TALK SHOW: A LITTLE MORE CONVERSATION

There’s more to Peckham than Del Boy and Rodney would have you believe. Just 12 months ago, gig-goers were spilling from the basement of London record store Rye Wax after attending new music night on the block, Cultural Treason – among them, one Felix White, formerly of The Maccabees, who saw a performance by a band he knew would become part of his Yala! Records family; the city’s newest noisemakers Talk Show.

Their initiation to Yala! would be the ruthless new-wave stomp of debut single ‘Fast & Loud.’ Unleashing their track upon unsuspecting ears only once the band had become regulars at the label’s Bermondsey Social Club nights, they’ve since spent hours on the road playing shows wherever they can and growing their fanbase organically. Posting no music online until the single was officially released, the only way to hear them was to show up. “Having people come up to us after our shows saying, ‘I’ve no idea who you are but I loved it,’ is one of the best compliments,” singer Harrison Swann tells. “It shows that making music goes beyond social media… it can still work the ‘old-fashioned’ way.”

“Making music goes beyond social media… it can still work the ‘old-fashioned’ way.”

With a ferocious live set as taut as their turn-ups, drummer Chloe McGregor sets the pace, smashing out beats with yelps like a frustrated goalkeeper. The agitation of Tom Holmes’ unravelling guitars could bring down walls and the thunder of momentum from George Sullivan’s bass bounces with start-stop vigour. Then there’s Talk Show’s host Harrison; a fist-clenching mass of combustible energy, exploding with 111mph yarns. Eyeballing audiences and delivering each vein-popping verse right to his fingertips, it’s unsurprising he cites theatrical Belgian songwriter, actor, and director Jacques Brel as an influence. “I’ve no idea how came across him,” Harrison says, “probably mindlessly searching on YouTube. I came across “Ces gens-là” and was hooked. I was gripped by his performance; you can’t take your eyes off him. You can see the emotions he’s going through whilst performing, you can see him embody the song.”

“I’ve always loved stuff that blurs the line between reality and ridiculousness” – Harrison Swann

With impeccable attention to detail, as their name suggests, Talk Show’s powerful dark-wave is conversational and captures their unwillingness to stay quiet. Discussion is celebrated and every phrase unfurls like a poetic Hans Christian Anderson fable or a comic book world with a dystopian sense of reality. “I’ve always loved stuff that blurs the line between reality and ridiculousness,” Harrison says. It’s probably why I discovered and love John Cooper Clarke. It’s relatable and bleak, but comical and light-hearted. Getting that balance right is really difficult.”

Skilfully balanced, latest single ‘Ankle Deep (In A Warm Glass Of Water)’ – released on Council Records and produced by Black Futures member Space – is a call to arms, its deadpan mantra chiming to a funk groove and marching drumbeat. “When writing our lyrics, it depends how off-piste I want to go and whether the subject/topic is clear from the start but I try to give myself something enabling me to perform the song or words, rather than just a nonsensical ramble,” tells Harrison.

This is why Talk Show’s audience has grown well-beyond their New Cross and Deptford dwellings. Spending more time in motorway service stations than Max and Paddy’s AA Road Atlas, they’ve played Independent Venue Week, toured with Just Mustard, and even took a particularly memorable trip to Europe; “We played a festival in Zurich at 1am in this huge hollowed-out ex-Army horse stables; it was packed and as soon as we came on everyone hit the ceiling! It was crazy watching it from the stage. That, along with our show at The Great Escape, have been real highlights so far.”

Four best mates on the journey of their lives, Talk Show are making the most of it, even if that does mean getting a bit of much-needed shuteye when the opportunity presents itself. “We’re learning you can’t party each night. Me and Tom have got into Classic FM. It sounds pompous but spending so long on the road you need to mix up the tunes, otherwise we’d drive ourselves insane,” Harrison says.

2020 looks to be a vital year for Talk Show whose new EP will land at any moment. Do they have any resolutions? “To take this band as far as we can. More gigs, festivals, new cities, new countries…. oh and I promised my mum I’d quit smoking,” Harrison grins. Time will tell whether they succeed, but if one thing is clear right now, it’s that Talk Show are ready to light things up. He who dares Rodney…

This feature appears as a beautiful printed article, in issue 2 of New Sounds magazine, published October 2020.

DOCUMENT: FROM SPIES TO WISE GUYS ON THE RISE

As one of Manchester’s most exciting emerging new bands, possessing a mood to match their hometown’s inclement skies, Document are more M1 than MI5; yet the mysteries of the novels they draw inspiration from give clues to their gradual emergence as one of the city’s best kept musical Top Secrets. Tracking them down one chilly November evening, they revealed more than a little intelligence…

“Two are straight-up porn videos… we’ve had wedding footage and it looks like someone’s got engaged,” exclaims Document’s left-handed bassist Max Grindle, glaring into the light beaming from his phone. “There’s a really cool vintage photo from the 60s, in fact, we get a lot of bank details too,” he grins.

