Hot Press Album Review: Axis Of ‘Finding St Kilda’

25 03 2013

Here’s a reprint of my review of the new Axis Of record.

AXIS OF

Finding St Kilda (Smalltown America)

Three and a half stars

Key Track: ‘Aung’

AXIS OF’S DEBUT MARKS THEM OUT AS A BAND TO BELIEVE IN.

Ok, let’s get the big-eared pachyderm out of the room nice and early. Yes, it has seemed to take an eon for Portstewart-born but Belfast-based trio Axis Of to release their debut offering, but the riotous slab of wax was most certainly worth the wait. Not quite a “punk” record, but an opus steeped in the values of that scene, Finding St Kilda is full of pleasingly prickly choruses, riffs which could level a mountain and oodles of goose-bump-inducing outsider anthems. Featuring 11 tracks over the course of 34 minutes, Axis Of’s first record sees the band not so much wearing their hearts on their sleeves, but rather nailing the still beating ventricles to the slab of wax for the world to see and the passion and belief in what they’re doing informs the music with a thoroughly righteous sense of purpose.

 

Opening with ‘Cardiel,’ the song is a punchy effort packed with gang vocals, a nursery rhyme-style melody and even a nod to ‘So You Wanna Be A Boxer’ from Bugsy Malone and it leaves us without a shadow of a doubt that they’ve come out fighting from the get-go. Album highlight is ‘Aung,’ which sees a fuzz-laden, decidedly groovy riff do battle with a superfast hardcore punk chorus, but ‘We Dine On Seeds,’ which boasts a badass brass section at the halfway point of the song, gives it a run for its money.

 

If there are any criticisms we could make of Finding St Kilda it would be that the constant shift in dynamics can get a little predictable (‘Mapping St Kilda,’ ‘Stan Winston’s Rough Seas’) and at times they’re almost packing too much in, but the vocal performance from Ewen Friers throughout helps makes Axis Of a band to believe in and it’s one of the best debuts this writer has heard in moons.

EDWIN McFEE

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Big List Q And Q: Axis Of

7 03 2013

Here’s a reprint of a Q and A I did with Axis Of.

Axis Of Q and A

This month the Big List grabs a word in the shell-like of Portstewart-born/Belfast-based punk-imbued rock trio Axis Of on the eve of the release of their much-anticipated debut record ‘Finding St Kilda.’ Bassist/vocalist Ewen Friers gives us the inside scoop on the making of their long-awaited record, tells us why he’s thankful for our patience and comes clean about his budding bromance with American bruisers the Bronx.

 

Hi Ewen and welcome to the Big List. First off, in a few weeks time your debut record [‘Finding St Kilda’] finally hits record shop shelves. How do you feel about the impending release?

Ewen Friers (bass, vocals): “Hey, thanks! We’re curious to hear what all our friends from over the years will think of the record, but we’re excited to meet some new people through the album and get it out there to everyone at shows.”

 

Is there a sense of relief now that a full length record will be out there and in people’s hands?

“Its baffling to think we’ve had people turning up to gigs and staying interested in the band so far just on the back of a few demos and singles. It does feel good to be able to say- ‘Here’s an album with songs, lyrics, artwork. Sorry it took so long… and thank you for being so patient.’”

    

Can you tell us about the creation of ‘Finding St. Kilda?

“The album represents us the over the last two and half years, right up to this point. The sound and content has very much been shaped by our interests and experiences and particularly by touring. The album was recorded in Belfast at Start Together studio. We had a solid couple of weeks in the studio and a few short sessions throughout the course of about eight months and spent a day here and day there, adding little parts.”

 

 

The band’s received a fair bit of positive press pretty much since your inception. Did you feel under pressure to deliver a debut that would live up to expectations?

“I think any attention beforehand had actually encouraged us and it gave us the confidence to book the studio time and just make it happen. I would also say Rocky O’Reilly and the Start Together crew made us feel really at ease and relaxed.”

 

At the time of writing we’ve only had a few spins of the record so far, but ‘Lifehammer’ is a definite stand-out and a great slab of riffola. What’s your favourite track and why?

“I think we each have different favorite songs, and it alternates too. That’s why we’re so happy with album because it seems quite versatile. You can have your favorite in terms of lyrics, your favorite riffy one, heavy one, poppy one and that can keep changing over time.”

 

Speaking of ‘Lifehammer,’ you made a video for the track. Can you tell us about it? “Mark Easton and Co. at Tiny Bird Media [tinybirdmedia.com] put the whole thing together in a matter of hours. It’s a simple concept-the band playing the song in the rehearsal space-but it’s really beautifully shot and edited. I’m really happy with how it turned out and it is nice to think the focus is still the song.”

 

I’ve always loved the lyrical content of the band. What inspired the words on the album?

“The lyrics were mainly inspired by personal observations and stories concerning everything from touring, travel, nature, human relationships, activism, history and more. It’s a stream of ideas and images. We really hope that, above all, it’s thought provoking.”

 

‘Finding St Kilda’ is released via Smalltown America and I can’t think of a better label more suited to Axis Of. Were they always at the top of your list of labels to work with?

“I think so yes. Smalltown America have been a huge inspiration for our band since day one.  They’re honest and very passionate about music.”

 

By the time the interview sees print, you’ll be on tour with the Bronx. This is your second time touring with them right?

“It is yes. We’ve been fans of theirs for years. Ethan [Harman, drums, vocals] and I went to see the Bronx together when we were at school actually and they seemed like the coolest people on earth. We toured with them in November last year and they were the coolest people on earth-and I mean movie cool. It’s a dream come true touring with a band like the Bronx.”

 

Axis Of are renowned for touring as far and wide as possible. What’s the best and worst thing about being on the road?

“The best thing about touring is being able to meet all the interesting people out there and getting to experience other environments. The worst thing about touring is when the van breaks down or crashes.”

 

‘Finding St Kilda’ by Axis Of is released via Smalltown America on March 18. The band play a special launch gig at the Empire Music Hall, Belfast on March 30 and are currently on a full-on UK and Irish tour (see facebook.com/Axisof for more details). Eager beavers will also be glad to know you can stream ‘Finding St Kilda’ here soundcloud.com/smalltown-america/sets/finding-st-kilda





News From the North Week 109 (Hot Press)

20 10 2012

Here’s a reprint of my NI music news column that runs every fortnight in Hot Press.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

Fresh from kicking many an ass and taking their respective names at Glasgowbury, the incendiary Empty Lungs continue their rise to NI rock royalty this fortnight with the news that they’re set to support San Franciso punks Dead To Me on their up-coming Irish tour.  Kicking off on Aug 18 at Fibber Magee’s, Dublin, the four-piece also share the stage with the Fat Wreck Chords signed Americans in the Warzone Centre, Belfast on Aug 19 and both dates are recommended for anyone with even a shred of interest in impassioned punk and rock. Generous souls that they are, Empty Lungs have just recently made their ace single ‘Identity Lost’ (plus two other songs) available for free too and you can snag them at emptylungs.bandcamp.com. Doooo iiiiittttt.

 

Next up, irrepressible alt-rock trio Axis Of have just unveiled their plans for their total domination of Ireland. Dubbed the 32 Counties tour and inspired by Irish artists, poets, writers, creatives and musicians through the centuries (nope, I’m don’t really know what they mean by that either), the band perform at least one show in each county over the next three months or so and some of the key dates for your respective diaries include Harrison’s, Dundalk (Aug 10), Voodoo, Belfast (Aug 11) and the “we’re not sure how they’re going to manage it” four gigs in four counties on one day event that takes place at Essaness Music, Kilkenny, TBC, Wexford, John Palmer Music, Waterford and Belly Bang, Tipperary on Aug 25. The boys will also be announcing extra gigs over the next few months to tie in with their up-coming release of their debut album Finding St. Kilda and for more details visit axisof.co.uk.

