AN ANONYMOUS INTERVIEW

Anonymous interview photo

Photo by ETHAN MORRIS

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Anonymous are a four-piece hard rock band from Uttoxeter, a small Midlands town best known for being the birthplace of the world-famous JCB digger.

They may only be in their late teens and early twenties, but they have already evolved from a rock covers band to playing original material with a heavy, mature sound that appeals to rockers of all ages.

I caught up with them just before their sell-out gig in Derby.

Firstly, how did the band form?

LUKE LAWLEY (BASS): Me, Hayden and Rob were all mates at school.

I was in a band that wasn’t getting off the ground, so I left and asked Hayden and Rob if they fancied getting together at all.

At the same time, a mate of ours, Charlie Kellitt, who would become our first lead singer, was looking for someone to play with her for her uncle’s birthday party.

She approached us and we agreed to play, despite the fact we were just starting out, and we didn’t have a drummer.

Herbie heard about us from a mutual friend, and he was a keen drummer, so he approached us, played a bit, and we liked what we saw. We accepted him into the band there and then.

How did ‘Anonymous’ come to be the band’s name?

ROB BAYNES (VOCALS/RHYTHM GUITAR): It was coming closer to the birthday party, and we were really struggling to come up with a name, so we put ourselves down as ‘Anonymous’ and it stuck.

What are the band’s musical influences?

HAYDEN KIRK (LEAD GUITAR): We have a broad range of influences, both classic and modern.

We all like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Black Stone Cherry, Led Zeppelin, Herbie’s into Breaking Benjamin, more avant-garde stuff, Rob’s a fan of modern metal, post-hardcore, and me and Luke love classic rock.

ROB: I think as a band, these influences bring a lot of individual aspects to our playing style.

LUKE: I base my style on Muse, Led Zeppelin, whereas the others are more soul, blues, funk-oriented.

As a bassist, I think I need to have a broader range from which to play from.

It’s a vast spectrum, but we use elements from all these influences to make our music as good as we know it can be.

You come from a small town. Do you think that makes it much harder for the band to succeed, than if you were from a large city, where they are more opportunities?

HAYDEN: It is a disadvantage, definitely. It makes it much more difficult to break through, because all the big promoters and the important contacts are mostly in large cities, therefore, they seem to prioritise bands that are on their doorstep.

LUKE: An advantage that a band from a large city has is that they can build a bigger fanbase more quickly, therefore, they are going to appeal more to promoters and venue owners.

STEVEN ‘HERBIE’ HERBERT (DRUMS): If anything, it makes us work harder, because if we play a gig in say, Birmingham, we have to be more professional, if we’re aren’t, they won’t want us back and we would have lost a big opportunity.

You mentioned professionalism just then. Some bands around your age seem to play music just for fun. Are you different to that?

HERBIE: We do try to keep it as fun as possible, but it’s a job at the end of the day. We have to maintain an element of professionalism, so we can show people that playing music is what we want to do, and how serious we are about it.

The band has an EP out. How was the experience of recording that?

HAYDEN: It was awesome, a great learning curve. To take the songs that we had written into the studio, give them a few tweaks, it altered our whole perspective on songwriting.

HERBIE: We realised that despite everyone wanting to put their own creative stamp on the record, the most important elements are the songs and how they are written.

LUKE: Matt Ball, our producer, gave us a lot of ideas that helped us in the production. He got us to see our music from more of a listener’s point of view, to try and create something that everyone can listen to.

The band has quite a good live reputation locally. Is it difficult to keep that up?

ROB: We always get nervous before a gig, especially if the last one we did went very well.

It’s good to have that though, because it enables us to remain focused, and that helps us when we get out on the stage and start playing. Once we get into it, the nerves just go.

LUKE: It’s good to learn from the live experience, because it’s so unpredictable, anything can happen, so if we suffer any setbacks, we have to find a way to soldier on.

It is well-known that some bands clash over creative control. Does your band have any problems like that at all?

LUKE: Not really. There’s Andy Hartshorne, our manager, who has helped us out tremendously over the years, but we all try to do our own bit, share the load as it were.

HAYDEN: We try to be diplomatic, which works most of the time. We do have some petty squabbles sometimes, over some tiny thing that doesn’t really matter, but I suppose most bands do it in some way.

Finally, what are the band’s hopes for the future?

HAYDEN: To be a touring band, hopefully. We will try our hardest to achieve this, but if it doesn’t work out, then so be it. It would be fantastic to get further though.

LUKE: Fame and fortune would be great, but if we can just make a proper living out of it, just to keep ourselves going, to not rely on getting other jobs to make ends meet. Our ultimate dream is to turn this into a full-time career.

‘ANONYMOUS’, THE BAND’S SELF-TITLED DEBUT EP, IS AVALIABLE TO DOWNLOAD FROM THEIR OFFICIAL WEBSITE http://anonymousofficialuk.bandcamp.com/

PANIC! AT THE DISCO – ‘Death Of A Bachelor’ (2/5)

(Fueled By Ramen/DCD2)

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

 

Panic At The Disco Cover

‘Death Of A Bachelor’ is the fifth studio album from Nevada rock group Panic! At The Disco.

These days, P!ATD are a band in name only, having basically become a solo project of frontman Brendon Urie, and it does show.

He goes into each song with the best possible intentions, but having nobody to bounce ideas off anymore, Urie seems to have thrown around an assortment of differing musical styles and hoped for the best.