If anyone appreciates first world issues it’s Manchester’s doom-laden post-punk 5-piece, Document. Whilst the name may invoke the importance of writing, recording and archiving their dark swells of sleazy riffs, guttural melancholia and bleak observations for humanity’s sake, it hasn’t come without hiccups as technophobe strangers accidentally share their own documents to the band’s Facebook messenger page.

For most this would pose a problem, but Document are storytellers. Each of their snarling tales are scars that distinguish them from their outspoken contemporaries. So when lives are shared with the band – intended or otherwise – it might only offer up another source of real-world inspiration. “The lyrics come from a very personal place for Al,” tells the band’s lead guitarist, Charlie Marriott of their singer and lyricist Alex Evans, who it seems, would be the ideal Catchphrase contestant; “He says what he sees,” Charlie says. “A lot is observations, and he puts his own personal spin on them.” Adds Max; “Al spent a lot of time writing in the studio… he’d re-write and re-write. Our music is definitely a representation of what he’s thinking at the time.”

“The lyrics come from a very personal place… a lot is observations with a personal spin on them.”

Looming like the shadows between the concrete confines of the city’s mills and borrowed spaces in which they rehearse; in just 12 months, Alex, Charlie, and Max, alongside guitarist Josh Franks and drummer Will Smith, have been biding their time. 2019 saw Document as elusive, with just a handful of shows behind them, yet burning fuse-like and igniting sparks of intent with earth-shaking performances at Dot To Dot and Band on the Wall. “I’ve enjoyed not rushing. We were going to have the first song out sooner but wanted to take our time with it,” Charlie tells. “It was the only way to ensure everyone was 100 percent on board.”

Now on the cusp of self-releasing the rhythmic Idles-like stomp of their forthcoming debut single ‘Pity’ – a hefty single-note tune built around deathly dynamics – its two and a half murky minutes introduce a band whose astute narrative invites listeners into their smoggy world. It’s somewhat a gentle teasing of the forthcoming 5-track EP that was recorded over a few weekends at Leeds studio The Nave with engineer Alex Greaves. “Recording in the studio was a great experience; we’re really happy what came out of it,” tells Josh. “This EP captures the first weeks of our band over the first couple of rehearsals – we’re so happy with it but already we’re starting to find ourselves maturing as a group and developing our sound.”

Setting their own discourse, Document’s enigmatic fictionalised realism is captured by the EP’s menacing thriller ‘Spy.’ As grey as the city skies under which they perform, it sways between real-life and imagination, taking inspiration from John le Carré’s 1963 Cold War novel The Spy Who Came In from the Cold as Alex weaves the yarns of characters through his own inimitable delivery. Like striding with muddied boots, its trudge lures listeners into a false sense of security before sinewy guitars tighten, splinter, and unravel into a wall of satanic noise.

On stage, Document’s powerful performance spans dual aspects of post-punk – from angry and intense to atmospheric and melancholic – spiralling into brutal, fatalistic Armageddon. A slick, mostly monochrome palate of rockabilly is fused with after-hours Wall Street through their combo of greased back hair, loosely tailored trenches and slacks, ties, and white vests. Alex’s performance is theatrical, wrapping the microphone cord up in his hand whilst the audience lose themselves in the shadows of his glare.

It may be early days, but the band are already entering their next phase and plan to snatch as many moments as they can to write; “Being a bit wayward and not having a base means we haven’t written as much as we could’ve done yet but that will change in 2020,” Max tells. “For us, New Year is symbolically new for the band as well. We’ve so many ideas floating about… it’s all systems go!”

This feature appears as a beautiful printed article, in issue 2 of New Sounds magazine, published October 2020.

VIDEO THRILLED THE ROM-COM STAR: MATT MALTESE

Crooner is such an ugly word. But if one person can make it beautiful, it’s South London songwriter Matt Maltese. Ahead of releasing his latest album Krystal, it’s lead single ‘Rom-Com Gone Wrong’ was unleashed upon the world with a video that had a rather more DIY feel than the slick stylings of his debut LP. It may well have to do with an appreciation for awkward humour – something he shares with actor, filmmaker and the video’s director Craig Roberts. Exploring the world of the visual and the melodic, I caught up with Matt for New Sounds magazine, to chat about the song, its video, and where music and art meet…

There’s a scene, two minutes into the video of ‘Rom-Com Gone Wrong’ when you know Matt Maltese is one hundred percent dedicated to his art. Shot through wobbling vintage Super 8 cinematography, he stands waist deep in a debris covered lake; his eyes scrunched as water cascades over his hair and fills every facial orifice. “Apparently there were eels in there, or someone told me after shooting that scene anyway,” he grins. “I’m glad they didn’t tell me that first or maybe I wouldn’t have done it. It was full of slime though!”

According to Matt, it was entirely his own idea; unprompted with no-one about to talk him out of it. And besides, a true artisan of break-up songs would never pass up an opportunity to suffer for his art. “That scene where my hands are hovering over the keyboard, I literally couldn’t play, it was freezing! But I guess my pale complexion suited the song,” he chuckles.

