Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Feature: ORGAN FREEMAN: (BidoLito!) (Dec 2012, page 10)

ORGAN FREEMAN are four young lads from The Wirral, comprising of the unusual combination of two frontmen and two stand up drummers. When asked to describe their sound, singer Luke Bather affectionately suggests that it is “music inspired by aliens”, which makes a surprising amount of sense if you’ve ever been to one of their shows, largely thanks to the influence of their fifth and most important member, an old Yamaha QY700 MIDI Sequencer. Resisting the urge to describe it as out of this world, their unique style of frenetic, messy, synth infused garage rock, delivered by two of the most excitable and yelping frontmen about will certainly sound alien to most. With no recorded content online and almost no media interaction, Organ Freeman have somehow found themselves being one of the most talked about new bands in Liverpool. 

The genius is in the name. Puns, play on words, double-entendres - keep ‘em coming. Describing its conception, co-frontman Simon Gabriel explains that they had a collection of organ based puns to choose from and this was the “best of a bad bunch”, although with the other options including Pianu Reaves, Keyboard and Kel and Bruce Forsynth you might argue otherwise. The key thing, he adds, it that’s it creates a “lasting impression with their audience”, which is so important in today’s local music scenes. Gigs, especially at local level are becoming increasingly busy affairs. The wealth of local bands, local venues and local promoters has meant that the headliner/ support act format has been usurped by more of showcase with five or six bands on the bill, making it even harder to achieve any lasting exposure from gigging than ever before. Ask yourself which new bands you discovered at Liverpool Sound City and you won’t be saying The Grande. “We wanted to make sure people could at least associate our performances, good or bad, with a name” explains Simon as he laments the occasions he had seen a good band but couldn’t remember their name. The danger is that with a name like this, correlations between how many people are talking about you and how many are listening can become dangerously skewered. Cerebral Balzy, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Danananakroyd, Mumm-Ra all fell victim of this, disappointing with their first and second releases as the charm of their names eventually wore off and we all forgot why we liked them in the first place. For now though, it has acted as an invaluable tool for their guerrilla, word of mouth style of promotion, giving Organ Freeman the platform to express themselves to wider and more eclectic audiences.

Simon and Luke claim to have played Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag at every show they’ve ever done. At their show in Liverpool last month this was the set closer as the audience screamed every word as if they had been waiting for it all evening. Wheatus covers, planned and prearranged matching outfits and choreographed audience participation have all become synonymous with an Organ Freeman show. This very much stems from their early reputation as a ‘party band’, as their shows became more and more associated with alcohol fuelled mayhem, a reputation Simon and the band are keen to move away from: “We got such a good response from being a positive, party based band early on, and some people can rely on that and continue to do that forever but for us, that gets boring. We didn’t want to be expected to do something at all of our shows”. Simon and Luke go on to describe a time where a promoter had enthusiastically booked them based on the premise that they would turn the show into a wild party, so in response they set their stage up as an office and played the songs at half speed and without any drums. Whilst you might argue that bands as new as this can’t afford to be so petulant, it’s nice to see a band sticking to a cause. For a new artist reputations can be easy to earn and impossible to get rid of. Remember Be Your Own Pet? Weren’t they the ones who made themselves sick on stage at all their shows? Of course a reputation for putting on wild, fun shows is an admirable aim for many bands and even Simon admits that it has “served them well”, but something like that can so quickly be cheapened and turned into a gimmick as it starts to precede all discussion and surpass all their creative intentions. These days their shows are still the funnest and most exhilarating you’ll attend all year, but underpinning this is their desire to keep themselves and their audience moving forward. Playing with expectations perhaps more shrewdly than they might admit, they ensure that people are talking about them for the right, wrong or any reason at all, because you can do all the promotion in the world but if as soon as you stop becoming a talking point then it doesn’t mean a thing.

This is what drives Organ Freeman, proving that doing things differently speaks for itself without the need to tell everyone about it. The standards to which we commend live performances is alarmingly low these days, and with Lady Gaga, Katy Perry et al. bringing more and more extravagance to their shows, Organ Freeman recognise that audience’s attention spans are getting shorter so shows must be more engaging . Luke even suggests that he and the band “often go to Taylor Swift and Ke$ha concerts and take notes”. I suspect that he is only half joking, as he clarifies that the band ultimately aim to create a new form of “DIY Pop Music and performance” challenging the expectations of their audience with a performance that engages both their ears and their eyes, making it memorable beyond how well the songs were performed or that prick who kept talking behind you. ‘Oversaturation’ is a term that’s all too familiar with British independent music these days, and I’m not suggesting that an artist can’t still excel based on some extraordinary songs. But if guitar music in Britain needs saving, it won’t be by a new three chord chorus from The Vaccines. So perhaps an interesting and exciting live performance is what it takes to break out in 2012, and with no songs even released yet, Organ Freeman can attribute their already impressive success almost on this alone.

Simon reveals that the band have their long awaited first single recorded and ready to release in early 2013 with an album following much later. Be sure to keep an eye on their twitter (@TheOrganFreeman) for more details. Their plans for the year remain firmly in their live show though, as they look to bring bigger budgets and bigger ideas to them in an attempt to change how we feel about live performances. An ambitious aim it may be, but succeed or fail, the beauty lies in the attempt.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Live Review: James Blake, Mele (BidoLito!) (Feb 13, page 26)

Melé - Residents
The Shipping Forecast
6th December

Since his last appearance in Liverpool, local producer MELÉ has been championed by Annie Mac, appeared in The Boiler Room and produced official remixes for the likes of Wretch-32 and EMI upstarts Bastille. So it is with intrigue and excitement that we await his 12 O’clock return to the intimate setting of The Hold. Animated as ever, Melé brings the party right from the off, almost bouncing off the walls as he takes us through a highlight reel of the last twelve months in electronic music. Flanked by Radio 1’s newest resident Monki, he treats us to an astonishingly energetic set, dropping tracks like Meek Mill’s House Party, his own Beamer and most explosively Joy Orbison’s & Boddika’s Mercy (Boddika’s VIP) with a confidence only acquired when you’ve enjoyed the type of year he has. As the final song fades and and rapturous applause ensues, the mutual love between the young DJ and his local scene radiates from all corners.

The evening's headliner JAMES BLAKE cuts an imposing figure as he towers over the booth, easing us into his set with some unheard new material. The twitchy, stop-start beats move quickly and suddenly, ducking and weaving their way tantalizingly close to that pay off and where your ears might expect. Technically brilliant as it is, it’s difficult to ignore the somewhat subdued atmosphere, as the challenging early moments of his set present a bit of a comedown from the exuberance of Melé moments earlier. The introduction of Digital Mystikz’ seminal Earth a Run Red injects some much needed energy though, as reverent nodding heads are dispelled by ecstatic pumping fists and the scene becomes much more familiar. We are soon taken even closer to Croydon’s Big Apple as Skream’s 2006 classic Glamma reminds us why we were all so excited by dubstep before it collapsed in on itself, the audience clearly appreciating these tunes that are becoming more and more of an enigma in todays shows. 90s R&B makes an appearance as it did with his 20120 CMYK EP, as his own  ‘Harmonimix’ remix of Bills Bills Bills teases you with that sample before crushing it almost beyond recognition, integrating the pop and experimental much like his career has to date.

As 3am approaches and a cold Liverpool beckons, James Blake abruptly halts proceedings and demands everyone’s attention with a moment of silence, before delivering a final masterstroke in what has been a riveting 2 hour set: a full, unedited version of Purple Rain. Now forgive me if hyperbole gets the better of me on this occasion, but as all 250 audience members sing in unison, arm in arm, until the very last refrain, you are forced to remind yourself that you’re not in a John Hughes movie and these moments are actually unfolding in front of you.

2012 has been a year of immeasurable improvements for electronic music in Liverpool, with new promoters bringing in the country’s finest and most challenging artist week in week out. Tonight as the best local talent and one of the country’s biggest names stand shoulder to shoulder,  Melé and James Blake have produced a night that will be retold and reminisced for weeks to come, encapsulating this exciting, ambitious and thriving scene that we find ourselves in.

Mike Townsend