FIVE FAVOURITES: Mira Lu Kovacs (5K HD)

Austrian experimental-pop group 5K HD shared their new LP, High Performer, in September earlier this year, and their feet have barely touched the ground since. They’re currently touring the new record across Europe, filling stages with a blend of their poppy, jazzy, prog-rock beats. Vocalist Mira Lu Kovacs is regarded by critics and peers as one of the most expressive voices in the scene, and with a team of multi-instrumentalists behind her, it’s easy to see why 5K HD are in such high demand. 

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Mira 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 the video for for 5K HD’s track ‘Crazy Talk’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Ani DiFranco – Evolve / Educated Guess
With Ani DiFranco I grew up! I remember I was 11 and my step father at that time played a mixed CD (it couldn’t have been a tape, it was the late 90s). He put on Ani DiFranco’s ‘Marrow’ right after Tori Amos’ ‘Cornflake Girl’, what a mix! I didn’t understand much, cause my mother tongue is German, so the only thing I grasped was the phrase “And where did you put all those letters that you wrote to yourself, but could not address?” I don’t know if it was her finger picking (or should i say ripping?) on her steely guitars, or her edgy playful singing? I think it was the seriousness of her songwriting, I felt spoken to. It was really magical. Later, I listened to all her albums. Now I would say my favourites are Evolve and Educated Guess, but to me Ani DiFranco is such a poet and what she does must be evaluated as a whole and not just one album. She inspired me endlessly, even if her sound aesthetic isn’t the one that I am looking for today.

2. Radiohead – Hail To The Thief
Hail To The Thief is maybe an atypical Radiohead album to start with, no? I think I listened to this one at the age of 14 and then traveled back in time to learn about Kid A, OK Computer and The Bends (which I only appreciated later in my musical career). Most Radiohead Hardliners don’t understand why this album is so special to me. But I think, again, the songwriting is especially good on this one and there is a new shininess in their sound with this album. Also – ‘Backdrifts’, ‘We Suck Young Blood” and “I Will “ (to date the only song I ever publicly covered – acappella) – what great songs to speak to a depressed teenager!

3. Aldous Harding – Designer
This one is quite new, and has been such an inspiration to me this year. I just love the boldness and uncompromising softness in Aldous Harding’s music. I didn’t allow myself this kind of softness for a while, and now I feel like it’s coming back. The allowance, it’s something that I was scared of, because: how else to defend myself? I thought I needed to be loud and clear and aggressive. I am that, too, but I need to allow the softness to comfort me, as well. I feel like the beautifully weird old/new voice of Aldous Harding reminded me of that part of me. Thank you ❤

4. Beth Gibbons – Out Of Season
I can’t believe I only found this album 3 years ago. What a production! What songwriting! What truth, what openness. Sorry, there’s not much else to say. She’s a genius. The arrangements are sparse and pompous at the same time. I think this is where I wanna go in the future and who I wanna be when I grow up.

5. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
I think this was the album of a whole generation. It changed many things, not only musically, but also in the industry. The simplicity set new standards. The vulnerability in his voice was a new level of emotion. Whatever genius album Bon Iver made after this, this one is still one of the most brutally beautiful ones that there are.

Thanks to Mira for sharing her favourites with us. Follow 5K HD on Facebook for more info on their current tour dates.

Photo Credit: Ingo Pertramer

FIVE FAVOURITES: Esmé

Australian singer and songwriter Esmé recently released her single ‘Ella’ which I fell for on first listen. The track was named after one of her biggest inspirations and has Esmé’s golden vocals laid over the top of samples of Ella Fitzgerald, broken hip hop beats and textured electronic synths. Esmé is looking to release her debut EP which is expected at the end of 2019 – looking forward to that a lot!

In the wake of the release of ‘Ella’, we asked Esmé to share her ‘Five Favourites’ – five artists or albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you give ‘Ella’ a listen at the end of this post!

Amy Winehouse – FRANK
I love this album so much and can listen to it over and over again. This album taught me how to use the simple jazz harmonies I knew and write my own lyrics and melodies to them. Amy uses the most beautiful chord progressions like you hear in ‘I Heard Love Is Blind’ and her rendition of ‘No Greater Love’ is just incredible too. I feel like Amy made vocal jazz new again. She is completely honest and raw in her lyrics and storytelling. This album is also characterised by beautiful strings, beat-less guitar dominant in between songs and one thing that I always love in an album is its connectedness. It’s not a series of singles – it’s a body of work, you go on a journey when you listen from start to finish.

Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough
I discovered this artist and album at the most perfect time. I was writing only with a guitarist (Sean Harlor) and we were both influenced by her honest singing/songwriting, yet drenched in soul style. I love this album for the finger picking guitar elements, interesting phrasing and rhythmically entrancing melodies. There is a song on it called ‘Forget’: it really stretches the overall sound of the album to a darker, more aggressive side and it really inspired me to venture outside of my quietness as a musician too. The most amazing thing though is her voice and lyrics. Listening to Lianne makes you feel like you’re in the same room as her, her voice speaks to your soul. I think it means she is so in tune with her voice and the story she is telling.

Erykah Badu – Mama’s Gun
This album for me is a lesson in groove, performance, using jazz in your own way, feeling your lyrics and owning your sound (voice). I’ve been inspired by Erykah for a very long time, I love her last song on this ‘Green eyes’ – it just grows and grows sonically. Her voice is mesmerising. It sounds like she is giving it her all. I think what you hear, is what you would get live. I always think that about Erykah, it’s like she knows how to transmit her energy from live performance into her recorded work. I think that is a really hard thing to do!

Radiohead
I can’t ever really get over Radiohead – their melodies are actually so beautiful, I love all of their songs and I listened to them a lot when I wrote my second release ‘I wonder’. I think there aren’t many artists that have the same harmonic structure an entire song through but make you feel the shift from verse to chorus so much and so emotionally. I think another artist that does that well is Pharrell Williams… You know, 2 chords or at the most 4, and you’re completely transported when you hit the bridge or chorus. That’s always been amazing to me and Radiohead is a master at it! Their song ‘Creep’ is a stunning example. But I’m not going to list my favourites from them because there’s multiple from each album.

Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass
Ella actually had a really girly sounding voice for a long time, it was still beautiful and entrancing, but it was sort of thinner in resonance and tone. Each album of Ella’s witness her growth as a singer, tonally. Her music with just Joe Pass shows her voice to me in its most beautiful state, full and warm, velvety and husky at the same time. Nowadays we don’t get to witness the journey of an artist as much – we are presented with polished things in every medium. Listening to Ella with Joe Pass, or Gershwin, reminds me of the journey you take to really be good, to develop and grow and eventually sit down with just a guitar and not need anything else. Ella has helped me embrace the journey of my voice as a woman and appreciate each stage.

Thanks to Esmé for sharing her Five Favourites! Follow Esmé for more updates via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Listen to her single ‘Ella’ below:

FIVE FAVOURITES: FRIEDBERG

Alt-indie outfit FRIEDBERG – The brainchild of Austrian singer-songwriter Anna Friedberg – came together as a result of frustration at the wider industry and being in the right place at the right time. Originally discovered by Lenny Kravitz, Anna spent much of her time as a songwriter travelling between Europe and America, gaining influence from the spaces she was surrounded by – particularly the Joshua Tree National Park in the Californian desert.

Inspired by her time writing and recording in the wilderness, Anna moved to London where she teamed up with a group of musicians – Emily Linden, Eilidh McKellar and Cheryl Pinero. In the summer of 2018, the girls began playing a handful of secret shows which then led to a singles deal with London indie label LGM Records (Goldheart Assembly, Amaroun) and Free Trade Agency (The National, The War On Drugs). Thus, FRIEDBERG was born. The band have just shared their debut single ‘Boom’ and will be releasing more new music in the near future.

We asked Anna, Cheryl and Eilidh to name their “Five Favourites” – five artists or albums that have influenced their songwriting techniques. Check out their choices below, and make sure you listen to ‘Boom’ at the end of this post!

1. ESG – ESG
The hottest band and album in the world (still). I still cannot believe I discovered ESG and their ’91 album only a few years ago. What have I done all my life before I knew ESG?! To me, they are coolness personified and much more than that: So groovy and hooky and minimalistic, just everything I love combined on one record. What I found most inspiring is the incredibly unique drumming. I really have never heard a tastier, more special way of drumming. I could endlessly just listen to that record. It just never gets old, probably even fresher every year. (Anna)

2. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit
It was probably the best time in my life: 2015, driving through California, into the desert of Joshua Tree, windows rolled down and singing along to Courtney Barnett’s debut album. It was at that time when I also started to write the music for our new album and Courtney was just like the gentlest and freshest breeze carrying me on that special journey. I just cannot express how much I love her lyrics. Her stream-of-consiousness style, the way she tells her stories is simply sublime. So smart and beautifully written, that you just cannot escape. Not to forget her super laid-back vocals and phenomenal guitar playing. (Anna)

PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
I almost cannot listen to that album without seeing PJ Harvey in my mind’s eye performing those songs at the Primavera Festival in Barcelona a few years ago. Whenever I listen to that record I’m back there, standing in the middle of thousands of people, by the sea, totally overwhelmed by her jaw dropping performance and presence. Polly’s haunting live-show is to blame, why this became one of my favourite albums of the past years. (Anna)

Warpaint – The Fool
I’ve listened to this record probably a million times since it came out. It has such an uncompromised sound to me, because each individual song shows so many facets, with such effortless dynamic. I love the raw, dreamy and deep feel to their music. What an amazing band! (Cheryl)

Radiohead – Ok Computer
I first discovered this album when I was about 13, but truly came to love it when I was 17 when I performed the whole entirety of the album at university. ‘Karma Police’ and ‘Let Down’ are my two favourite tracks. Thom Yorke’s vocals are trippy and haunting. Listen to it while walking in the rain (Eilidh)

Photo Credit: Max Parovsky

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

PREMIERE: Cerian – ‘Wasteland’ (ft. Robert Taira Wilson)

‘Wasteland’ is the debut single from London-based songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Cerian. It’s the first single to be released from her upcoming EP, Caught in the Dark – a series of songs written in the middle of the night.

A self-confessed “lifelong insomniac”, Cerian’s profoundly personal songs have grown out of her struggle with both the literal and internal darkness felt in the isolation of the early hours of the morning. Frustration and fear have come together in a calm, emotional union on ‘Wasteland’, on which her call & response vocals are matched beautifully with Robert Taira Wilson’s.

Of the track, Cerian explains: “In the dead of the night, terrifying existentialism takes over: seemingly frozen in time, you feel unable to traverse the space between where you are and where you want to be. The precipice of the unknown future is calling, but you don’t know if you’re going to fly or fall, if you can find the courage to jump.”

Fortunately, Cerian found the courage to write, produce, and create all the accompanying images and visuals to accompany ‘Wasteland’. She’s also been involved in numerous collaborations with the likes of U2, Radiohead, Sam Smith, Imogen Heap, Charlotte Church, Laura Mvula and Amber Run. If that wasn’t enough, she’s also proved her work ethic and talent further by performing at Glastonbury Festival, Bush Hall and two sold-out headline shows at The National Portrait Gallery.

With a series of shows planned in the UK, Europe and America this year, Cerian is set to for more big things. Listen to ‘Wasteland’ below, and follow Cerian on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Tom Leishman

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LIVE: Indian Queens – Meltdown Festival 2018, London 15.06.18

After watching Hackney trio Indian Queens perform to a packed out Purcell Room at The Southbank Centre last night, we have only one ambition: to become as skilled a guitarist as their front woman, Jennifer O’Neill. The band were hand-picked by The Cure’s Robert Smith to play his exceptionally well curated 2018 Meltdown Festival, and after their mesmeric, sharply executed, stunning performance; it’s easy to see why.

Together; Jennifer, bassist Katherine, and drummer Matt create thoughtful, atmospheric sounds reminiscent of bands like Warpaint and Radiohead. Performing against a backdrop of kaleidoscopic visuals – which were a fusion of live footage and urban buildings – Indian Queens played a captivating set, featuring their brand new single ‘Pretty Little Thing’, which was released via Cool Thing Records on the day of the show.

Bare-foot bassist Katherine was animated throughout, delivering her moody bass lines with stylish aplomb, whilst drummer Matt was the driving force behind it all – even after he dropped a stick, he recovered the rhythm seamlessly. Jennifer’s vocals were as magnetic as her guitar riffs; effortlessly anchoring the performance of singles ‘Save Yourself’ and ‘Get No Rest’. She confessed mid-way through that the band had accidentally their set-lists in the dressing room, but the trio moved from song-to-song with such ease and precision, this oversight was barely noticeable. Their set closed with a standing ovation, which was unsurprising, but entirely deserved.

If you haven’t caught Indian Queens live yet, a) what have you been doing? They were the secret openers for our March gig at The Finsbury earlier this year, and b) buy a ticket to their headline show at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen in October here. They’re a must-see for those who appreciate hypnotic, alternative, guitar-led tunes. We can’t wait to hear more from this compelling new band.

Photo Credit: Emma Viola Lilja 

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut