Interview – Dan Croll

With his new album ‘Emerging Adulthood,’ released on 21st July, I had the privilege of having a phone interview with Dan Croll to talk about the release of the album and his most recent single Bad Boy, inspired by the common phase of wanting to be a bad boy but it ‘just never worked out.’ We talked inspirations, processes, his ‘organic, alternative angle’ of pop and how music wasn’t always his plan.

Your new album is released in 3 days, how are you feeling about it?

I think… all of the emotions. I’m very proud of it, I’m very excited about getting it out, quite nervous about it too, but yeah I think mainly just excited though.

What can we expect from your album?

I think, compared to the first album, it’s a lot more straight to the point, I think it’s a bit more immediate. The way that it was recorded was kind of like a high intensity environment so I think that comes across in the album quite a bit as well.

Your album is called ‘Emerging Adulthood,’ does that name give us a suggestion of the themes of the songs or anything like that?

Yeah, well the name came from a book that I was reading, I guess it was kind of like a research paper almost, where it was talking about people who, are now more than ever they’ve got an endless amount of opportunities, unlimited resources, and people leave college or university and now they can do whatever they want; they can talk to people on the other side of the world, they can travel, and technology is so much more accessible. I think that’s really exciting for some people, but I think other people find it quite overwhelming, I think I maybe found it a little bit overwhelming too. So I think the album is about assessing options and trying to find the right route to take and trying to find a bit of confidence.

Did you feel like that when you left university?

Yeah, I think I felt it then because music was such a new thing for me. I’ve always kind of felt a little bit on the back-foot, a little bit amateur because my close friends and then other artists and bands you know a lot of them have been doing this since like ‘oh I’ve been playing guitar and writing songs since I was eight,’ whereas for me I was seventeen/ eighteen and I went straight into a music institute and then before long was out of the music institute and into the industry and so it’s very new. Also after the first album I kind of hit a few personal hurdles and so I was assessing whether I could do another album, and how I should do it, and where I should go and stuff like that so I had a lot of moments where I felt like that.

Music wasn’t always your plan then?

No music was quite a late plan for me. My main focus was sport, was rugby, and I was playing that all of my life up until about seventeen when I broke my leg and it all ended quite abruptly and couldn’t really get back into it and yeah so I was like well I do a bit of music so I guess I’ll go for that.

So what was the first song you ever wrote?

The first song I ever wrote was a song called ‘Marion’ which I think is on Youtube somewhere, but yeah that’s the first track I wrote.

Was that when you were at uni?

Ah no that was when I was about eighteen, seventeen/ eighteen.

When did you start writing this album?

I wrote it not long after we finished the first album, so maybe it was 2015 maybe, so I’ve had it for a while, I just hit a few hurdles along the way which really delayed it, and so yeah it’s quite strange to think that actually I wrote it quite a long time ago. I definitely want to do a third album a lot quicker.

What’s your song writing process?

My process I think is maybe a little bit different to others, I think a lot of people tend to write lyrics first, or a melody, stuff like that but I actually always start with the rhythm, with the drums. I find it really hard to work on songs if I don’t feel like they’ve got a strong foundation so I’ll usually spend a lot of time trying to find the right tempo, the right beat, the right drums, percussion, stuff like that, and then I’ll build it from the ground up rather than the top down.

How would you describe your music to someone who might not have heard it before?

Ummmm… pop haha. It’s quite simply pop but I think from more of a kind of organic, alternative angle than what’s in the Top 20.

What were your inspirations music wise?

My inspiration mainly came from my mum who played a lot of big song writers, I think mainly American song writers strangely, a lot of Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, and then others like ABBA and people like that, the big ones.

What are you listening to right now?

At the moment I’ve been listening to The Lemon Twigs, Bedouine umm yeah I think that’s it. I’ve been so buried up to my neck in my own music that I’m not listening to a great deal of new stuff at the moment.

So your single ‘Bad Boy’ has already been released, where did the inspiration for that come from?

