The Unsigned Guide Spotlight: January
Blog by Jamie Hamilton under Artist Managers, Creative & Branding, Finance, Law & Music Business, Live, Media, Music Publishing, Music Training & Careers, Record Labels, Recording & Production, Selling & Distributing Your Music
Novelty Island – ‘Magdapio Falls’
Welcome to Novelty Island, a surreal pop haven, away from all the noise...
Novelty Island is the newest musical endeavour of songwriter Tom McConnell, formerly the spearhead behind TV ME, who we championed on Spotlight back in March 2018.
After venturing from his native Liverpool to the bright lights of London, Tom has assembled a cast of bandmates, Frankie, David and Harry, to help bring his project to life. Still as delightfully psychedelic and vibrant as Tom’s previous moniker, Novelty Island’s first release ‘Magdapio Falls’ is effervescent, infectious and darned radio-friendly.
Inspired by the Apocalypse Now soundtrack, the song began life back at home in the north and was finished at Abbey Road Institute’s studio based in Abbey Road.
Speaking of Abbey Road Institute, the band also completed an album whilst under its legendary roof which will be unleashed at some point in the not too distant future, we hope. In the meantime you can expect an EP release this March, and should you not be able to wait until then for your trip to Novelty Island, the band are playing at London’s Paper Dress Vintage on 18th January.
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Pronto - 53style
Pronto pulls inspiration from UK/US rap, hip-hop, drill, grime, trap, reggae and jazz. These broad influences make for a distinctive and accessible flavour, bagging him hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify and Apple Music and an army of Instagram followers. Painting from such a diverse palette also gives plenty of space for exploration, something that he is keen to take full advantage of.
Some of Pronto’s long list of influences are referenced directly in ‘53style’. The track grew out of a freestyle verse, with its popularity prompting him to develop it from a short Instagram video into a full release. There’s an instant appeal to 53style, reflected in the immediacy and force of the reaction to it. Pronto’s delivery interlocks flawlessly with the Penacho instrumental, while the mixing/mastering work of Geno On The Buttons of Symedia applies the sheen. Pronto’s stuttering changes of pace and use of vocal samples add an extra layer to his already agile articulation.
Pronto has plenty on his plate this year, “I’ve got a lot coming in 2020… Back to back videos and maybe another E.P. Mainly consistency; more shows and freestyles on mainstream platforms is the goal.”
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Black Flies - Wolves At The Door
Black Flies are pretty new to the party. Last summer’s ‘The Break’ EP set them on their way, followed up by a series of packed shows in their native Bristol. Creatively, they’re a 3-piece comprising of Joshua Milton on guitar and vocals, Jack Barrett on guitar and Tom Hennessey on bass (they’re joined by session drummer Finn Mclean for their live shows) - and their writing has taken no time at all to click into place. Exhibit A: their latest single.
‘Wolves At The Door’ is a muddy and brooding wave of post-rock. It first pulls you in with its dramatic opening before pummelling you with a wall of guitars; Black Flies know how to use the loud and quiet to their advantage.
This sound is informed by an assemblage of transatlantic, hard-hitting but intelligent guitar-driven bands including Mogwai, Pianos Become The Teeth, If Trees Could Talk and Biffy Clyro. The storytelling associated with these artists is also apparent in the vividness Milton’s lyrics. Written from the perspective of a mother whose family have fallen on hard times, the song’s title is prescient:
“Lyrically, it was written about an experience I had when I was younger, when a friend had some really unfortunate family affairs… They had a lot of their possessions repossessed due to debt, some quite personal things.”
We’re thrilled to discover that there is more Black Flies music on the way - and you can catch them performing at Rough Trade (Bristol) on 21st February. They have some unannounced shows in the pipeline too, so stay stalky.
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West Wickhams – ‘He’s Acquired A New Face’
Psychedelic garage noir duo West Wickhams originally hail from Tresco on the Isles Of Scilly, but Jon and Ellie have recently left the island of lost souls, sub-tropical plants and shipwrecked figureheads behind, and have relocated to Richmond, Surrey.
With a cacophony of influences seeping into the West Wickhams’ melting pot, most of which aren’t musical - Whitby Abbey, pipe organs, Edgar Allen Poe, flowers, abstract painting, mist, gothic novels, optical illusions, and Andy Warhol amongst them – it’s safe to say that the duo’s sound was always going to be curious, perfectly disordered and intriguing.
So what about the lo-fi, and rather excellently titled debut single, ‘He’s Acquired A New Face’? Jon explains how the idea for the song emerged:
“I dreamt this song and woke up in the middle of the night with the lyrics and melody in my head already formed. The song is about alienation, freedom and rebirth within the constraints of escapism and over stimulation. So, I guess it’s open to interpretation. It seems a lot of people make up their own truths these days and it is partly about that. Most of the lyrics in the verse are buzz words for intoxication and the chorus is about how that can change your perception…the doors of perception are open!”
Playing live has constituted a major part of the band’s 2019 with them supporting The Chameleons and playing at Shiiine On Weekender and Windsor Oxjam. More enviable support slots lie ahead with West Wickhams opening for The Wedding Present during January, and Half Man Half Biscuit in February.
As you would expect, any band linked with Half Man Half Biscuit has piqued the interest of BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, who played them on his radio show recently. Praise from tastemaker blogs God Is In The TV, Even The Stars and Louder Than War has also been forthcoming, quite rightly.
A debut album is in the pipeline, due later in 2020, but for now keep your ear to the West Wickhams ground for news of more gigs, more festival performances and more wonderfully quirky music.
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Jessie Reid - I’ve Got You
Jessie Reid’s folk-influenced, fingerpicking style has drawn comparisons with the likes of Ben Howard, Lucy Rose and Andy Mckee - earning support from BBC 6 Music’s Tom Robinson, the Alan Surtees Trust and seeing her shortlisted for last year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition. Jessie travelled as far as New York and Brazil in the promotion of her first two singles, as well as supporting Seafret, Dan Owen, Ciaran Lavery and Brooke Bentham closer to home.
‘I’ve Got You’ is taken from her forthcoming, debut EP - recorded in Birmingham’s Coconut Hill Studios. Producer Matt Millard takes an understated approach to the track, with himself and Jessie adding only delicate touches of percussion, bass and additional guitar. The stunning simplicity this creates leaves the focus squarely on Jessie’s spellbinding, breathy voice and subtle harmonies. Which is exactly where the focus should be.
Jessie told us that she has, “Always written sad heartbreak songs”, but was keen to break the mould with this one. The end result is as inviting as a warm log cabin in winter.
‘I’ve Got You’ is out on the 24th January and, with the EP in the oven, 2020 will be a busy one for Jessie. Expect to see her on the festival circuit in support of the release.
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