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Watch “Stomachaches” by Cody Frost



Serves me right for not watching The Voice UK because I knew nothing about Cody Frost. She was teamed up under the mentorship of Boy George and made the final four during the 2016 series of the show. My blindsideness is now coming back to haunt me because Cody has been pumping out her first tracks leading to the recent release of her debut EP “It’s Not Real“. A body of work where she thrives on being unashamedly unconventional. But that’s Cody Frost all over. She is as unique and unmistakable as can be. This applies to her alt-pop tracks also. Including the song “Stomachaches“, which now has some focus thrust upon it.

If you’re looking out for cute pop songs, you won’t be hearing them from Cody. It is distinctly not her vibe. You’ll be better in luck if forward-thinking, lyrically authentic pieces grab you more. As you’ll be swimming ear deep in these kinds of dynamic delights because of the “It’s Not Real” EP catering to these exact strengths. Of the four tracks, “Stomachaches” piqued my interest. a) because it isn’t every day you stumble across a track called “Stomachaches“. b) I suspected it had to have an out of the ordinary story behind it.

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It does. Basically, it is a track written about anxiety and living in a dark place. “I used to live above a pub, and it got broken into a lot. It was a super scary time for me, and I felt really unsafe and alone.” Cody shares

The memorable chorus section. “I get stomachaches, and my whole body shakes like I’m standing on an earthquake waiting for the ground to break”. Translates this harrowing experience into song. I am liking the music video very much and can’t take my eyes off of it. Mostly because she has a lot of artistic input in it. We see her in an outfit she designed. And there’s also bits where we see some animated drawings conceptualized that were drawn by Cody, herself.

The “It’s Not Real” EP is a brilliant dive into the outlier pop world of Cody Frost. She’s a serious talent with very special songs. I’m already excited for the follow-up although, I don’t even know if she has begun writing it yet.

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Q+A – Held By Trees



Held By Trees

David Joseph’s instrumental project Held By Trees sees Talk Talk alumni joining forces for a remarkable album that immerses itself in the aura of the band’s Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock eras…

Instrumental project Held By Trees is the stuff of dreams for fans of Talk Talk and Mark Hollis. Helmed by multi-instrumentalist and composer David Joseph, their new studio album Solace dips into late-period Talk Talk and Hollis’ solo LP for inspiration using many of the same musicians that played on those sessions.

Guitarist Robbie McIntosh, percussionist Martin Ditcham, pianist Laurence Pendrous and flautist Andy Panayi are all onboard, while the record is mixed by Talk Talk collaborator Phill Brown. 

Furthermore, the eight-track LP includes a latter-era Pink Floyd ambience in places with the band’s live guitarist Tim Renwick also contributing to Solace. Bolstering the ranks, too, are Dire Straits founder member David Knopfler, Blur/Damon Albarn sideman Mike Smith and blues great Eric Bibb. 

If, like many of us, you’ve looked at Talk Talk’s slim yet stunning discography and yearned for more, this new album is a mouth-watering prospect. And as Storm Eunice battered CP Towers, the irony of discussing a record that celebrates the calming power of nature with David isn’t lost on us.

How did the initial Held By Tree project come together? Was there a specific jumping off point for it?
It was a couple of days in the first lockdown – a glorious Spring, an unprecedented quiet in the world, the aroma of blossom and cut grass was on the breeze. It was like nothing any of us have ever known before. Traffic was off the roads, people could only travel a certain distance from their homes.

The world felt like it was breathing in a new way. I found myself noodling on my home set-up and realised I was leaning into my great reverence for Spirit Of Eden, Laughing Stock and Mark Hollis’ solo record. That minimal spacious sound. I came up with three pieces of music then sent them to Tim Renwick. He introduced me to Phill Brown who engineered and mixed the late Talk Talk albums and Phill was really encouraging.

In turn, Phill intro’d me to Martin Ditcham who played percussion on those records. That started a train of thought – what would happen if I got together some of the musicians that worked on the Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock sessions? I knew the had a long parade of musicians coming in and improvising on compositions. I thought they could then do a similar thing with my drum patterns and chord progressions. 

That then prompted you to look further afield for collaborators…
I found Laurence Pendrous on Facebook who played piano and harmonium on Mark Hollis’ solo record. Andy Panayi also came from Facebook who played flute and clarinet on Mark’s album. Before long, I had a nucleus of people who’d worked with Hollis and/or Talk Talk. Then we got Robbie McIntosh, who uses the same studio in Dorset as me – Room With a View – in on the sessions.

