Culture – The Upcoming Culture, trends, fashion from London and beyond | The Upcoming Wed, 22 Nov 2017 23:59:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bad Roads at the Royal Court Theatre | Theatre review Wed, 22 Nov 2017 23:59:49 +0000 Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s Bad Roads is like a tight, vaguely experimental short story collection: six snapshots into life as a woman in the current Ukrainian conflict that finds its politics not through its allegiances, but rather in the way it gives a voice to the often voiceless.

Vorozhbit is careful to prevent her characters from becoming vessels of pure misery. There is no doubt that the world of the play is a truly nasty place, where men are constantly threatening to make meat of your body through death or sex. Yet the playwright repeatedly complicates her narratives, exploring how relationships – both sexual and romantic, but also everyday interactions – are warped in the rubble of war. Each story ripples into the next; specific details repeatedly crop up, possibilities splintering off from the same source. It reinforces the idea that these experiences are as shared as they are personal.

After her superlative, hyper-naturalistic work on Victory Condition, Vicky Featherstone goes in the other direction here, complementing Vorozhbit’s stylistic shifts with a series of sharp choices. Set in Camilla Clarke’s gorgeous debris-strewn forest, the opening scene is a monologue of sorts, a bittersweet journalistic journey to the frontline peppered with the stories of those met on the way. Featherstone injects a further sense of documentary by having the other actors speak these blackly comic and crushing anecdotes into a microphone at the back of the stage, as if the character is playing back a tape recording from out in the field. It’s sort of a shame that the whole play isn’t this.

Each subsequent episode sees some kind of stylistic shift, be it in the writing or direction. The most harrowing sequence – a sexual assault that really should be flagged up more clearly for those who might be triggered by such issues – takes place in the pitch black. The complete darkness, combined with the graphic language, is utterly suffocating. It’s almost the inverse of the opening monologue, with love and longing swapped for sexual and emotional abuse. Here compassion becomes a tool for survival, the hostage desperately trying to remind her sadistic abuser of his humanity.

It’s a repeated theme this, people having to scrape away the thick layer of their wartime actions to find the person hidden beneath. This point’s underlined in the final scene: a husband and wife seek to extort a kind-hearted woman who has accidentally killed their chicken, until they appear to remember they’re not those kinds of people. “Don’t’ tempt us”, they say; Bad Roads seems to be about the impossibilities of avoiding those temptations.

Connor Campbell
Photo: Helen Murray

Bad Roads is at the Royal Court Theatre from 15th November until 23rd December 2017. For further information or to book visit the Royal Court website here.

Starvecrow | Movie review Wed, 22 Nov 2017 15:18:07 +0000 Starvecrow, an exercise in hyper-realism, reveals the homogenisation of privacy and publicity by technology and social media. It immerses the viewer, and masterfully convinces them of its reality by erasing all traces of fiction. The entire picture uses “stolen footage” (obtained by the psychopathic main character, Ben) from smartphones and handheld cameras, shot in first person, often with the actors-cum-cameramen filming themselves as well. Scenes are largely improvised and sit alongside footage of the actors’ actual lives, who all keep their real names and use no makeup, costumes or sets. Consequently, the viewer not only forgets that they are simply watching actors, but is also given the illusion of being physically present at, and even directly involved in, the events happening on screen. Furthermore, the lack of a clearly defined plot allows the interactions between the characters (firstly Ben and his girlfriend Jess, then a group of young friends) to be emphasised. Instead of the plot driving the film and providing the context for such interactions, a story gradually emerges from them: the tale of the minutiae of broken human relationships, studied in close up. What marks this movie out from the crowd, however, is the absence of a selecting principle: everything seems to be recorded, perhaps a comment on how social media is now used.

This comprehensiveness, however, is not innocent: it gradually exposes the abusive potential in close relationships between friends and family members; isolation and despair in the face of technologically afforded connectedness; and how people willingly destroy their own privacy in an attempt to feel that what they do has importance and meaning. These themes are all tied together by the underlying darkness in human beings and how a happy and wholesome public image can so often conceal depths of depravity. This is skilfully expressed through a powerful shift of focus from that “public image” – described and characterised as “sharable” footage – towards the beginning of the film, to a juxtaposition of those same shots with scenes of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. For example, a character called Butchy from the young group is alternatingly shown laughing happily in a pub with friends, and molesting a drunkenly unconscious girl at a party. And yet, because the more violent footage is not self-indulgent, and is reinforced by an excellent original soundtrack (Noel Watson), it does not undermine Starvecrow’s sense of convincing realism, and the darkness that emerges is very disturbing.

