Monday, 16 September 2013

Interview: Mischief with Allo Darlin' inspires new Wave Pictures record

A tour with indie pop stars Allo Darlin' has inspired The Wave Pictures' new album City Forgiveness. ShadowPlay caught up with frontman David Tattersall to discuss the album and the band's future.

If a decade of being told his voice is a dead ringer for Modern Lovers singer Jonathan Richman is wearing, then Wave Pictures frontman David Tattersall doesn't show it. The likeable songwriter cites Richman's 2008 album 'Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild' as a key influence to new album City Forgiveness, along with Rory Gallagher, Neil Young and rumba singer Franco and the OK Jazz.
 David Tattersall

But there's one key influence on the latest LP from the prolific trio - Allo Darlin'. The Fortuna Pop outfit accompanied the Wave Pictures on a six week tour of the US last year and double album City Forgiveness is the result of the trip. "The best thing about that tour was that we all became friends. The highs would be hanging out and drinking tequila and playing frisbee. The lows would be driving nine hours a day in the hot sun," Tattersall explains.

Release on hip London label Moshi Moshi on October 21, the record will be eagerly anticipated by the band's unique and oft-obsessive fan base. "We think it's the best thing we've ever done! We're very happy with it," explains Tattersall. "We have great special guests on there: Paul Rains from Allo Darlin, Stanley Brinks and others. And we've got a deep, rich sound that we never had before. The album has more tones and colours than on our previous efforts, more life, more energy."

If single The Woods is a marker than that description is more than accurate. A live version of the track recorded seminal east London studio Toe Rag shows Tattersall's trademark off beat lyrics ("I have unattractive nurses in my dreams/ stacked  low like pancakes") married to an infectious relentless dirty rhythm to give a performance as good as any the band have ever put in. 

"It was really really fun," Tattersall says of the Toe Rag session. "We certainly enjoyed the analogue aspect of the studio, the absence of a computer was delightful. I don't like computers much to be honest and I try to avoid them for the most part."

New album City Forgiveness
Formed in the East Midlands in the late 1990s, The Wave Pictures - Tattersall, bassist Franic Rozycki and Jonny Helm - have progressed to become royalty in the anti-folk scened finding fans and collaborators in comic supremo Jeffrey Lewis, Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle and Swedish folk legends Herman Dune among others. 

"We've been lucky right from the start with all the wonderful people that we have worked with. I remember hearing Jeff Lewis on John Peel when I was a teenager living in the East Midlands at my parents house," says Tattersall. "I thought his songs were incredible then and I still do now, and we've been friends for ten years and Franic played mandolin on his last album.

"I was uplifted by playing with Daniel Johnston: his songs really cheered me up and made me happy."
The Wave Pictures are one of the hardest working bands in the UK and their staggeringly prolific output has seen the trio release approaching 20 albums as well as solo projects and spin offs. Their tales of marmalade statues and avocado babies have combined with electric tunes like Jimmy Reed and Just Like a Drummer to retain a buzz around the band. Regular tours around the UK, US and Paris include headline slots in New York, a forthcoming gig at the Jazz Cafe in Camden on November 13 and the band even played ShadowPlay's first gig on a snowy night in Sheffield in 2006.

But does the relentless recording and touring ever get too much? "It certainly can be a struggle at times. But we've stayed true to the way we think things should be done. And so we're happy and enjoy what we're doing," Tattersall says.

"Nevertheless, we travel a lot and work hard and it can be a struggle to deal with all the opinions and criticisms that you get and all the indifference too, and all the while you know that the last thing the world needs is another band. 

He adds: "But the secret, I suppose, is to focus on the job at hand and try to disregard everything else that goes along with it. We get along with each other, and we love music, and that helps a lot."

Conviviality then, may be the key, but a heap of energy and a fistful of inventive tunes will doubtless keep the Wave Pictures on top too.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Could tapes follow vinyl and make a comeback after Cassette Store Day?

