Church Of Noise 2

17 05 2010

Remember I blogged about a new column I’m writing in the Big List called Church of Noise? Well I’ll be running some reprints from the last few issues over the next lock of days.

Church of Noise

Local music news.

In the real world, dressing up as feg-smoking, beer drinking, gambling bear/men and kidnapping a hot blonde chick for your own ends will more than likely get your collar felt by the old bill, but in the realm of rock ‘n’ roll-people film it and make a music video out of it instead. Thank Elvis the Black Bear Saloon are the latter eh? Yes readers, if you haven’t seen the clip for their single ‘Face The Future’ by now-here’s the deal. The video features our heroes in bear suits while generally behaving badly and driving old cars around and very good it is too. The band have finally got their furry arses in gear and released it as a proper single too and for 99 of your pennies you not only get ‘Face The Future’ but you also have a newly remixed ‘Al Bronco’ and the aforementioned video for your virtual collection. All you have to do is click on and bob is your da’s brother. We don’t know about you, but that’s our Mother’s Day present sorted then…

It looks like March is going to be a hell of a month for local music as both Two Door Cinema Club and General Fiasco release their debut albums into the wild and we’re pleased to report that both slabs of wax are hotter than a pajama party round Megan Fox’s house. TDCC’s ‘Tourist History’ (out on March 2 via Kitsune and the launch gig takes place in the Stiff Kitten, Belfast on March 5) is possibly one of the best records this writer has heard all year and with the likes of cataracts-glasses wearing, award show wrecking Kanye West and Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus (y’know-the dude isn’t the one with the whiney voice or the bloke who looks like a human etch-a-sketch) falling over themselves to proclaim the three-piece from Bangor as the next big thing, we reckon it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on too.

General Fiasco’s ‘Buildings’ (out March 22 via Infectious and the launch gig is on March 28 in the Mandela Hall, Belfast) is another thunderous 40minutes worth of teenage kicks and should see the boys scale the heights they’ve always deserved too. With a great new video for their stellar single ‘Ever So Shy’ slated for a March 8 release (if you haven’t seen it yet, check out my blog for a looky we’re predicting big things for the boys.

Another band on the cusp of something special are everyone’s favourite hard to pin down rebel rousers the Tin Pot Operation. The group (now augmented by the addition of mandolin player Daithi) are due to start work on their third record this month and are returning to their old stomping grounds of the Blueroom to start work on the much anticipated opus. Good luck chaps and chap-ess.

 Finally, fresh from the massive Belfast 4 Haiti mega-gig (yes, I’ve copyrighted the word mega-gig so don’t go robbing it) three photographers have decided to have a good old fashioned team up in order to aid the charity and are selling prints from the gigs on this link So if you’ve ever wanted a nice, frame-able photo of Yakuza, the Answer or some eijit in the crowd who’s drunk so much he looks like he’s chewed his own elbows off (while also helping a worthwhile cause) then you know what to do.

 See y’all next month folks. Up the Irons.


News From The North Week 49

19 03 2010

Want some gossip about NI bands? You got it brah.


Words: Edwin McFee

This issue, we start things off with a bit of an appeal. However, unlike those adverts featuring scruffy dogs or those weird hairless cats that look a bit demented, this cause isn’t going to pull at your heart-strings quite as much (don’t worry though-it’s still as worthwhile in our book). You see, Belfast’s finest purveyors of heavy metal Standup Guy need your help to aid them in their quest for global domination. Not content with holding NI in their thrall, the riff aficionado’s are aiming to take over this year’s festivals too and thanks to a competition organised by Red Bull, the lads have the chance to play at the likes of Download and T in the Park. All you have to do to aid the group is go to this link and vote for them (it only takes 10seconds). Standup guy are currently writing their third album and we’ll bring you news on the slab of wax over the forth-coming weeks.

Good news for fans of Heliopause. The band have made their ace EP ’Let The Silence Go’ available for free via their bandcamp page ( and very good it is too. If you end up falling in love with the group after that (and of course why wouldn’t you?) you can also buy their ‘Moment Of Recognition’ single (and limited edition screen prints) as well as their ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Acoustic In Berlin’ EPs as well and as all of the money goes directly to our heroes, we fully recommend you do so as soon as you can.

