Thursday, 11 September 2014

What our Mercury Prize short-list would have been...

So as many music fans have seen, the Mercury Prize short-list was released last night. Most are happy with the majority of the list but there were certainly a few shock omissions and inclusions (see the full list here). The world of Jazz got a serious nod from the prestigious Mercury Prize committee with two acts in the list as did the Urban scene with two acts coming from Big Dada records, the same label as 2009 winner Speech Debelle.

While most genres were represented in the list, the real shock was that many of the big albums of the year in terms of sales were missing such as Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Paolo Nutini. Previous years have seen at least a few of the big-boys with last year featuring Bowie, Arctic's and Foals plus number one albums from Rudimental, Jake Bugg and Disclosure. This year however we see just two number one albums from Bombay Bicycle Club and Royal Blood, one of which was only last week. Is this a sign that the Mercury Prize is slowly moving more to it's roots of supporting breakthrough music and artists 

So after discussion with a few colleagues, I have put together what my 12 would have been:

1. Bombay Bicycle Club

The fourth album from Bombay and although it's not a completely new direction, this album takes a lot from World music with a heavy use of sampling. The added guest vocals from Rae Morris and Lucy Rose add subtle harmonies to the album which complements their lesser use of guitars.

2. Royal Blood

The most successful début rock release in three years, Royal Blood's self-titled album smashed records and brought in the acclaim too. But it's not just about sales with many saying they have re-written the rules of rock with just two guys, without a standard 6 string electric guitar in sight, producing a sound that could easily be a 5 man outfit. They also seem to be attract a broad audience from rock fans to indie fans to chart fans alike. 

3. FKA Twigs

I would keep 'LP1' in the list. The début from Young Turks' signing FKA has caused quite a storm within the music industry bringing a modern twist to R&B. Featuring swirling synths, space aged drum patterns and heavy grumbling bass, the former Jessie J backing dancer certainly delivered on the hype with this record.

4. East India Youth

This album is all about gentle melodic electro pop but it also breathes originality. The album took three years to come and it's looking like it was worth the wait. A well executed album and his nomination will surely help push Will Doyle aka East India Youth into the playlists of many. 

5. Woman's Hour

The debut album from Kendal four-piece Woman's Hour was tipped by many to be included in the list with many near perfect reviews. Fronted by sublings Will and Fiona Burgess the album hints at 80's pop but doesn't stray too far away from modern electro-indie either.

6. Paolo Nutini

The one 'bigboy' I would of had in our list would have been Paolo. His album 'Caustic Love' was hailed by critics with The Independent going so far as to say it may be 'the best R&B album since the 1970's'. A stunning record which has helped Paolo reinvent himself as one of the biggest solo artists in the country. 

7. Jungle

The Jungle lads mix hip-hop, soul, grooves and much more in their much anticipated début release. Signed to XL records, the label which has produced the likes of The XX and Adele once again delivers with another fantastic innovative album which should have a great chance at taking the prize.

8. Damon Albarn

Hard to believe that this is Damon's first solo album but he has used it as a platform to produce a powerful, honest, auto-biographical record. One of the most eagerly-awaited albums of 2014, it has lived up to all the anticipation and pleased critics and fans alike. 

9. Manic Street Preachers

'Futurology' went into the UK charts at No.2 making it the bands highest charting record since 2007's 'Send Away The Tigers'. The band have come back fighting after two under performing albums and you'll have to search far and wide to find a negative review of this one. 

10. Wild Beasts

Another Kendal band, Wild Beasts would have made the list for their new album 'Wanderlust'. The band were nominated for their album 'Two Dancers' and have produced their fourth critically acclaimed album in a row. Constantly delivering, the band constantly come back with something that almost seems to top the last. Very surprised that they missed out this time. 

11. Lone

A bit of an outsider but Matt Cutler aka Lone released without doubt one of the best electronic albums in 2014. An album that can be adapted to almost any environment suited as well in a cafe as it is in a club. He states one of his key influences as Madlib which rings true throughout the album with hazy hip-hop samples.

