All posts by Brandon Cook

In Conversation With Brownbear

We spoke to the lead singer of Brownbear, Matthew Hickman, about Michael Jackson, musical influences and what we can expect from their debut album. We also previewed their upcoming single ‘Covers,’ due out on Friday.

Brownbear have used the past few years to gain valuable experience by touring with rock royalty; releasing a string of singles and of course performing to crowds at their own sell out gigs.

After a yearlong break, the boys hit the studio to record their long awaited debut album. A record that lead singer, Matthew Hickman, says he has “a lot of faith in.”

“We didn’t make an album full of singles, we made an album which is a collection of songs that, if you will, have a common theme. All the songs make sense to each other; they’re all related in a way. It all sounds right.”

Brownbears’ philosophy of ‘if it doesn’t fit then it’s not going in’ is taken very seriously. Proof of that lies solely in the confirmation that their first ever, and arguably most famous, single ‘Dead or Alive’ won’t be included in the album. Matthew said:

“People who have seen us live will recognize some of the songs (in the album). But, ‘Dead or Alive’ isn’t in there. My view is, we did it as our first single and it stood itself. To redo it for the album would mean changing it for the sake of it.”

“Two mistakes bands make all the time is: trying to do a song over and over again and ruining it; and secondly, not believing in their new material.”

“Dead or Alive had completely different production to what the album has, so I feel like it’d be a bit like saying ‘oh we don’t trust in our new songs.’ I can only hope that folk will look through iTunes or Spotify when the album is out and find ‘Dead or Alive’ and think; what’s this. We’re still going to play it live obviously; you’ll still hear it at our shows.”

For the band, new material is everything. Matthew told how he has become a keen experimentalist of performing new songs at gigs, especially after a solo tour supporting ‘The View’s’ Kyle Falcnor:

“When you’ve got a new song and you think ‘is it any good,’ the best way to judge that is to go up and play it in front of the crowd with just you and the guitar.”

“The Kyle (Falcnor) tour showed me which songs work and which don’t, by the end I was able to adjust my set to suit. If you play a new song off the cuff and the crowd go wild then you’re on to a winner cause that’s up against more established tunes.”

The lessons learned from that solo experience differed from the lessons the band learned when touring with bigger teams, like the tour with the Libertines. Matt said:

“Different tours teach you different things. Big tours, like the Libertines, taught us a lot about being professional. And then the Kyle tour obviously I learned a lot about playing in front of intimate crowds and reading the room, connecting with an audience. I had the best time on that tour because I had so many people that I’d just chat to after shows and getting to find out what they liked about the show if they enjoyed it.”

One of the new songs the band will be eager to play is ‘Covers,’ the first single off the album. It’s a very upbeat and catchy tune that has the classic Brownbear acoustics; however, it also boasts sobering lyrics that describe the mental unrest of a cheated boyfriend. The combination strangely works well, you’ll be humming ‘and I pull back the covers…’ in your sleep.

Thankfully the lyrics of ‘pull back the covers’ is just a metaphor for the suspected cheating, Matt joked that he didn’t literally catch anyone red handed:

“At the time I was with a girl and we were slowly deteriorating and I was beginning to think she might even be seeing someone else, just a pure gut feeling. I didn’t literally pull back the covers, thank God, that would be like something from a gruesome horror film.”

“The song actually started because I was singing the chorus in the car and sometimes as a writer you think of a line, I was singing like ‘cover and lovers,’ it sort of developed from that.”

Brownbear have developed an alternative acoustic/folk rock vibe over the past few years, something, which Matthew agrees, are the bands “own distinctive sound.” Yet the music Matt grew up listening to is a complete different shade of music to what he plays:

“I grew up very much a student of rock music, I love the Foo Fighters, Metallica and bands like that. I used to kick about with the black sweatbands on and that. But I’m not very metal orientated as a writer, when I began writing songs; they just didn’t come out like that.”

“I also love Michael Jackson, especially the ‘Thriller’ album. That album broke boundaries; it went so much further than the music. It was the first time an African American had been listed on TV; he broke down that relevance for everyone. At the time he had the dark skin and the Afro, I can relate to that part.”

“I think great records have more than just the music. People never really know where to place our music and I think that’s a good thing.”

As for now, Brownbear admitted you’d find a different type of music on his playlist:

“I’ve been listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar at the moment, and Alicia Keys new album. Both of those have total jazz vibes between them that’s what’s catching my ears I think.”

Transpiring through a range of genres whilst retaining a core Brownbear sound seems to be essential for the band. Matthew told how there’s a song on the album which has a “tip of the hat to mow town,” a genre which he admits is “his thing.” He also told how we could expect a bit of country in there as well:

“We had a guitar player play as a guest in a few songs who used to play in a band called ‘Whiteout’- they were pretty big in the Britpop era. He’s an amazing country player and he did this cool country riff over one of the songs. It just sounded right, man, so we were like ‘let’s just do it.’”

The album is sure to please ears of all music backgrounds and will be available sometime in early autumn. As for the new single, Covers, that comes out on Friday (5th of May). Something that we recommend you definitely check out.