Congrats to the Kicks from Belfast who have just announced that they are through to the audition stage of Live and Unsigned (the UK’s biggest unsigned music completion, in case you didn’t already know). The band beat hundreds of other entries to qualify for the event and will be playing live in front of a judging panel (as well as a few thousand punters) in a bid to perform at the Live and Unsigned festival at the 02 in London. For more information on the four-piece check out

Finally this fortnight, news reaches us that everyone’s favourite hard to pin down rebel rousers the Tin Pot Operation are due to enter the studio this month to start work on album number three. The group (now augmented by the addition of mandolin player Daithi) are returning to their old stomping grounds of the Blueroom to start work on the much anticipated opus and if it’s anything like their second album ‘Human Resources’ then we’re all in for a treat.

News From The North Week 48

2 03 2010

Want some NI band news? You got it punker.


Words: Edwin McFee

We’d like to kick this fortnight’s news column off with a huge metaphorical pat on the back to Aaron (Black Bear Saloon) Abernethy, Anto (Tin Pot Operation) O’Kane and John (Bruised Fruit) Lawson for their massively successful Belfast 4 Haiti events, which saw NI’s music scene invoke the spirit of their inner Bob Geldof and raise a lot of money for charity. So far the group have made (at the time of going to press) £21500 from the 50 band mega-gig, £9500 from the dance event in the Stiff Kitten and £7500 from a fun run (if anyone can tell this writer what exactly is fun about running then send your answers in c/o Hot Press) and there’s more to come in. Filmmaker Sean Duncan (AKA Redcap Productions) has also made an ace short video of the gig in the Limelight/Spring and Airbrake/Katy Daly’s and it can be viewed by clicking on the link and should help all those who were slightly sozzled to retrace their steps…

The Belfast 4 Haiti train doesn’t just stop there though and as well as plenty of other splinter events in the works, some photographers have clubbed together to exhibit/flog their wares online for charity. Featuring an extensive selection of shots taken at the 50band gig, you can view them here and buy prints to hang on your wall/cave with all proceeds going to the relief effort. I think we’re all agreed that everyone involved in the Belfast 4 Haiti project deserves at least ten fist bumps each for their efforts, so well done.

 In a few weeks time (March 4 to be precise) John Shelly and the Creatures unveil their debut album Dinosaur to the world and play a gig in Auntie Annie’s in Belfast to celebrate. Fresh from bothering Coronation Street viewers’ ear-holes with their ace single ‘Long May You Reign’( by way of the Discover Northern Ireland advert) the band have been making all the right moves at the moment and even tread those hallowed boards of the Late Late Show recently (you can watch their performance via the RTE Player if you missed it) so expect more news from the band over the issues to come.

 Finally congrats to the Vals, who have bagged the support slot for Ocean Colour Scene’s gig in the Mandela Hall, Belfast on March 7. They also play a European club tour in April-taking in Switzerland, Germany and Austria and it will be in support of their new single ‘Things Will Always Be The Same.’ Stay tuned for more Vals news as we get it.

Bye Bye 09, It’s Been Great

31 12 2009

Yes friends, today is the last day of the year and indeed the whole decade. The “noughties” have been a decade of huge highs and lows. I started out in ’02 with people lining up to tell me it was impossible for a working class bloke from Newry with no contacts to make a living as a freelance journalist. It was a really tough few years with literally no money. I was living in glorified squats while dealing with the fact that at that time there were NO outlets for entertainment journalism in Northern Ireland and needless to say it was pretty stressful. Still, there was a light at the end of the tunnel and helping launch the Belfast Telegraph’s weekend supplement 24/7 and giving a hand in founding Alternative Ulster magazine were definitely highlights from those shitty years.

I’ve been at this for 7 years now and in many ways I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. In early 2005 I was about to pack it all in as I (somehow) ended up interviewing every one of my heroes (bar Morrissey and Courtney Love…). While it was a huge acheivement for me, I was in a bit of a slump and left in a “what do I do now?” funk. Thankfully I gave myself a metaphorical boot up the hole and got on with things and the last half of the decade has been fantastic.