Once I’d done the album I was reflecting a lot on moments leading up to now and there’s a phase that I think is quite common with a lot of people, where they kind of have this rebellious phase. I think mine and my friends were around high school where it’s a common phase of either you want to go out with a bad boy/ bad girl or you wanted to be the bad boy/ bad girl, the stereotypical American High School kind of bad boy. But it just never worked out. And the song is just about being confident in your own skin and not needing to do that.

The music video for that, and you’ve also released a couple of other videos for tracks off your new album, who comes up with the ideas for your music videos?

Most of them have been me, with a couple of exceptions, I always like to be as involved as possible with music videos but at the same time things just get so busy that you’ve got to just hand it over to someone else.

They’re all so interesting though as well, like the ones from your last album, with the green screen for ‘In/Out’

Yeah haha that was a pretty low budget video.

It was great, I like that one a lot! Do you enjoy making them?

Truthfully? Not particularly. They’re really tough things to do you know? You wanna get your message across, you wanna get everything across in the right way but there’s so many ways to do it and yeah it’s quite a stressful thing that I don’t particularly look forward to music videos that often, but usually once they’re done and they’re out I feel a lot more confident about them.

Since your first album do you think your style has changed?

I think so, I think it’s stepped away a little bit from the more acoustic to the more electronic, but I think just the process in the production has changed the most. That first album was recorded in an old school gym with just me and my mates, begged and borrowed equipment and I guess a little bit DIY, but a very fun way of doing it. But then the second album has gone the complete opposite way where it’s been just me writing it all and I play all the instruments on the album and we recorded it in a very clean, polished, professional studio in Atlanta, and so it’s been quite a different process, but I kind of like that, I wanted to go the opposite way for this one.

Did you enjoy one process more than the other?

I think equally because they’re both just very different and hopefully the next one will be different as well, I think I’m quite… I don’t know what the word… I guess impatient or I guess I kind of bore easily so I want things to continuously change as much as possible, so it’s all exciting.

Are you looking forward to touring your new album?

Yes, really excited to get back out on the road! Especially we’ve got an American tour coming up in September and then we’re looking at a European and UK tour after that, so yeah I’m really looking forward to that.

Do you have a most memorable moment from one of your gigs?

Ah they’re all pretty memorable, there’s a lot of amazing venues out there and the fans a lot of them stay, but a lot of them are new as well and yeah just all really cool.

Dan’s album is released on the 21st July (THIS FRIDAY!!) so get excited and find it on Spotify, iTunes and www.dancroll.com 

 

÷ by Ed Sheeran

This is Ed Sheeran’s third studio album, and I think it is his best album yet! It brings a certain Irish vibe to it, which relates to him because of his Irish heritage. In my opinion, this album really captures the meaning of life. For example: “Castle on the Hill” is written as a story of his life growing up, which gives us- the listeners- an insight into him as a person. Some of the songs aren’t ones you might dance to in a club, but they have real emotion and are very well written and you can hear all of them in the way Sheeran portrays them.

If you want to test your carpool karaoke skills, songs like “Galway Girl” and “Shape of You” are the perfect tunes to belt out while in the car, giving off an upbeat and happy vibe- also very catchy! For me, Ed Sheeran is the best artist out there because he has that style that makes him stand out from the crowd. His music sends a message to people, that touches them and inspires them, that says you can achieve your dreams and be a success.

I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us in the future!

You can get Ed’s new album on Spotify, Amazon and iTunes.

One Sentence Review: Slide – Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean and Migos

The latest Calvin Harris single is another hit, this time on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts. The hot track features that of the talented Frank Ocean, and rappers Quavo and Offset from the hip-hop group Migos. Will it be such a success with our music team? Read on to see what they had to say…

Rachael: “Mellow, nice jammy vibes.”

Gemma: “Love the vibe and when the bass drops. Yaas!”

Leah: “Obsessed. Best Calvin song since ‘Acceptable in the 80s’.”

Megan: “The song is catchy and has an interesting beat, would probably listen again.”

James: “A nice old school vibe to this groovy banger.”

Charlotte: “Big transition in the middle, summery and bright!”

Halina: “Very summery and light but not a fan.”