For example, the opening track ‘Victorious’, and the closer, ‘Impossible Year’, see Urie try to emulate Queen and Frank Sinatra, but it falls short of the mark.

Urie’s Sinatra impression sounds more like a parody than a tribute, while ‘Victorious’ does not have the musical and lyrical depth that made ‘We Are the Champions’ such a great song.

Other tracks, such as ‘LA Devotee’, start off promisingly, but eventually fall flat.

However, ‘Hallelujah’, which sees a welcome return to a more classic P!ATD sound, is by far the highlight of the album.

Listening to this has confirmed for me that the real creative genius behind P!ATD was former lead guitarist Ryan Ross, and that they have been much poorer for his absence.

If Ross was still around, with his talent for riffs and lyrics, this could have been an entertaining listen, however, the overall result of ‘Death of a Bachelor’ is a confusing mess, with more misses than hits.

TOP TRACK: ‘Hallelujah’

CAGE THE ELEPHANT – ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ (4/5)

(RCA)

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Cage The Elephant Cover

 ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ is the fourth studio album from alternative rock band Cage the Elephant.

Their last offering ‘Melophobia’, released in 2013, saw the Kentucky group attempt to establish their own distinctive musical identity, which they achieved rather successfully, and earned them a Grammy nomination.

The foundations that were laid with that album have been built upon, the sound is even more eclectic, the band borrowing elements from such groups as the Rolling Stones and New Order.

However, they make it their own, through frontman Matt Shultz showing off his talent for writing frank, personal lyrics in such tracks as the opening song ‘Cry Baby’, a veiled attack on materialism, ‘Sweetie Little Jean’, dealing with the disappearance of one of Shultz’s childhood friends, and ‘Punchin’ Bag’, about a woman who decides to fight back against her abusive husband.

It is a piece that requires attention, it isn’t something to dip in and out of, which is positive though, as every track has a unique and distinctive style to it.

Like most albums, ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ does have a constant, overall theme, which is love, even though it does require a few listens to get it, and is more subtle in some songs than others.

Overall, Cage The Elephant have created an album that, with its diverse sound and strong lyrics, will appeal to fans who like talented bands with musical variety.

TOP TRACK: ‘Too Late To Say Goodbye’

BARONESS – ‘Purple’ (4/5)

(Abraxan Hymns)

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Baroness Cover

 In 2012, Georgian alternative metal group Baroness were on a roll.

Their just-released third album ‘Yellow & Green’ had been critically acclaimed, showcasing a more progressive sound, a departure from their sludge metal roots. With this and their fast-expanding fanbase, the band was tipped for the top.

Then, disaster struck. The group were involved in a near-fatal tour bus crash, leading to the bassist and drummer both quitting, and frontman John Baizley almost losing the use of one of his arms.

Therefore, it is no surprise to hear that the main theme of ‘Purple’, their fourth album, is emotional pain. Baizley places his personal trauma into the songwriting, meaning the lyrics have a deep emotional depth.

Baroness’s style has evolved into a sound that is easily accessible and not too heavy. This is apparent throughout the album, some of the tracks, for example ‘Shock Me’ and ‘Kerosene’, are fast-paced, catchy and anthemic, with simple choruses, whereas other songs, such as the instrumental ‘Fugue’ and the concluding track ‘If I Have To Wake Up’ are more slower, with gentler riffs and subtle drum beats, with ‘The Iron Bell’ having elements of 70’s prog rock.

Overall, ‘Purple’ is an album which has wide appeal, even to music fans who would usually not touch metal with an eight-foot bargepole, and it shows that despite the obstacles that they have faced in the last few years, Baroness have firmly stuck two fingers up to adversity.

TOP TRACK: ‘If I Have To Wake Up’

FOALS – ‘What Went Down’ (5/5)

(Transgressive /Warner Bros.)

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Foals Cover

‘What Went Down’ is the fourth studio album from the Oxford band Foals.

This record is the follow-up to ‘Holy Fire’, released in 2013 and resulted in their second nomination for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize, their 2010 album ‘Total Life Forever’ being the first.

According to frontman Yannis Philippakis, ‘What Went Down’ is their ‘loudest and heaviest record to date’.

It certainly starts in that way, with the opening track, sharing the album title, dominated by hard and fast guitar riffs and drum beats.

As the album progresses, the songs switch between heavy and light with ease, for example, ‘Snake Oil’, which is fast and furious, is followed by ‘Night Swimmers’, a funky number that could have been written by Nile Rodgers.

This shows how considerably the band have matured since their 2008 debut ‘Antidotes’, they play with much more confidence these days, and Philippakis’s vocals have developed to provide a richer sound, making even the more mediocre tracks stand out.

Overall, it is a great listen, it seems that the majority of the songs have been carefully crafted and are unique, which is an outstanding feat, considering the short space of time from announcement to release.

In my opinion, this is a candidate for album of the year, and will surely be Foals’ third Mercury Music Prize nomination.

TOP TRACK: ‘What Went Down’

WELCOME TO MUZAK!

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Muzak is a new website and publication covering all aspects of rock!

It will have honest album & EP reviews, interviews with up-and-coming bands on the  scene, and reviews of gigs by both established and emerging talent.

So, sit back, relax and have a good look around!

ZAK SLOMAN

Editor, Muzak Review