Everything you thought?

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I’m everything that you thought, ’cause I’m everything that you’re not.

 

Where did it come from? What does it mean?

The line is from the song “Stubborn Love” by Seaway, a Canadian band I’ve been listening to since discovering their music sometime during my first year of university, around four years ago. As for what it means, I obviously cannot speak on behalf of the band, but the beauty of music is that it invites everyone to interpret it in their own way. This is what it means to me.

First, a little context: I began this blog shortly after the end of a six year relationship, following which this song (already a favourite from their best album – in my opinion, anyway – Colour Blind) took on a new meaning. I have always liked how the song is energetic despite tackling complex emotional content, but it is how the lyrics capture the topsy-turvy roller coaster of emotion that I have been through following the break up that has given the song such significance during my healing process. One such example is the contrast between the chorus line “Cause tonight your hair falls around your ears / And it makes me want to stay”, later inverted upon its final repetition; “But tonight your hair falls around your ears / And it makes me want to leave“.

But it’s the line that I took inspiration for the blog’s name and tagline from that touched me most deeply; my ex and I always seemed to be opposites in most ways, and yet so compatible. It could have been easy to fall into a pattern of thinking in which I saw myself as no longer whole, or broken, but this line always reminds me to never forget the things I have to be proud of and love about myself – not only my strengths, but also the positive things that I brought to the relationship – instead of only focusing on what I’ve lost.

And so, that simple line became my personal mantra at my lowest moments; for I lost someone special and unique, but so did she.

X.

Blue is the warmest colour: love at first sight.

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Next week I turn 23. This means that two years have now passed since I came into possession of my beautiful Gibson Les Paul Futura. Prior to this I had happily played the same Yamaha Pacifica since age 11, a guitar I still treasure to this day. I had often promised myself that when I got good enough to merit a new guitar I would treat myself to a beauty, with the vision of keeping it forever, allowing it to age alongside me.

Fast forward some years and I feel ready to commence the search for my musical soulmate. I started to look into new guitars, obsessively looking online and making trips to an excellent guitar shop, Andertons, not too far from my home. I tried everything from hollow-body Gretsch guitars to PRS beauties, and everything in-between. Despite my love for the Les Paul shape, none within my price range had blown me away, and I ultimately narrowed my search to an Alpine White American Fender Stratocaster and a PRS S2 Mira. After some deliberation I decided that I preferred the feel of the Strat’s neck and its distinctive Fender tone (perhaps also swayed slightly by my love of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour’s strat tone).

Just before calling it a day, a shop assistant asked if I had tried the Futura. I had not. What happened next would change my life forever. At a first glance, I was blown away by the guitar’s looks – the beautiful wood and its stunning colour. Then I held it: heavy, and solid, a serious piece of kit; not something a child could throw over their shoulder. I was already falling in love. Next, I plugged it in…

… What I heard was incredible. Beyond a Les Paul’s usual three pickup options, and tone and volume pots, the Futura presents a range of features rarely seen on other unmodified iterations of the model: a conventional humbucker at the bridge, and a hum-cancelling P90H Sidewinder at the neck, both of which with the option of coil splitting for an even greater tonal range, putting two iconic Les Paul tones into a single guitar. The action is perfect and the neck fast. I knew this was the guitar for me.

The shop assistant mentioned that the guitar was the only one left in stock, but I had already made up my mind – I was not leaving without it. I told my dad (a phenomenal guitarist himself and never one to miss a trip to a music shop) that I was going to buy it then and there, to which he surprised me by revealing that he would like to buy the guitar for me as a 21st birthday gift. And what a gift it was.

It’s funny how two years later I get the same excited rush when I pull it out of its case that I got the first moment I saw it. I used to occasionally look at guitars and dream of maybe one day owning this one or that one, but I haven’t looked at guitars for sale since; but why bother when I can just take my dream guitar out of its case and play that instead?

 

X.

Five British bands I think you should know.

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Today I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, which means I’ve spent a large part of the day in bed listening to music. Whilst I couldn’t care less about putting songs into boxes and labelling them as a particular genre or other, my tastes tend to fluctuate depending on my mood, the season, and what I am (or have been) up to. I feel it’s only right that for the first songs I present on this blog to be the work of my fellow countrymen, so here are five new songs (in no particular order) from some British bands I’m really enjoying at the moment:

Moose Blood – Knuckles

Lower Than Atlantis – Had Enough

Crooks (UK) – .NEVAREHT

Bear’s Den – Dew on the Vine

Biffy Clyro – Re-arrange

Enjoy!

