Friday, 30 July 2021

RW Hedges - Interview

RW Hedges is one of the best, relatively unheard, songwriters in the UK today. Together with songwriting partner Luca Nieri (right in photo), they create wonderful pop songs, with lovely melodies and hooks. Their sound recalls the 60s of The Beatles, Kinks and The Left Banke, also with hints of Americana and 50s Doo-wop.

On 3 Sept this year, he will be releasing his fourth album - Year after Year. It will be released on the superb Wonderfulsound label. I catch up with RW Hedges and we talk about the new record and everything music related!

Q. You will soon be releasing 'Year after Year' the new album and follow up to 2019's Western themed 'The Hills are Old Songs'. What can we expect to hear? Does it have a theme like the last record?

A. Hi Julie, what to expect? I always hope to deliver a memorable song so I hope they can expect that. And I thought the same for The Hills are Old Songs but that was themed more like for a play? Here, if there is a theme, it could be song itself.

Q. What were the main inspirations for the songs? Were there any Artists, Films or Literature which inspired the writing?

A. Last year Luca and I felt the project we had was in the wrong time so we shelved that again and Luca suggested a set of songs more in the key of music we used to play/listen to from the early to mid 60s very much Kinks, Zombies and Beatles but also Bert Jansch or folk blues. There are even hidden American songbook elements in the odd line or structure. There is what we call a song triad and that happens with the first 3 tracks. It has a Noir story, a west coast journey and some songs that are about the writing process in a way. We didn’t need a library shelf dedicated to this; any research was done on the jog.

Q. Tell me about the recording process. How did you end up working with Matt Allwright (BBC Presenter) who provides pedal steel?

A. It all came together quickly, we know Matt Allwright through my mate Scott who runs Balcony shirts in Uxbridge (check our Tunnel Vision podcast show) Matt was quick to realise his parts and intuitively he played on the ones that work for pedal steel beautifully.

Luca is studio head musician as well as producer, all those lovely electric guitars, drums, bass, organ piano and bv’s is all Luca. He is a king of arrangements too! I’m ever so lucky. But I had to fashion my chords, melody or lyrics to the occasion. And my friend Dan Towler, also a songwriter, did some amazing additional vocals and you can’t tell which of us is which. I like that.

Most of all I like writing songs with Luca. He can always help a line or a chord along with fluidity. You need all these elements, I think.

Q. The album is very short - 9 songs and around 20 mins in total. Is there a reason why you go against the 'standard' durations which most songwriters today follow?

A. I think partly in order to go against the standard of 5 minute songs, if I’m honest. It isn’t as if you can’t listen again? There are lots of good long songs when the writer feels or the song shows they should be. Here we kept the songs lean, with a good chorus. I know they are popular but anthems are not my bag.

Q. For you, what constitutes as a 'great song'?

A. When a word is combined in perfect wedding to melody and vice versa. It is hard to write convincingly I reckon. 'My Heart Stood Still' by Rodgers & Hart is a song I love, and I love them. That is a gold standard writing team. I look to them and use them as a bar way too high for me.

Q. Did you start writing songs at a young age? What started your love of music?

A. I sang to my mum at night as a baby, so I am told. I was in school choir and later in a Youth theatre where I met half of my first band that Luca was drummer in. I played Joey Biltmore in Guys and Dolls, Burt in Blitz, Mr Fox in Pinocchio. I love acting. Started writing at 14. It was all about guitars and gigs and sweating a lot back then.

Q. Is there a song you have written, or an album you are most proud of?

A. 'Signal Man', 'Haven't Seen Her in a While', 'Just a Fool', '80's Beach Emotion'. The album I am proudest of is 'Year After Year' (contractually obligated). I really like some of my comedy songs but my songs with Luca are the best really.

Q. What started with your fascination with The American Songbook, Broadway Musicals e.t.c.?

A. I was feeling low one day, I didn’t know what to do so I watched South Pacific which I’d seen along with many musicals before but this time it hit me properly. All the color and passion and brilliance of it. I then ordered in books and searched for hours to find more and more information. Luca and I both looked at chords and listened and talked a fair bit. The American songbook has had a massive effect on our great songwriters; Davies, Coward, McCartney and more.