We started to replace my demos with real parts allowing places for more improvisation. This was all going on during various stages of lockdown so a lot of these guys recorded their parts in their own home studios. The cast has ended up including David Knopfler, Eric Bibb – who’s a massive hero of mine – as well as Mike Smith who is Damon Albarn’s musical director and plays saxophone on our album. 

This must be the first time that this set of musicians have been back together working on the same project surely?
It is. Someone I guess was always going to think of this, though. It just happens to have been me. Time waits for no man and many of the collaborators on those Talk Talk records are no longer with us. People like Henry Lowther on trumpet. We’re 30 years on from the last Talk Talk album and 25 years on from the only Hollis record. That’s a lot of silence.

There’s a lot of Pink Floyd influence on this album, too, and the instrumental supergroup Sky. And there will always be a lot of influence of whatever Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon are up to. Blur are my favourite band. There’s a parallel with what Damon is doing in his solo work these days in improvisation and being inspired by the landscape. 

Held By Trees Solace
Held By Trees – Solace cover

What about live plans? There’s footage online of you rehearsing…
We’re exploring that very seriously for late 2022 or sometime in 2023. Everyone in the band is pretty busy. We have Robbie McIntosh and Paul Beavis who is Andy Fairweather Low’s drummer. Andy Panayi is an in-demand session musician and accomplished jazz soloist who also lectures at the Royal College Of Music.

Fittingly, there’s an ecological element to the new album…
We’re partnering with the Play It Green organisation. We’ll be able to plant a real tree in a sustainable managed forest in Madagascar for every album that we sell, which takes care of our carbon footprint. It actually takes out more carbon from the atmosphere than we put in via manufacturing the record. We’re not the first to do this, I think Pink Floyd planted forests with the proceeds from their Echoes compilation about 20 years ago.

But to know we’re doing this with a clear, green conscience while celebrating the natural world with our music feels right. We’re using as little plastic as possible in the manufacturing process, recycled eco mix vinyl and recycled card with the CDs. Without being preachy, annoying and woke, we’re trying to do the right thing regarding climate change.

The power of nature is intrinsic to the statement you’re making isn’t it?
The album is called Solace for a reason – the music was solace to make for me during lockdown and I hope it translates for the listener that they find a sense of comfort and peace listening to it. Trees are a divine symbol of solace because they quietly get on with giving us air, removing carbon and serving this planet.

When we walk among them we’re in the company of a lifegiving force. Nature looms large in the album as I’ve included field recordings I made in the South West over the course of several months. There’s a real thunderstorm from a field in Wiltshire, the sound of the waves from Bournemouth beach at night and birdsong from a wooded valley in North Somerset.

That’s woven into the music and there’s something about the sound of the natural world which does something to the human soul that’s quite powerful. There’s nothing like the dawn chorus or the sound of a blackbird singing as dusk comes on.

There’s an incredible bravery to Mark Hollis’ songwriting, the way he gradually stripped it back was almost unprecedented as a major artist…
It was a withdrawal and a deliberate direction that ends with years and years of silence. Not just in terms of his musical output but in terms of his press. Now, of course, he’s passed on so that silence is permanent. That journey is almost a perfect narrative.

With the Hollis solo LP, there’s a kind of intimacy and vulnerability that’s incredibly disarming and almost painful in its paucity because there’s so much space and weight on every note. I’m almost emotional thinking about how the solo album ends. How the silence that follows was so intentional.

As I understand it from talking to people who knew Mark, there was never any intention of making a follow-up. He’d said everything he wanted to say. He worked a little bit with UNKLE but remained uncredited as he got his name taken off the album. Mark also produced a couple of tracks on Anja Garbarek’s album Smiling & Waving in 2001. Then there was this weird 30-second piece for the TV show Boss

It’s a pretty nondescript piece of music isn’t it, that soundtrack piece...
It’s incidental sound really. If Mark had done anything you’d think it would be along the lines of avant-garde minimalists like Morton Feldman, Steve Reich or John Cage. Deliberately obtuse and difficult. He did a solo piece for an art installation that’s called Piano, which is out there and was around the same time as the solo album.

There’s no singing on it, it’s just piano. The first song on our album is called Next To Silence. If you imagine an ocean of nothing in terms of where the Talk Talk/Hollis thing got to, to even tread on the edges of that holy ground I thought that we had to emerge from the silence.

I’m at pains to say that I don’t think I’m Mark Hollis and we’re not Talk Talk but if we are going to have so many people involved in this project as worked with them, then uttermost care and reverence needs to be applied because of how much that music means to so many people. It only increases as time goes by as more and more generations discover Spirit Of Eden onwards. I know that I have to tread incredibly respectfully. 

