Best new music – Sigrid: your new favourite pop star? Plus The Big Moon and GIRLI

Sigrid
Sigrid Credit: Francesca Allen

From folk to hip-hop, we meet the need-to-know emerging artists

Sigrid

Who is she?

A 20-year-old Norwegian pop superstar in the making whose debut single Don't Kill My Vibe has racked up nearly 12 million Spotify streams. Sigrid deftly delivers punchy, euphoric tunes in the vein of Taylor Swift, the fruits of which can be heard on her first EP (out now on Island Records). Bergen-based, she has been a hit in the UK with a Hottest Record accolade on BBC Radio 1, an appearance on Later... with Jools Holland and a sold-out headline show in London next week.

How did she get here?

Sigrid, born Sigrid Solbakk Raabe, is from the west coast port town of Ålesund. When she was 16, her musician brother Tellef asked her to write a song to perform with him on stage during a hometown gig. She rose to the challenge by coming up with one in two weeks.

It proved a catalyst, and Raabe began creating music whenever time permitted during her high school studies. "I was not a good singer," she says, explaining how her classically trained older sister taught her. "You know those children who are like 'I'm gonna be a pop star' and they sound amazing from the day they were born? I was not like that." 

Sigrid Credit: Francesca Allen

In 2014, aged 17, Raabe signed to Norwegian indie label Petroleum. She moved to Bergen the next year to study politics at the city's public university: "I think I wanted to study something that was safe and had a job at the end of it. With music you're just trying it and seeing how it goes." Her academic pursuit was halted when Island signed her in 2016. "It's all happened pretty quick", Raabe says, with Don't Kill My Vibe released in February and her debut EP released last week.

What does she sound like?

Earworm melodies, trigger-sharp beats and bright, Scandi-pop synths characterise Raabe's joyful music. Most of the songs on her EP build to pure catharsis during the choruses – whether because of the leap from choppy samples to a musical maelstrom in Plot Twist or Raabe's defiant yells of "don't kill my vibe!" in the title track. Her vocals flit effortlessly between a lucent falsetto and husky bellows. She is a pop star who truly understands her voice.

Who are her influences?

Raabe's parents brought her up on a steady diet of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. "They are are very important to me," Raabe says. "I especially like how direct Young is with his lyrics." She values "great songwriters", citing Adele, Coldplay and Keane as key influences. "For me, the song is the most important thing about the music. It's [that] and how they capture the audience," Raabe adds.  Her songcraft idols are legendary Swedish songwriter Max Martin and Julia Michaels, responsible for Justin Bieber's hits.

What does she say about her own music?

"It's definitely borderline cheesy and cool at the same time."

Don't Kill My Vibe EP is out now on Island Records. Sigrid headlines Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London on March 17 (sold-out), plays the Great Escape Festival on May 18 and Latitude Festival (July 13-16).

By Charlotte Krol

 

The Big Moon
The Big Moon Credit: Charlotte Patmore

Who are they?

A four-piece from London who are quietly redefining indie guitar music for 2017, The Big Moon emerged three years ago from lead songwriter Juliette Jackson's bedroom and have since gone on to be championed by broadcasters such as Annie Mac and musicians Marika Hackman and The Vaccines; they’ve collaborated with the latter two on tour.

How did they get here?

“I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, and it was crap”, says Jackson, so she went advertising for bandmembers. Jackson had a useful arsenal of written and demo-ed songs, which guitarist Soph Nathann describes as a “bargaining chip”. Drummer Fern Ford was the first to sign up, followed by Nathann and bassist Celia Archer, all within weeks of each other. The group were swift to get the ball rolling and recorded their first single, Eureka Moment, “almost as soon as we formed”. Exposure on music blog DIY led to their first shows. “Everything went a bit crazy when we put the song up,” explains Nathann. “We didn’t have a manager, so we were just trying things out in front of people.”

