A New City

Looking out of a window on the first day in a new city

For me visiting a new city follows something of a regular pattern. For the first few hours, I don’t like it, wherever it is. That’s pretty much a given. It could be the holiday destination of your dreams – I won’t like it. They could be scattering orchid petals in front of me on the street – I still won’t like it. Period.

I’m generally the trip organiser. I tell myself I do it under sufferance but in reality, it’s a control issue – I think something would get forgotten if I didn’t do it. So because I’ve arranged everything I have this performance anxiety thing going on. My wife won’t like it, the hotel’s going to be a roach infested pit and we’re going to get mugged – the usual stuff everyone worries about.

A woman waiting for fries in a Berlin fast food store

However, once that’s passed and it is generally only a few hours. Then fairly quickly after that, I want to live there. Not lock, stock, and barrel sell our house and move. Just live there for a while, three months seems ideal. Long enough to get to know the place.

My fantasy, which is fully developed by now, generally involves renting a small apartment. I like the idea of an apartment because it’s easy to maintain, there are no distractions from the work in hand. I don’t want to waste my time gardening or sweeping the yard. I’m going there to be an artist nothing else. Once settled I’d spend my time wandering the streets with my trusty camera documenting the life of everyday man. In the evening I drink red wine and eat at a pavement café.

That’s not so unusual, I hear you thinking, everyone does that, from time to time. But for me it’s not time-to-time it’s every time!

A woman working late at night seen through an open window

This fantasy doesn’t always end when I leave the city. When I got home from visiting Eugene, Oregon, I spent several hours trawling rental properties online. Deciding which one I was going to rent like I was actually going to do it. I like the view from that one, but it’s a long walk from the town, that’s no good, I tell myself.

I picture myself like W. Eugene Smith trying to record the whole of Pittsburgh.

One property consisted of a small cottage at the bottom of the owners garden. I developed the story I was going to tell them about why I was there. As long as there’s no gardening required that would be fine. I’m not going to have time for gardening.

Hands tending a plant through an open window

The latest object of my desire was Berlin. We visited last month and stayed in a great hotel in Neukölln. We loved it. The streets behind the hotel were jammed with suitable apartments, it was ideal. A new city to explore my imagination ran riot. There are lovely little bars and a really welcoming atmosphere. I don’t speak more than the very basics of German, but that’ll come, I told myself, once you’re living here, chatting to people every day.

A group in a bar watching a football game

Maybe this fantasising is the sign of some malcontent in my life as it is. Could it be I just have an overactive imagination? I’m going to Bristol for the weekend soon, so if you’re interested in the state of the rental market give me a few days and I’ll be the man to ask.

A woman waiting on a u-bahn platform.

Band of the Week: Oh Wonder

British duo Oh Wonder

Who: Oh Wonder

One of the pleasures of going to a festival is the opportunity to see so many different bands in the same place at the same time. In the non-festival world, unless you live in the middle of a big city, going to a gig involves quite a commitment and no little expense. Yes, you’ve laid out quite a bit to get to the festival, but if you’re lucky, by the time it rolls around that pain has receded a little and you can convince yourself this music is basically free!

Latitude 2016 was just getting started, we walked on to the site on that Friday afternoon and ended up at the 6music stage / bloody great circus big top. Oh Wonder hadn’t been on stage long but the crowd had already warmed up and were loving it.

‘Some bloke thrashing away on a guitar in brilliant sunshine doesn’t seem right’.

Scheduling bands on the first day of a festival must be a bit of a tricky proposition. The crowd is a mix of some early arrivers who have spent the night, they’re in the mood and ready to party. But you’ve also got the folk who’ve just arrived after spending a few hours in a traffic jam.

I struggle to get into anything too heavy until the sun is heading towards the horizon. Some bloke thrashing away on a guitar in brilliant sunshine doesn’t seem right. So for me Oh Wonder were ideal. I’m sure their brand of electro-pop is a little lightweight for some. There’s something fresh about the Oh Wonder sound that perfectly suited that Friday afternoon, opening our festival if not ‘the’ festival.