 

Snow Patrol frontman and all-round local lad made good Gary Lightbody has confirmed he’s just filmed a bit part for Sky Atlantic’s battles and boobies TV show Game Of Thrones. Filmed in the north, the popular (though slightly pervy) programme is a bit of a hit with the general public and while the singer didn’t dish too much dirt on his role he took to Facebook to post up a suitably muddy looking photo of himself. Nice…

 

Finally this fortnight I’ve just enough room to tell you noise rockers Comply Or Die and Mudbitch have teamed up to play three dates down south this August. Kicking off on the 9th at Fibber Magee’s, Dublin, the bands then play Fred Zeppelin’s, Cork on Aug 10 and the Blind Pig, Limerick on Aug 11 so if you’re in the area check them out as they rule the proverbial school.





News From The North 109

22 09 2012

Here’s a reprint of my NI music news column that runs every fortnight in Hot Press.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

Fresh from kicking many an ass and taking their respective names at Glasgowbury, the incendiary Empty Lungs continue their rise to NI rock royalty this fortnight with the news that they’re set to support San Franciso punks Dead To Me on their up-coming Irish tour.  Kicking off on Aug 18 at Fibber Magee’s, Dublin, the four-piece also share the stage with the Fat Wreck Chords signed Americans in the Warzone Centre, Belfast on Aug 19 and both dates are recommended for anyone with even a shred of interest in impassioned punk and rock. Generous souls that they are, Empty Lungs have just recently made their ace single ‘Identity Lost’ (plus two other songs) available for free too and you can snag them at emptylungs.bandcamp.com. Doooo iiiiittttt.

 

Next up, irrepressible alt-rock trio Axis Of have just unveiled their plans for their total domination of Ireland. Dubbed the 32 Counties tour and inspired by Irish artists, poets, writers, creatives and musicians through the centuries (nope, I’m don’t really know what they mean by that either), the band perform at least one show in each county over the next three months or so and some of the key dates for your respective diaries include Harrison’s, Dundalk (Aug 10), Voodoo, Belfast (Aug 11) and the “we’re not sure how they’re going to manage it” four gigs in four counties on one day event that takes place at Essaness Music, Kilkenny, TBC, Wexford, John Palmer Music, Waterford and Belly Bang, Tipperary on Aug 25. The boys will also be announcing extra gigs over the next few months to tie in with their up-coming release of their debut album Finding St. Kilda and for more details visit axisof.co.uk.

 

Snow Patrol frontman and all-round local lad made good Gary Lightbody has confirmed he’s just filmed a bit part for Sky Atlantic’s battles and boobies TV show Game Of Thrones. Filmed in the north, the popular (though slightly pervy) programme is a bit of a hit with the general public and while the singer didn’t dish too much dirt on his role he took to Facebook to post up a suitably muddy looking photo of himself. Nice…

 

Finally this fortnight I’ve just enough room to tell you noise rockers Comply Or Die and Mudbitch have teamed up to play three dates down south this August. Kicking off on the 9th at Fibber Magee’s, Dublin, the bands then play Fred Zeppelin’s, Cork on Aug 10 and the Blind Pig, Limerick on Aug 11 so if you’re in the area check them out as they rule the proverbial school.





News From The North Week 107

9 08 2012

Here’s a reprint of my NI music news column that runs every fortnight in Hot Press.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

In just a few days time, the lion’s share of regular readers of this column will no doubt be preparing to straddle the Sperrin Mountains in Co. Derry and break themselves off a piece of metaphorical rock ‘n’ roll action at the Glasgowbury festival. Featuring a bill consisting of some of this island’s brightest and best acts, the bash will be headlined by Therapy? and just recently the Larne/Ballyclare-born boys revealed that they will be debuting a slightly altered line-up for the July 21 event. Yes readers, standing in (temporarily, mind) for long-term tub thumper Neil Cooper is Alan Lynn, who you may remember beats the shit out of things for those riff-laden berserkers LaFaro.

 

A few days ago I caught up with bassist Michael McKeegan and he explained the situation:

 

“I suppose the biggest bit of news is that Alan from LaFaro will be drumming with us!” offered the Evil Priest. “Neil’s had to sit out a few shows due to a longstanding family commitment so (with Neil’s help and LaFaro’s blessing) we head-hunted the best young drummer around to fill in. We’ve been rehearsing and it sounds fantastic, he definitely will be doing the songs justice. Aim to maim…that’s the plan.”