Laura: “Calvin going back to the mellow tunes he began with, and anything Frank Ocean does is Pure Gold.”

Emma: “Really good throwback disco vibe with a sweet bass line.”

Madeline: “Awesome jazzy intro that shows much of a banger this is.”

Joe: “Great vocals and strong feature from Migos, beat however, is bland and unadventurous.”

Noelle: “Good bass line. The kind of song you walk from A to B to. Would go on my monthly favourites.”

Harrison: “A solid groove. A floor-filler for sure.”

Kate: “The perfect funky tune you need at your pre-predrinks (around the time you’re deciding what colour lipstick to wear).”

Helen: “A sunny and funky time to help hurry summer back into your life!”

By The Music Team.

CONCERT REVIEW: TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB

Two Door Cinema Club 

Irish born Two Door Cinema Club closed their UK tour with two sold out events at Alexandra Palace in north London. The atmosphere throughout the evening was not only incredible but also sustained, which was clearly aided by the work of the support acts; Circa Waves and Sundara Karma. Each support act offered something different for the crowd, from their newest tunes to their most popular hits. Circa Waves performance of T-Shirt Weather particularly got the crowd going ready for the main event.

Following the support acts was a brief break in the performance schedule until the black stage curtain dropped to reveal a set with fabulous lighting and technology that highly resembled the Gameshow album cover. Two Door Cinema Club clearly brought a fresh, but familiar, summer sound to a cold February evening. Playing a range of songs across their three albums, Two Door Cinema Club’s confidence and energy added to create an absolutely fantastic performance which allowed the crowd to become familiar with, and even grow to love, the catchy and uplifting melodies. The bands sheer talent, accurate vocals and charisma created an electric concert experience that is bound to wow people as we enter the 2017 festival season. Altogether, it was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen.

Review by: Ophelia King

ALBUM REVIEW: PROCESS – SAMPHA

Process – Sampha 

“The album that finally reveals a superstar.”

Sampha is one of those ‘behind the scenes’ people that not everyone has heard of and yet most would recognise his music. When an artist collaborates on projects with people as prominent as Drake, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean, it sets a standard. As a listener, you can only expect something truly great when approaching this album, and as a big fan of this music style, I was not disappointed.

His new album “Process” kicks off with “Plastic 100°C”, a track in which you can hear the meticulous work and craft in every layer. It sets the mood for the entire of the album – soft sounding electronic music with emotional vocals and originality. “Plastic 100°C” is followed immediately by “Blood on Me”, the first single of the album. The almost zombie-like backing vocals and soft piano accompaniment carries the calm feeling and mood set in the beginning, but the vocals become desperate in contrast – this works fantastically. You hear these desperate kinds of vocals again on the track “Under” which is one of my personal favourites.

The other singles from the album are “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” and “Timmy’s Prayer”. The former is in a somewhat classic singer-songwriter style, often making references to the artist’s mother and of course the piano, a feature you pick up on when you listen some of the other tracks. Its simplicity and raw emotion I think is what has made this track his most popular single. In general, the vocals aren’t the kind that will wow you, but they fit the songs perfectly, and meld with the rest of the musical elements to produce a stunning sound.

Overall, this album is written to be heard as one story, and I recommend setting time aside to listen to it. From beginning to end, Sampha provides an assured ‘just listen to my story’, and you can’t help but do so. The album is also very mellow, to the point where I fell asleep to it several times, which is certainly no bad thing. The regular references to his mother and various health and emotional issues are an artistic expression of a need to heal and recover. And what better way to do so than through music?

 

Review by Cheylea Hopkinson 

SINGLE REVIEW: HUMAN – RAG'N'BONE MAN

Human – Rag’n’bone Man 

When I first heard the single ‘Human’ by Rag’n’Bone Man (aka Rory Graham), I knew I had to listen to the album the second it dropped. I’m not one to listen to the charts usually, but I found “Human” while browsing the top 100 song playlist on YouTube last year and was hooked from the start. It’s a song that stands out, from the man with a voice you’d never expect – a single with a relatable hook and a standout track amongst the seemingly endless club songs which dominate the charts. The album is going to be amazing, right?

When a label releases an album online, they usually provide a description to give you an idea of what to expect. ‘Human’ is no exception: “Armed with his deep-canyon vibrato, raw emotion and some colossal choruses, Rory Graham takes his big moment. Your starting place is, of course, the title track.” The starting place is the title track for sure. . . but that’s where it kind of stops.

I hate to say it. Maybe my expectations were too high, but even as I write I am listening to the album again, and still don’t remember most of the tracks from my last listen. When I loaded it up I was excited, expecting to discover more tracks like ‘Human’ that I could listen to over and over. I couldn’t help but compare to when I first listened to James Bay’s album “Chaos and the Calm” with similar expectations after his single, “Hold Back the River.” “Chaos and the Calm” did not disappoint. When I listened to the album there were many other tracks I now love too, like “Craving” and “Best Fake Smile”. But with “Human” it just didn’t happen. The bar had been set and then was never even close to being touched.

Armed with his deep-canyon vibrato indeed, Graham’s voice is the only thing carrying this album aside from its title track. Another potentially notable track is “Love You Any Less” which has a few unique sounds in its backing, making it stand out somewhat from the rest. There’s also “Die Easy”, a song in solo a cappella which makes for a nice change in pacing on the album. But just these from a total of 19 tracks? It doesn’t look terribly good.

There’s one thing that cannot be argued, however, and that is the amazing vocals. If you enjoy just solid music with good vocals, then this album is for you. It is a perfectly fine album with some decent tracks, but it’s just not what it could be. It starts with its best track and then from there you’re just always a little disappointed.

Returning to James Bay’s “Chaos and the Calm”, I think these two albums are easily compared. With another talented male singer and a viral track everyone knows the words to, you would expect “Human” to achieve a similar feel. This is true in that both albums are more of a collection of singles rather than a cohesive ‘album story’; however, the difference is that all the songs on “Chaos and the Calm” stand out on their own – there’s diversity and memorability to all of them. “Human” just doesn’t achieve that, missing the mark by inches. There is so much potential there but the overall product is generic and vapid, something that I can only blame on laziness and too much reliance on the strength of Graham’s voice.

I am disappointed but remain hopeful. Maybe after another few listens songs will start to grab my attention – there are a lot of tracks to get through. I can see Rag’n’Bone Man growing and growing and only getting better. With the success of “Human”, I hope that he spends more time in developing the musical sound to truly produce something stunning and original with the next album. Have a listen yourself and make your own opinion!

 

Review by: Cheylea Hopkinson 

Head Under Water

Better Than Never – Head Under Water 

Fox Records

Oxford pop-punk six-piece, Better Than Never, released their new EP, ‘Head Under Water’ at the end of last year. It was the second EP they released in 2016, following ‘Homemade Hero’ which came out at the start of the year.

Opening track ‘126’ is a short melodic intro that gives a flavour of what is to come. The EP then swiftly progresses into ‘Learning To Swim’ which opens with vocalist Will Keating singing the EP’s title “she keeps my head under water”. The band succinctly use this track to showcase their ability to combine upbeat, catchy music with lyrics that aren’t quite so happy-go-lucky, a feature that spans the entirety of the EP.

Then comes ‘Dreamland Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be’, another track themed around negative things in life and the difficulties in picking yourself back up. Following this, the EP takes quite a dramatic turn with ‘Forty Eight’ which sees Better Than Never delving into the world of metalcore and incorporating some of its elements in a track that mixes aggressiveness with soft vocals. Finally, ‘Lowhill Lane’ is a slower track that nicely wraps the EP up.

Overall, ‘Head Under Water’ neatly showcases the range of skill that Better Than Never possess and shows their growth as a band, as well as being a fun EP to listen to.

By Yasmeen Frasso 

COFFEE HOUSE SESSIONS: JOHN NICHOLAS

John Nicholas 

Welsh singer-songwriter John Nicholas is the next artist to perform on the Coffee House Sessions Tour. John is known for beating over 12,000 artists in an Open Mic Competition in Birmingham, coming runner-up! He has been working on many projects and had a successful independent career so far – with his debut EP in the works as we speak. So go check him out to hear some new, greatly anticipated releases!