12. Anna Calvi

Anna Calvi's second album 'One Breath' came out in October last year on Domino Records. It became an instant success with Music Week naming it album of the week with a string of great reviews also. The interest in the singer-songwriter has continued and she will be supporting Morrissey at his mammoth show at The O2 this year. 

TRACKS ON TOUR || Q&A: The Magic Numbers

The Magic Numbers returned with their fourth album 'Alias' last month which many are saying is their best yet and they support the release with a full UK tour starting in Liverpool tonight (tickets for all dates HERE). 

To celebrate, we are giving you the chance to WIN one of three signed copies of the album! Just tweet us @GigsAndTours telling us your favourite Magic Numbers track with the hashtag #AliasCompetition before midday on Monday 15th September.

We also caught up the guys and picked their musical brains too...

Hello guys, what have you been up to today?

Today's our last day performing at the album release's week long run of in stores. It's been really cool meeting fans across the country and hearing feedback about the new record.

Congratulations on the release of Alias, how is this album different to the previous three?

Thank you. It's hard to explain but it really feels like we're a brand new band in some ways, it's all very exciting, there's a real energy to this new record and we're loving playing at the moment.
I think we've made our best record in terms of songwriting and production so there's a confidence that's coming from that. I think people will be surprised by this album, I would suggest people leave any pre conceived notions about the group at the door and listen with fresh ears.

How was V Festival? Did you use it as a test run for some of your new material?

We loved it, though to be honest I had no idea who a lot of the other acts playing were, felt kinda out of the loop, thankfully. It was a great crowd though at both shows. I think the Chelmsford show was probably my favourite as I wasn't as nervous going out there having done it the night before.

So what can we expect from the new tour?

Well firstly we've got The Goat Roper Rodeo Band opening who are a three piece country harmony group of the cosmic kind, they'll blow minds, they're fun but also heartbreaking and most importantly total dudes so it's going to be killer touring with them. We're also blessed to have Ren Harvieu play just before us, I've been writing with her for her follow up album and hoping to play a few debut a few of those songs on the tour, whenever I hear her sing she gives me total goosebumps, she's mesmerising. People are in for a treat. Then there's us, we are playing the best we've ever played, we're really rocking out big time at the moment so expect a killer show all round.

Is there a city in particular you are looking forward to playing?

Kicking off in Glasgow will be a cool way to commence the mayhem, but to be honest I'm just really looking forward to getting on a roll playing every night, wherever it is.

What is your favourite track to perform live?

Loving playing all of the new ones at the moment especially Enough.
We've arranged a new version of Take A Chance that merges into Enough and the reaction to that so far has been immense.

Can you pinpoint any standout gigs in the past?

The one that just flashed before my eyes was a club show in Chile where we had the mother of all stage invasions. So many people from the crowd got on stage we were still playing but couldn't see each other, we were talking to each other on the microphones asking each other if we were all alright. I loved that gig and encourage more of that where we go.

Have any of you been to any decent gigs recently?

Watching Neil Young & Crazy Horse play every night on our recent European support tour is gonna be pretty hard to beat but there's been a few.
Savages at the Forum really blew me away. I love those girls, they f*cking mean it. I'm so tired of people phoning it in, you're in the position to blow minds, blow minds!
The Cure at the Albert Hall was really special, I knew the words to every one of the 45 songs on the set list and I couldn't help but sing them all. I've seen them play so many times but always leave becoming obsessed again. Another really great show was Luke Haines at Bush Hall playing both Baader Meinhof & his new album New York In The 70's in it's entirety, anyone who missed that show, really missed out.

Which song do you wish you had written?

There are so many, though I would've loved to have stumbled upon the melody and the need to be dropping bars left right and centre for - Anyone Who Had A Heart by Burt Bacharach & Hal David.

What are your plans between now and the tour?

Mainly promoting the new album it would seem, with some rehearsals and a sprinkling of valued home time. Michele will be celebrating a birthday just prior to the tour so there's also good chance of some drunken tomfoolery. 