Josephine Vander Gucht of Oh Wonder on stage

When: As I said, Oh Wonder were the first set of this year’s Latitude Festival and for my partner one of her standout moments of the weekend.

What: Oh Wonder, formed in 2014, are duo Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West. The couple are based in south London.

As more and more bands clamour for the attention of the internet getting noticed becomes increasingly difficult. Oh Wonder’s solution was to record, edit and release a track each month from the studio at the end of their garden. Starting in September 2014 with Body Gold (below) they were released onto Soundcloud. By the end of those twelve months, their debut self-titled album was written and had garnered them a huge online following.

As you would expect of a self-promoted product of the internet they are everywhere online. In addition to their Soundcloud, you can find Oh Wonder on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Spotify.

This is that first track uploaded to Spotify back in 2014.


And their latest album sampler. You can listen to the whole album on Soundcloud.


Why: Maybe it’s the full-of-expectation warm memory of that first sunny day at Latitude influencing me, but I don’t think so. There is definitely something in their songwriting to be nurtured. They have an uncanny knack of nailing the musical hook, it draws you in and before you know where you are you’re half way through the album.

Some reviews have commented that the harmonies tend to be a little monotonous. That seems a little harsh, however, I would be interested in hearing them mix it a little.

Where: As I write Oh Wonder are in the midst of a European tour. There are some more UK dates coming up with Festival No.6 in Portmeirion on 3 September, Bestival on Isle of Wight on the 9th and London’s Roundhouse on the 13th. They’re then of on a huge US tour until November. All the dates are here.

Have a great week. Have any new music you’d like to recommend? Hit me up at @nigelrumsey

Sunflower Bean: update

New York band Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean previously featured here as a ‘band of the week‘ are going to be touring Europe this autumn.

The New York trio start the UK segment of their tour at the End of the Road festival on September 3rd. They’re also scheduled to visit Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Leeds, Nottingham and Manchester’s Deaf Acadamy – which hopefully will mean a live set with Mark Riley on 6Music. Then on to Bestival on the Isle of Wight, Bristol and Brighton.

The tour finishes at one of my favourite London venues, the Scala in King’s Cross, on Thursday 15 September. All the details, tickets etc. are on their Facebook page.

Multi-Story Orchestra Rehearsal

Multi-Story Orchestra in their Peckham home

About this time last year I attended a concert by the Multi-Story Orchestra who perform, you guessed it, in a multi-storey car park. The orchestra is part of a wider arts project, Bold Tendencies, who have taken over the car park in the centre of Peckham, south London.

During the summer each year Bold Tendencies host a series of talks, concerts and art events. The roof of the car park is turned over to a great café and bar – Frank’s Cafe. As part of all this, the Multi-Story Orchestra play a series of classical concerts in their ’auditorium’ on the 8th floor.

Bassoonist with the Multi-Story Orchestra

…  several hundred Londoners joining in on the chorus of Wonderwall.

It’s quite a surreal experience. Imagine the typical multi-storey car park, low ceilings, harsh lighting. It is open on all sides, there’s concrete, lots of concrete and an orchestra! The day of the concert is one of those wonderful all too rare London days when the air is warm, there is barely a breeze and somehow all feels right with the world.

Mult-Story orchestra in their Peckham home

I’m guessing much of the audience aren’t familiar with Gérard Grisey’s Les Espaces Acousitiques, as I’m not. Never-the-less we sit entranced. My enduring memory comes in one of those unscripted moments. The other side of the railway is another building with its own roof top bar and their own performance – an Oasis cover band. As there is a lull in the music, across the tracks comes the unmistakable sound of several hundred Londoners joining in on the chorus of Wonderwall. Smiles spread across the faces of the audience. For a few seconds, two slices of London life are merged. Then as the orchestra continues those countless Noel’s and Liam’s gradually fade away.

