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a band I haven’t been able to find online, who’ve made one album I haven’t yet heard and has now been completely withdrawn from sale. It’s so withdrawn from sale when you click on the link that says ‘Email me when this tape is back in stock’ you get an error message – basically saying ‘there is no hope!’.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

Band of the Week: She Drew The Gun

The band 'she drew the gun' in the studio.

Who: She Drew The Gun

She Drew The Gun used to be not a band but an individual in the shape of lead singer Louisa Roach. They describe their music as “dreamy lyrical psych-pop from the banks of the Mersey”, and that does fairly accurately sum it up. Roach’s voice is constantly reminding me of someone else, in that ‘it’s on the tip of your tongue’ way. That’s not to take anything away from it, far from it, I really enjoy the vocal and have often found myself drifting away when listening to it.

When: Louisa Roach started playing as She Drew The Gun in 2013, the band have gradually formed since. Now a four piece band featuring Sian Monaghan on drums, Jack Turner on Guitar and Jenni Kickhefer on keyboard.

What: ‘Memories of the Future’ their first album was released at the end of April 2016. The album is available in all the usual places, noticeably, though, not on their website. That just seems such a lost opportunity for a band, not to get a larger chunk of the revenue and collect their fans email addresses at the same time! I generally try to buy direct from the band if I can. Maybe I’m being naive to assume the band see more of the cash, I’ll try to find out of that’s actually the case.

“dreamy lyrical psych-pop from the banks of the Mersey”

The two tracks I’ve included from Soundcloud (below) are the first two on the album. ‘Since you were not mine’ has been on Soundcloud in, what sounds like, its final form for over a year. In spite of that fact, Memories of the Future feels very much like an album, more than a collection of 11 songs gathered together to make a band’s first album. The laid back vibe is equally at home first thing in the morning (I’m listening at 7.30m as I write this) or late in the evening.

Listen to the beautiful ‘Poem’ it reveals a welcome honest analysis of Britain in 2016. Whether you agree with the politics, or not, it can only be a good thing that we have artists prepared to stand up for what they believe in.

“And now the markets are demanding that we give away for free
everything that our grandparents fought for to some company
It’s called wealth creation, yeah, it’s more efficient you see
Well sorry I forgot the free market would set us free
I forgot to only think about I am and me
while brothers and sisters have nothing to eat
brothers and sisters, at home and overseas
So I can’t lie down and I won’t let it be
While we are working for a market that doesn’t work for we”

Why: I started listening in 2015 as a result, I think, of their being featured on the BBC introducing show from Maida Vale. SDTG have been alternating in my favours this week with the latest album ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ from Radiohead, so no small achievement.

Where: They have a number of UK dates lined up over the summer, you can see more here.

Band of the Week

My notebook & pen while writing my Band of the Week post

I’m increasingly enjoying the process of blogging. There’s something about the act of sitting alone with my notebook and pen that’s very freeing. As someone who’s generally smitten with the digital age, it’s come as a bit of a shock to find that I just can’t manage to write on a laptop – I need a pen in my hand. It could be because I’m not the fastest typist, I can certainly write quicker than I can type, but whatever the reason it just doesn’t flow so easily from the keyboard.

There’s nothing a music geek likes more than trying to persuade someone else to listen to the new band they’ve discovered.

My laptop wile writing Band of the Week post

Just as I’d begun to enjoy the process I came up against what I assume every blogger must at some point, what exactly should I write about? My photography is always going to be at the core of what I talk about here. Trust me you don’t want regular missives from my subconscious.

Sooo, I have been listening to a lot of new music recently and I’d love to share some of it. There’s nothing a music geek likes more than trying to persuade someone else to listen to the new band they’ve discovered. Bear in mind this is a middle aged bloke talking so quite how ‘new’ this music proves to be may be open to debate – but most of it will be new to me.

I finally understand John Peel eulogising over music made by bands 30 years his junior.

I remember the excitement as a teenager in discovering a new band – even if it was via BBC Radio One, so technically half the teenagers in the UK were ‘discovering’ the same band at that exact same moment. Well, the news is that feeling can be just as captivating, different, but still captivating as you get older. I finally understand John Peel eulogising over music made by bands 30 years his junior.

All this leads me to say I’m going to commit (to attempt – just covering myself) to write about one band each week. I’ve decided to snappily call this new feature ‘Band of the Week’ – impressive huh, I’ve been working on that a while! The bands may not always be on the bleeding edge of cool, but it will be what I’m enjoying at the time. I’m aiming to get the first post up next week, so keep an eye out (or you could subscribe – it’s over there on the right).

I also really like the idea of featuring guest posts, hearing what you’re listening to, so if you’re interested please get in touch.

In the meantime keep enjoying the new.

Adventures in: renting camera equipment

Fujifilm XT1 with battery grip and 23mm f1.4 lens

For the first time, I decide to rent some gear for a shoot. In the past, I’d always managed to borrow what I needed or get by with what I had. But there’s only so long you can live off of the generosity of others. Conventional wisdom says you don’t buy the gear you’re only going to use occasionally, it’s better to rent what you need. If you find you’re using it a lot, then you buy.

I used to be a Project Manager, where you quickly learn, that if your plans can go wrong they generally will.

So I contact a local ‘professional’ dealer who’s handily about a mile from the venue. I was going to be a bit pushed for time the week of the gig so I arrange to pick up on the way there, allowing me to drop it back a couple of days later. I need a Fuji camera body and a lens (an XT1 and a 16-55mm f2.8, if you’re interested). I assume they probably won’t hold as much Fuji stock as the more popular Canon or Nikon, so I book nice and early. I’m all set, quite excited by this new way of working.

I used to be a Project Manager, where you quickly learn, that if your plans can go wrong they generally will. With this in mind, I make a note to call a month before the date.
“Hi, I’m just checking on my booking.”
“OK, let me just look for you ….., oh, sorry Sir, we’ve got it down for the wrong date,” they say.
“But don’t worry, I’ll change that for you now. There all done, see you on the 21st.”

My Project Manager cautiousness steps up a gear. I schedule another call for a week before the date.
“Hi, I’m sure it’s all fine (patently not true, or I wouldn’t be calling), I’m just checking on my booking for the 21st?”
“21st, let me see here. XT1 body…” (drawn out pause).
“What date was it Sir?”
“The 21st, I phoned”, (twice as it happens) “and you said it was all ok?”
I then launch into this slightly out-of-control stuttering repetition of my name and the date like some down-market DJ. “Rumsey, on the 21st, 21st, Rumsey, 21st…”
“That’s strange Sir, we don’t seem to have a record of it, but don’t worry I’ll book it for you now.”
I’m just on the verge of pointing out that I’ve already booked it when he says..
“Oh, I’m afraid that body’s already booked for the 21st”.
Yes, by me! Twice!

I can hear myself sounding like a dick.

I do my best to explain that I booked it first before the other booking, that should be my name on the list, not theirs. But I can hear myself sounding like a dick. After all, it’s not the other guy’s fault and it’s obvious my arguments aren’t going to cut any ice anyway.
“I can do you the XT-10, but it’s a little more expensive.”
At this point I’m resigned to my fate, I don’t even ask how renting a cheaper camera can be more expensive. My options have run out, I need a camera. No, I need this camera.
“Yes,” I say, “that’ll be fine.”

The logic behind renting the same camera as you already use is a sound one, all the buttons are in the same place, it’s just muscle memory. So much for that plan. However, the shoot goes fine, I don’t use the rented body that much anyway.

My question dear reader, is what do you do? Have I just been unlucky? Does renting gear need to be this difficult? How many times do you need to use a piece of gear to make it worth buying – at the moment, for me, that number is two.

I love this picture: a smile on her face

The band Lux Lisbon on stage at the Scala

I was going back through my pick of the shots I took for Lux Lisbon trying to decide which I prefer. I love this picture, it isn’t technically the best shot and it’s probably not the one most people would choose, but it works for me.

What it does is embodies the mood of the night. The Scala is the largest venue Lux Lisbon have ever played, it is sold out, the place is rammed, the band have just played a great set, it is the last date on their tour and everyone is having a great time.

I love this picture … a smile on her face, says ‘we did it!’

Most of the evening I was sitting in the pit in front of where Charlotte was playing and she had an amazing smile on her face. It was obvious she was having the time of her life and this moment towards the end of the night where she lifts her hands above her head, the smile on her face, says ‘we did it!’

That’s why it works for me. If you get the opportunity go to see Lux Lisbon play live, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. There’s more info on their website and you can even download a free 10 song EP, how many many bands do that.

Lux Lisbon at the Scala, London

Lux Lisbon on stage at the Scala, London

It’s great to get to shoot a high energy live gig, but even better when it’s a band you like, so I was more than a little chuffed to get to shoot Lux Lisbon’s largest gig to date at the Scala, in London.

Michael Kilbey on stage at the Scala, London

Michael Kilbey

There were two support acts starting with singer-songwriter Michael Kilby. I’d not shoot at the Scala before so it gave me a good chance to get a feel for the venue – singer-songwriters don’t generally move around too much and I’m pleased to say Michael followed in that honourable tradition. Michael has a great following, the ‘Sea Queens’, as they’re known, really enjoyed themselves!

Orlando Seale & the Swell on stage at the Scala, London

Orlando Seale & the Swell

Next up were Orlando Seale and the Swell. In addition to a guitarist, Orlando was playing with two great violinists and a very lively group of backing singers. It’s easy to tell when a group are enjoying themselves on stage and they were really enjoying themselves. I had the pleasure of meeting Orlando, he’s such a nice guy and was happy to chat to the audience in the bar after the gig.

Lux Lisbon have no management or record company – everything is completely DIY. I later found out they’re the first self-managed band to sell-out the Scala, a great achievement. I admire them for doing it that way, it’s really hard work, all the band were on stage before the set doing what would normally be roadie duties.

Lead singer Stu from Lux Lisbon on stage at the Scala, London

Stu from Lux Lisbon

Lux Lisbon are one of those bands that really come into their own in a live setting. I’m no music journalist so I’m not going to attempt to describe the references that inform their work – happily there’s a free 10-track EP you can download and do that for yourself.

It’s a fairly easy journey home from the Scala never-the-less it was still after midnight when I started editing. I was shooting RAW + small jpeg. I’ve written before about how great the Fuji jpegs are, it’s a massive time-saver to be able to grab jpegs straight from the camera, give them a quick tweak and email them off. The band wanted a few shots for their twitter and facebook feeds so they didn’t need to be huge files, the jpegs were ideal.

Charlotte from Lux Lisbon on stage at the Scala, London

Charlotte from Lux Lisbon

I’ve been playing with using the built-in wifi on the Fuji XT-1 to download files to an iPad. Snapseed and Lightroom Mobile are so intuitive on the iPad, in some ways I enjoy editing with them more than with full-blown Lightroom. Doing it that way would allow me to get some shots out even quicker, but I’m still not at the point where I feel I could rely on it to work without a hitch.

I spent the following morning editing the RAW files, uploading the final images to dropbox by the end of the day. You can see some more shots on my website. I hope you enjoy them and thanks to Lux Lisbon for the opportunity.