Ed Edwards

Starvecrow is released in selected cinemas on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for Starvecrow here:


Blue Hawaii at Pickle Factory | Live review Wed, 22 Nov 2017 13:52:51 +0000 Canadian duo Blue Hawaii, (Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Alex “Agor” Kerby) return to London, playing the intimate Pickle Factory, tucked away behind a busy corner of Bethnal Green. They both appear on stage after a slight delay, having experienced every musician’s nightmare: a busted electribe emx1 adapter aka the drum machine.

The first song of the evening, Free at Last, taken from their 2017 album Tenderness, takes us into club music genre. The muted samples slowly build up, reflecting the simplicity and calmness of the title, with Preston’s vocals passing effortlessly on its buoyancy. Saxophone samples offer a jazz-like quality to what is essentially a chilled dance jam. Blending into the popular hit Versus Game, it is easy to see why Blue Hawaii have such a passionate fan base. Kerby’s samples are addictive to say the least, and he knows just how to build the anticipation before the eventual drop. There is a clear 90s vibe to their sound, but they manage to produce something that is also very current. The lyrics and music work perfectly well together, bridging the gap between pop and electronic, with shots of house and rave. Versus Game could easily become a classic club hit, with the right DJs playing it, while Belong to Myself brings the tone down a little, creating a low tempo in which Preston’s vocals reach striking crescendos.

In Two, from their last album, Untogether (2011), dedicated to the “original Blue Hawaii fans”, is also an ambient track, with a looped beat, whilst Searching for You transports us into a softened garage genre tune. With the addition of saxophone samples, there is a serene Balearic mood that is Blue Hawaii’s signature sound. The live performance has a different vibe and energy to the recorded version, as it should, proving that the pair translate their tunes well to a live set. Do You Need Me is a good example of this, with the addition of bongo drum samples, which Kerby put together in a very short amount of time. Disco number No One Like You represents what is at the core of what this duo are about: gentle club music that gradually builds to a satisfying beat. Completing the set with Try to Be, Preston and Kerby have captured the audience in creating tracks with an ethereal and light quality, combining haunting sentimental lyrics with cool danceable rhythms. Preston understands her vocals well while he is a maestro on the samples, and together they create sumptuous music. Though no instruments, in the classic term, are played tonight, the performance shows the Canadians really do have a talent in creating blissful ambient pop with gorgeous beats.

A quote from their time creating the Untogether album cover perfectly captures the spirit of Blue Hawaii: “…the idea of holding somebody, but not really getting at what is going on at their core…” It is this elusive quality in their sound that makes the duo well worth seeing live.

Selina Begum
Photo: KEXP

For further information and future events visit the Blue Hawaii website here.

Watch the video for No One Like You here:

The Star | Movie review Wed, 22 Nov 2017 11:58:51 +0000 The Star, directed by debutant Timothy Reckart, aims to cash in on the imminent Christmas fervour with a nativity story told through the lens of Bo, the humble mill donkey from Nazareth. Our anthropomorphic adventurer becomes ensnared in the story of the birth of Jesus and, together with a host of other animals, follows Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem.

Our hero Bo, voiced by Steven Yeun of Walking Dead fame, finds himself in a rut at the mill he is forced to work in, but a series of serendipitous events played out alongside his trusty best pal Dave the dove (Keegan-Michael Key) land him in the care of Mary, with whom he is destined for incident.

The Star is, as expected, laced with Christian sentiment; the majority of the soundtrack is inspired by gospel and hymns, with allegorical elements spliced into the storyline at every opportunity. Characters are seen praying on more than one occasion, and those prayers are invariably answered.

It’s a joyous film, celebrating the first Christmas with trademark Hollywood panache, addressing this much-visited tale in a fun and charming manner. Often this approach can border on the mawkish, unsurprisingly given that it often feels like a church Sunday school production with a $20 million budget.

The interactions between the animals offer a platform for entertaining dialogue and prove the most fruitful space for the actors to gel. There is, for example, a tangible bromance between Bo and Dave, while the camel trio Deborah (Oprah Winfrey), Cyrus (Tyler Perry) and Felix (Tracy Morgan) have an undeniable chemistry evident in every scene they grace.

Disappointingly, a strong cast fails to pack much punch, limited by a script lacking in most departments; the comedic talents of Tracy Morgan and Key are particularly wasted. A cynic may suggest the film, similar to the vast majority of major animation releases, has been produced for the guaranteed financial prosperity, offering the audience a commercial piece, rather than an artistic one.

Deborah the camel cannily predicts that people are going to “remember this night”, they did indeed. It’s questionable, however, how long this film will stick in the memory.

Jake Cudsi

The Star is released nationwide on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for The Star here:

Modigliani at Tate Modern | Exhibition review Wed, 22 Nov 2017 11:51:02 +0000 When it comes to Modigliani, the eyes have it. Cartoonish, blacked out or cross-hatched in palest blue, the gaze of a Modigliani portrait is both immediately present, following you round the room, and strangely absent, as if the personality of the sitter has been effaced through paint. It’s impossible to say exactly how the artist achieves this phenomenon, but the effect is undoubtedly unsettling.

Viewed en masse, as in the new exhibition at Tate Modern, these portraits have a power that is almost auratic. It helps, perhaps, that images of wealthy patrons and famous fellow artists rub shoulders with servants, local children and perhaps even prostitutes.

The diversity of this social milieu, the display implies, is emblematic of the variety of artistic movements, styles and media being experimented in Paris in the 1900s and 1910s. Certainly, traces of almost every famous artist and movement of the era can be seen in Modigliani’s paintings; cubism, pointillism and Cezanne’s post-impressionism can all be identified as influences.

Despite this, however, the artist manages to maintain a strikingly consistent aesthetic throughout his career. His swan-necked, black-eyed figures have now become iconic, and it is a treat to see some of his most important works in the flesh.

At the centre of the exhibition is a collection of 12 nudes, the largest group ever to be shown in the UK. Modigliani’s mastery at manipulating flesh tones makes these paintings an aesthetic sensual delight, but they are perhaps not as revolutionary as the show wants to make out. It seems almost unnecessary to point it out, but these “nudes” are all of women, and they are all pleasingly voluptuous without being overtly sexual in their content. The text points to the inclusion of pubic hair, but its tasteful depiction is no more revolutionary than that found in works by Goya or Courbet from the previous century. These are primarily objects to be looked at for the visual titillation of men, rather than bold proto-feminist depictions of women in charge of their sexuality.

In general, however, the exhibition is a feast for the eyes. Modigliani is a master of his medium and the show at Tate effectively conveys his skill. At times it lacks a clear narrative arc and it sometimes feels more focused on the identity of the sitters than on the artistic developments of the artist (an easy trap to fall into with figurative portraiture). Overall, however, Modigliani is a delightful foray into one of the world’s favourite artists.

Anna Souter
Photos: Daniel Donovan

Modigliani is at Tate Modern from 23rd November 2017 until 2nd April 2018. For further information or to book visit the Tate website here.

Battle of the Sexes | Movie review Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:51:42 +0000 At the turn of the 1970s, women’s tennis was beginning to experience a revolution in the game like never before. A group of nine of the worlds top female players came together in protest against the United States Lawn Tennis Association and their guidelines and restrictions for women’s prize money. To rebel against the inequality in pay between the men and women’s game, this group, including the likes of Billie Jean King, Kirsty Pigeon and Margaret Court, formed a new tour, labelled the Virginia Slims Circuit. With the formation of this new travelling tournament came an increase in tensions between the USLTA and public opinion, leading inevitably to the battle of the sexes and one Mr Bobby Riggs.

In Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and her group of rebellious female tennis players decide to stand up to the harsh acts of sexism and inequality from Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), Chairman of the USLTA. As the newly formed women’s tour progresses, American former Wimbledon Champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is drawn by his desire to prove that men are simply better players than women and when coupled with his dangerous yet comic gambling addiction, believes that a match between himself and Billie Jean King is a fantastic opportunity to make a large sum of money. Fighting her own personal battles, King is struggling to keep her grasp on the top spot in women’s tennis, with distractions from a new sexual partner and her feminist drive for equality. In a match that would define the future of the sport, King and Riggs battle their own personal issues, whilst also competing for a greater cause.