Therein lies the appeal of Matt Maltese’s romantic yet realistic gaze upon the world. Since waltzing onto the scene with debut record Bad Contestant and its flamboyant velvet suit extravagance of ‘Bad Comedian’ or the soaring Morrissey-esque politic-apocalypse balladry of ‘As The World Caves In’ (written about a fictional romance between Donald Trump and Theresa May), Matt’s stories have always been brought to life through carefully selected visuals to reinforce a firmly lodged tongue-in-cheek. The only difference this time, is that Krystal is a declaration of independence. “This album is a lot less polished at the edges so the feel of the video fits with that,” Matt tells of its suitable imperfections. “I wanted the first record to be grander, like an orchestrated album from the 70s and to make a statement but a video like that just wouldn’t have suited the bedroom writing style of Krystal. I wanted this record to be more like throwing food on a plate and not minding about the presentation, as long as it tastes alright.”

“When creating a music video it’s most important to keep the visual side honest, especially in this day and age where it’s easy to create content for the sake of creating content,” – Matt Maltese

Craig Roberts, on the other hand, is no stranger to working with the camera. Whilst most will know him for coming-of-age acting roles in Richard Ayoade’s Submarine and Amazon series Red Oaks, his most recent work centres on filmmaking, including his directorial debut feature-length Just Jim in which he also starred, and most recently as director of Eternal Beauty starring Sally Hawkins. In 2013 Roberts directed his first music video for fellow Welsh creatives Los Campesinos and their track ‘Avocado, Baby’ was given his wide-eyed wonder treatment. Its gameshow concept offered the perfect set for Roberts to utilise the sweeping dynamic camera flow of hero Paul Thomas Anderson with vivid colour and humour. It’s no surprise then, that when Matt first met with Roberts, he knew their creative outlooks would complement each other entirely, even if the outcome wasn’t quite as intended. “Initially I tried writing some music for one of Craig’s films. We went for coffee and just hit it off,” Matt recalls. “He’s a great guy, we share the same kind of awkward sense of humour.”

One constant in both Roberts’ music videos is the use of subtitles that lend an additional narrative to the music. In ‘Rom-Com Gone Wrong’ the subtitles act as a shrewd way of inviting the viewer to experience the bewilderment of Matt’s inner turmoil through jarring internal dialogue. “The captions just came about through conversations we had and throwing different ideas around and things we thought were funny,” remembers Matt of how it felt to find himself meeting an unlikely co-star who, it’d turn out, was wooden to say the least; “From early on it was clear Craig and I shared the same sense of humour so that’s how I ended up talking to a tree!” Matt tells. “Humour is important, and you do worry that what makes you laugh between yourselves might not be as funny for others but that’s just the creative risk you have to take.”

Like those buildings with their structures on the outside, the video’s humour is on full display through the irony of a fictional situation that couldn’t be more opposed to real-life and could just as easily be another in-joke between the pairing. “I wanted this video to be an eye into behind the scenes of making a music video, within a music video, and there’s this struggle between the musician and the director and how they both seem to want different things,” Matt suggests.

Enlisting Scottish Outlander actress Lauren Lyle to play the role of Matt’s baseball cap wearing director, his incandescent acerbic wit is channelled through her caricature and Roberts’ skewed innocence. With a voyeuristic charm, typical of both Matt and Roberts’ regular output, listeners and viewers are drawn in whist always rooting for the protagonist; often the underdog. Between grainy stake-out shots from the bushes, the Super 8’s sped up silent movie vibe alongside a perfectly placed Edgar Wright-style crash zoom, adds to the video and song’s comedic effect. Literal interpretations of the lyrics, whether indulging in a wet shave or through a recreation of the bedroom in which the album was written, but of course next to a lake during a summer’s late afternoonin Banbury, allows the video’s low-budget DIY feel to become painting-like, and when each picture is placed next to another it takes on its own independent charm; “I had to work with a lot less money and to put out a record myself was a challenge,” Matt says, “but hopefully it’s paid off.”

Whilst Roberts is known to be a fan of Scorsese and Kubrick and writes much of his own stories whilst listening to music, he and Matt’s work both share a feeling of vulnerability; something unexpectedly fitting for one who describes his own songs as “Paino” music. “I guess I like ‘sad-com’,” hints Matt at a few possible visual influences, “I like dark comedy, shows like Flowers or Fleabag.”

Through Matt and Roberts’ astutely self-aware collaboration between their two musical and visual worlds, awkwardness is embraced, and the sensory experience enhanced. “When creating a music video it’s most important to keep the visual side honest, especially in this day and age where it’s easy to create content for the sake of creating content,” Matt tells. “That said we actually didn’t think we’d fit everything in and had to get all the shots wrapped before we lost the light, but we got there in the end and used everything we shot; nothing was left on the cutting room floor.”

It just goes to show, often things will go Rom-Com wrong but just sometimes, with a meeting of the right creative minds, it can also go very right.

Krystal is available now on 7476. This article appears in beautiful print, in issue 2 of New Sounds magazine, published October 2020.