If the crunch of a TDK FE90 gets your hair standing on end then the first International Cassette Store Day was a treat. The celebration of the magnetic reel in plastic casing followed swiftly on the heels of the large-scale Record Store Day celebrations in April across the globe. 

Tape day is an event on a much smaller scale, not least as most consigned their tape decks to the attic in the early 2000s, but contains much of the same spirit. The desire to support independent music and look a little different and cool at the same time has driven the creation of both days while guilt over the torrent of free music enjoyed by fans is possibly also a factor.

There are a handful of great events worldwide. A plethora of great shops across the country - from Pie & Vinyl in Southsea to The Music Exchange in Nottingham sold exclusive tapes from the likes of Los Campesinos! and Bonnie Prince Billy. Labels including 4AD, Transgressive and Wichita re-released classics from the likes of At the Drive-In and Deerhunter on tape which were sold across Europe, North America and the UK. In Brooklyn, US there's a tape fair while Tokyo hosted live music.

In London, Rough Trade East and West sold the tapes and the former hosted a couple of live bands. A cluster of tape fanatics quickly surrounded the limited wares on the shop's counter as soon as they went on sale and pawed over their carefully put together casing and beautiful artwork. 

Personally, I love the format. As described in Tom Bonnett's beautifully put together interview with me earlier in the week, tapes offer an honest and enticing way to release music. Homemade tapes - which, it appears, did not kill music - can be used to convey everything from romance to pure serendipitous sharing of music while artists' releases can soundtrack a car journey perfectly on tape. At the day, I picked up a couple of crackers - an exclusive mixtape by Jeremiah Jae and Teebs and a special Lex release of JJ Doom's Key to the Kuffs which sees MF Doom team up with the likes of Thom Yorke and Beck. Glorious.

The resurgence of vinyl over the last decade has been driven by a number of factors including more people DJing at home, a desire for a product worth paying for in a digital music world and the popularity of 7"s for indie bands. For tapes too, the use of them as something different to offer fans by cultish bands has become increasingly commonplace and has sparked a mini revival. 

However, with many tape decks on the scrap heap, their traditional home of the car glove box now dominated by a Sat-Nav and the fact even staunch musos can't say the quality is better on tape will make this a much harder battle. For now, let's be happy that the nerdy part of our desire for music to feel authentic is appeased by this celebration of a much love format. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Egon Schiele's work - ShadowPlay's top picks

Austrian painter Egon Schiele's work has consistently drawn me to the icy stares and twisted body shapes of his portraits. Mentored by Gustav Klimt, Shiele spent much of his working life in Vienna and one of my favourite town's Cesky Krumlov, Cz. Here, we pick some of his most stunning work and tell you where to see it.

Portrait of the publisher Eduard Kosmack (1910)
This portrait of the Vienesse publisher has always struck me as full of tension and menace. I often wonder whether Kosmack would have been dismayed at Shiele's portrayal of him but the details on his hands ears are vivid.

The Green Stocking (1914)
The contrast between the green and orange clothing is striking, as are the woman's typical Shiele features - angular and aggressive. A captivating piece.

Holy Family (1913)
Religion doesn't feature heavily in Shiele's work but I've always found this piece striking. In his book on Shiele, art historian Wolfgang Georg Fischer says: "The child has the quality of an apparition. About the woman's head there is a yellow halo and the hands seem to be making ritual gestures."

Artist's Wife Painting
The way her feet disappear into nothing give this a fantastic ethereal quality.

The unusual pose in this one and the elongated fingers are eye catching. And she's pretty foxy.

Top places to see Egon Shiele's work
The Egon Schiele Art Centre, Siroka 71, Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Leopold Museum, Museumsplatz 1, Vienna 1070, Austria
Neue Galerie, 1048 5th Ave  New York
├ľsterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Prinz-Eugen-Stra├če 27, 1030 Wien, Austria