The Unsigned Guide Spotlight: April

Blog by Stef Loukes under Artist Managers, Creative & Branding, Finance, Law & Music Business, Live, Media, Music Publishing, Music Training & Careers, Record Labels, Recording & Production, Selling & Distributing Your Music

Tourists - ‘Align’
From the outside, it has been a quiet few years for Torquay five-piece, Tourists. 2017's 'Cut & Run' gained them inclusion in Spotify's Global Viral 50 chart and the support of tastemakers including DIY, Clash and The 405, followed by an unforgettable summer slot on the BBC Music Introducing stage at Glastonbury Festival. Thereafter, the combined pressures of touring and label expectations ultimately led them to step back from the limelight, allowing them to put their full creative weight back behind music making.

The first taste of Tourists' return to the fore is 'Align', and it is a stark departure from the sunny intimacy of ‘Cut & Run’. The band were keen to combine their shoegaze and synth-pop influences with deeper-rooted elements of post punk. There is a darker, more experimental edge to Align, underscored by its dimly lit, glitchy video.

The cavernous production brings to mind Martin Hannett's experiments with Joy Division, with an added 21st century heft. Their rare combination of influences culminates in a surreal, moody atmosphere that exists in a world of its own.

Tourists' forthcoming debut album has been over 2 years in the making, meaning that the band is understandably itching for the world to hear it. It isn't due to emerge until later this year, so we'll have to wait a little bit longer - but there are more singles to look forward to in the meantime.

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SONS - ‘Sweat’
Brothers Lee and Nick Meldrum formed SONS back in 2016, injecting grunge riffs with a punk energy and anthemic choruses. Their tightly constructed wall of noise has taken them across the UK and beyond, including festival appearances at Reading Festival, Isle Of Wight Festival, The Great Escape, Camden Rock and Obstwiesen Festival. SONS have received airplay from indie/rock bigwigs Steve Lamacq, Huw Stephens, John Kennedy and Alex Baker, as well as coverage from Kerrang! Magazine, Clash Music and Team Rock.

There's an irresistible simplicity to SONS' latest single, 'Sweat'. Thunderous riffs are interspersed by guttural, bad-tempered vocals before bursting into a snappy, earworm of a chorus. Proceedings get even more unruly by the time we get to the piercing guitar solo at the song's peak, as pretty much every drum and effects pedal in sight takes a hammering.

Sweat is out now on all major platforms via End Of The Trail. With their European tour on hold for obvious reasons, SONS are focused on the pre-production of their next EP, as well as some tentatively booked shows in the late summer.

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Stay Lunar - ‘Dreaming That I'm Not In Love’
Along with allusions to dreampop stalwarts JAWS and DIIV, Bristol-based Stay Lunar draw on the joyful indie pop of Little Comets, the vivid synth textures of M83, and Daughter's atmospheric layerings. Their debut single, 'Brainshake' made it onto Spotify's Hot New Bands playlist last year and they haven't looked back since - going on to share a stage with Little Comets at Oxford's O2 Academy in November, which they were understandably chuffed with.

Their newest track, 'Dreaming That I'm Not In Love', has been equally well received and was recently named BBC Music Introducing in the West's Track Of The Week. It sprung from the depths of the subconscious of guitarist/vocalist, Harry Leigh. Only a true songwriter could be as grateful for recurring anxiety dreams as Harry is:

"...They were all about my insecurities surrounding a new relationship I had entered - I don't normally have dreams as vivid as these, but I'm glad I did on this occasion. They kept looping around my head for days, so I had to get them written down and into song form."

Two weeks and one rough demo later, the band found themselves recording the track in the studio:

"We just went for it without even knowing all of our parts properly, which was a great experience... It was probably the most fluid experience we've had from start to finish with a single; everything fell into place and it sounds better than we could have imagined - we're incredibly proud of this one."

‘Dreaming That I'm Not In Love’ has everything that you could hope for in a dreampop banger, including a gated reverb on the snare that would make Prince proud. It even has a proper fade out to complete the 80s feel. The synth drives a lot of the melodies here, and acts as a hook for the warmth of the understated vocal lines and lush harmonies.