Be sure to keep updated with the band through social media.

Twitter: brownbearband

Facebook: brownbearofficial

Photography: Murray McMillan 

Follow me on twitter: @bdoncook



The Stoke boys are back with a brand new single which is set to increase their ever growing fanbase

It’s not often you think about Stoke-on-Trent and when you do there isn’t much that immediately springs to mind. I mean, apart from being a polycentric city with a rich history of pottery, coal mining and Robbie Williams, there’s not a great deal else that comes to thought.

Thankfully that’s where RINSE comes in, a band that is sure to become the first thing you think of when Stoke is mentioned. The quartet, from the pottery capital of England, has been tipped for success since their formation in 2014 and their new single still wouldn’t call can only help that prediction.

The gritty guitar riffs set the tone for the whole of their new tune, which is an intriguing mix of melancholy and defiance. By that I mean, you can hear the sadness and despair through the chords of the guitar, lyrics and in some respects the beat. But you overwhelmingly feel an aura of defiance as the vocals plead to assure the listener that he ‘won’t call’.

Around one minute fifteen seconds in you’re hooked, and can begin to hear the influences for RINSE’s sound seeping through; with a very similar bridge to Catfish and the Bottlemens, 7. The tune concludes in the same manner it started, sombre and edgy but with the accolade of describing one man’s roaring persistence of not giving his ex the time of day.

Overall it’s a very well written track whose lyrics paint the picture perfectly, making this a very catchy anthemic rock ballad. If anyone can do it in a cold rainy night in Stoke, it’s these guys. Or as  Far Out Magazine said: “It won’t be long until they’re common knowledge.” Watch this space.

Check out the new single and the band in the links below, and follow me on twitter @bdoncook


Kerosene: The new fuel for the RedFaces

The RedFaces are a young indie/alt-rock group who have just released their new single ‘Kerosene’ 

We had a chat with the boys about their new track, their ever-changing influences and their plans for this year.

It’s fair to say the year past was a whirlwind packed with highs and lows which, in retrospect, defined the year. Those who survived 2016 are simply left to pick up the pieces to carry on to this year, in the hope for something better. Thankfully, there’s a band who aim to do just that and are tipped to be one of this year’s true breakthroughs; or as they have been described: “In these dying days, as a brutal 2016 drags itself to a welcome end, guitars can seem rarer than hope. RedFaces are rarer still.”

These young rock n rollers from Sheffield spent last year supporting some of the countries’ top acts, learning their trade the ‘traditional way’ and building their ever-growing fan base. They also performed for sold out home crowds and played a string of summer festivals. Best of all, they have rounded off 2016 by releasing their new, long-awaited, track, Kerosene.

The four lads, (Harry, Isaac, Ryan and Charlie) often joke on social media about their ‘milking’ of their only other release (Katie Come Home); so the fresh music has come as a welcomed new year treat for fans.

The band spoke of the reception the single has received: Brilliant! It’s going really well at the moment, we are so glad to have a new song out for people to hopefully enjoy.”

Kerosene has an intriguingly dark and gritty feel to it which is unrecognisable when sized up against their last song, the boys explained:

“Well Katie Come Home was written a while ago and our influences have inevitably grown and changed so I guess that’s why it sounds different. Also Katie Come Home was only a demo so the production and the sound of the track are different. We feel we have matured and for the better.”

From a young age the band have taken inspiration from the likes of the Beatles and Oasis, however, as they have developed; their spectrum of influencers has progressed; self confessing that they are not resting for a single type of music. The boys said:

“I think we have found a sound that we love but we are always changing, we can’t imagine ourselves just settling on one sound and style for the rest of our lives. We are influenced by bands and writers all the time.”

The youngsters have only just finished their A-levels, however, their accolades surpass some bands who have been around for twice their years.

In 2016 the lads supported both the DMA’s in their Edinburgh show and the Courteeners in their gig at Newcastle. The Sheffield quartet were also included in Spotify’s One to watch playlist and, this week, were featured in Huw Stephens’ BBC Introducing Show.

For this year, the boys will aim to raise the bar even higher, they explained:

We are touring January/February time and with the single out, hopefully we’ll become a bit more established. We hope to have a few more singles out and hit the festival season and do much more than last year. We just plan to do as much as we can!”

Check out their new single Kerosene on Spotify & Catch the RedFaces at one of the following gigs on their UK tour this January/February.

Follow me on twitter: @bdoncook

Follow RedFaces on twitter: @RedFacesMusic

Six good things that happened in 2016

Last year wasn’t great, but don’t let that overshadow the revitalisation we saw in the indie music scene.

To say last year was a weird one would be, well, an understatement.  It’s hard to talk about the year past without jumping on the ‘that’s so 2016’ bandwagon, but in terms of inconceivable political victories and mind numbing celebrity deaths it is hard not to.