Young musician working with the Multi-Story Orchestra

This year I’ve been lucky to work with the orchestra in shooting their rehearsals. The day of the rehearsal pictured here is very different from that day last year, thunderstorms were spreading across London, the rain hammered down. However, all that concrete isn’t easily intimidated. In that way the car park makes the ideal concert hall. It’s as though there’s no rain falling on the roof two floors above us.

Multi-Story Orchestra working with young musicians

For the second half of the rehearsal, the orchestra is joined by young musicians from local schools. It was great to see the musicians working with the next generation. From what I saw this year’s performances should be a treat.

Tuba player with Multi-Story Orchestra

Band of the Week: Corner Pilots

Rock band from the UK, Corner Pilots

Who: Corner Pilots

On their website, the Corner Pilots describe themselves as ‘a no-nonsense rock band hailing from Surrey’. A description which makes them sound less than they are. It may be factually correct but it smacks of being a little … suburban and their music certainly isn’t. A no nonsense rock band from New Jersey or Detroit, yes. A no nonsense rock band from London or Manchester, maybe, but Surrey! I guess if you are an aspiring rock band from the leafy suburbs there’s not a lot you can do about it – apart from maybe leave it off of your website.

Rock means so many different things to different people. To Death Metal fans it’s not rock unless your ears are bleeding in the first 30 seconds and it’s so loud it feels like your head has been anaesthetised for at least a day after. This is not that sort of rock, this is the rock of The Enemy, Arctic Monkeys or Royal Blood.

The band comprise Dan Stafford – vocals, guitarists Josh Bennett and Jake France, Ben Mawdsley on bass and drummer Reece O’Brien.

When: There’s not a whole lot of information about the band online, they were formed in 2014, there are a few a tracks on Soundcloud going back just over a year.

What: In an if-you-like-that-you’ll-like-this way the Corner Pilots remind me of Jack White post The White Stripes, which is a very good thing in my book. They write all their own music, which is something I’m thinking of making criteria for entry here.

… this is the rock of The Enemy, Arctic Monkeys or Royal Blood.

The difficulty for a relatively unknown band, doing their thing, trying to get gigs locally is the proliferation of cover bands on the pub circuit. You can understand the attraction if you run a town centre boozer, between major football competitions what better way to pull in the crowds than an Oasis or Beatles cover band knocking out the hits. It doesn’t really matter if they’re not that good, a couple of chords into Wonderwall most of the pub has joined in and you can’t hear the band anyway. So fair play to those pubs who do make the effort to showcase local bands or the likes of Corner Pilots would find it far more difficult to come to the fore.

Why: I need to be better at making a note of how I come across bands, I’m afraid I’m going to have to plead ignorance on this one.

Where: They seem to be gigging around London fairly regularly. They’re playing as part of an Absent Kelly Emerging gig at the O2 Islington on 8 July 2016.

Have a great week. Have any new music you’d like to recommend? Hit me up at @nigelrumsey

Band of the Week: Sunflower Bean

My Band of the Week: Sunflower Bean Photograph: Rebekah Campbell

Who: Sunflower Bean

I’ve thinking this week about how small single events can have so much larger consequences – more of that in a later post – but it ties into how I first came across this week’s Band of the Week, Sunflower Bean.

I looked at that photograph above and thought, as you just have, ‘doesn’t that guy look like a young Bob Dylan’. I appreciate that’s not necessarily what any band wants to hear. Naturally, they want you to fall in love with the music first, I get that, but there it is.

That guy is Nick Kivlen, he sings and plays the guitar with Sunflower Bean who have all the elements I love in a young band:

  • they take the whole thing really seriously.
  • they write all their own material.
  • they used to live together.
  • they’re inspired by an obscure artistic reference – in their case cult surrealist films.
  • and apropos last week’s BOTW, Mirror Gaze, they have a name that’s easy to google.

Sunflower Bean are Jacob Faber (drums), Julia Cumming (vocal, bass) and Nick Kivlen. Faber and Kivlen grew up in the stayed suburban Long Island. They met Cumming, who had previously been a member of Supercute!, in New York sometime in 2013.

A first album should be a little rough around the edges and …… full of ‘we bloody love this’ passion!

When: The Band formed in August 2013, they released an EP, Show Me Your Seven Secrets, in October 2015. Shortly after they were invited to tour with the likes of Diiv and The Vaccines. Their first album, Human Ceremony, was released on 5 February this year.

What: It’s easy to be sniffy about a young band’s first album, Human Ceremony was written when the band were all teenagers. It certainly shows their teenage experimentation and ranges through a number of genres, but there’s really nothing wrong with that. Young bands should be experimenting, finding what suits, I don’t want to hear a first album that’s been polished within an inch of its life. A first album should be a little rough around the edges and more importantly full of ‘we bloody love this’ passion!

One of my favourite tracks from the new album is Wall Watcher, it cracks off with a fresh dynamism, the guitar opening pulls you straight in and the mix of vocal from Cumming and Kivlen work well together.

Why: Basically it’s the Dylan thing, I’m not proud, but there it is. Having said that, it was the music that pulled me in. I’m certainly glad I stumbled upon them. They are a band to watch.

Where: They’re currently on a US tour. June seems them in Texas and California, followed by NYC, Chicago and Denver. In August, they come to the UK, including my local venue to shoot, the Scala. I’ll see if I can catch them there. All the dates are here.

Have a great week. Have any new music you’d like to recommend? Hit me up on @nigelrumsey.

Band of the Week: Mirror Gaze

an audio tape of Watch by Mirror Gaze

Who: Mirror Gaze

It’s only week two and already ‘Band of the Week’ has gone slightly awry. The plan had been to buy that tape, the one up there in the photo. To gripe a bit about how tapes were inexplicably becoming popular again, to grab the associated download then to give the tape away to anyone who has something to play it on.

However, the problem, actually the first of several problems, is that I was so dismissive of the whole tape thing I’d assumed they couldn’t possibly sell out – got that wrong. Gone, every last one!

Next, the name ‘Mirror Gaze’, great in theory, in practice you try googling mirror gaze. What you get is lots of people talking about staring at themselves in the mirror – honestly, try it, apparently it’s a thing. So, if you’re desperately trying to find information on a band of the same name, you’re out of luck. The album name ‘Watch’ doesn’t really help in this context! Not quite as bad as calling your band ‘video porn’ – but not much better (please don’t test that if you’re under 16)!

So here’s what we do know. I’m recommending a band I haven’t been able to find online, who’ve made one album I haven’t yet heard and has now been completely withdrawn from sale. It’s so withdrawn from sale when you click on the link that says ‘Email me when this tape is back in stock’ you get an error message – basically saying ‘there is no hope!’.

I understand this is now feeling like a ‘Band of the Week’ that has no band and no music!

To the rescue comes music-geek-nirvana in the shape of Soundcloud. (Would Nirvana have chosen the same name in the age of the web? – discuss)  There are these three tracks, the only three I’ve heard and the reason I’m recommending Mirror Gaze to you.

When: I came across them last month from on one of Norman Records excellent newsletters, if you’re not subscribed you should be.

What: I did have some success online. I found that Mirror Gaze are a duo consisting of Claire Bailey and Jim Knight. What I didn’t know before I started writing this is that Claire Bailey is an analog photographer and artist, you can see some of here work on her website.

Why: Mirror Gaze are an unexpected mix of psychedelic rock and pop vocal, although when you listen to the vocal it’s darker than you first imagine. I have to admit it’s Claire Bailey’s vocal that does it for me.

My favourite track is probably ‘You don’t know’, the first track above and also the first on the on the album. Having said that it’s the vocal that draws me in if you’re a fan of the bass guitar then you’re not going to be disappointed, Jim Knight knows what he’s doing. The guitar solo on the end of ‘Connection’ is masterful.

Where: Don’t ask me. I will update this if I hear more or if the tape is reissued. If you have more information about Mirror Gaze please get in touch. Happy listening.