They are sadly overlooked now, people like Dorothy Fields. But anyone who reads this can start up with the brilliant Afterglow radio from beautiful Bloomington Indiana. Mark Chilla has an archive and you’ll find the standards are a treat.

Q. Your first album Almanac (2008) is very different to your later ones with Luca Nieri. Do you find it better to work in a team? Does it affect the songwriting/creativity?

A. It is much better for me to be in a team. If the producer is also a proper musician and then an actual writer who really sees a way forward then you are so close to a tighter vision? The discussion is very important. So are surroundings. We write in a spot off the grid, and I do collage art, whilst Luca is a brilliant artist and can turn to graffiti or stark pencil works and paintings that are brilliant. Art is a really important part of our vision; it is as much therapy as music. Luca edits our videos taking all artistic responsibility into the fold. It is a way and it does help gel stuff to be honest. On a personal note, I would like access to a bunch of Jazz musicians in Prague. We could record and then have food just off of Charles bridge?

Q. You recorded a number of superb demos with your old band Starky (90s/early 00s). How do you look back on your experiences with the band? Will the songs ever be released?

A. We were good. Had lots of fun. Luca was 1st drummer then went off to do all manner of brilliant music and art. Our next drummer was Jody Moroney (great drummer name) who now plays with a few acts including a project with Little Barry.

We never released a thing. The band we were gigging and writing madly and recorded most of our stuff on Tascam 4 trks later 8 trks. I had a side blues and folk novelty gig of sitting on pub stools and belching at people. I was pretty good, I was honest and no-one was then really. The open mic nights were a scam. I went for travelling gigs and the odd residency.

Q. What are your favourite experiences/places you have visited e.t.c. whilst making music?

A. Greek Islands. It is the purest light in the centre of the world and you can breathe and be yourself and melt into the landscape.

Q. Do you have any plans for new projects, gigs e.t.c. in the future?

A. We are writing all the time for different bits n bobs. But we will try to do a Christmas song every year from now if we can, since we have done 4 these few years and we really enjoy it.

Check out Luca’s Etrurian Shades album. I love the Luca Nieri albums and people should hear all of them. Certainly, Spring to Summer 2022 is a goal for the next project from Luca and I.

Preorder the new album Year After Year, here on Wonderfulsound 
Release date: 3 Sept (though expected Aug), 2021

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Wojtek the Bear - Heaven by the Back Door

Released: 16 July 2021
Label: Last Night From Glasgow
Listen and Buy Here

Scottish indie band - Wojtek the Bear, are back with a new album. It is a sublime listen, their sound brought to mind fellow Scots -  Trashcan Sinatras and Aztec Camera. 

It opens with 'Ferme La Bouche' which is upbeat with an anthemic, catchy chorus. There are hints of brass, which reminded me of one of my favourite 80s bands - The Pale Fountains.

The gloriously melodic 'One Things For Certain' is the standout here, with lovely strings, and slightly melancholic lyrics. 

Other highlights include 'Luck or Design' which is a sad breakup song but surprisingly upbeat. It has some heartbreaking lyrics - "I used to think you were a prize. Now your words cut like knives." 

'Heaven by the Back Door' is another highlight here, with sweeping harmonies. It has themes of religion, finding who you are e.t.c. 'Packing Parachutes' is a very emotional listen with strong emphasis on the beautiful strings, which are prominent on this album.

A wonderfully produced album, full of well-written songs. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Ali Horn - Balcony Boys

Released: 16 July 2021
Label: _
Listen and Buy Here

Ali Horn, from Liverpool, is a recent discovery for me. His debut album is a superb listen, with hints of Velvet Underground (particularly Lou Reed) and Echo and the Bunnymen.  

It opens with 'Sun it Rises' which is wonderfully atmospheric and laid-back. It has some really psychedelic lyrics - "Find a girl that makes you see explosions the sky, sit her down and tell her all the colours in your mind".

'Feels like Home' is more of a moody love song, full of longing. The hooks are superb and it even has a fantastic whistling solo. 'Managed Decline' recalls The Velvet Underground - Sweet Jane and is very Summery sounding. 