It would take them until April 2016 to sign to Fiction Records, after they'd toured with indie heavyweights Ezra Furman and The Maccabees. A debut album, Love In the 4th Dimension, followed a year later, and was met with acclaim.  

What do they sound like?

Love In the 4th Dimension is a muscular collection of confident, supercilious rock songs that combine lyrical dexterity with full-blooded instrumental swagger. Pull the Other One blends the staccato verses beloved by The Libertines with the arch choruses of The Long Blondes. But you’d be mistaken if you thought The Big Moon were merely a throwback band: the complex song structure of Cupid hints at rock’s tomorrow.

Who are their influences?

“One person likes heavy metal and another gangster rap…” Jackson begins. Between them, the band share a pleasing plethora of influences. Jack White inspired Jackson to pick up guitar, but she also loves Pixies and Britpop. The Big Moon “formed over Eighties power ballads and Motown, those are the big group winners”.

What does their music sound like in their own words?

“We sound like pop guitar scuzz. It’s got poppy melodies but there’s a lot of noise.”

Love in the 4th Dimension is out now through Fiction Records. The band headline Village Underground on May 2

By Alice Vincent

GIRLI
Girli

Who is she?

A pink-haired, potty-mouthed 19-year-old from Camden who swapped youth politics for pop while she was still in school. Born Millie Toomey, GIRLI first made a buzz online in 2015 with the rambunctious tracks detailing adolescent life emanating from her online radio station, GIRLI FM. She's since smartened up her act – a little – and crafted witty, catchy pop songs for her comeback this year, which have seen her sell out every show she's played in 2017.

How did she get here?

Toomey has always wanted to change things, which is why she found herself "speaking at the houses of parliament wearing an untucked shirt thinking I was the coolest person ever" at 14. When disillusionment struck, "those frustrations definitely funnelled into why I made music", she says, and led to the formation of a trio. When the two other members left to go to university ("I still maintain that we could have headlined the O2 one day"), Toomey went solo, developing her fiercely feminist – and shocking pink – persona Girli in the process. She's since been signed to PMR, home to Grammy-nominated dance duo Disclosure and Jai Paul.  

What does she sound like?

Rooted in punk, covered in glitter, GIRLI's sugarcoated music makes for synth-and-attitude-laden pop that recalls Lily Allen with the spit and swagger of Ms Dynamite's more commercial hits. Latest single Not That Girl proves that GIRLI is a natural heir to Charli XCX, whose Clash-inspired debut album True Romance impressed critics in 2013. Toomey is not famed for her vocals, but her bolshie rapping on numbers such as F--- Right Back Off to LA have their own charm. 

Who are her influences?

It was watching Canadian duo Tegan & Sara that finally convinced Toomey to take the jump and start a band. Toomey's since taken inspiration from punk pioneers The Slits, David Bowie as well as the gritty observational poetry of The Streets and Arctic Monkeys. 

What does she say about her own music?

"It’s pop music with something to say."

By Alice Vincent

Alexandra Savior
Alexandra Savior Credit:  Sam Kristofski

Who is she?

A 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Portland, Oregon, who pens rich noir-pop with the likes of Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. Savior has more than a million streams on Spotify for her single Shades, a track that features on her debut album, released this week. Her precocious lyricism, which often details characters seeking vengeance, escape, or embracing love in wild abandonment, is surely the envy of her peers.

How did she get here?

Savior started singing and writing music when she was 14. Her cover of Angus and Julia Stone's Big Jet Plane, which she posted on YouTube in 2010 aged 15, was the catalyst for her musical career. "A manager called me [about the cover] and I wasn't really taking it seriously," she says. "When you're 15 you're not thinking about your career. You're just thinking about passing history classes and things."

