Here at The Unsigned Guide we like to think we have our fingers firmly on the pulse when it comes to new music. Our monthly Spotlight blog which features the best tracks from our members has now having been running for over a year and a half, and we thought the new year would be a great time to catch up with some of the acts we’ve featured in the past to see how things are faring for their music careers and if Spotlight has acted as a springboard for their recent achievements. We’re thrilled to see many of them going from strength to strength and making a name for themselves in their own right. It just goes to show that with a little persistence and a lot of hard work you can get ahead!
Fancy being name-checked on our Spotlight blog yourself? At the end of this blog, you'll find details of how you too can be considered for our Spotlight blog and which music industry professionals tune into our 5 selected tracks every month.
Having first been featured in our December 2012 blog and succeeding in bagging our , BLESSA are definitely one of Spotlight’s biggest triumphs! Since they were crowned champions, they’ve gone onto be featured on the new music radars of many online and print publications including The Guardian and The Fly. BBC 6Music’s Lauren Laverne and Radio 1’s Jen and Ally’s Introducing show have been keen to play them on air too.
With an EP lined up in the coming months and live dates, including a slot at the Roundhouse Rising festival in February, we’re sure you’ll be seeing them on an array of festival line-ups over the summer too.
Wrexham’s surf-punk quartet Mowbird were one of the first bands we ever championed on the Spotlight blog back in 2012. Their self-confessed scrappy brand of slacker pop was a big hit with us and saw them secure slots at Swn festival and record a BBC Introducing session in Maida Vale.
Since we last checked in on them, they’ve gone on to play at Green Man festival, been featured in Artrocker and are set to appear at the FOCUS Wales event in April. Oh yeah, and they signed a record deal too! Ben tells us:
“Last year we took a break for the first 5 months, moved cities and then recorded our debut album. We recorded, mixed and mastered the entire record. We also got signed to Shape Records and our debut album 'Islander' is out 10th February on limited edition vinyl and digital download. We were super fortunate to have another vinyl release with the Popty Ping-released Happy Active Horse Organ 7" which was out in January. In 2014 we'll be going on a UK tour, recording our second album and seeing what the rest of the world gets up to.”
Check the for details of their live dates.
Another of our early favourites was Joel Hood and his “not very danceable dance music”. Since featuring in our October 2012 blog, he’s been highlighted by The Guardian in their prestigious , as well as receiving regular airplay on Lauren Laverne’s BBC 6Music show as one of her MPFree tracks.
Joel has been avidly working on new tracks and remixes and plans to release an EP via Sunday Best in the next few months. Following that, he is on the look-out for a booking agent and hopes to hit the road. Festival slots are in the bag but Joel’s keeping tight-lipped about which ones!
When we blogged about this Brighton based quartet in March last year, we were struck dumb by their chirpy, infectious little number ‘Solana’ and were pretty shocked to find that they were still in school cramming for their GCSE’s. They’d set their sights on playing some gigs across the UK…fast forward 12 months and they’re done & dusted with school and setting the live circuit alight.
Spencer filled us in on what they’ve been up to and their plans for the year ahead:
“Last year was amazing, getting in a van and doing our first mini UK tour was a real highlight, as was selling out our first Leeds headline show and headlining Arundel festival in front of 2,000 people. We also managed to get plenty of radio air-time and attention from bloggers and industry folk which has really helped spur us on.
At the moment we’re spending as much time as possible writing and recording. We also have a tour coming up in March and we’re liaising with a bunch of festivals including Dot To Dot and Redfest so we’ll hopefully see you there. We also want to concentrate on building our fanbase across the UK and establish relationships with a number of bloggers and radio pluggers and ideally get a booking agent, so it’s going to be a busy year. But we just really love hanging out, playing shows and writing tunes so it’s a win-win situation.”
See for details of their live dates.
When we featured Waylayers track ‘Magnets’ in our December 2012 Spotlight blog the trio had just finished some European dates and were locked away recording. Shortly afterwards they were crowned Steve Lamacq’s Band of the Week and went on to receive coverage in a plethora of publications and websites including The Recommender, Time Out, Clash, Topman Generation and Artrocker, as well as clocking up rave reviews from the likes of Jen Long, Dermot O’Leary and photographer Rankin.
Following over 20 festival dates in the UK last year and commercial success in the US the boys have also completed remixes for the likes of Everything Everything, Maximo Park and Mikill Pane on labels including Warp and Universal/Mercury. This year will see them heading across the pond once again for a string of US dates and SXSW, plus performing at one of the inaugural Fly Awards shows on UK soil.
Spotlight stars from February 2013, Manchester’s City Reign have been on the receiving end of high praise from the likes of Steve Lamacq who deemed them one of his favourite new bands. When we last spoke to them they were busy writing their second album. Guitarist Michael Grice gets us up to speed on what they’ve been up to in the past year:
“It’s been a crazy year since the last time we spoke. In the run up to our album being released we hit the road on our biggest tour to date, taking in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol, London and Manchester. It was pretty daunting booking this all ourselves but we had massive help from the music blog world and bands such as Idles in Bristol.
Releasing our album was incredible as it had been a long roller coaster ride from hitting that first drum snare in the studio to finding out how to put a barcode on the back of a CD. We had a lot of help from AIM and would fully recommend all musicians seek them out. The response we got from established magazines like Clash and Uncut really made the journey feel worthwhile too.
Other than that, we’re incredibly excited to be playing a sold out gig at The Castle in Manchester on March 21st.”
One band that have really gone from strength to strength since we featured them way back in August 2012 are Belfast quartet Ed Zealous. Playing a triumphant homecoming gig with compatriots Two Door Cinema Club and mastering their debut album were just the tip of the iceberg.
Following the successful release of their debut single ‘Medicines’ on the Fierce Panda/Fandango label, they have already been played and supported by the likes of BBC Radio 1, BBC6 Music and Seattle’s KEXP, amongst others, and our now preparing for their next big release; the debut album.
‘Wired’ will be available from 3rd February and is packed full of raw and infectious energy. Having been produced by Eliot James whose extensive body of work includes collaborations with Bloc Party, Noah & The Whale and Does It Offend You, Yeah?, it’s awash with vigorous electronics and vocal hooks aplenty.
“The Ed Zealous album is up there with the best debut records of the last 5 years. If you don’t love it then we can no longer be friends.” Phil Taggart – BBC Radio 1.
They also released their second single ‘Diamonds For Eyes’, the track which first caught our attention, this week. Have a . We certainly expect to be hearing a lot more from these Belfast boys this year.
The Welsh/Eqyptian/rest-of-the-world 5 piece, Clockwork Radio, released their first EP ‘State Of Mind’ back in 2010 and have since released 4 EPs and performed on the same bill as the likes of The Prodigy, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Hives and Tom Williams & The Boat. When they formed part of our Spotlight blog in August 2012 there was talk of an album and as drummer Dan tells us, it’s now very much a reality:
“It's all go in the Clockwork Radio camp. We've just recorded the first album- we're mixing and mastering at the min and it’s due for release in the Spring/ Summer of this year. Highlights from last year include a couple of European tour, as well as some nice festival appearances over the summer and getting in at 80Hertz to record in December. It was really old school, we recorded the album in 2 days! It should be an exciting year. We are looking forward to seeing where the album takes us!”
Rewind back to March last year and Belfast’s GO WOLF were fast becoming another dynamic addition to the city’s ever-growing vibrant music scene. Having supported the likes of The 1975, CSS and Jape their debut single ‘Voices’ was also featured on trendy French label Kitsuné Maison’s Compilation which saw the Irish Times declare “The Kitsuné-alligned band have buzzing, muscular, addictive electro-pop running through their veins and a barrage of tracks which already sound damn glorious and quite gorgeous.”
Later this month, on 30th January, they will support Little Bear at The Couth in Belfast as part of Independent Venue Week.
On the strength of a single song, Shy Nature gained immediate supporters and were firm favourites for our May 2013 Spotlight blog. Since described as “a flurry of starry-eyed guitars and wild-eyed choruses” (This Is Fake DIY), our chosen track Deadly Sin has gone onto receive national airplay from multiple DJs at BBC Radio 1, including Huw Stephens who made the track a BBC Introducing Discovery in June last year.
Having released their debut EP in September, lead track ‘Sinking Ship’ earned further BBC Radio 1 support from Phil & Alice and Jen Long which has led to Jen’s label ‘Kissability’ (along with team Transgressive) choosing to release their forthcoming single Lie Back next month. In just over a week the single had already featured in NME, chalked up 3,000+ spins on SoundCloud and been played on Radio 1.
In support of Lie Back the quartet will tour the UK starting in Leeds on Feb 7th and finishing on 16th February in Bristol, plus they’ll be making an appearance at this year’s Great Escape.
Letters To Fiesta
Letters to Fiesta, who we featured early in 2013, released their Aphorism EP in October on Sideways Saloon Records and had their , as well as garnering a feature in Q Magazine. Not bad atl all! Having played a whole host of gigs up and down the country their first gig of 2014 will be at The Dancehouse in Manchester on 29th January.
Sadly we couldn’t fit all our amazing Spotlight acts into the blog as there’s just so damn many of them! However, honourable mentions need to be made to the likes of who have also received a great deal of love from BBC6 Music and took Cardiff’s Swn Festival by storm last year. Manchester’s who featured in October 2012 also received great exposure from 6Music and lots of coverage on music sites including Fake DIY and NME as well as playing copious gigs in the North and in London. November 2012 Spotlighters have gone onto receive some rather adoring coverage in NME and who appeared in our first ever Spotlight blog in July 2012 was a hit with Radio 1 and was entered into the MTV Brand New Unsigned competition. Following the release of his debut album , who featured in September 2012, went on to be included in an array of End of Year lists including Rough Trade’s as well as being included on one of their compilations. Leeds four-piece have released single Fill Me In with more releases on the agenda, plus live dates too. And last but by no means least from April 2013’s blog has been a name on everyone’s lips in recent months with his debut album ‘Drowning Butterflies’ having received great acclaim and leading to support slots with the likes of Rudimental and Phoenix.
How do I get featured on the Spotlight blog?
We’re not surprised if you’re asking yourself this question right now! Our Spotlight blog is compiled every month from fresh new music submitted to us and we want to hear from you! We select 5 of the best tracks from our members, so if you want to be in the running you’ll need to sign up to The Unsigned Guide then follow the instructions in your Welcome email to submit a track for Spotlight consideration to us. If you’re already a member and still not sure about how to submit your music for Spotlight, just & we’ll help you out!
As well as being featured in our new music blog, your track will also be forwarded onto , you’ll receive a free SoundCloud Pro account, plus we have a number of online radio stations that will air our Spotlight tracks to.
If you want to know about The Unsigned Guide’s UK music industry contacts directory and the other services we provide to help emerging bands and artists, then head over here to .