X.

P.S. Please do let me know what you’re listening to at the moment (all genres and languages welcome!), I am always excited to listen to something new!

Good vibrations.

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I spent today putting the final touches on the third track on my forthcoming solo EP. Growing up I always played in bands, but it wasn’t until university that I really found my musical voice, over countless hours of playing guitar and singing, both alone and with my close friend Joe (with whom I share an affinity for vocal harmonies and finger picking).

Throughout my formative years I invested an incredible amount of energy into learning how to use Logic, Reason, and other music production software packages, studying editing techniques, experimenting with sampling, heavy layering, vocal, guitar and bass effects, and synthesizer, which soon became features of all my musical endeavors. On the contrary throughout university I almost completely stopped recording music, instead focusing my efforts on actually playing my instruments – practicing guitar more seriously than ever before, and sometimes playing upwards of four hours in a single sitting.

Looking back at my previous efforts, they all sound the same: melodically directionless, completely lacking in character, and overproduced – essentially a collection of highly polished turds. Squeezed in between studies, sports, and typical teenage mischief none of my high school bands were particularly serious, writing most songs in an hour or two at a practices, or, worse, writing them literally as we recorded them, and the lack of effort shows. This time, however, I am recording songs that have taken shape over the last few years, worked and re-worked casually, allowed to develop naturally, with no deadlines or rushes.

I have also abandoned technical music engineering in favour of a more natural, acoustic, and lo-fi experience. Over the last few years I have come to value character over polish, and quality songwriting over pretty textures and tones. This EP is being recorded in my garden shed with a single microphone (not direct line-in recordings as I would have once done), my vocals accompanied by my Baby Taylor steel-stringed acoustic guitar alone (and my mum’s old Fender banjo on one of the tracks).

The result so far has been an assortment of the most personally meaningful songs I have ever written, and in my opinion the best I have written to date. It’s funny how sometimes taking everything back to basics can be the best way to move forward. It is also terrifying as any wrong notes or wobbles will no longer be hidden by the sea of other instruments and textures that used to define my music. On the other hand, I believe music is most beautiful when it is an expression of self, and that is as much about one’s quirks and blemishes as it is about one’s perfections.

 

X.

The story SOFAR.

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Not too long ago I was introduced by a friend to an organisation called ‘Sounds From a Room’, or SOFAR for short, which organises gigs with a twist; you learn a show’s exact location no sooner than 24 hours before it starts, and only learn the show’s lineup once the artists are onstage in front of you. Everyone’s set is of equal length so there are no headliners. Venues range from someone’s living room (literally. I know, insane) to industrial and commercial spaces, and what’s more, there are practically no restrictions on genre or performance type so you could literally see anything. I was instantly intrigued.

Sure enough, five days later I found myself sitting with Samantha on a picnic blanket in the Bianca Road Brewery in Peckham, South London. Given the potential for a brewery to be a very industrial and cold setting, with their bare concrete floors and huge metal brewing vats, the soft lighting from some carefully placed fairy lights and the soft chatter of the crowd transformed the venue into a surprisingly intimate and cosy setting. Everyone seemed so at ease, sitting around on blankets and pillows strewn across the floor. At a SOFAR show the audience remains seated during sets, don’t chat during songs, or leave before every act has finished performing. Everything is about respecting and enjoying being at a live music show. Testament to this, both the crowd and performers alike were about as eclectic as I have ever seen at a single show: The first act was an alternative band called Spy From Moscow, playing delicate songs of guitar, trumpet, and cajón, with beautiful lyrics and melodies to match; next came Zia Ahmed, a poet with the perfect mix of comedy and tragedy, delivered beautifully to a rapt audience; and finally, a Belgian trio called Blow, who, armed with two saxophones and a drum kit, played their unique brand of ‘electronic’ music. Yet despite any superficial differences, everyone present was alike in the most important way: we were all there to have a good time listening to some live music.

And that’s exactly what music should be all about.

To attend a SOFAR show near you, perform, or even host your own, visit: https://www.sofarsounds.com.

X.