Alexandra Savior

Savior spent her final two high-school years juggling studies with songwriting, collaborating where she could with Los Angeles-based musicians. She was later introduced to Turner "really artificially" through her label, Columbia Records. "Alex had been wanting to write with a female artist and I was wanting a new sound to hide behind... it just kinda came together," she says. Turner is credited as co-writer and co-producer (along with co-producer James Ford) on her debut record Belladonna of Sadness, though Savior wrote the majority of the tracks herself.

What does she sound like?

Think slinky, mid-tempo burners à la Lana Del Rey with spaghetti western guitars. Savior's lyrical themes are cinematic in vision, brimming with make-believe tales of espionage or stories cloaked in identity metaphors. Better still is Savior's gorgeous, sultry vocal, which at its breathiest recalls Dusty Springfield.

Who are her influences?

Old-school chanteuses such as Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piath are major influences but Savior clarifies that her tastes are ever-changing. Her current obsession is Seventies Spanish duo Elia Y Elizabeth and their song Alegria. "I've been listening to that like, insane," she says. "Every time the first note hits, me and my friends have a little car dance". She's also a fan of Californian rock trio Cherry Glazerr. "They're the s--- and are definitely progressing with their records and live shows."

What does she say about her own music?

"I think I'm gonna make a T-Shirt that says that," Savior laughs. "I can't do that. I've tried it before and everybody just gets really confused because it's this big visualisation of me being like 'and then there's a UFO and then there's the tumbleweed and a black silk curtain, or something...' It's sort of like somebody asking you your own personality traits. You have a jaded view of what you wish you were and what you actually are and I am very gated in my musical identity."

Belladonna of Sadness is out now on Columbia Records. Savior plays Scala on May 30. Tickets are available via her website.

By Charlotte Krol

Estrons
Estrons

Who are they?

A four-piece based in Wales who make no-frills rock music that frequently challenges gender stereotypes. Singer Tali Källström lives in Swansea while guitarist Rhodri Daniel, bassist Steff Pringle and drummer Toby Bang reside in Cardiff. Estrons rose to some prominence after the release of their debut single Make A Man in October 2015, which received airplay on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 Music.

How did they get here?

Cardiff-born Källström, 26, met Daniel on a beach in Aberystwyth in 2013. During their chance meeting they conceived Estrons (Welsh for "alien", "stranger" or "foreigner") on "the premise of being misfits and strangers in the Welsh music scene," Källström says.

The band is comprised of different nationalities: Källström is Welsh-Canadian, Toby is English, Rhodri and Steff are from west and south Wales. "I grew up in Victoria, Canada as well as Wales, and the contrasts have an impact, Källström says. "Music from the north of Wales can be very different from the south."

Estrons Credit: Jord Hughes

Källström had been in other bands including "a good fun jazz band" called The Goodfellas before she was approached by Daniel who was on the hunt for a female singer to complete his band.

There was no set development path for Estrons but when Make A Man was written – a cathartic song with a refreshing twist on female objectification – "that's when stuff started to happen". She's Here Now EP was released in November.

What do they sound like?

Estrons make ferocious rock music with hints of garage and punk. Källström's commanding, voracious vocal is most reminiscent of Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), while the band's gritty, staccato guitars and pummelling drums recall the punchy prowess of Queens of the Stone Age.

Who are their musical influences?

Besides the obvious comparisons (Källström, too, cites Queens Of The Stone Age and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Blondie and Foo Fighters are also major influences. But it's not always about rock bands. "For me currently, I'm a huge fan of Billie Holiday, Gil Scott-Heron and Erykah Badu," Källström says. "The big voice, big expression, big movement."

What do they say about their own music?

"Estrons is about being proud of whoever it is that you are... it's a series of confessions, if you will, with sarcastic tones. It's difficult because there's definite pop elements to [our music] but when it comes to a genre I call it alternative rock music. A lot of it is tongue-in-cheek but it's often written from quite a real place that often doesn't sit very well with people, which I kinda like."

Estrons support The Amazons on their current UK tour, starting at The Plug, Sheffield on 5 April (tickets)

By Charlotte Krol

Will Joseph Cook
Will Joseph Cook

Who is he?

