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.