Bandwagon noun (pl. bandwagons) 1. A large wagon used to carry a band of musicians in a parade.

Friday, 30 March 2012

BBC Introducing: False Hope or Thumbs Up?

The Original Rudeboys

Launched in 2007, BBC Introducing aims to “support unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar musicians”. Florence + the Machine is one of the key artists to have successfully skyrocketed into the charts after being championed by BBC Introducing.  But how much has BBC Introducing helped other acts boost their music careers?

Last Summer I was thrilled to witness some exciting new acts performing on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading Festival. Amongst my list of favourites was slow mo house band Black Diamond Bay, who managed to get the crowd’s toes tapping despite their early stage slot. Other highlights were Sam Sure & Giacomo, a hip-hop electronic duo based in London and the south east, and Irish indie hip-pop trio The Original Rudeboys. I was lucky enough to catch up with the latter two groups and find out how much impact BBC Introducing has had on them.

I’ll start off with Sam Sure & Giacomo, not just because I love their tunes, but Sam looks good enough to eat. At Reading they absolutely wowed the crowd, and the cheeky-chappy feel good vibes made this the best performance I saw the whole weekend. Sam reflects on his experience of BBC Introducing, saying it was “incredible…the sun was setting and the crowd got bigger as the set went on. By the end I was saying things between songs like "this is the best day of my life!" and I really meant it. I was absolutely buzzing! Since then our career has been going from strength to strength and a lot of that can be attributed to the help we got from BBC Introducing”. I am ecstatic to report that Sam Sure & Giacomo’s new cutting edge 360 degree interactive digital music video for ‘Dark Inside propels them to the forefront of contemporary hip hop. The click and drag aspect of their modern-twist video allows us to jump into Sam’s surroundings on the Portabello Road and Oxford Street so that we connect even further with the lyrics. BBC Introducing seems to have done a lot for the boys’ confidence and I really hope to see them getting bigger and better in the coming years.

Next, The Original Rudeboys, who describe themselves as “kind of original, not very rude, and definitely boys”, have achieved success, predominantly in Ireland, as a result of playing the BBC Introducing stage at Reading.  My Friday morning was enhanced by listening to the soft Irish tones of Den, rapper and songwriter of the trio, who agreed to chat with me on the phone. Den responds to the question of what animal The Original Rudeboys would be with an unexpected answer - “sloth”… Luckily he explains this is “because I’ve never heard of those animals up until a week ago and that’s the way people tend to take our music: they’ve never heard it and like it”. He goes on to mention that the other two lads in the trio look like sloths, probably a tongue-in-cheek comment in light of earlier claims that “the ladies seem to go for Walshy [Ukulele player] a lot”. 

But back to the point - prior to the festival, the boys had about a thousand online fans, but six months on they have acquired over 19,000 Facebook fans, and recently hit a benchmark of 1 million hits on YouTube. Playing the Introducing stage was a definite high-point for The Original Rudeboys, since Ed Sheeran’s producer, Jake Gosling, spotted them by luck whilst waiting to see Sheeran’s guest performance. He immediately offered to work with them on their debut album, ‘This Life’, which is to be released on 23rd March. But does BBC Introducing give aspiring musicians false hope? Den thinks “The BBC can supply the stage but it’s up to the artists to get the fan base on their side”. It’s clear then, that BBC Introducing gives aspiring artists a platform on which to showcase their music, but the artists must put hard work into collecting fans in order to come away from the experience with a blast.

Another group who have experienced BBC Introducing are folk-indie band Cattle & Cane, whose lush harmonic pieces have been likened to those of Mumford & Sons. The deeply emotive lyrics of ‘We were children’ make it a personal favourite of mine, but ‘Sold My Soul’ should not go unmentioned. Drummer Paul Wilson considers BBC Introducing stages at major UK festivals as “invaluable opportunities for artists to gain some heavy experience and the prestige that goes along with it”. Cattle & Cane played the BBC Introducing stage at T in the Park, but Paul also highlights the importance of other aspects of BBC Introducing, saying, “we saw the airplay given to us on BBC 6Music as a seal of approval in regard to the music we were creating and this gave us further impetus to improve and move up the ladder to get a wider exposure”. Overall, Paul’s view that “BBC Introducing can only be a positive thing for artists trying to break through into what is an increasingly overcrowded industry” is a positive indication that BBC Introducing gets a big ‘thumbs up’.

The Cattle & Cane drummer’s sentiments are echoed by Ben Dancer, front man of five-piece koala-loving band Vinyl Jacket: “I truly believe that the continued exposure that BBC Introducing provides for new bands like ourselves is critical in the prosperity of the diverse music scene in the UK.” He can’t speak highly enough of the overwhelming support BBC Introducing has given them, saying, “They have provided us with invaluable guidance and allowed us to take our art to the next level in both a creative and commercial capacity.” The band’s slot on the Introducing stage at Glastonbury, the Maida Vale session, and support from Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and Greg James, who premiered Vinyl Jacket’s recent single 'Red Light’ has given the boys “huge confidence and belief” in their musical direction. And thank goodness, because the energy they bring to the world of music, with their synchronized moves (see their ‘Koala’ music video), crazy luminous paint, and upbeat tracks, should not be wasted.

Sam Sure & Giacomo, The Original Rudeboys, Cattle & Cane, and Vinyl Jacket all demonstrate why BBC Introducing is so important to the UK and Ireland. Have a listen to some of the mentioned tracks on The Bubble Music’s YouTube channel here:


This article was previously seen on The Bubble on 24th February 2012.

Sheeran supporting Snow Patrol's US tour

The music video for Snow Patrol's single 'New York' is released in the UK today by Vevo. The band also begin their 36 date tour-run in North America tonight. Ed Sheeran is supporting - this a bit of a surprise to me...I wonder how he'll go down in the States. Perhaps the teenage girls over there will view him as a ginger version of John Mayer?!

Regina Spektor's latest release

Regina Spektor has gone edgy, with her new release 'All The Rowboats'. She's looking pretty dandy too.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sonisphere festival

'Sonisphere 2012 festival is cancelled'...let's hope no more music festivals fall through this year

Jamie Cullum on Radio 2: Bridging the gap to jazz

Jamie Cullum: Master of jazz

It’s 18.59 on Tuesday evening and I’m rushing to tidy my room in anticipation of my best friend, who, in one hour’s time, will be sipping vodka and orange squash (classic Theology student…) while I indulge in a Baileys and ice. But the real reason for my haste is that Jamie Cullum’s BBC Radio 2 show is about to start and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.

Jamie is of course famous for his crossover jazz hits, and has previously graced the Radio 2 studio with live performances such as his cover of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’. But, he now contributes to the radio station by gracing listeners with a fresh, contemporary stance on the world of jazz while the main focus of his life is currently his daughter Lyra who turns one next month.

Jazz is not always easy-listening music, however Jamie’s show succeeds in attracting audiences who are new to the genre as well as jazz fanatics. He has recently showcased Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Gregory Porter’s enchanting tunes. ‘Illusion’ is a particularly touching song of his, filled with melancholic memories and ending with a soft exhale of breath, which Porter has reflected on saying, “Love makes us all crazy”.

Another champion of the show is New York based Gretchen Parlato, whose stretchy delicate tones come through strongly in ‘All That I Can Say’, which features on her 2011 album ‘The Lost and Found’. Although the recorded session she did for a show earlier this year was a slight disappointment, her style is very easy to listen to and even jazz haters should check out ‘Still’, a guitar-based duet with Alan Hampton, whose voice makes me want to melt…

Robert Glasper is one of the legends to listen out for on the show, with his hip-hop influenced piano wonders. As I sit typing I can’t help but bop to the chilled beat. Glasper has in fact collaborated with Gretchen Parlato on her cover of Simply Red’s ‘Holding Back The Years’. Gretchen’s version is a must-hear – it is vastly different from the original. I consider this to be a very good thing indeed.

Contemporary artists like these gently ease newcomers into jazz. But what makes Jamie’s show even better is the inclusion of earlier blues, swing and other sub-genres, which induce nostalgia in the listeners each week. The most recent show was a Sir Paul McCartney Special. So, appropriately, Jamie began the hour with Ray Charles’ cover of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ from 1984. The honesty of the recording, slightly muffled and extremely soulful, takes us back in time. Other older jazz pieces, sure to get you feeling perkier about life, that Jamie has previously incorporated, include ‘The Lighthouse in the Sky’ by Nat King Cole. The fullness of the backing choir’s vocals and carefree clapping along with Nat King Cole’s smooth baritone voice make this song extremely feel good.

The instrumentals played on the show might be slightly harder to get into for jazz newcomers, but after a while I would hope that tunes like ‘Tom Thumb’ by Wayne Shorter and ‘Spinner’ by the Portico Quartet provoke at least a head-bop in most listeners. A personal favourite instrumental that Jamie aired during his last session is Brad Mehldau’s piano solo version of Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’. It is a glorious accompaniment to a glass of your favourite beverage whilst winding down after a long day. By airing covers of well-known songs, Jamie allows jazz beginners to gain a feel for jazz scales and notes, while enjoying the familiarity of a melody or phrase that they have heard before.

Interviews are a key feature of the show and Jamie has been lucky enough to chat with the likes of Dave Brubeck, Gregory Porter, Sir Paul McCartney, and Clint Eastwood. They aim to understand how jazz and other genres have shaped the music and lives of the interviewees. Occasionally our ears are treated to live performances – with help from the Radio 2 studio’s resident piano, which was donated by Elton John. In November last year we heard a live duet of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ from Mr Cullum himself and guest Eliza Doolittle. I might be slightly biased, having almost sprinted to touch his sweat-covered T-shirt when he performed at Kew the Music last summer, but you will surely agree that his singing voice is divine. Sessions pre-recorded at the Maida Vale Studios (which were originally a roller skating venue!) also factor into the show. Past sessions have been from sax-sensation Soweto Kinch, Parisian singer-songwriter Camille (check out ‘Mars Is No Fun’), and classically trained jazz pianist and composer Zoe Rahman. Jamie also advertises upcoming jazz gigs to look out for around the country, which keeps us up to date with the live jazz scene.

Although I’ve mentioned Beatles-related music a lot so far, I must admit that I didn’t actually enjoy listening to McCartney’s version of ‘It’s only a paper moon’ from his new jazz-infused album ‘Kisses on the Bottom’. But I feel that 55-year-old ladies who are members of his international fan club will love it. Although every single track aired is not to all listeners’ tastes, the show is sure to introduce more than enough exciting tunes to make it worth tuning into. And often these tracks will be ones that, without Jamie’s help, we won’t have heard before.

Jamie Cullum’s aim to “try to get people to listen to jazz” is definitely achieved, and I hope that having read this far you will give it a go next Tuesday evening when he will be featuring Empirical, one of his favourite jazz bands. To listen to a playlist of songs Jamie has aired on his show check out The Bubble Music’s brand new YouTube channel here:


This article was previously seen on The Bubble on 10th February 2012.