Back with 5 bonafide Spotlight gems to put a spring in your step for March...
Bellatrix — ‘Your Blood Only’
Leaning firmly to the left of Electro-Pop, Bellatrix's debut EP, 'Real Stuffed Owls' brought plaudits, radio airplay, 2 sell out shows in London and funding from Arts Council England. This has allowed her the freedom to keep chipping away at her genre spanning sound, happily leading us to the release of the Londoner's latest earworm, 'Your Blood Only'.
The song hits the sweet spot between infectious and creative; current enough to quite easily breakthrough into the mainstream but unique enough to maintain its inherent credibility. It sticks in your head and makes you grateful for it.
For a track with the potential to take on the world, Your Blood Only surfaced from fairly humble beginnings, "As with all my tunes, it started off as a weird little sketch nugget that I made in my bedroom". The song was refined with her regular collaborators, production duo Exmoor Emperor; "They are the nugget filter", says Bellatrix. And they have certainly struck gold with this nugget.
Bellatrix's next EP is expected in the summer and she is mulling over how to go about funding what will hopefully be her breakthrough release, "Probably just working my ass off and saving up." She's also got an imminent announcement on her next headline show, so keep them eyes peeled.
VALA – ‘Mirror’
If you're still looking for something summery to thaw out your frozen extremities, wrap your ears around VALA. Drawing influences from The Killers, The Strokes and Weezer, the band's latest single, 'Mirror', has the increasingly rare feel of a guitar band just enjoying making music together.
The image of the band writing such a sunny track from an uncomfortable sofa in a Salford student house (when it was probably raining) is a bit of an oxymoron. Whatever the method, it is definitely working for them, with singer/guitarist Joe citing, "The melody is always the focus for us." Adding another ingredient to the summery-not-summer-anthem soup is the fact that the song was recorded in the lead up to Christmas. Producer Mathieu Garcia does well to crank up the fun and avoid the temptation to add in any sleigh bells.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the track's release for VALA is the video, directed by Jack Grindrod and shot over a month in various locations across the North West of England. The director has skillfully channelled the band's energy into a smashing video that thankfully doesn't attempt to shoehorn in any sort of narrative. They're in a ropey looking alley but they've done it up nice with some fairy lights, then they're driving somewhere and it's night, and then they're on a beach and it's daytime... But it all looks really enjoyable and I'm sad that I wasn't invited.
The band isn't yet a year old but they are clearly finding their direction. Keep watch for their third single 'Summer Air' in the coming months—they're promising another accompanying video and hopefully this time I will be invited.
Grace Gillespie – ‘Restoration’
With a sound described by NME as ‘…heartrending as anything made in Bon Iver’s infamous cabin - but as self-assured as early Laura Marling’, Grace Gillespie captures essences of folk and dream pop, combining them into a spellbinding audio bundle.
A hugely important song to Grace, she explains its significance: “Restoration is an old song to me, one of my very first. Written when I first moved to London and it was freezing and I knew no-one. I was also trying to persuade myself to start gigging. It was a weird time as I had started writing a lot and even recording a little bit, but no-one really knew… It’s hard to reintroduce yourself suddenly to people as a songwriter, out of the blue. I knew I had to start playing live, but it was an uphill battle with myself the whole way. Restoration is a new beginning, starting out again, gathering the strength you have left and shedding the unnecessary broken bits that are still kicking around.”
As well as the marvellous words from NME, other highlights for Grace include having her demo version of the track picked out by Newton Faulkner on Reverbnation, which led to a feature in Q Magazine and many more rave reviews. Hitting the road with both PIXX and Austra was a hugely positive and worthwhile experience for Grace. And just last week, her song made it onto Spotify NL’s New Music Friday playlist and Spotify’s Fresh Folk playlist.
Currently on a prolific songwriting roll, averaging 3 new songs a week, plans to head back to the studio are high on Grace’s agenda for 2018. We can’t wait to hear what she has to share next.
TV ME – ‘Stitches’
An accomplishment of epic proportions, Stitches was written and recorded in sections by songwriter, Tom McConnell over the duration of 15 years, with the beginning piano piece written at the age of 14, the ending written age 10 and the middle section ‘stitching’ the piece together 2 years ago in 2016. The first single to be taken from their new EP ‘A Broadcast From TV ME’, its sound is inspired by Tom watching old videos of Laurel & Hardy, Pinky & Perky and A Hard Day’s Night at his grandparents as a child.
The Liverpool three piece are certainly turning heads with their kaleidoscopic and enchanting sound. They’ve recently returned from their first headline UK tour, had airplay on BBC Radio 6, Amazing Radio, Radio X and BBC Radio Merseyside, as well as some auspicious support slots for the likes of Flyte, Childhood and Cat's Eyes.
With another tour on the horizon this summer, the main priority for TV ME is working on their debut album. Expect more music, videos and gigs over the coming months, and we’ve no doubt there’ll be some festival appearances cropping up too.
Bethlehem Casuals — ‘Mind's Eye’
If, like me, you sometimes think 'You know, what I really need to get me through this week?... Some Afrocuban Tropical-Kraut music with anti-capitalist undertones', then don't worry! We have just the thing. Bethlehem Casuals are a 7-piece DIY collective featuring Welsh folk cello, Bulgarian percussion and Jazz saxophone - and somehow, that really works.
As with the rest of their back catalogue, Mind's Eye was born out of collaborative jam sessions in the spare room of singer Will and percussionist Nas's house. The chaotic, anything could happen, feel of the track results largely from the band's writing process:
"Once a rough structure was established, we took it completely out of the rehearsal room to work on developing and refining it live, onstage. This gives us instant feedback on arrangements, allowing us to react to the audience, and means we know what works best live whilst we're constructing the song."
This approach has brought the band a dedicated following, resulting in sold out EP launches, performances alongside the likes of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Natty, Anthony Joseph and Liam Bailey, as well as various festival slots across the UK.
2018 will see the release of Bethlehem Casual's debut album 'Feels On Wheels' on 20th March, accompanied by an album launch (or, in the band's words, "Party Extravaganza") on 26th March at The Deaf Institute in Manchester. This will be followed by a run festival shows and an Italian tour en-route to appearing at Mandrea Festival in the Alps. Not satisfied with all that shebang, they plan to cram themselves back into the spare bedroom to start work on their next album before the end of the year.
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