Archive | May 2014

soundCHECK 251 – May 29th 2014

Back in November I wrote with tongue-in-cheek (deadly serious) animosity in this very column about the wanton verbicide of the word ‘sick’. Let me remind you: “Hands up who can tell me when it became okay to use the word sick to mean really good? We are on the precipice of a pandemic of linguistic lunacy,” I wrote, apparently to an audience pumped to the eyeballs with apathy. Because now look where we are.  There’s sick everywhere. And not in a good way. The (mis)use of ‘sick’ has projectiled so far and wide among the perceived counterculture that I barely even notice when people say it anymore. (I’m crying inside.)

So when I received an email from the co-founder of new North Devon digital record label Super Sick Records, here’s what I DIDN’T do: immediately imagine ‘Super Sick Records’ as the working title for a chunderous televisual hybrid of Man v. Food and Record Breakers, where Cheryl Baker watches in horror while deluded plebs evacuate their engorged stomachs in a bid to break some kind of unsanitary record. (I’m going to pitch this idea to Dave – not the TV channel, just a mate.) Instead I thought: grandmother’s spatula! – these guys have gone done and captured the lexical zeitgeist (and are in fact about a hundred times cooler than a lowly hack trying to make subversive funnies by using his music column to nark off about English).

Yes. So what’s the deal with Super Sick Records?

Well, they are co-founded and helmed by fraternally-bound duo Ben and Joe Brewer: a pair of musician’s whose relationships with the local music scene extend back a decade or so. Between them they’ve been in bands like Severe Zero, Halley’s Apparition and Hollowpoint, while tending incredibly productive solo pursuits.

Super Sick’s aim is two-fold: 1) to bring freshly-minted music to people who want to hear decent bands that are a little off the beaten track; 2) to help inexplicably unheard of artists expose their sound to a few extra listeners.

What’s cool is that when tracks are released through Super Sick they have exclusive rights to that music for one month. In other words, you will be able to hear the music through Super Sick’s website and – well – that’s it. And if you think beauty has its roots in simplicity, try this on for size: Super Sick will release one EP by a different artist each month. Sign up for a FREE account and a track from each new release will be sent automagically to your inbox. Each month. No cash, no ties. Pay £2 a month and you get the full EP.

Super Sick are super-ethical too. The artist pays nothing to release through the label and scoops 50% of the total subscriber revenue for the month their EP is released. It’s bloomin’ marvellous to see a couple of local chaps disrupting traditional ideas to help promote grass roots music. Good on them. Show a little love or find out about how to get released through Super Sick at

Right, I need to call Cheryl.

CONTACT: Got local music news? Bake a pie around it and chuck it my way: jharper[at] | @testforpulse

soundCHECK 250 – May 22nd 2014

And the winner is? Sophie Barker.

Regular readers will know that clumsy metaphors, nomadic topic digression and deeply uncomfortable attempts at humour are all recurring themes of soundCHECK. But over the last few weeks this rickety word-splurge has played host to a competition too. A really real one. The prize? A slot on the bill at PigStock – a new summer music festival at The Pig On The Hill designed for humans living in or near grammarian’s nightmare Westward Ho! The festival name, allied to the fact that a hog roast is part of the festivities, may make you a trifle suspicious that PigStock is actually a cultish carnival of porcine immolation conceived to appease some unknown deity with a taste for crackling. But no, PigStock is a one-day summer knees-up where live music takes centre stage, followed by local ales, ciders and burgers. Cow discs. Bovine pucks.

Five North Devon bands sent in videos of themselves in action by way of entry. These were hosted on where folk could manipulate their fingers into clicking a voting button that sent the architect of their favourite video one step closer to PigStock. Special soundCHECK thanks to The Verbals, Auction For The Promise Club, The Slaughtered Lamb and Falling Apart for their entries. But the people of North Devon have spoken. The competition door has slammed shut and the votes have been carefully tallied by The Journal’s finest bean-counters.

Off on their victory lap clutching their acoustic guitar is Sophie Barker, author of beguiling melody and guardian of a disarmingly emotive voice. Her laid-back performance of ‘Chaos’ exposed a bittersweet pop song delivered with verve, effortless charm and accomplished vocals that belie yet tender years. A worthy winner. Catch Sophie at PigStock on Saturday 31st May. Visit for more.

So there you have it. Please excuse the lack of X Factor-style suspense-building.  Those tedious, melodramatic attempts at whipping watchers into frenzied anticipation make me want to smash my face through the television screen. And not in a good way. Besides, this competition has been running for four weeks. The dull ache in your arms must have reached unbearable levels; that’s what happens when you’re left hanging on tenterhooks. The least I could do is put you out of your misery.

Big thanks to all the entrants, big thanks to all who voted. You can watch the PigStock entrants’ videos at

CONTACT: Got local music news? In a band? Made a song? Tell me the facts: jharper[at] | @testforpulse