As opposed to other sporting pictures, Battle of the Sexes has an immense and intricate focus on the character and the people over the tennis itself. We learn about Billie Jean King’s values as a person within the opening scenes of the film, portrayed excellently by Oscar-winner Emma Stone, but it is the message she wishes to convey that drives her being and motives throughout the picture. The build up to the match takes up a majority of the movie, and directors Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris prefer to look at the players’ journeys to the magic day. Steve Carell is wildly entertaining as the serial hustler Bobby Riggs, using his comic timing and character’s back story to win over a few hearts before his chauvinist act is put on.

With moments of extreme sexism that would not pass in any form of setting in the 21st century, Battle of the Sexes is a display of power from female players, along with sexual confusion and a moral sense of justification. It could be said that the picture has slightly romanticised the true events that took place in 1973 in order to make it a feature-length film, but none the less the movie is a very pleasant reenactment of the events prior to one of the greatest tennis matches in history, with strong supporting performances from the likes of Andrea Riseborough as King’s lover Marilyn Barnett and Austin Stowell as Larry King, the devoted husband of the tennis superstar, who actually received a very raw deal once the events of the day were over.

Guy Lambert

Battle of the Sexes is released nationwide on 24th November 2017.

Watch the trailer for Battle of the Sexes here:

An interview with Dan Owen: The singer-songwriter opens up about his life-changing route into music Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:46:15 +0000 Shrewsbury singer Dan Owen has been impressing audiences with his husky voice, energetic live performances, and busy gigging schedule for years. Before closing his latest tour at London’s Omeara, Owen opened up about the painful story behind latest single Hideaway and how it pushed him into music. He signed to Atlantic Records earlier this year, and we also got the first word on his upcoming debut album.

Hi Dan, thank you so much for spending the time to chat to us. We’re joining you on the last night of your European tour. What moments have stood out on the tour so far?

There have been a few. I think Birmingham was an amazing show actually; it was one where everyone started singing. I’m not a massive fan of when people are really quiet and silent in a gig. I like to chat and laugh and have a good time and get a bit drunk instead – I come from a pub gig background and Birmingham felt just like a Saturday night out. We also played in Paris at a venue similar to here (Omeara) and loads of people turned up, which was a really good feeling.

And have you ever played here at the Omeara before?

No I haven’t, but I’ve noticed that everyone’s doing it!

It’s the place to be!

I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while.

It’s good to have you back here in London. What’s your favourite thing to do in the city?

I’ve just moved down here, officially, about three months ago. I’ve been coming down here for like four years but I live here now. There’s the Bermondsey Beer Mile, that’s quite a good one…

And what’s your secret hideaway in London?

I used to rent this little room in West London when I knew nobody else down here, and it was overlooking a little pub called The Dove. I think everybody knows about it though!

Congrats on your new single Hideaway, and double congrats on being added to the Spotify “Walk Like a Badass” playlist! What’s the most badass tune on your playlist, not including your own?

There’s a band called The Cadillac Three, and they have a song called Bury Me in My Boots. When I was on tour with a band called Kaleo, their tour manager was from Tennessee, and I like a bit of country too. We all listened to The Cadillac Three, downloaded the album on Spotify, and now it’s become our tour anthem!

Let’s talk about Hideaway. What’s it all about, and what’s the inspiration behind it?

It’s come from something I’ve never really written about before. I tried to write about it, but never did. It’s about what pushed me into the music and the reason I did it. I originally wanted to be a carpenter, and go on to make guitars so I started building guitars and playing guitars in pubs as my sister was a singer – we’d do open mics in Shropshire, and I started gigging a bit when I was 16. At the end of that year, I was in a workshop doing my apprenticeship and a piece of wood flicked out of a machine and smacked me in the eye. One eye doesn’t work anymore and it stopped my hand-eye coordination quite a bit – I have double vision a lot of the time too – so I had to rethink what I was doing.

When that was all happening, I didn’t deal with it that well. It was like learning to see again, and it wasn’t nice. I went into this weird routine of locking myself away, or walking my dog, or doing nothing. Hideaway comes from that hiding away. I decided to pick myself up and worked out that if I did something like 150 gigs a year, I could survive. I’d ring people up every day until I did that many gigs, and one thing just led to another.

That’s a really admirable story, and leads me to what I wanted to ask you about next. Your songs are open and emotional, especially songs like Made to Love You, which is brutally honest. What is your songwriting process when taking sensitive stories and translating them into music?

I think it probably comes from the fact that I’m bad at actually talking about things. But when I write a song, it can feel like pages out of a diary. That’s me, talking about it. I never know what comes first, the guitar or the lyrics or the music: whatever happens just happens and you gotta roll with it.

Going back to Hideaway, you recently released your music video for it and it involves a lot of running! How was the filming of it?

That doesn’t actually show you how much I actually ran! I used to run a lot around the hills in Shropshire but you can’t really do that in London. For the video, there was a camera rig attached to a quad bike and I had to sprint after the bike. It was full on sprinting each time… I couldn’t walk for three days after! I’ve not really done music videos before, and I’m not an actor either, so I had to act like how an actor would act for it.

We hear you’ve also been working on the album. How far along are you?

It’s very nearly finished. There’s nothing left to record, it’s just mixing and mastering now, but there’s no date set yet.

Is there anything exclusive you can tell us about the album…?

It’s kind of a step up in terms of more instruments. Next year, I’d quite like to bring a band on. This is the first tour I’ve ever done with two of us up there (keyboard), but maybe next tour we could have drums and guitars… It’d be so different for me because it’s been nine years of playing solo.

And are the songs on the album ones that you have written on your own?

There’s a bit of everything – I’ve written with friends too. Some writing sessions are like counselling! There are songs from the last couple of years, and a bit of blues. When I first started gigging I’d play a lot of old blues music – I got labelled as “Blues Boy Dan”…

Do you like that label?

It was good at the time, but what I play isn’t straight up blues. There’s a lot of bluesy stuff on the album, but not like a Robert Johnson 12-bar blues.

Let’s chat quickly about your live music, which is always incredible. You play the guitar, harmonica and stomp box all at the same time. How do you do it?

I don’t know – the stomp box came from just trying to be louder than everyone else in the pub, and I happened to have a foot free!

Is there an instrument you’d like to tackle next?

I’d love to learn keys. That’s a dream. I’ve tried before but it’s just not happening yet.

What else is next?

Getting this album out. I just want to have it out there. They say you have your whole life to write your first album then you have like a year to write your second one… I never used to record much and I’ve never done an album before so this is it!

And finally, it’s nearly Christmas! What are your Christmas plans?

I’ll go back to Shrewsbury in Shropshire, drink loads, see all the family, hang out on my girlfriend’s farm, go out on the kayak…

Kayaking in the winter?

I’m brave!

Enjoy, and we can’t wait to hear more music in the new year!

Bev Lung

Read our review of Dan Owen’s show at Omeara here.

For further information and future events visit the Dan Owen website here

Watch the video for Hideaway here:

Taylor Swift – Reputation | Album review Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:02:53 +0000 The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Instead of letting the critics destroy her already tarnished repute, she does it herself, shedding her infamous pop princess persona for the real Taylor in her newest record, aptly named Reputation. Released 10th November, the album chronologically tells her side of the tumultuous past three years, from the unabashed anger over the unfair destruction of her reputation, to the gradual falling in love. With only three primary producers beside herself, Swift explores a darker, moodier, edgier pop sound that is the night to 1989’s heavily produced day.

The singer throws out her old fairytale imagery and tries out new metaphors, such as the recurring theme of crime and its subsequent punishment. In 1989-esque Getaway Car, she declares, “We were jet-set Bonnie and Clyde/ Until I switched to the other side” over a key change that brings about an inexplicable feeling of heart-pounding fearlessness. In this standout song, she falls back on her tried and trusted cliche-meets-metaphor lyrical approach.

Though Look What You Made Me Do is oft cited as her ultimate enemy-bashing number, the real hit is delivered in This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, which may be her longest song title yet. To a simple melody meant to emphasise the “lecturing a bad child” tone, Swift fiercely defends herself, and almost forgives her adversaries, before cackling and declaring, “I can’t even say it with a straight face!”.

Reputation is not solely feud-focused – in fact, over half the tracks focus on love. The singer once said she’d write about the kind of love that glows golden if she ever found it, and it is obvious that she has. This works the best in Call It What You Want, a beautiful piece that enthuses classic Swift songwriting that features personal, intimate moments of connection and true love. Tunes like Call It What you Want and vocoder-heavy Delicate make it clear the artist is done letting her reputation ruin her relationships. In the latter, she intones, “My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me”. No other lyric sums up the album as well as this one, and explores how reputation and love affect one another.

Taylor Swift is back, and she’s coming for blood. In a true pop masterpiece that may single-handedly save the genre for the next year, each track shines brighter than the last. Though the old Taylor is dead, she will be remembered. As she croons in the light, understated piano ballad of New Year’s Day, which is about the person who stays behind to clean up with you after the party, “Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you”.

Laura Boyle

Reputation is released on 10th November 2017. For further information or to order the album visit the Taylor Swift website here.

Watch the video for Look What You Made Me Do here:



Scouting for Girls: An interview with singer-songwriter Roy Stride Mon, 20 Nov 2017 13:04:14 +0000 Roy Stride is the frontman of London indie pop rockers Scouting for Girls, a band that is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year with a reissue of their self-titled debut album and a UK tour. We had a chat with the musician before their show at the London Palladium on Saturday night, about his experience of being in a band for a decade, and the memorable events along the way.

So this your Tenth Anniversary Tour, are you looking forward to playing any cities in particular?

We started midway through October, in the highlands and islands of Scotland. We did like a week warm up tour there, so worked in Inverness, and Stornoway, Shetland, that was amazing. And then we sort of worked our way through, we’ve done Glasgow, Aberdeen, Belfast, Dublin. We were actually in Bournemouth yesterday, and so this is one of the first, it’s not one of the first big ones, but we’re now halfway through, so it feels like we’ve properly hit the stuff.

Did you take a massive break, since the last big tour?

Two years. Yes so it’s pretty much exactly two years since we last toured, so it’s been amazing to come out again.

You’ve performed around the world, Japan, Australia, any fan highlights along the way?

The fans in Japan are amazing, because they just give you lots of presents and gifts, and are super polite, and they take pictures with Polaroid so you can sign them afterwards, which is cool. Yeah, that’s probably my real highlight, and our main fan base has always been the UK. We did some amazing stuff in Holland and Germany, but, you know, we’re a very British band, and I think that’s where it works best. Yeah, home.

So, you’re all from London originally. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on tour, because you’ve known each other since you were five, haven’t you?

I met Pete at Cubs, Greg when we were 11; we’ve been in a band together kind of since we were like 15, took about 10 years till we got a record deal, now it’s our tenth anniversary, so there are just way too many stories. Like what happened just on this tour: we played in Exeter, and we were having a few beers after – it was about 2 o’clock – and suddenly the tour bus had come to a stop. And what had happened was the driver was following a diversion, and ended up down a single track road in the middle of Dartmoor somehow, because the motorway was closed, and he got completely stuck. And so it was at that point I knew that we were in for a long night. So I went and told the drummer to wake the tour manager, and just went to bed. And I missed [everything]. The police made everyone get out of the van, and try and help get the van out; because I was just so fast asleep, nobody could wake me up, and it took seven hours – well, we had to get a big wrecking truck to pull it back – and everyone was really angry with me when I woke up because I’d literally had seven-and-a-half hours full sleep, and  they didn’t get to sleep till seven in the morning – they were up from like two till seven. [I was ] just chilling out letting them do the work.

What are your biggest artistic and musical influences?

I think for Scouting it’s always been, like, we were at school when Britpop happened, and so Oasis, Blur, Suede, they’re the bands that almost were like a gateway to more rock‘n’roll, you know, the original 60s. I discovered Oasis before I discovered The Beatles, I discovered The Beatles through Oasis. And so that sort of opened all that. You know, we love The Kinks, Madness. Yeah, kind of like rollicking fun. Fun bands. I wouldn’t want to set us up on that level, in any way, but those are the bands who we aspire to.

You have a number of hits under your belt, what are your favourites to perform?