Take a look at what John had to say in his pre-tour interview… 

  1. You’d describe your music as…  Edgy pop that’s catchy and relatable.
  2. You’re currently listening to…  John Mayer, Foy Vance, NEEDTOBREATHE & Mat Kearney
  3. When you’re not making music you’re… Probably, if I’m honest, I am thinking about making music!  But when I’m home I like to be at home, family time is #1
  4. You’d like to duet with… Stevie Wonder, I mean, who wouldn’t?!
  5. Who’s your guilty pleasure? Taylor Swift.
  6. Dead or alive, who would you most like to grab a coffee with? The man who invented coffee.  I’d like to shake his hand and thank him for the beautiful liquid.
  7. You’re an artiste because… I love it.  I always have and I’m so privileged to be able to do what I do full time.  It’s the best job in the world and to be honest, I’m not much good at anything else.
  8. Vinyl, CD or streaming? There’s nothing like the sound of Vinyl so that’s #1, but it’s hard to beat a cheeky bit of streaming on the go.
  9. Your party trick is… I can play any tune by clicking my jaw (don’t worry, it’s not part of the set)
  10. Your hometown is X and we should visit because… Caerdydd!  (Cardiff) It’s a small, friendly city that genuinely has everything.
  11. Tinder or Taken? Taken.  I liked it so I put a ring on it.
  12. Snapchat, Insta, Facebook or Twitter? Call me old school, but FB wins this for me, Twitter coming in a close second, followed by Instagram.  Snapchat never left the starting blocks.
  13. The best boxset ever is… No question.
  14. Coffee House Tour… what are you most excited about? Travelling to new places, meeting new people and performing for you all!

GIG REVIEW: L.A. SPRING

L.A. SPRING

Location: Camden Assembly, great venue; fairly small but a cool space to see live music, with groovy lighting to enhance all the bands onstage.

Support Acts:

Temple of Anyone:

“Really great sound; two vocalists with varying tones and styles but merge together for intense, funky, headbanger songs, especially in the instrumental breaks. Great start to the evening!” – Georgia

“One of the greatest surprises when going to concerts is discovering new artists through the support act lineup. Temple of Anyone truly are a mesmerising and captivating band that pull you in through their emotional drawing of stories, powerful vocals and flowing melodies.” – Isobel

EditSelect:

“Not a great follow-up to the previous band, wasn’t entirely sure on the genre they were trying to achieve, but certainly felt they were trying too hard! Some catchy songs but sometimes overwhelming.” – Georgia

“Although this band had great potential, there were elements that needed work. That being said, there were some memorable guitar riffs that got the crowd going.” – Isobel

Main Act, L.A. Spring:

“The 3-part indie-pop band L.A. Spring bring a summer sound of energy and catchy tunes that just don’t leave your head. Whether it’s lead singer James’ northern accent, or their memorable melodies and lyrics, the band really bring an energetic professionalism and most of all confident presence and performance to their music. And with support bands EditSelect and Temple of Anyone, the atmosphere was as equally alive as it was chilled. Everyone knew everyone, and all the acts played powerful performances. ” – Isobel

“Very cool looking band with a refreshing sound; the lead singer’s northern accent is definitely one of the perks and unique selling points – brings it home. Lead singer knew how to work the crowd, instantly got everyone to the front and generally owned the stage in his silver bomber jacket. A tropical-synth sensation, I’d say!” – Georgia

COFFEE HOUSE SESSIONS: IDLSIDE

 

Idlside

Idlside, the energetic Indie-Rock from Bath, take on Coffee House Sessions this week. Their youthful vibrance and professionalism has been largely praised when reviewing their performances and music releases, supporting bands such as VANT, Native People and The Ramona Flowers. 