So what have been my highlights of 2009? Christ, I don’t even know where to start, but I thought it might be good to reprint my favourite piece I’ve written this year. So below is the final draft of my NI scene report for the NME. Enjoy and see you all next year…

United by Noise

A Northern Ireland Scene Report

Three decades ago, Stiff Little Fingers’ Jake Burns first preached from his punk rock pulpit about an ‘Alternative Ulster.’ Since then, music in Northern Ireland has grown and mutated into a visceral and at times venomous beast with bands preferring to give the mainstream a sonic two fingered salute rather than court the industry coke-heads of London Town. You see, for years the Ulster scene has been brushed under the carpet in favour of more geographically friendly areas in both the UK and Ireland. Due to its well documented political Trouble, the media appears to prefer focusing on yet another report from Liverpool, Manchester or wherever rather than sending a scribbler to the formerly war-torn area because it just seems like a safer option. While it pains this writer to admit it, NI will always be haunted by the spectre of semtex and suicide even though it’s been relatively bomb-free for years, but this has ultimately made it’s music utterly life affirming. Every note counts and every song matters. Thanks to sites such as local music bible, bands like the Beat Poets and Ash-endorsed Oppenheimer can make music and tour under their own steam without relying on hand-outs from ‘the’, ahem, ‘Man’. If you want something done right you have to do it yourself afterall.

Right now there are a gaggle of great acts in NI. Leading the charge are And So I Watch You From Afar. The four-piece craft instrumental music that could easily soundtrack buildings tumbling, world’s colliding and large, green aliens landing from space and eating people’s brains. Plus, any band who can get run over by a car and play a gig later that night has our vote for life

NI’s finest purveyors of indie pop Two Door Cinema Club are also doing great things and peddle tunes that are as catchy as Chlamydia at the Playboy Mansion. Think Deathcab for Cutie embroiled in a knife-fight with Modest Mouse and you’re close.

Not Squares are currently getting local music critics’ collective undercrackers in a bunch and from a quick listen to thrash dance anthem ‘Vita Sackville West’ it’s easy to see why this Julie Ruin worshipping mob are making all the right moves. Their sound is a synth-laden cacophony of boy/girl vocals and shouts and their live show has more kick-ass moments than a night out with Joey Barton.

But it’s not just about hand-claps and keyboards in NI, probably the most historically prevelant scene has featured music from the ‘eavier end of the spectrum. Carrying on the torch from the likes of the Undertones and Therapy?, the Black Bear Saloon are the latest group to give us some new teenage kicks and they sound as venomous as an episode of America’s Next Top Model. The future of rock is in safe hands with this fearsome four-some.

Finally, if there was ever a band that summed up the true rebel-rousing spirit of Belfast then it’s the Tin Pot Operation. They adore putting noses out of joint, have wound up more people than Jeremy Beadle and best of all they’re not afraid to talk about politics and poetry. Their self-released slab of wax ‘Human Resources’ is a beautifully battered sonic manifesto and it sums up their home-town better than any empty-headed politician ever could.

It’s true that NI has had more than its share of ups and downs over the decades but 2009 looks set to be a break-out year for Northern Irish musicians who have been united by noise. Remember where you read about them first.

Edwin McFee

Big Gig 8-Friday, Nov 27

16 11 2009

Tin Pot Operation Interview

10 11 2009

Despite having a tendency for being disorganised so and so’s, the Tin Pot Operation are easily one of my favourite NI acts and have been for the last few years. We’ve got them playing the Big Gig 8 on November 27 at the Spring and Airbrake Belfast and here’s a reprint of a recent interview I did with their singer/guitarist Anto O’Kane…

Tin Pot Operation

Loved by the likes of the NME and lauded by mainland Europe, Belfast’s rabble rousers the Tin Pot Operation have kicked against the pricks since their inception. In November they play the Big Gig 8 and we caught up with singer/guitarist Anto O’Kane to hear about their current album ‘Human Resources,’ as well as how Katie Melua robbed their idea and why modern pop stars have no soul.


OK, let’s start at the start-how did it all begin for the TPO?
“Way, way back in the later Triassic period there was a little rehearsal studio/ meeting spot in Marquis Street called the Music Box, run by the Welsh busking legend and songwriter Mike Doyle. We were all in bands that used the room at the time [Nixon, Jasper, Babylon by Bus] and after these efforts split up we just happened across each other and started chatting about the sort of music that needed to be made. We all had a strong conviction that saying something was far more important than a polished sound or commercial potential. We started working and right away a very unique kind of sound started coming together. Choosing to sing in our own accents for example seemed to give the music a special rhythm and voice all of its own. We’ve been working on perfecting it ever since. I still get surprised at how much possibility there is when we get together to work on a new song. I love it.”

 Right from your inception you’ve put noses out of joint both online and (sometimes) at gigs. Do you enjoy winding people up?
“Absolutely. Some people think there are ‘rules’ to making music and what sort of bands should be popular. It’s an utter load of sh*te and I absolutely adore it when these smug, tiresome little bores are taken down a peg or two. Now more than ever we’ve got asinine, safe, vacuous music is piped into every part of our lives and once music is used to sell you something it’s utterly worthless. A lot of people still persist in thinking that commerciality is king but they’re wrong.”

 The Tin Pot Operation has had some great press over the last couple of years-how do you feel about it?
“I have to say I’m a sucker for a good review! Stuff in NME, Hot Press, AU and all over the blogs has been great. People recognise that we are doing something unique and even if it’s not precisely to their taste they appreciate it for being different at least. The other thing is journalists and bloggers must get bored to f*ck with these bands and artists terrified to say anything that might spoil their safe, commercial image, so they have a lot of time for anyone with something to say. I suppose if we were a bit more organised or media savvy we could be milking it a bit more, but we just don’t have those genes.”

We love the video for ‘Sitting There.’ Can you tell us a bit about the filming?
“It was good craic. I love videos with simple ideas and since I’m the bossy, preening, up-himself member of the TPO, we (well THEY) thought it would be funny to pretend to give me a beating in the interests of art. I think there was definitely some catharsis going on when Raymie [Lawlor, guitar/vox] stood on my head! I was utterly gutted when I saw the video for ‘Nine Million Bicycles’ by Katie Melua and she’d ripped off our idea of being dragged along the ground by the feet. She must have a time machine… I’ve been hiding outside her house a fair bit to see, but so far she has been careful not to reveal anything.”

We heard you got nominated for an award in Italy in April. Can you tell us a bit about it?
“It was all thanks to our friends the Rosenkrantz over in Italy. We’ve toured with them over here and they submitted the video for these awards. I think we managed to get through to heat stages or something, but I kept having to translate the emails on Google and stuff, so I was never quite sure! ‘Right and Wrong’ made it to the Semi-Finals of the UK Songwriting Competition too which was a nice bonus.”

‘Human Resources’ is out at the moment-how do you feel about it now?
“‘Human Resources’ to us represents exactly the sound and atmosphere we’ve been aiming for since starting the band. Recording live in a single room made a real difference to the vibe and energy of the record, we’re all really proud of it.”

What’s your favourite track?
“That’s a hard one. I adore Raymie’s vocal performance on ‘Tell the Kids.’ I sometimes choke a wee bit when I get caught up in it. So powerful. It was one of those moments where me and [producer] Pete Pratt at Blueroom Studios just looked at each other and went ‘YESSSS.’”

Any plans to make a follow up?
“Absolutely. We never rest from writing new material and could easily fill another album twice over. The addition of Daithi on mandolin has given us a much broader palette too and at the moment TPO HQ is a hive of energy with lots of new stuff being tested out.”


Tin Pot Operation play the Big Gig 8 at the Spring and Airbrake, Belfast on Friday, Nov 27. Admission is £4.


25 09 2009

Anto from the Tin Pot Operation posted up this photo on his Facebook page so I thought I’d share it here too as it’s the first thing that’s made me laugh all day.

PS-I’ve no idea why the Thing looks so buff compared to the Hulk.