice on a song detailing a painful, terminal break-up. The track has been given a a special mix from Erasure’s Vince Clarke that will be available from February 28. Both tracks will then be released as part of a four track digital bundle on March 6 2020.

To celebrate the release of ‘Rain’, Further. asked Jova and Mark our customary 3 Questions, with typically revealing results.

What is your earliest memory?

Jova Radevska: Wrapping my stuffed monkey in a blanket and also screaming my lungs out near a scarecrow in a cornfield with my grandmother.

Mark Vernon: The psychedelic colour of leaves, buildings, blues skies, clouds, stars and moon from the pram

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

JR: Trust yourself and don’t put all your Easter eggs in one basket.

MV: Never take no for an answer. Less is more. Don’t put the cart before the horse. The latter is from The Velvet Underground’s John Cale.

Where are you most productive or inspired?

JR: Mostly in solitude and when I’m sad and angry.

MV: When I’m either within reach of a keyboard or fretboard.

Rain by YOVA is out now. Listen here.

Interview: Mat Smith

3 Questions: Alexandra

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Alexandra Burress is a 21-year old singer / songwriter and producer from Portland, OR. Her latest album, Ecdysis, was recorded in the San Diego of her formative years, and finds her crafting a warm, tender, dreamlike suite of eight electronically-infused songs that gently wrap the listener in their gauzy, affecting textures. Read the Further. review here.

What is your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is eating a Spongebob popsicle in China as a 3-year-old and relishing the sugar flavour on my tongue. Surrounding me was a deep grey cloud sky with palm trees the size of dinosaurs swaying heavily in the wind.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My favourite piece of advice is something my mom always said. ‘Everybody just wants to be loved,’ and if we approach the world with this knowledge, we can all be a little kinder, a little more empathetic towards one another. We’re all searching for the same thing.

When are you most productive or inspired?

My head feels clearest after a long walk on the beach or in the forest, after sipping on a big batch of homemade hot cocoa and having no plans in the day but to create. Watching my talented friends perform their own music is another especially inspiring thing for me.

Ecdysis by Alexandra was released July 26 2019 by Spirit House Records.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

3 Questions: Rick Wakeman

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Rick Wakeman originally wanted to be a concert pianist until the steady work of a session musician beckoned. His dependable talent for nailing a part in one solitary take lead to memorable contributions such as playing Mellotron on David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, work on Lou Reed’s post-Velvets debut LP and with Marc Bolan’s as he metamorphosed into a glam megastar with T-Rex.

Best known for several stints in Yes alongside his solo work and complex and extravagantly-executed stage shows, Wakeman was also one of the earliest keyboardists to see the limitless potential of the synthesizer through a bargain purchase of a Minimoog from actor Jack Wild. (The Artful Dodger-playing actor had assumed his synth was on the blink because it could only play one note at a time.)

This weekend, Wakeman celebrated turning seventy earlier in 2019 with two final performances of his Journey To The Centre Of The Earth album at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the location of its original presentation in 1974.

What is your earliest memory?

Crawling backwards. I never crawled forwards. I can remember getting stuck under the sideboard and having to be yanked out.

I was a very early talker and a very late walker. I can remember the first time I walked and checked it with my mother many years later and, to her amazement, I was spot on.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Always look for the good points in people. My father said that everybody has some good points and if you can find them, you will get more out of knowing the person.

In general he was right, but I have met a few who have absolutely no endearing qualities!

When are you most productive or inspired?

Early morning. I get up around 5 and my brain is whirring from the moment I put the kettle on. Things go downhill after that!

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.