Held By Trees’ Solace is out now

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Listen to “Catch Me In The Air” by Rina Sawayama



It is time to move on so soon from the rousing power pop of “This Hell.” Pop’s newest trendsetter Rina Sawayama has a new track out. “Catch Me In The Air” is the second song lifted from the upcoming album “Hold The Girl“. (Releasing 2nd September via Dirty Hit). Knowing what a pop chameleon she is. I wasn’t anticipating that the follow-up singles, direct or otherwise, would flow in the same musical vein as her banger “This Hell” does. The track “Catch Me In The Air” was written in collaboration with GRACEY, Oscar Scheller, Clarence Clarity and Stuart Price. With the latter two collaborators doubling up on production duties also. Ensuring the accent on pop remains strong.

The new track requires a different impact than “This Hell,” which was bold, hook-laden and punchy. “Catch Me In The Air” requires a delicate, more stripped-back melody and music composition that allows the lyrics to shine out prominently. Guitar and piano accompaniment assists with spotlighting the themes of celebrating Rina’s mother, who raised her as a single parent.

Listen on Apple Music

Speaking at length via Instagram, she explains

“I wrote, “Catch Me In The Air” across 2020-2021, at a time when a lot of people around me were having children or thinking of having children.

It made me think of the pressures parents go through when raising a child. I put myself in my mum‘s shoes.” (An extract – read the statement in full HERE.)

The song begins with Rina singing from a parent’s perspective, swapping to a child’s viewpoint in the second verse.

The song concludes…
“Save each other in every way. Feel the fear as we float in the sea. Look at us now. Way past the clouds that haunted your dreams. I hope that you’re proud.”

The song was debuted. during the singer’s recent Dynasty Tour. At that moment, her fandom, the ‘pixels’ urged Sawayama to release the anthem straightaway – Rina listened.

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EMF interview: “The days of going out clubbing on a Friday are well behind us”



EMF, 2022
EMF, 2022

EMF frontman James Atkin talks raving in the Yorkshire Dales, his other life as a schoolteacher and meeting Alan Bennett down the shops…

EMF – they of the knee-length shorts and clubcentric headgear – have been regulars on the live circuit for the past two decades after an initial split following third LP Cha Cha Cha in 1995. Now the band have solidified their comeback with their first studio album in nigh-on three decades, Go Go Sapiens. Packed with party-starting bangers and the punk pop ‘tude that made them famous, it’s as if they’ve never been away. Unbelievable? Not in the slightest…

It’s been 27 years since your last album, what prompted the return to the studio for the new LP?

It always felt inevitable, EMF wasn’t something we were ready to put to bed just yet. In those 27 years we’ve all respectively gone off and lived our own very different lives, but it has never been the case that we’ve thought, “Oh I’m not in EMF anymore.” It’s a lifetime commitment and we’re lucky to have something so positive in our lives.

Were you all working together in the same room on Go Go Sapiens or was it recorded remotely?

The initial writing sessions were conducted between my place in the Yorkshire Dales and Ian [Dench’s] studio in Finsbury Park, quite a contrast in locations. By chance, we discovered this little hidden away recording studio in the next valley from mine in the Dales where we recorded the drums. We mixed the album at mine – the first single was mixed by our friends Vladimir Komarov and Atsuo Matsumoto in New York City.

It feels like a true EMF album as we created it solely between us – it was actually completed, mastered and ready before anyone apart from Ian and myself had heard the finished product. Not sure that was healthy, but it definitely gave us the benefit of seeing our vision through without any outside influence.  

You made the album without any record company assistance. Liberating or scary?

Both, but we live in a world now where being your own producer, record label, distributor etc is achievable. It’s a little daunting but we have a fantastic team. There’s very little pressure, it’s just a joy to be able to share some new EMF songs without expectations and the need to be successful. Although it would be obviously nice if people dug it. 

Give us an insight into the 2022 version of the band’s sound. Have you reinvented yourselves or stuck to your essential EMF-ness? 

I guess whatever we do is going to sound like us. We can’t get away from Ian’s unique guitar style, and once I’m singing on it, it automatically sounds just like an EMF record. We’ve still incorporated our synths and electronics, though. 

There’s a Happy Mondays-esque vibe to new album track We Are The Free. Do you feel any affiliation with the Madchester-era dance-rock bands?

I’m an old raver from the 90s. My wife badgers me with new music and, bless her, she tries to introduce me to happening stuff. I’m happy listening to my old New Order or Smiths records, so I guess that still comes through in the music we’re making at present. We’d perhaps feel like frauds if we followed new trends and came out with some kind of urban grime album.  