After all, this was the year Trump came to power and the year Britain voted to leave the European Union. It’s the year which bowed down to ‘social media influencers,’ inciting them as role models and provided them with their own Netflix series; it’s also the year a silverback gorilla was killed which fuelled the fire for increased ‘meme culture’ and ridiculous hashtags. 2016 also saw T in the Park announce it was, after 21 years, ‘taking a break’ and the Oscars had a slight race issue when a grand total of zero black actors were nominated.

However, with all that in mind, it is important to highlight that last year wasn’t a complete down and out. In fact, in terms of indie music, 2016 actually produced some of the best comebacks, new albums and live performances for decades.

So just in time for the beginning of a new year, we’ve counted down the good things to happen in 2016 from an indie music perspective, completed in the spirit of Auld Lang Syne.

1.      Firstly, The 1975 bestowed their ‘difficult second album’ upon the world which propelled the Manchester lads to worldwide critical acclaim and a UK arena tour. The band famously promoted their album with a string of pink neon storyboards of song titles from the tail end of 2015 until its actual release date. From there; they have went from strength to strength; with headline festival slots and sold out performances both in Europe and across the pond in America. They have become quite simply the band of the year with I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it winning the Q award for best album.

2.      The Stone Roses returned with an admittedly underwhelming new song, but that’s not the point; they’re back. The veterans hadn’t released any new music in over twenty years so this was a huge deal for Roses fans and music in general. Their first release ‘All for one’ only has a mere 59 words in it, however, those words are intended to demonstrate the unity they have with each other; a metaphorical ‘water under the bridge’ to the years where they didn’t record or perform together.

The Roses, went on to release a second new track ‘Beautiful thing’ which was met with a higher critical acclaim, however, it was their captivating live performances in Manchester and T in the Park that they would most likely be remembered. In September they released tickets to their UK stadium tour; which predictably sold out in hours and only stands as proof that the desire for lemon tasting music is still as high as it was in 1994 when the boys left us.

3.      The Courteeners finally received the credit they deserve and were awarded with an arena tour for their new album Mapping the rendezvous, which peaked at number four in the official album charts. The lads set every festival they played over the summer alight, and Liam’s famous: “Every single one of ya’s” during Not Nineteen Forever has become somewhat of a cult following in itself.

4.      Blossoms, well, blossomed. Last year the boys’ self entitled album was the best-selling debut album of 2016 and they became a true force to be reckoned with in the music scene. Their lead single ‘Charlemagne’ became an indie classic and the boys can only be excited for what they have set their selves up for this year.

5.      Catfish and the Bottlemen released their second album and subsequently travelled on tour to promote it. The album included the new classics ‘7’ and ‘Soundcheck’; the record also provided the people of Glasgow with an anthem dedicated to their home city; which naturally went down an absolute treat in their gig at the SECC.

6.      Finally, Jake Bugg returned after two years out of the limelight with his third studio album On My One. The Nottingham star brought out singles ‘Gimme the love’ and ‘On my One’ during the summer to a welcomed reception by fans, he also performed at many festivals; including T in the park where he surprised the crowd by bringing out Red Hot Chilli Peppers drummer, Chad Smith, to play Slumville Sunrise.

Follow me on twitter @bdoncook


From The Cave EP

London based indie/alt rock band FROM THE CAVE have recently released their new, self-titled EP.

From the Cave are an indie/alternative band based in London who have been hiding in a cave for far too long (pardon the pun) and are finally coming out to gather the recognition and appraisal they undoubtedly deserve.

The group released their new EP toward the end of April this year containing a mix of head bobbing gold and some slow burning ballads which grow with each second. They have told about their “excitement” for it, and understandably so, it’s brilliant.

The five track EP kicks off with the explosive tune Night Hawk. An overpoweringly groovy, anthemic number; which has echoes of Kasabians early single Cut Off – this is especially clear when the beat drops during the verses. The guitar build up really provides the chorus with an edge of excitement, it feels as if the song has been around for years.

The next song is Television. A very peculiar tune, especially in the beginning, with synthesised vocals giving it quite a 70’s ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ vibe. The mix between the male and female voices throughout the full EP is amazing but is particularly good in this track. Blend that in with a minute and a half guitar solo, and what’s not to love?

Following that is the 3rd track Trains… A tune that could be described as a lighter wielding ballad, with very intelligent lyrics, and a chorus that you could imagine being sung at a festival. A slow burner in the beginning but by a minute in, the track wins you over. The drums are particularly good in this number, with different beats throughout the full song.

The energy picks up again in the next track Live Your Life This tune would instantly get the crowd moving and has a slight Franz Ferdinand feel to it; this would make sense as the band have stated that FF are one of their influences. Underneath the fast paced beats and guitars are more smart lyrics.

From The Caves 5th and final track on their EP is called Hope and is arguably one of the best. The intro to the song really sets the tone for the tune and it only gets better. The male and female voices really complement each other in this tune and do the lyrics justice. The whole song could get away as a Bastille tune due to the amazing rhythmic drumming.

Overall this is an EP that demonstrates the capability that these talented bunch of artists have and it’s only a matter of time before they are fully rewarded for their efforts.

Find the band on social media here: