FIVE FAVOURITES: Dolls

After sharing their debut EP Pop The Bubble in 2018, garage-rock duo Dolls have been busy writing new material and working with Producer Margo Broom (Hermitage Studio Works) to create more of their energetic guitar tunes. Filled with buoyant riffs, crashing percussion and strong vocals; their new EP, Eggshells, is a retrospective take on “Losing friends, creepy men, the strive for perfectionism, and day-to-day anxiety.”

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Dolls’ vocalist & guitarist Jade Ellins to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her writing techniques. Check out Jade’s choices below, and scroll down to watch the video for Dolls’ track ‘Eggshells’ at the end of this post.

1. PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
I felt like I got into PJ Harvey surprisingly late considering I have loved female-fronted bluesy rock for most of my life. When I first started gigging in London about 8 years ago, I used to get compared to her so I thought “I should really give her a listen2. This was the first PJ album I listened to and it blew my mind. I loved everything about it – her vocal performance, the production, the lyrics – it was all incredible. It really influences my song writing and I especially like the way she plays with dynamics on this album. She manages to make one riff sound interesting for over five minutes with her arrangements, which I feel is one of the hardest things to do. My partner bought me this on vinyl and I honestly find it hard to listen to records all the way through without zoning out but this album keeps my interest the whole time.

2. Deep Purple – Made In Japan
I used to listen to this album on car journeys when I was little all the time. I love Deep Purple, and this live album showcases how brilliant they are live, even if Ritchie Blackmore likes to go off and do his own thing a lot of the time! I love every song on this album but my favourites are ‘Highway Star’, ‘Lazy’ and ‘Space Truckin’. This album has a lot of good memories for me and Ritchie Blackmore is still one of my favourite guitarists. I wouldn’t say I directly use Deep Purple to influence my song writing but I feel like parts of them must come out as I have listened to them so much.

3. Pixies – Doolittle
I actually used to hate the Pixies, and I did see them live when I was 21 and was bored. Then about 4 years later I listened to some songs of Doolittle and it was a light bulb moment (I thought it might happen with The Smiths but I still hate them!) I think my music taste really changed as I wanted to be more experimental with song writing. Pixies have an amazing way of making certain songs that really shouldn’t work sound interesting and engaging. My favourite song off the album is ‘Hey’. When I listen to it I sometimes want to cry because it is so good. Every single musician brings something unique to the band and I feel like every part fits together perfectly. It’s probably why when seeing them live now it isn’t quite the same as they don’t have Kim Deal anymore. I have watched old live videos and she definitely brings the energy and has such a distinctive voice. Raspy and angelic at the same time! I love you Pixies, I’m sorry I doubted you.

4. Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
Is this one of the best live albums/shows of all time? I think so! I sometimes put the show on just so I can run around with them. The song writing is magnificent and I love how in the show they gradually build up the stage, I couldn’t believe it when I first watched it. The only thing I can’t work out is everyone is wearing a similar outfit but the drummer is wearing a bright blue polo shirt, it annoys me slightly but I’ll let it go one day. I love Talking Heads’ use of vocal harmony and much like most of the albums I have put on this list – every instrument has its own essential part. Some bands you can feel that they haven’t been bothered to push themselves to think of a better bass line or guitar part but each instrument and choice made on these Talking Heads songs creates an essential part in a well-oiled and groovy machine.

5. The Kills – Keep On Your Mean Side
A friend at music college introduced me to The Kills and out of the largely male led duos I was listening to at the time. I loved the fact that there were male and female vocal parts. I thought Alison Mosshart was the coolest person ever and such a brilliant performer. I don’t listen to The Kills much anymore, but when I was first starting Dolls they played a big role at influencing my song writing. My favourite song from the album is ‘Fried Your Little Brains’. Much like PJ Harvey, they manage to make one riff throughout a whole song sound brilliant. I think that is largely down to Jamie’s rhythmic guitar playing. I used to watch him a lot to help with guitar playing ideas for Dolls. Out of the big duos at the time (The Black Keys, The White Stripes) Jamie’s guitar playing was my favourite. Not too showy but still unique.

Thanks to Jade for sharing her favourites with us!
Listen to Dolls’ new EP Eggshells on Spotify.

Photo Credit: Keira-Anee Photography

FIVE FAVOURITES: Low Hummer

Like most bands this year, Hull quintet Low Hummer are preparing to spend their summer in isolation writing new material, instead of gigging around the UK. Their latest single ‘Picture Bliss’ released via Dance To The Radio Records was written pre-pandemic, but its context is uncannily relatable during these (dare we say it?) “unprecedented” times. The track is a noisy, cathartic burst of guitars and crashing percussion, with dual vocalists Daniel Mawer and Aimee Duncan talking about two strangers who find each other moments before the world self-destructs.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Low Hummer’s Aimee & Steph to ask about their “Five Favourites” – five songs or albums that influenced the band’s writing techniques. Check out their choices below, and scroll down to listen to ‘Picture Bliss’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Pixies – ‘Gigantic’
Aimee: Although we all knew of each other before we started the band, it was only really a quick hello if we passed each other in the street! That meant we had, and still have a lot of different influences and backgrounds to our music and don’t often agree on liking the same bands. However, one band we all manage to agree on is Pixies. We don’t particularly make radio friendly music, but thanks to a band like Pixies we realised we can still aim to write pop songs, with hooky choruses even if they’re heavily disguised by odd chord choices, screaming vocals and distorted noises. Frank and Kim’s vocal styles are at odds with each other but work wonders together, whilst Joey’s guitar work often goes for odd riffs that are still instantly recognisable as his. Dan used ‘Gigantic’ in particular as a reference when we recorded ‘Picture Bliss’, joint vocals play a big part in what we do, and Pixies inspired us, they show its manageable to convey sensitivity vocally whilst still chucking in a load of distorted guitars!

2. Lost in Translation Official Soundtrack
Steph: It’s one of our favourite soundtracks collectively, and definitely would have played a role in us working parts out for ‘Picture Bliss;. The inspiration of bands like Death In Vegas along with My Bloody Valentine would have helped us learn how to manage sensitive melody lines and lyrics with distortion and odd sounding riffs. Not forgetting Bill Murray singing along to ‘More Than This’ which helped us fall in love with cheesy riffs and catchy choruses, both of which we’d have written off when we were kids. The Jesus and Mary Chain are not a band we gravitate towards to a lot, but again, their song ‘Just Like Honey’ which features at the end of the film felt like a good reference point for ‘Picture Bliss’. It’s another song that has a joint vocal with plenty of reverb and distortion, our producer Matt played us a few 80s guitar bands whilst we recorded and we gravitated towards emulating scrappy sounding stuff from that era. Lyrically there’s plenty of melancholy, sadness, underpinned with determination which probably inspired us for ‘Picture Bliss’.

3. The Velvet Underground – ‘Femme Fatale’
Aimee: Navigating the dynamics between a male and female vocal was challenging for us at first, especially because of our style. It took a lot of discussion between me and Dan when I first joined the band. Prior to Low Hummer, I’d only ever really sang in my solo country-inspired style. I’d dabbled in some shouting in a few awkward teenage phases, but it didn’t stick. So, when I joined the band it took quite a lot of encouragement from Dan to nudge me towards a more assertive style. Admittedly, he was right, and I can enjoy breaking out of my comfort zone. (Thanks Dan).

One thing we always agree on, though, is a mutual love of The Velvet Underground. We use them frequently as inspiration as we explore the dynamic between our vocals. I sang ‘Femme Fatale’ on my soundcloud a few years ago – one of the reasons Dan asked me to join the band. It felt like a good reference point for me to grasp my vocal position within ‘Picture Bliss’. The song allowed me to find that point between pushy and delicate vocals, which is something I haven’t explored as much in our other releases.

4. Joy Zipper – ‘1’
Steph: This song was on a lot when we began writing ‘Picture Bliss’, we really admired how its neither a stereotypical quiet or loud song, it sits somewhere in the middle. Sometimes when we write simpler songs, we’re keen to throw them away as we don’t feel we’ve worked hard enough on them, it almost comes a little too easy! That’s how we felt with our new single and it took a lot of encouragement from our manager Sally to decide to release it. But sometimes the easiest ones to write are the best. Joy Zipper’s ‘1’ follows a familiar pop song format, but for a simple enough structure it has so many beautiful moments, from its playful, devilish and childlike lyrics to whirling feedback intro and grungy chord progressions, along with a hummable section during the bridge. It’s a really joyful melody line, with optimistic verses, but the chord progressions, and ending, send you off kilter just enough to feel a little unsettled,

5. Her Official Soundtrack
Steph: It’s never actually been released, so I’m not sure it counts! But the film score from Her definitely subliminally influenced the creation of ‘Picture Bliss’. As a band we’re all suckers for sad films, and that usually extends to the music that goes with them. The score was created by the people behind Arcade Fire, and, much like Lost in Translation, it feels other-worldly; full of elements you recognise but can’t always place or hold onto. Whilst stylistically, it’s almost the opposite to what we do, we really loved the way the simple, fuzzy, swaying melodies and carefully placed lazy keys capture the melancholy of the story. The film itself is futuristic and disturbing, which is something replicated in the post-apocolyptic world presented lyrically in ‘Picture Bliss’, and both are full of that all-too relatable sadness which seems to slowly creep up and bite you late on Sunday nights.

Thanks to Aimee & Steph for sharing their favourites with us.
Follow Low Hummer on Spotify & Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Credit: Shoot J Moore 

FIVE FAVOURITES: Boy Harsher

We’re no strangers to the dark, heated sounds of electronic two piece, Boy Harsher. Together, Augustus Muller (synths/percussion) and Jae Matthews (vocals) have released two albums and two EPs since their inception in 2014. Their songs brim with beats designed to ricochet around smoky dance-floors or lonely bedroom walls. The Massachusetts duo blend nostalgic 80s percussion with sharp modern production to create an immersive, magnetic listening experience.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Jae to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her song writing techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to watch Boy Harsher’s video for ‘Send Me a Vision’ at the end of this post.

1. Annie Lennox – MEDUSA
When I was a child, during a rocky divorce, my mom would listen to this album nonstop. Luckily, I was at the age where it wasn’t lame to sing along with your mom, and boy, did we get into it! On a subconscious level, these songs (Annie Lennox in general) gave me this attachment to a contralto voice in contemporary music. DIVA and MEDUSA both got equal play, but my story with MEDUSA is a bit embarrassing. I didn’t realize the songs were all covers, so when years later I heard the originals (like Bob Marley’s ‘Waiting in Vain’ or Al Green’s ‘Take Me to the River’) I was a bit shocked.

2. Nirvana – Nevermind
A classic. I made my dad buy this CD at a garage sale, which he did – yet later took away, due to “it’s graphic nature”. A stubborn child, I found it and hid away with my new love and Walkman. ‘Something in the Way’ really rocked my core. I was a lonely pre-teenager and I remember this music kept me company in a very real way. Now, I can’t listen without getting very nostalgic.

3. Pixies – Doolittle
Okay – this one is tough. It’s a tie between this and Cat Power’s Moon Pix. Both took up the same space in high school. I would listen to ‘Debaser’, literally SCREAMING along with my first crush. Then, later when home, would listen to ‘Metal Heart’ (lol) and cry, because she would never love me. Ah, the drama. I needed a support system for understanding my sexuality and processing my Father’s death. Both albums are amazing in their ability to muster emotion; sometimes flippant or mean, often raw and always very authentic.

4. Troller – Troller
I left the Northeast for graduate school and moved South. It was the furthest I had ever been from my family. It was a really amazing, lonely time. After attending SXSW in 2013, my musical understanding totally changed. I became a devotee of label Holodeck’s projects (Thousand Foot Whale Claw, Survive, Boan, Smokey Emery) and Troller. This is the first physical RECORD that I ever bought. Listened to it over and over – it still makes me think of Savannah, the rain, smoking inside, kissing.

5. Circuit Des Yeux – Overdue
After living in Savannah for a couple years, myself and my partner starting booking shows. We focused mainly on projects that centered on experimentation, some noise, and no drums. We booked Circuit Des Yeux on their first US tour in a small dive bar in downtown Savannah. Far too few people came. It was such an amazing performance. The way Haley used her voice was really inspiring to me – startling even. I began to understand the voice and body as an instrument, a performance tool. This really impacted the way that I sought to use my voice.

Photo Credit: Zach Hart

WATCH: The Big Moon – ‘Your Light’

The Big Moon prove they’re as talented on two wheels as they are on two feet in their video for latest track ‘Your Light’. The song is taken from their upcoming sophomore album Walking Like We Do, which is set for release on 10th January 2020 via Fiction Records.

With its catchy chorus, buoyant melodies and feel-good lyrics; ‘Your Light’ is the perfect boost for anyone who’s feeling blue about the current state of affairs. The band performed their synchronized cycling in the video in the Essex countryside, and they look at ease singing along to their brand new tune.

Speaking about the track, vocalist and songwriter Juliette Jackson explains: “This song is about freeing yourself from all of it, just for a moment. It’s a thanks to the one person or thing in your life that knows how to come in and open your curtains and light up the darkness and restore your strength so that when you clatter back down into the real world you have the strength to fight your battles, whatever they are.”

We’re thrilled that The Big Moon are back on our radar, lighting up our days with their shiny new indie-pop tunes. Watch the video for ‘Your Light’ below and follow the band on Facebook for more updates.

Pre-order The Big Moon’s new album Walking Like We Do here.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut