Archive | February, 2011

Rue Royale biog

22 Feb Rue Royale cover

I’ve just written a new biog(raphy) for Rue Royale which you can view at their website or below. Caught them live at the Yardbird in Birmingham last night and they were on top form.


Rue Royale cover

Like an early 20th-century Elliott from ET (minus the BMX basket/alien), a be-suited man flies through the sky on his bone-shaker bicycle. He’s clutching two clothes lines of flags that spell out ‘Guide To An Escape’.

The cartoon cover art of Rue Royale’s second album perfectly sums up the Anglo-American outfit’s self-propelled adventure.

Driven in every sense of the word, Ruth and Brookln Dekker have amassed 80,000 miles on the road in Europe alone since the release of their first eponymously-titled LP in 2008.

Meanwhile, without the backing of a label or manager, between tours the couple has rustled up a cottage industry at their cozy Nottingham home. Together they’ve printed, snipped, sewed and stuffed 7,500 Rue Royale CDs, including 500 pre-orders for ‘Guide To An Escape’ – carving out a tunnel in the tarmac to their local Post Office.

Fans have also been treated to hand-made Rue Royale knitted goods (how many groups do you know who sport hot water-bottle covers on their merch stand?), bags and clothes. Meanwhile, over in cyber-space, RR have personally nurtured a large Facebook/Twitter following and racked up over 500,000 MySpace plays.

Not bad for a husband and wife songwriting team who, then living in Chicago, only started performing together five years ago, inspired by the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Radiohead, Grandaddy, John Martyn, Jose Gonzalez and Elbow.

‘Guide To An Escape’, which gets its official worldwide release on 3 March, retains the acoustic duo’s hushed, evocative melodies but is richer in sound and wider in scope. It was recorded at home between touring and festival dates in summer 2010, following  experimental sessions with producer Paul Pilot (who mixed the record) in London. The echo loop that lurks on the opening title track and the drum machine exit on “Get Me Standing” hint at the band’s bolder approach.

The album includes recent single “Halfway Blind” which got repeat plays on BBC 6Music by the likes of Gideon Coe and Nemone when released as a limited edition seven inch in January. The song, along with “Blame”, alludes to a struggle to see clearly – figuratively and literally for Brookln who’s legally blind in one eye. ‘Guide To An Escape’ is about self-discovery, embracing the flip-sides of life on the road (“Foreign Night”) and the tussle of uncertainty and hope as dreams are chased (“We’ll Go On Alright”).

After clocking up over 400 shows in the last three years, Rue Royale will continue to build their grass-roots following as they tour ‘Guide To An Escape’, playing many of their biggest venues yet across Europe in March.

It’s all about the journey, not the destination. The adventure is theirs, and yours, for the taking.


Re-firing blanks – mix tapes and Radio 4

15 Feb

Remember the pesky run-in tape at the start of a blank cassette that threatened to sabotage the first track of whatever hot selection you were trying to transfer? If so, there was an entertaining piece about mix tapes on Radio 4’s Saturday Live at the weekend. Beckie Garvey (sister of Elbow’s Guy) reminisced about trying to squeeze the perfect compilation onto a C90. A lack of confidence in my music collection in the 1980s (anyone fancy a Big Country track, followed by Robert Palmer, followed by Simple Minds? Thought not) meant there weren’t many mix tapes leaping out my bedroom door. But I now love making mix CDs (doesn’t quite have the same ring…) and enjoy, almost as much, receiving them. Suppose if I’m trying to hang with the kids I should circulate a ‘sick’ playlist from Spotify or just Bluetooth you it. Meanwhile, you can listen to the Radio 4 show here.

Rocket from The Script – family music habits

11 Feb

Beyond the wind-up windows and lack of central locking, strange things are afoot in my Skoda Fabia at the moment. The 40-minute journeys home from work are normally a haven for me to enjoy whatever tunes I want, away from the brutally honest ears of my wife (don’t get her started on Sufjan Stevens’ choral arrangements).

But on at least two occasions in the past week, I found myself not reaching to eject whatever CD my 11-year-old son left in the player when getting a lift with his mum the night before.  Today it was The Script’s ‘Science And Faith’, who’s initially butter-wouldn’t-melt rock cleverly sunk its emo-lite hooks into my skin and won’t let go.

The Script

But that’s partly my fault. Knowing Dan liked the Radio 1 favourites, I offered to download their second album with some free music tokens his granddad collected off the back of beer bottles (three Bate generations working together in tight-fisted harmony). The fact I ended up paying for the album by mistake when I messed up the online payment process is another pretty tedious story, which thankfully had a happy, fully refunded, ending (thanks

My newfound, slightly embarrassing, Script-love – and a separate recent experience where I couldn’t stop listening to Now 77’s disc two – led to me pondering the weird and wonderful world of family music listening.

As with most things, except maybe vegetables, kids have a wide-open receptiveness to music of all sorts – good, the bad and the ugly (thanks Simon Cowell). As a ‘responsible’ parent, how do you channel them towards the good stuff?

All of this is subjective and, of course, it’s not a new question. I read an interesting article last year (though I can’t for the life of me find it online) which pointed out that, in our formative childhood years, we have an unfiltered tolerance for all forms of music – regardless of fashion – which often shape our adulthood tastes.

So, is it worth trying to educate your young sponges in the wonders of Motown or Midlake before their teenage minds lock onto doom metal or dubstep and vacuum-seal themselves against all else?

To be honest, my own childhood left me under-exposed to musical variety. When I was a small kid, on finding faith, my parents destroyed most of their record collection – bye, bye Hendrix – in the name of Jesus. So, while my school friends were consuming their parents’ Beatles or Status Quo albums, my early 80s car companions were usually Christian music legends Keith Green, Amy Grant and, occasionally, Cliff Richard.

Amy Grant

Naturally, when our kids came along I wanted them to be exposed to as much ‘proper music’ as possible. Early family staples included Elvis (“Hound dog” featured on the Lilo and Stitch soundtrack after all) and The Jackson Five.

When they started to show an interest in acquiring their own tunes, I was quick to offer fatherly advice. This backfired two years ago when Dan used his Christmas vouchers to, on my recommendation, buy a Roots Manuva album as he liked a couple of the London rapper’s tracks I’d got. The hours that followed involved him, one by one, letting me know which of the tracks featuring swearing and then dutifully deleting them off his MP3 player – leaving him with about 10 minutes’ worth of music, and me with another refund situation (thanks Amazon).

Other guided-by-the-hand-of-dad purchases have proved less disastrous. The Spongebob Squarepants movie soundtrack – featuring great songs by Wilco, The Flaming Lips, The Shins and others which, for some reason, only pop up after the equally good film’s final credits start rolling – has been played at least 200 times in the Bate family car, and loved by all. Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet” is also a kitchen dance-floor staple.

Junior Senior

Several CDs have even become the theme for some memorable family holidays. Phoenix‘s ‘It’s Never Been Like That’ was a hit in Chicago in the hire-car CD player – the kids joyfully screaming the chorus to “Long Distance Call” in Christmas 2006. And, from time to time, the children introduce us to some great music. Last year’s trip to France wouldn’t have been the same without Calvin Harris’ bass-lines stretching the speakers to explosion-point while our heads bobbed in unison.

Hopefully, in years to come my offspring will be opening my mind to some genre-breaking new sounds, long after I’ve given up trying to school them in Tom Waits or Hot Chip. But, for now, The Script will do just fine.

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