This "whole coronavirus situation", as the band puts it, has hit pause on some of Stay Lunar's plans for the coming months. They're hoping to sort a few live streams in consolation for their cancelled shows. Fingers crossed for the world to be adjusting back to some sort of normality by June 27th, when they're booked to play their biggest headline show yet at The Louisiana in Bristol.

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Tom John Hall - ‘Human’
Crafting ‘outsider pop music’ comes naturally to Tom John Hall, who likes nothing more than to broach big, heavy subjects in a song and inject it with his signature, liberally deployed sense of humour.

“Human is a song that came about early on in the writing process for my record - it definitely set the pace for the mixture of gritty indie rock and wonky synth pop that the album gravitates around. It's a song about the tiny performances we put on in our everyday lives, and the nerve wracking sensation of living in a permanent state of pretending - but, it's also poking fun a bit, at our innate awkwardness. Also, I had always wanted to have at least one song with two guitar solos and two synth solos, and this seemed like the right place - I think I managed to get away with it.”

Tom is accustomed to cutting his own path and doing things his own way. He set up his own label, Year Of Glad, at the beginning of this year which will be the loving home of his own releases, most notably his album ‘My Big Album’ which, in true Tom John Hall off-the-wall style, will be released in 2 parts; the first in July and the second in November with a double 12" record.

Tom is deservedly proud of the album. It’s no mean feat to single-handedly create such a wealth of material, whilst planning and implementing a label launch too, and his dedication and accomplishments are finally being rewarded, “I set out to make the ‘greatest album of all time’, and after a few years holed away in a studio learning Randy Newman songs and toying with analogue synthesizers, I'm finally getting to release it. We had a sell out launch night in Derby for the label which was a big moment, and more recently picking up some air time on BBC Introducing and Radio X, featuring on an Independent Music News compilation (in support of Mind) and a lovely single premiere on Balloon Machine have all been really exciting!”

After a Covid-19 related rethink and juggle, Tom has his release schedule back on track for the coming months. Next up will be single ‘Who's Watching You’, out on 13th May. The first part of the album will drop on 31st July. Keep an eye out for Twitch streams and Instagram Live announcements, plus some tantalizing artwork and video features to accompany them and keep you entertained during lockdown.

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Peplo - ‘Tall’
Although Glasgow band Peplo released their first home-produced demo in 2016, they consider ‘Tall’ as their true debut; a song that really cements and defines their collaborative songwriting style.

Collaboration is the band’s buzzword, and clearly a process that they all value highly, 
“Tall was assembled from shared shards of separately written material and then forged into an arrangement by extensively jamming through the song and pathfinding on the fly (as well as retroactively, via studio experimentation). We really work on an anything-goes basis - and Tall was no exception! It’s something we highly value as a band: we don’t buy into the myth of the lone genius, and believe instead that the best music comes from collaboration. The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac clearly demonstrate that!...and it’s definitely worth all the arguments!”

Recorded and produced by Peplo, with help from The Audio Lounge, Green Door Studios, and Last Punch Mastering, Tall is the lead single to be taken from the band's forthcoming EP. Their melancholic sound conjures the classic pop sensibility of alternative bands who’ve gone before, like the Cocteau Twins and The Cranberries. Lo-fi, dreamy and lush, but always careful not to become too twee and saccharine.

The last 6 months have brought some fantastic opportunities Peplo’s way; BBC radio airplay, a headline slot for Good Boy Punk Club (plus the chance to shoot a stripped-down rendition of the band’s forthcoming song ‘Fight the Flight Response’ for the Glasgow based collective), and an invitation to play OK Pal Records’ all-day festival at Portobello alongside national luminaries Meursalt and Jonnie Common. Oh, and not forgetting closing the bill at Last Night From Glasgow’s Celtic Connections label showcase at the start of 2020.

With live shows off the agenda for a little while due to Covid-19 chaos, the band are throwing themselves into their largely DIY production process to finish off work on their forthcoming EP which you can expect to hear in the latter half of the year. A second single taken from it, ‘Katarina’s Got My Tongue’ will be unveiled next month. And with collaboration never far from their minds, Peplo leave us with this heartening sentiment during strange and scary times “We hope to be able to do our bit over the coming months to help the scene as best we can.”

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