What are your Tracks on Tour?

Find out what The Magic Numbers are listening to on the road in this Spotify playlist below:

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


Melbourne four-piece APES have been receiving some serious love on the UK airwaves from the likes of BBC Radio 1 and they head to the UK to play two dates in Manchester and London in October (TICKETS HERE)

Led by vocalist and guitarist Benjamin Dowd, APES sound is one that owes as much to indie punk as it does to rock'n'roll with a proud nod to the Aussies garage past that has produced so many great artists. Saying that, APES stamp down a sound of their own with strong hooks and singable choruses you might struggle to get out of your head. Having supported the likes of The Datsuns, Royal Blood and Dune Rats in their native home, their trip to the UK is building a lot of excitement. So with all that said, we caught up with the lads for a few words:

What are you up to at this very moment?
Working on making this huge playlist for a flight to the UK at the moment haha and having a deadest ball doing it! Going through the new Royal Blood album and adding a few tunes at the moment, Band of Skulls is teed up next, that Himalayan album kicks ass.

What can fans expect to experience at one of your shows?
I guess the main thing they’ll see is a lot of spikes and dives in the set! Generally the set will go all over the place; there are slow burners and a few really loud, heavier songs in our set, so you will get a good variety. Also we love to have a bit of fun with it! So there will be plenty of beers and banter haha, also were bringing our lighting tech these days so expect some cool lights hopefully!

What is your favourite song to perform live?
NEW SONGS! Hahaha, we’ve just written a few new bangers that we’ve been playing the last few shows, it’s so refreshing and exciting to execute some new material, so at the moment there definitely the favourites to get around. We have this newie called “Black Lung” which Im loving at the moment, it’s like a westernie type of hard rock ballad, we hope you enjoy it!

When you’re not performing what do you do to keep yourself busy when you’re on tour / on the road?
Haha, we’re not very good at seeing sights or going for walks on the beach haha. Generally we love to kill time between soundcheck by just going to a pub around the corner, grabbing a bit to eat and having a few beers! It sounds quite Bogan but ey, I guess that’s just the inner Victoria coming out in us haha, it’s the best way to kill an hour on the road after soundcheck or something though, who needs a beach?….

What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
Tough question! My personal favourite show was when we opened for FIDLAR in Sydney. The venue was awesome and the crowd were unreal to play to and their fans really took to us on the night. We had played a few shows in Sydney before this one, but we always kind of struggled to win them over as it’s a tough city! This was the first time we ever felt that we had won an entire room over that wasn’t ours! Not to mention it was the first time we had taken our lighting guy on the road so having that awesome stage production was a plus! To top it off we got to see FIDLAR rip the arts factory a new one, it was such a sick night.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Q&A: Bob Blakeley

Best known for his appearance on reality show The Voice, Bob Blakeley has begun to create quite a wave in the music industry since being offered a record deal live on television. His début album 'Performance' went straight into the top 20 in the album charts and he has been stunning audiences up and down the country as well. 

This Friday (12th September - TICKETS HERE) see's Bob headline The Lowry, Salford, so we grabbed the man himself at the MEN diary party in Manchester for a quick chat before what will surely be a fantastic evening...

So Bob you will be playing at Lowry theatre this Friday, what can the audience expect? 
To hear songs, certainly cry me a river, which I performed on The Voice and is included on the album Performance, and a lot of other songs from the album as well. Plus other rat Pack stuff, which is my forte.

What’s your favourite song to perform live?
It has to be ‘Cry Me A River’ just because of the public reaction to it. It’s a great song, I performed it at the MEN diary party on Friday.

How did you feel being on BBC Breakfast and getting offered a record deal live on television?
It was very surreal  because I’d spoken to Mike Batt the day before I appeared on BBC breakfast, but he said he was doing something with the BBC but didn't give an indication at all what he was going to do. When he did that it really shocked me. It hit my heart. It’s just always something I've wanted to do all my life. The other one was to record in a proper studio with an orchestra and I've achieve that too. The studio was in London where I recorded the album.