 

So there you have it folks. If you’re making the trip to Draperstown you’ll be witnessing a wee bit of history and if you’re not going, well…consider me very disappointed in your actions. For more info visit glasgowbury.com. See you down the front.

 

Next up, sticking with open air-based events, I’m particularly pleased to tell you that there has been a raft of NI additions (well, seven…) to the line-up for Electric Picnic. Leading the charge are festival stalwarts Rams’ Pocket Radio, Fighting with Wire, LaFaro, Mojo Fury, Axis Of and Master & Dog and rounding off the list are the utterly incendiary rap/punk hooligans Bomb City 7, who will no doubt steal the show at the shin-dig. The quintet of turns will play the Oxjam Wigwam and personally I think it’s only a matter of time before BC7 members Brendy and Kev play similar stages with their other projects Bee Mick See and Empty Lungs too.

 

Finally, I’ve just enough room to let you know the organisers of the annual Hard Working Class Heroes are on the lookout for acts to play at this year’s event (which takes place on Oct 4-6 across six different venues in Dublin). If you want to take part all you have to do is visit hwch.net for more details. The closing date for submissions is July 26. You have been warned…





News From The North 101

25 05 2012

Here’s a reprint of a recent NI music column that runs in Hot Press every fortnight.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

While at the time of writing it may indeed be colder than a witch’s naughty bits, I’ve been reliably informed that Spring has most definitely, um, sprung, and with the news that summer is on the way it’s perhaps not surprising that many of NI’s festivals have started making some interesting rumblings recently. One of this year’s heavy hitters is most certainly the Sunflower Fest and their bill for 2012 helps make the bash one of the north’s potential best in the country. Taking place at Tubby’s Farm (just outside Hillsborough and about 20 minutes from Belfast) the three day event runs from August 17-19 inclusive and will feature four stages (the Finn McCool main stage, the Campfire Stage, the Barn and the brand new addition to the shin-dig that is the intriguingly titled Electric Disco Shed) a family area, a cinema tent and various other exciting spectacles too.

 

However, while the booking of the likes of the well regarded wordsmith that is Scroobius Pip and popular Free Staters Republic of Loose are undoubted aces up the organiser’s sleeve, it’s the NI acts that interest us the most and Sunflower Fest has assembled a great mix of artists from all walks of life. Some of the must see turns include Ben Glover, Fighting with Wire, Duke Special, Nasa Assassin, Lanterns on the Lake, the Bonnevilles, Boss Sound Manifesto and many, many more and the full list can be viewed at sunflowerfest.co.uk. Weekend camping tickets are now onsale for £49 via the Belfast Welcome Centre (as well as other approved outlets) and for a full list check out their official site.

 

Next up, it looks like Stendhal Festival are putting together a pretty stellar bill too. Taking place on Aug 17-18 at the Ballymully Cottage Farm in Limavady, the initial announcement includes Silhouette, the Gorgeous Colours, Axis Of, Furlo, Paddy Nash and the Happy Enchiladas, the Innisowen Gospel Choir and Wookalily and more will be confirmed as the months progress. For further details on the event, including tickets details, check out stendhalfestival.com.

 

Finally this fortnight, by the time you get your grubby mitts on this latest issue, Belfast-based singer/songwriter Michael Kerr will have unleashed his new EP The Australia Fund out into the wild. Influenced by classic tunesmiths such as Tom Petty, Cat Stevens and Van Morrison, the talented troubadour has been making all the right tongues wag of late and you can find out more info on him via his website michaelkerrmusic.com.





News From The North Weeks 59 and 60

6 09 2010

Yup, it’s been a while since I posted up the Hit the North column I do for Hot Press, so here’s the last four for y’all (two today and two tomorrow) and as usual-if you’re in a band from Northern Ireland and have news for me, get in touch.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

With Glasgowbury just around the corner (July 24 in case you didn’t already know) we thought we’d dedicate this issue’s column to some of the bands who will be appearing at the bash in Draperstown, County Derry. First up, we’ve got some good news as headliners Fighting with Wire seem to be stirring from their self-imposed slumber and it appears that their plans for album number two are coming together nicely. In a bid to prove to us all that they’ve been spending their time off wisely, they’ve posted up a studio diary from Nashville on their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/fightingwithwire) and they’re promising there’s more to come, which makes this writer a very happy bunny indeed.