A teenage singer-songwriter from Kent who writes infectious, sunshine-laden guitar pop that belies his 19 years. Although his debut album isn't out until April, Cook has already proved a hit online, where his self-directed videos have racked up more than a quarter of a million views. His songs have been streamed more than 17 million times. 

How did he get here?

An adolescence spent listening to Noughties indie staples Vampire Weekend, Everything Everything and Phoenix led to gig-going, which, Cook says, "built this drive" to make music himself. "I only started playing when I was 13 or 14, and that’s when I started writing as well," he says. "I had this infatuation of what it was to be in a band." 

His dreams became a reality after Cook uploaded his music videos on YouTube and started performing locally. He signed to Atlantic while he was still in school and was "left to my own devices and to creating EPs for two years".

What does he sound like?

A gorgeous mix of the jaunty riffs of Orange Juice and the nostalgic longing found in The Maccabees' debut, Colour it In. Girls Like Me paints a gender-bending portrait of lost love, with noodling guitars and spiraling synths that recall Mystery Jets, while Sweet Dreamer has a bouncing bass line that demands to be put on a high-school movie soundtrack.

Who are his influences? 

"All that kind of 2008-2010 indie that really got me into records," Cook explains. "It was a good when alternative music crossed paths with pop in a really awesome way. I think MGMT's debut is the perfect example of how good alternative pop can be when it’s done right." 

What does he say about his own music?

"Lethargic, emotionally confused indie pop songs."

By Alice Vincent

Molly Burch
Molly Burch: inspired by Patsy Kline

Who is she?

Austin-based singer songwriter Molly Burch mines the murky depths of heartbreak and social anxiety to create beautiful, ballsy blues and Fifties pop for modern times. She released her debut album on independent label Captured Records, home to artists such as Wild Nothing and Mac DeMarco, in February.

How did she get here?

The daughter of film-makers, Burch grew up listening to female singers – from Nina Simone to Christina Aguilera – and “trying to find my own voice” inside them. Shyness kept her from singing in public until high school, but she went to the University of North Carolina to study Jazz Vocal performance, where she started to play with bands.

Molly Burch

A “really terrible” break-up saw her move to Austin, Texas. Although she had put off songwriting for years due to low self-esteem, being alone in a new city inspired her to “force herself” to create music. Please Be Mine was “inspired by feeling extremely isolated in this new place”, as well as the source of her heartbreak, Daley Talbert. “Since I started writing we got back together, and he’s in my band name. He’s a huge inspiration.”

She got a band together in the "Live Music Capital of the World" and recorded the album on a shoestring before sending it off to Captured Tracks. “I was a fan of the label and I felt like they seemed really welcoming and music lovers," she says. "I really liked them, they got back to me two days later and offered me a record deal.”  

What does she sound like?

A contemporary revamp of jukebox rock n’ roll, thanks to twanging guitars and walking bass lines. Fans of the Shangri-La’s, Jenny Lewis and Angel Olsen would do well to add Please Be Mine to their collection. Her voice is a delightfully laconic thing, effortlessly gliding from soft, rasping coos on Torn to Pieces to swaggering belligerence on Wrong for You. 

Who are her influences?

Everyone from Patsy Cline to Mariah Carey. Burch has retained her childhood fascination with the female vocal, whether it belongs to Billie Holliday or Lauryn Hill. Musically, she cites Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers and Sixties girl groups as inspiration: “Really, a total mixture of old classic tones and current pop stars," she says.

What does she say about her music in her own words?

“Romantic pop music. I want it to feel pretty and soothing and relatable.”

Please Be Mine is out on Captured Tracks now

By Alice Vincent

Cosima
Cosima Credit: David Sessions

Who is she?