Pre the voice, what has been you’re favourite gig and what has been your favourite show after?
Before The Voice I was doing Pubs and clubs, grassroots stuff, where most singers and act learn their trade. The biggest show pre the Voice was 200 people. But on the Voice itself you don’t realise that apart from the studio audience there are millions at home watching. It was an amazing experience and also an honour to meet my idol Sir Tom Jones.

Who would you like to collaborate in the future?
I’d certainly like to record something with Sir Tom Jones and also I’d love to do something with Michael Buble. I’d also love to collaborate with Christina Aguilera, the power in her voice is amazing. Of course Kate Bush has started to perform again, she’s an amazing artist.

What are your plans following the Lowry show?

I’ll be touring all over the country.  

Friday, 22 August 2014

TRACKS ON TOUR || Q&A: Lewis Watson

Next month sees Lewis Watson embark on a full UK tour (TICKETS). Lewis started off on YouTube filming his often unique covers and gaining quite a bit of notoriety, he followed this up with a few EP's before releasing his début album 'The Morning' just last month which shot into the official top 40 album chart. We cannot wait for the tour and love the album so thought we would catch up with the man himself... 

Hi Lewis, what have you been up to today?
Hello ! A rare day to myself today, I played a bit of golf,  and now I’m sat down to do a few QnA’s.

Congratulations on the new album and breaking into the album chart, has the success of it been a shock?
thank you very much ! that means a lot. the opportunity to make an album and have people actually want to listen to it in the first place was quite a shock, so to have it in the charts is something that i’m still pinching myself over. crazy.

How is the album different to your previous EP’s?
it was a bit of a different process because the EPs were always designed to be slightly lo-fi and to never contain the finished versions of songs (demos, monitor mixes, etc.) so making something and actually trying to make everything as good as it possibly could was different. i definitely enjoyed it, though !

So what can we expect from the new tour?
me and the band playing some old songs, songs from the album and some new ones, too. i’ll hopefully be experimenting with an electric guitar for a few songs and just making it as good of a show as we can

Is there a city in particular you are looking forward to playing?
it’s a bit obvious but it has to be london. we’re playing shepherd’s bush empire this year and that’s such an important venue to me. i’ve seen countless bands there and i love it. that being said, i can’t wait to play nottingham, either.. we always have such a great crowd there.

You started off uploading covers to YouTube, do you play any of them out on tour?
nope, the covers on youtube were purely a way of teaching myself guitar before i was confident in writing my own songs. i may play a cover that i’ve done recently but not the youtube covers, the tour is a chance for me to play original stuff !

What is your favourite track to perform live?
i’ve got a couple, into the wild is always fun because people join in, clap and dance which is so amazing to see. i like playing ‘castle street’, too. i think the arrangement is really nice to play and the band always nail it.

Have you been to any decent gigs recently?
we’ve been doing festivals recently so we’ve seen quite a few people. i’ve personally really enjoyed bipolar sunshine, saint raymond, sivu, rae morris and royal blood. i also saw scott matthews on the sea front and it was amazing, i’d never seen him before and i think he’s incredible so it was great to finally see him after all of these years.

There seems to be a mini revolution of solo and acoustic artists at the moment such as Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard, Paolo Nutini, would you agree and why do you think that is?
i think music is a lot like fashion where styles come in and out of trend. i’m so grateful to have caught the ‘wave’ of the solo artist and i think it’s so good that people are into it at the moment. let’s hope that it lasts !

Is there a song you wish you had written?
there are loads.. it’s quite strange because i have a really strict criteria when writing songs, they have to resonate with me, i’m not a big fan of middle-eights so i tend to avoid them, etc. but they are so many songs that i wish i had written. number 1 is probably ‘brothers on a hotel bed’ by death cab for cutie, it’s such a beautiful song. others include ‘re:stacks’ by bon iver, ‘runaway’ by matt corby, ‘so long, see you tomorrow, by bombay bicycle club, etc. etc.