Johnny Marr recently told Classic Pop that it’s harder to write bangers than ballads, but Go Go Sapiens closes with a top-drawer EMF dancefloor filler, Sparks And Flashes. Do you still keep in touch with your clubbing roots?

I wish! I still adore dance music and will quite happily listen to four-to-the-floor beats and techno basslines all day long. The days of going out clubbing on a Friday and returning home in bits on a Sunday are well behind us, though. I think I’d be a bit lost in a club now, having the energy to throw shapes all night might be pushing it a bit. The closest we get to raving these days is turning the PA up loud at home. Thankfully, there’s only a few farmers about half a mile away that complain – they have several times you’ll be glad to know.

Unbelievable shot you to instant fame. How did you cope with the success – did it come as a shock or did you manage to ride it out with your sanity intact?

That whole time was a whirlwind. Personally, it was all a bit overwhelming, I hadn’t developed the tools to cope with it at such a young age. If I’d have had that success again, I’m sure I’d enjoy it a lot more. I kept it together mostly back then, I felt a certain responsibility being the frontman – being hungover, wasted and losing my voice wasn’t an option. The other members of the band loved every moment, they partied hard and had a riot. I think I was just a little too self-conscious and not comfortable being a singer at that time.

I shied away from any interviews and withdrew whenever I possibly could. It took me a long time to get over the experience. A few of the band members struggled and this led to them having difficulties adapting after all the madness. I think moving out of London, starting a family, going back to university, getting a degree and getting a normal job totally sorted me out. It grounded me and now my sanity is intact.  

It’s still got an incredible hook – did you know straight off the bat that it would be a hit? 

Not particularly. Ian arrived with the song pretty well formed and had the vision of what it was going to be. The first batch of songs came very quickly. I’d catch the bus to Ian’s mum’s in Gloucester and we’d sit around a piano bouncing ideas around. Unbelievable just appeared from nowhere but quickly became a favourite amongst the fans at our first handful of gigs. Credit to Ian, he knows how to write a song.

EMFIf you had your time over again during that first era of EMF would you do anything differently?

Yes, enjoy it more, not take it so seriously, be firmer on direction and not succumb to other people’s questionable ideas. We had a fantastic thing going on, but the momentum got derailed by people’s negativity in the band. I wish I’d had the confidence to stand up to people when I was younger. Thankfully, Ian has always been a guiding light and we have developed deep mutual respect and love for each other. 

You’ve had a parallel career outside of EMF as a school music teacher. Is studying EMF on your pupils’ curriculum?

Ha! They are clueless to my past, it has no relevance to my students. It’s kind of cool, though, and brings you back down to earth. Parents evenings can be funny when they make a beeline for you and ask for autographs. But even the parents are looking a bit young these days.

You’ve also been in Bentley Rhythm Ace and released solo albums…

I love playing with BRA, it came in my life just at the right time. I’d kept my shiz together for so many years singing with EMF, now I was in a band touring the world where it was the law to party hard, take drugs, be as rock’n’roll as possible, and never go to bed. The amount of shows we did where we’d been up all night from the gig the night before were legendary. We still go out and play now but have calmed down considerably. I love making music and have also released five solo LPs to date. I seem to have got a bit prolific since moving out of London. I have a simple studio set-up with no distractions, I’d happily spend every hour in there making records to my wife’s dismay. 

Tell us about the Tonight Matthew…? YouTube series of collabs you put together over the pandemic.

It was borne out of the need to still connect with people and musicians when that first lockdown hit and everyone’s tours got cancelled. It grew from asking a few friends to contribute to pulling in people like Keith Allen and Rick Wakeman. I’m chuffed that I can now say I’ve worked with the likes of Horace Panter, Steel Pulse, Black Grape, Lindy Layton and UB40 as well as The Wonder Stuff, Space, 808 State, Leftfield, Jim Bob and many more. We raised a lot of funds for the Help Musicians Charity – at that time they were giving out grants to help fellow artists. It was nice to do something worthy and kept us occupied during those strange, uncertain times. 

You’re planning on hitting the road to promote Go Go Sapiens, right?

We’re doing a small UK tour and a bunch of festivals. For the last 30 years we’ve always started the live set with the song Children, we now have a few new contenders as opening songs that we are rehearsing up. Thankfully, the new songs lend themselves to being played live.

Finally, have you seen your neighbour Alan Bennett down the shops recently?

Ha! Yes, often. It’s always my wife who sparks up a conversation with him, usually about potatoes. 

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