'Badman' is my favourite here and is more Folk. It is a very heartfelt break up song. 'La Brea Tar' is heartbreaking and deals with themes of depression and poverty. 'Balcony Boys' is slightly more electronic, with the 90s vibes of Spiritualized. 

It ends on 'End Credits' which is upbeat but with quirky and morbid lyrics. - "So sing a happy song, cos I know that it won't be long till we are lying there eternally."

A Superb debut album and highly recommended Summer listening.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Peter Hall - Two Twenty Two

Released: 12 July 2021
Label: The Beautiful Music
Listen and Buy Here

Peter Hall, from Nottingham UK, is back with a new single after last years wonderful EP. 'Two Twenty Two' is more sophisticated guitar pop of the highest standard.  

It is a superbly melodic ballad with sublime harmonies, recalling The Beach Boys and The Beatles. On the whole, it also drew to mind more modern bands Trashcan Sinatras and later Teenage Fanclub. 

The lyrics are wistful and full of melancholy - "Two minutes twenty-two, to fall in love with you. We span so fast and fell so quick." The big soaring chorus is instantly memorable. 

A timeless song and judging from this, the album will definitely be one to look out for. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Sometime Songs - Sometimes Songs EP

Released: 26 May 2021
Label: Wonderfulsound
Listen and Buy Here

Sometime Songs is a collaboration of artists on the superb Wonderfulsound label. To my knowledge, the music is by The Superimposers (brilliant Psych/Indie band on the label). Vocals are by Americana Artist - Angelina.  

'Shooting Stars' is one of those magical songs you don't hear too often today, which recalls Motown Soul of the early 60s. The production reminded me of 50s doo-wop as well, especially the backing harmonies.

Angelina's vocals are very unique and have vibes of Patti Smith. The vocals and music, although from completely different genres, compliment each other perfectly.

'Borderline' is more ambient and laid-back sounding. It again has that magical production.

A superb EP from a label where you are always guaranteed to find something different and unique. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Mt Misery - Once Home, No Longer

Released: 25 June 2021
Label: Prefect Records
Listen and Buy Here

Mt. Misery, from Hartlepool UK, are a recent discovery for me. Their debut album is a sublime listen of lovely, well-written indie pop gems. 

It opens with 'The Dreaming Days are Over' which is wonderfully laid back with hints of Teenage Fanclub and Real Estate.

'Tell Me (What's on your Mind)' is my favourite here and a superb love song with Belle and Sebastian vibes. The lyrics are very heartfelt without being too twee.

Other highlights include 'Taken by the Tide' which is slightly more upbeat with a catchy chorus. The music is still very soft sounding and melodic. 'I Was Wrong' is a breakup song of the highest standard. It is immediately memorable, with heartbreaking lyrics.

It ends on 'The Thought of Losing You' which has some lovely harmonies and is reminiscent of The Velvet Underground - Sunday Morning. 

A superb album full of beautiful melodies and emotional lyrics. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

The Shop Window - The State of Being Human

Released: 25 June 2021
Label: Spinout Nuggets
Listen and Buy Here

The Shop Window, from Maidstone UK, are back with their debut album. It is a hugely enjoyable listen, recalling the best of 90s indie. 

It opens with 'Mannequin Lies'. The sound is reminiscent of RIDE with some superb vocal harmonies. The chorus really soars and has that uplifting, euphoric feeling of Summer.

Other highlights include 'Out of Reach' which is anthemic indie at its finest. The song is so memorable, especially the chorus, with shimmering jangly guitars.

'Break Down Walls' is lovely and melodic, with very heartfelt lyrics, about barriers in a relationship. 'Evacuate' is superbly catchy and upbeat, with more emotional lyrics. There are hints of The Cure in here as well, especially in the guitar sound.

My favourite here is 'Sad Eyes' which is so moving and has themes of growing old and dementia. - " All you have now is the past, The future has gone beyond your grasp." It is never overly sad and negative and highlights the importance of remembering the good times. 

A beautiful folk instrumental - 'Jack's Lullaby', ends the album perfectly. It has magical, film soundtrack vibes. 

A highly recommended album full of anthemic songs which will stay with you.