FWW’s label mates LaFaro have also been indulging in web-based wonders ahead of their Glasgowbury slot and have unveiled their very own smart-phone app. If you’re into that kind of wizardry, you can now download the application for free and get news, tour dates, photos, music and more onto your mobile and it’ll keep all you nerds up to date on their activities.

 Mojo Fury frontman Michael Mormecha’s vaudeville-flavoured side project Clown Parlour have taken the unprecedented step of making their debut album The Sum Of Sounds available for free this fortnight via their Bandcamp page (http://clownparlour.bandcamp.com) and very good it is too. After wowing us all with their technicolour performance at last year’s Glasgowbury, we’re keen to see how they fare this year (considering everyone can now listen to the album at their leisure) and we’re expecting them to steal the show, so make sure you check them out.

General Fiasco are another act who are sure to get tongues wagging, especially now that their debut Buildings is out on record shop shelves. As well as doing a turn in Draperstown, the three-piece will be playing at (deep breath) Sonisphere in Knebworth, the Underage festival in London, Summer Sonic 2010 in Japan, the Frequency festival in Austria, Highfield festival in Denmark and Reading and Leeds at the end of the summer, so if you’re on your holidays and happen to be in any of those places, make sure you go and support them.

Finally, we’ll leave you with some gossip to chew on. Just recently we’ve heard that while last year’s Glasgowbury headliners And So I Watch You From Afar aren’t officially slated to appear on the bill this year, expect some sort of appearance from band members during the course of the day. Details on where and when are scarce at the time of going to press (he said mysteriously…).

News

Words: Edwin McFee

By the time you read this, your humble correspondent (and countless others) will no doubt be scrubbing off the mud and muck from Glasgowbury and generally feeling a bit bummed out that the festival season is near over. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as the West Belfast Feile (www.feilebelfast.com) is just about to kick off and on the local front they’ve got a cracking gig in the grounds of City Hall to keep us out of trouble on August 7. Featuring the likes of Mojo Fury, Axis Of and the Vals on the bill, the gig starts at 2pm.

 Now, on to news of a slightly more salacious nature. The absolute beast of a band that is Dutch Schultz have been busy beavering away behind the scenes recently and they’ve just filmed a video for their new single ‘LA Cuntfucker’ (they’re silver-tongued devils, aren’t they?). According to a band insider, the clip, which features go-go dancers and local burlesque troupe the Whistlebait Babies, was also slated to feature an appearance from local musician/actress Cara Cowan, but she pulled out fearing it would damage her image (we can’t think why….). Anyway, the track itself is a fantastically blood thirsty three minutes or so that should do well for the boys when it gets an official release date.

Lisburn based lovers of epic alternative rock Deadlights have very kindly made their ace new EP ‘Pieces. Ripcord. Words’ available to download for free this month. All you have to do to get your virtual mitts on the three track release is click on http://deadlights.bandcamp.com and it’s as simple as that. The four-piece are also streaming some new songs on their MySpace site (www.myspace.com/deadlights08) and as ever the band have a string of live dates coming up which include playing in Moira on August 5, Lisburn on August 13 and the Sunflowerfest in Hillsborough on August 20.

Speaking of festivals, the rock ‘n’ roll killing machine that is Trucker Diablo continue their quest to kick as many asses as possible by playing a show at the Rock & Blues Custom Show festival in Derbyshire on July 30. Also on the bill are legends such as Wishbone Ash and for more information check out www.rockandblues.uk.com.

Finally, it’s with a certain amount of sadness that we announce that the Black Bear Saloon have closed their metaphorical doors for good. The four-piece have decided to go their separate ways after three years together and we’d like to wish all the band members luck in their future endeavors. Now, somebody hand us a hanky. Sniff.