I love always performing the big songs, like She’s So Lovely, and Heartbeat, Elvis Ain’t Dead – they always go down really well. Because you’ve done it for so long, I think lots of people complain about playing their biggest songs, but for us because we’ve played them so often you can really enjoy the moment. You don’t have to go “Oh God, what chord is next?”. You’re just there, enjoying the moment, seeing the crowd and seeing people. I think one of the best things about being on stage is just seeing somebody having the best time of their life, to a song you’re singing, to a song you wrote, so that’s amazing.

You’ve been nominated for four Brit Awards and an Ivor Novello.

Yeah, never won one.

But that must’ve been a great moment. Do you have any other really memorable moments?

When we went to number one. Our first album went to number one; we’d worked all year, we toured for about seven months. Touring sounds really glamorous, but we played tiny little pubs and universities, to frequently nobody, so it builds up and builds up over that [time]. And we released She’s So Lovely, and that became a top ten hit, and so when the album came out three months afterwards it went top to number one. We were actually on holiday at the time, so it was our first break in a year. We were in India, and my girlfriend at the time was really sick from food poisoning, and I remember just watching the cricket, just Indian cricket, for about five weeks, and that’s when we found out we were number one. I got an email, and there was no one to celebrate with, order a few more beers and watch more cricket – which is actually probably as good as it gets. That’s probably what I’d do now if we had a number one. That was a highlight.

What are the best things about being in a band and what advice would you give to anyone starting out, because you said it took you ten years to get things going, so you understand the struggle.

I suppose for advice, these days, for me it’s all about the song, you know – you just have to keep writing and writing, till you get a song that is good enough. Apparently there are about 18,000 songs being released every week. And so if you haven’t got a song that isn’t as good as the best stuff out there, I think that, to me, is the thing I’d always concentrate on, the songwriting and production, because now its more a level playing field, anyone can, you know you can produce. On YouTube record your own music and go for it. The other thing we did as a band was we just built it fan by fan, and we took each person individually so when we had, like, 50 people in our email list we were like yes! And when you have 100 people to a gig, you’re like, “that’s amazing”. Keep building it. And stay true to yourself, true to your art.

Thank you!

Selina Begum
Photos: Matthew Pull

Read our review of Scouting for Girl’s show at the London Palladium here.

For further information and future events visit the Scouting for Girls website here.

Labour of Love at the Noel Coward Theatre | Theatre review Mon, 20 Nov 2017 11:33:07 +0000 James Graham seems to be becoming ubiquitous in the West End. Labour of Love is the third of his plays to be performed there this year, after the revival of This House and the transfer from the Almeida of Ink. It’s the newest and most sharply topical too, dramatising years of the Labour party’s history right up to this year’s election. That’s where the play starts, before going back through various episodes in the Miliband and Blair years to the first election of David Lyons (Martin Freeman) as the new centrist MP parachuted into his Nottinghamshire constituency with his snooty wife. He clashes with the local party, and learns to get on with Jean Whittaker (Tamsin Greig), the last MP’s wife who he convinces to stay on as his agent. Their relationship is cleverly managed against the background of party politics as the narrative moves forward again through the second half, bringing us back to the present day. It’s reliably funny, though not necessarily gut-wrenchingly so, and while the emotions are not quite as developed as they could be, the characters are engaging and believable.

Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig carry the whole show. One would never guess that Greig was a last-minute substitute – Jean’s acerbic wit feels like a perfect fit for her, and she’s gloriously funny. Freeman is by turns staid and ridiculous, and the changes in his character are deftly managed over the back-and-forward structure. The minor characters are carried with varying degrees of success. David’s wife Elizabeth, played by Rachael Stirling, feels both over-written and over-acted. Her sense of superiority quickly grows trying. Dickon Tyrell and Susan Wokoma are much more successful, thoroughly believable as an old left zealot and a young party member.

The production works well and unobtrusively. The entire piece takes place in the same constituency office, with the portrait of the leader on the wall and the technology being the main differences between the time periods. Overall, this is an excellent performance of a very decent new play. The only question is whether Graham’s accomplished but slightly emotionally shallow and rather glib brand of political comedy really deserves all the attention it gets. We all seem to have a desperate appetite for satire of any kind – is the praise for this and his other plays entirely deserved?

Juliet Evans
Photo:  Johan Persson

Labour of Love is at the Noel Coward Theatre from 16th September until 2nd December 2017. Book your tickets here.