Check out their pre-tour interview…

  1. You’d describe your music as…  High energy Indie Rock
  2.  You’re currently listening to…  Everything Everything, Sia and FARRO.
  3. When you’re not making music you’re… At University or at home with my Black Labrador Lana. Everyone should meet her – she’s my fave.
  4. You’d like to duet with… Ross Leighton from Fatherson i.e. Ross BAEton.
  5. Who’s your guilty pleasure? Katy Perry – I love binge watching her old-skool live videos on YouTube.
  6. Dead or alive, who would you most like to grab a coffee with? David Bowie, obviously. Who wouldn’t?
  7. You’re an artiste because… Performing is my second favourite thing, after my dog.
  8. Vinyl, CD or streaming? Streaming, because you can access anything anywhere, instantly. How cool is that?
  9. Your party trick is… I can low-key cut hair (sorry Sally).
  10. Your hometown is X and we should visit because… I live in a small village between Oxford and Reading. We have a train station!
  11. Tinder or Taken? Taken, but I didn’t swipe right.
  12. Snapchat, Insta, Facebook or Twitter? Definitely Instagram – falling into the wormhole of 15 second food tutorials and makeup how to’s is one of my favourite things to do (help me)…
  13. The best boxset ever is… Orange Is The New Black.
  14. Coffee House Tour… what are you most excited about? Going out on the road and playing to lots of people with Ben and Dan – We’re going to miss you Ryan and Jake! xoxox

 

http://www.idlside.com

ONE SENTENCE REVIEW: 'ESCAPE' BY KEHLANI

Escape, by Kehlani

Kehlani is an American singer-songwriter from California. At the young age of 21 years, she’s already been a finalist on America’s Got Talent in a group ‘Poplyfe’, as well as being nominated last year for the Best Urban Contemporary Album Grammy Award. With her debut album ‘SweetSexySavage’ released back at the end of January, it seems Kehlani is going places!

Kate: “JoJo throwback”

Laura: “”Updated version of the best 00’s R’n’B ballads.”

Molly: “Enjoyed it but the pre-chorus is a bit of a let down”

Megan: “I like her voice, she sounds like JoJo and it has a nice 2000s sound.”

Will: “Sounds pretty normal to me.”

James: “Very naughties-like. Nostalgic.”

Emma: “Enjoy the more related slow pace, yet feels indistinguishable amongst ‘chart-like’ music.”

Charlotte: “Love her voice!”

Leah: “Kehlani can do no wrong, this is proof!”

Helen: “With smooth vocals, relaxing acoustic guitar and an RnB beat, Escape is guaranteed to chill you out.”

Elliot: “Typical chart song; not very unique.”

Maddalena: “Love the artist – catchy song, but not my favourite.”

Harrison: “Smooth and sultry, yet a little forgettable.”

Wade: “I didn’t like it at first, but after hearing it three times in a row, it’s grown on me…”

 

http://kehlanimusic.com/sweetsexysavage/

EP REVIEW: DIONYSIA – THE BREACH

EP Review – The Breach by Dionysia

 

The latest EP by Dionysia kicks off with strong guitar riffs from the track “Glory”, a solid opening to the rest of the album. The song has powerful vocals and is directed at someone who gave the narrator “nothing” – by the end of the song, the narrator returns the favour. The vocals are interspersed with inventive guitar melodies that combine to set the mood of an upbeat, belty EP. The second track “Zombie” is a real ear catcher with its post-chorus Saxophone melodies. Although personally I am a little tired of the use of the Zombies trope in TV and music, the chorus is very catchy and easy to listen to.

It is however the haunting start to the third track “Maybe I”, followed by some heavy electric guitar, that really demonstrates the bands versatility. The song seems to describe the current state of society, and the artists view on how to deal with it, making this song the ultimate loud sing-along.

The whole EP itself has very alternative vibes, with a twinge of country and blues. It’s the sort of thing I would listen to loudly through headphones and sing along to (likely very badly!). The instrumentation is always interesting and the songs have a variety of lead instruments, such as piano, guitar and sax.
The EP was released the 2nd August 2016, so I was a little slow to discover it. There are 8 total tracks, and the vocals throughout are raw with clear opinions. Dionysia know who they are and are here to show it. Looking forward to the full album!

Written by Cheylea Hopkinson