What are your plans for the rest of the year? 

to write, tour and enjoy it. this year has zoomed by and i’ve spent most of it wrapped up in album land, so i’m looking forward to just enjoying it !

Which tracks are you listening to at the moment while on the road? 
Here goes...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

TRACKS ON TOUR || Q&A: Eagles for Hands

First rising to prominence with acclaimed remixes including Laura Mvula's 'SHE' plus his two free EP's 'Hot Telescopic' and 'Lisbon', Brighton based Laurie James Ross has begun to carve a niche for himself and earning a lot of respect along the way. He has since remixed the likes of Josh Record, Sivu, Naughty Boy and Fenech Solar. His musical style is a hard to pin-point with a mix of genres and instruments throughout his productions, one of the reasons his music is so fresh and appealing. 

Eagles for Hands music has been a big success across YouTube music channels such as Majestic Casual with his tracks amassing a serious amount of views. However it's his new track 'Glass Heart' (below) which has really propelled Eagles for Hands into the public eye with support from Monki, Annie Mac, Zane Lowe and B.Traits to name but a few.

After confirming two live shows at London's Oslo (Hackney) and Manchester's Soup Kitchen, (TICKETS HERE)
we thought we would catch up with the man with the hands and pick his musical brain too...

Hi Laurie, What are you up to at this very moment?

Hi! I'm down in my basement studio room in beautiful Brighton. It's was this old public toilet from the 80s. It's changed a lot now though, thankfully.

So do you actually have eagles for hands?

Only on Wednesdays.

If you could have any animal for hands what would it be?

I think I’d pass on it to be honest. They'd be stealing my food, I'd have to stroke them to keep them calm but I wouldn't have any real hands to stroke them with. The whole thing would be a total nightmare.

You've just confirmed two live shows for November, what can the audience expect from your live show as opposed to a DJ set?

I hate seeing someone turn up and play to an audience with just a laptop so I wanted to make my show as close to a live performance as possible. I have a keyboard, drum machine and some controllers on stage with me plus a bunch of other things that I can make noises out of. I use a lot of looping during the show and as much live playing as humanly possible.

You've played a stack of great festivals so far this year, any highlights?

Secret Garden Party was a lot of fun. I played in the late afternoon so got to enjoy the evening properly and got myself some much needed festival fun.

Is there a track you particularly love playing out in your sets?

I've got a few. I'm loving the new SBTRKT record and a really amazing remix of a track called 'Kuar' by Emanuel Jal. It's remixed by Olof Dreijer, it's quite an old track now but it's just so much fun to play out. The vocal is incredible and always puts a smile on my face.

It seems like you’re getting a lot of admirers for your remix work, which has been your favourite to work on?

I've actually just finished one for a new artist called Laura Doggett. The vocal was a real pleasure to work with. I hope you get to hear it soon.

If you could remix any track, which one?

Oh god I dunno, too many to say really. Maybe something by Little Dragon. I love her voice so much.

Your music is truly a mix of styles and genres, is it frustrating when people ask you to define it or can you define it?

It’s really hard to define your own music. I much prefer to let other people decide for themselves. That way you haven't put ideas in their head and they get to listen to it without any preconceptions. It's probably the same for most producers.

Who would you say have been key influencers in your music throughout the years?

Going right back i'd definitely say the Beatles. Because growing up that was the only pop music my dad played so it was firmly etched into my brain. After that It was grunge and punk and then metal and hardcore and then finally electronica. Massive attack were probably the first band that got me into more electronic music. A gateway band if you will.

Has the success of Glass Heart so far gone beyond your expectations?

The reaction so far has been totally amazing. I made the track at the start of the year but it felt like the summer was the right time to get it out there.

What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?

I'm working on a new EP at the moment, which I hope to have out in late October and then I’m playing a few UK dates in November. It’s going to be a whole new show, all new music.

So which tracks are currently listening to on the road to get you psyched up for a set?

Here goes (Spotify Playlist Below)...


Friday, 15 August 2014

TRACKS ON TOUR || Q&A: Jaguar Skills

At the end of the month (30th August) we see the ultimate man of mystery, ninja DJ Jaguar Skills return to London KOKO for another instalment of Jaguar Skills & Friends. Last time around went OFF and there's no doubt it will be more of the same this time.

To help Jag Skills in bringing the madness to KOKO include Grime/Dubstep heavyweight P. Money, Drum & Bass bigboys Brookes Brothers, London DJ/MC Majestic plus just added Radio 1 resident Rockwell. Now that is a line-up capable of writing the night into Ninja folklore. 


You can also WIN a pair of tickets to the night, just tweet us @GigsandTours and tell us another famous Ninja with the hashtag #JaguarSkillsKOKO before 5pm, Wednesday 20th August! 

We caught up with the man behind the mask, Jaguar Skills ahead of the big night...

Hey man, what have you been up to today?
I wanted to go to the gym but didn’t. Had some chicken soup instead. Did a bit of ninja training. The normal stuff.

So what can we expect from the next instalment of Jaguar Skills & Friends at KOKO?
I’ve made LOADS of new bangers for the night. I’ve been road testing them all recently, and they all smash. I’m so excited to spin them! Plus I’ve got P Money, Rockwell, Majestic and The Brookes Brothers up in there too! It’s going to go off!

What is your favourite track to drop? 
Probably, ‘Ace Of Spades’ by Motorhead. I’ve played that tune in every one of my sets I think every time I’ve ever DJd. It’s a weird one, but a goodie. Plus I must have remixed that over 20 times too! But recently I love a lot of the bass house stuff. That’s dope!

Have you had a favourite show in the past?
I know it sounds corny, but I feel real lucky to be DJing for a living, and really, every gig I try and rock it as much as I can. But, I guess, anything in London or Tokyo. These are my two favourite places to DJ. 

Which artists are you listening to at the moment? 
I’m listening to a lot of Def Jam and Ram records. I’m doing two epic mixes for Ram and Def Jam at the moment - I’m flipping from Hip-Hop to D&B every few hours, to keep my brain from melting like a wet cake. Ask me anything about Def Jam or Ram Records right now! GO ON! :)

What can we expect from your friends playing with you at KOKO? 
Great performances and high levels of energy. I’m a fan of all the artists so it’s exciting for me too!

After you recent track ‘VYBLYF’ with Tom Piper, can we expect more material soon?
Yeah for sure. I’ve got a tune coming out on Ram Records soon. I made it with this really dope producer called Chords. It’s called ‘LUST’ and Matti Roots, this super soulful ninja, did the vocals. It’s wicked. It’s pretty soulful D&B. Break has done a real hardcore remix on it too that’s great. There’s a few tunes coming your way in the next few months. 

What does VYBLYF actually stand for? 
Whatever you want it to be!

Do you have a favourite genre to play out? 
Jaguar Skills type stuff? Humm? Lots of bass. Any tempo. Good vibes type things. Probably Drum & Bass. Then House. 

Which track do you wish you had produced?
Shit, I’m constantly wishing I’ve produced records! HA! Well, recently there’s this record that Deetron has made called “Rhythm”. It’s features Ben Westbeech. I wish I made that. I wish I made “Ante Up” by MOP. I wish I had made every Prodigy tune and every Pendulam record. Oh, man, I wish I made ALL the Knife Party tunes too. Imagine if you had made “Love Story” by Lalo & Bushwacker? I’d had loved to have made the soundtrack to “Enter The Dragon”. Or come with the theme to STARWARS. Even the disco version. I could go on….

What are your plans between now and the show in August? 
A combination of DJing, Studio work and Mario Kart 8. 

If you weren’t a DJ, what would you be?
A profesional fish monger. Something to do with fish and blades. A Swordsmith.

Is there a track you have never played live but plan to / would love to?
The theme tune to Fame, the 80’s TV series.

Which tracks do you listen to on the road or before a show?
Well, there’s loads….ok I’ll try and remember some! Here they are in a handy Spotify playlist...