Archive | July 2013

soundCHECK 209 – July 25th 2013

It’s difficult to question the musical ambition of a girl who has guitars bursting out of her cranium.

This is the self-referential image depicted on the cover of Harri Larkin’s new EP. A portrait of a girl so musically minded that her brain vomits instruments. Here we have a flame-haired singer-songwriter of fierce industry – and her new EP is resilient testament to such an appraisal. Doffing the cap to Siamese Dream-era Billy Corgan, every sound that bounces down your aural canal was played by the multi-instrumental Larkin, with the exception of the drums (for which Sam Miles is responsible).

So what do we have on our hands here?

The five songs of the EP, entitled Through Red Eyes, hint at an artist of unquestionable potential. (Proper potential too. Not the pinchbeck potential you adorn people with when you hate them but want to avoid sounding insulting.) No more luminously is that potential presented than when Larkin stamps on the distortion pedal during slick-paced sugar-pop like I’m Not Awkward and Hang In There Kid, the bratty pop-sensibilities and honey-soaked harmonies of the latter redolent of Celebrity Skin-era Hole.

The young songstress (Larkin is just nineteen) honed her musical talent at North Devon’s Petroc while studying a diploma in music performance, commuting daily from Morwenstow in yonder Kernow to do so. And lo, ‘tis in North Devon where her talent is being most keenly received as Larkin, peeping out from beneath a canopy-sized beanie (presumably worn to stop the instruments poking out), performs in venues like The Wrey Arms, Cork ‘n’ Bottle and The Palladium.

The first batch of copies of Through Red Eyes sold out before the official release date. More are being made, which you can get your mitts on at live shows. And conveniently Harri Larkin plays at The Palladium in Bideford on Wednesday 14th August. Diarise. EP tasters are available at soundcloud.com/harri-oliver-larkin.

In more news of talent that’s sickeningly youthful, the aforementioned Palladium gig is headlined by an acoustic duo whose respective members make even Larkin look like a withered, weathered old has been. Forever Young are made up of Dan Powe (lead guitar) and Oscar Wenman-Hyde (guitar and vocals). They are fifteen and sixteen respectively. Yes their name suggests a crushing realisation looms ominously on the horizon, but for now it’s not hard to see the POTENTIAL in Forever Young’s shimmering, Turin Brakes-esque acoustica. (No cranial explosions just yet, though.)

Said gig marks the conclusion of Forever Young’s eight-night Westcountry tour, which started in Bristol at The Fleece on Sunday and takes in Plymouth’s Skiving Scholar as well as The Picture House in Exeter (1st August). The duo also plays St Anne’s Chapel in Barnstaple tomorrow evening (Friday 2nd).

“We have achieved so much during the year and a half we’ve been together,” fist-pumps Forever Young’s Oscar Wenman-Hyde. “We have put the tour together ourselves and remain completely independent. It’s hard work but the support makes up for it.” You can listen to Forever Young at foreveryoung666.bandcamp.com, which you will need an internet for.

There’s probably one on your computer, off the top of my head.

CONTACT: Sate my rapacious thirst for local music news and I’ll write about you. jharper[at]northdevon.co.uk | @testforpulse

soundCHECK 208 – July 18th 2013

Much as in adulthood, as a child I was not a totem of savvy decision-making. Take drawing, for example. Adding colour to the faces, hands and all other approximations of the human form registered by my endeavouring digits was a responsibility solely burdened by the pink pencil. Doesn’t matter whether I was drawing mum, dad or the local reverend, everyone’s skin was radioactive pink – and that was that.

Yet it’s at times like this, when summer sees fit to make a proper appearance, that this primary school-aged artistic dogma displays more sagacity than stupidity. If this sun-kissed, skin-blistering summer continues, festival season will be more fun than ever. Unless we all develop melanomas. (Remember the sunscreen everyone.)

Next up on the Westcountry festival menu is Leopallooza, which takes place in Bude on 2nd – 4th August. It’s a festival steadfast in its DIY roots, whose maiden outing seven years ago saw bands playing on a stage lashed together from nothing but a pile of reclaimed wood, a pair of telegraph poles and a disregard for caution. It was a bold attempt by Lee Ellis and his band at the time (The Fires) to counteract an ailing North Cornish music scene by hosting a summer rock party for a bunch of mates. 250 people turned up, keenly chugging the cider they had been encouraged to bring, watching a smattering of live music. Leopallooza’s rep is today firmly cemented: an annual gathering of 5,000 people, with multiple stages (proper ones), a hulking great campsite and a line-up that includes some of the UK’s best underground musical talent. And Bastille. Who are currently about as underground as the Hubble Space Telescope – and infinitely more intrusive.

Scholars, Straight Lines and Eliza & The Bear are worthy contenders for your time and attention. Afford it to them and disappointment is unlikely. North Devon-born music is represented by the reliable hands of Oh Captive, Auction For The Promise Club (two thirds of them are from Torrington) and The Dead Betas, themselves no strangers to hosting their own music festival – documented in last week’s soundCHECK. (It’s called BetaFest, it happens in Bideford. Go to facebook.com/betafest for more.) Weekend tickets for Leopallooza are available from leopallooza.com, priced at £60.

In pursuit of the news that The Dead Betas will be playing Leopallooza is the rousing revelation that they have once again been selected to support the UK tour of Mindless Self Indulgence, a band who have developed cultish reverence since forming in New York in 1997 on the back of quaint sing-a-longs like Hail Satan, I Hate Jimmy Page and Cocaine & Toupees. The Dead Betas’ support slots will see the North Devon synthed-up mayhem-makers brandishing their bratty punkcore at venues like The Anson Rooms in Bristol, Audio in Brighton and KOKO in London.

The Dead Betas are in demand. And, you could say, in the very pink of condition.

CONTACT: Invest my life with meaning and share with me your local music news: jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk | @testforpulse.