A 23-year-old from Peckham whose versatile vocal and sophisticated, soulful songs emit the wisdom of someone twice her age. Signed to Island Records (U2, PJ Harvey, Florence + The Machine), Cosima worked with renowned Canadian producer Greg Wells (Adele, Pharrell Williams) on her debut seven-track mixtape, South of Heaven. Her latest single, the heart-wrenching piano ballad To Build A House, premiered on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show in October.

How did she get here?

Although she was obsessed with music from a young age, Cosima's decision to "make music seriously" came when she bought a one-way ticket to Germany to live with her maternal grandparents. "I was 18, had done my A levels and had been partying solidly," she says. "When you grow up in London it can get a lot sometimes, it's a bit hectic, and I just needed to take some time out to really understand myself and my voice."

Cosima Credit: David Sessions

Cosima took singing lessons with a retired opera singer during her year away living near Stuttgart. The technical training gave her the confidence to write more, and Nick Shymansky, Amy Winehouse's former manager, snapped her up at Island Records after hearing one of her demos when she returned. "I had a good period of just being able to develop myself and try stuff out – experiment," Cosima says. After the release of her debut single Had to Feel Something in July last year, Cosima enlisted London soloist Fryars to help her write her dub-inflected second single Girls Who Get Ready. Her mixtape was released in December 2016.

What does she sound like?

Cosima's sultry tones are reminiscent of Sade, with evocative lyrics set against a backdrop of twisted R&B, stripped-back soul, jazz and pop. Dubby bass and sass permeate upbeat tracks like Hymns For Him and Girls Who Get Ready. On To Build A House, a "deeply personal" poem-turned-song about her father's absence, the singer's raw vocal energy contrasts powerfully with the track's brittle bones. Cosima's first vocal take was used in the final recording; it had left both the singer and her Swedish co-writer Nina Woodford-Wells (Greg Wells' wife) in tears.

Who are her musical influences?

"The biggest thing for me in music is voice and lyrics. I remember the first time I went to the library when I was about 11 and got out a Ella Fitzgerald CD, then a Billie Holiday CD, then a Nina Simone CD...all the big, expressive voices." After the jazz greats Cosima delved into the back catalogues of 1970s singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake before falling in love with soul music.

What does she say about her own music?

"Songs and a voice – that's the consistent factor. "

Cosima plays the Bussey Building, Peckham on 3 May (tickets) and Norway's Øya Festival (8-12 August). Tickets for Øya: http://www.ticketmaster.no/ artist/yafestivalen-billetter/ 301563

By Charlotte Krol

Big Thief
Brooklyn-based quartet Big Thief

Who are they?

A four-piece based in Brooklyn who make lo-fi indie rock with rootsy leanings, Big Thief were named US radio giant NPR readers’ best new band of 2016. Their debut album, Masterpiece, came out last summer and was built on bons mots, dreamy guitar hooks, and singer Adrianne Lenker’s doleful delivery. Capacity, their "darker" second record, is out on June 9. 

How did they get there?

Lenker met guitarist Buck Meek the day she moved to New York in 2012, after recognising him from a gig they'd both played at in Boston. "I didn’t know anyone in New York at the time," recalls Lenker, who grew up in Minnesota. "So he showed me around. He had a job delivering pastries and we would do the pastry run together in the morning and on our breaks we would play guitar and make songs in the park." Under the moniker of Buck and Anne, the pair released two albums together, A-Sides and B-Sides, while Lenker also put out a solo record, Hours Were the Birds, in 2014. 

Touring the US in a 1997 Chevy, Lenker and Meek soon decided to become a quartet, adding bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer Jason Burger to their ranks. In 2015, they set about recording Masterpiece. "One of our friends offered us his family’s summer house that was just outside New York," remembers Lenker. "So we just drove out here, drew up a massive grocery list and made the album in 12 days." The band were subsequently snapped up by Bright Eyes' label Saddle Creek Records, and sound engineer James Krivchenia replaced Burger on drums; they play Green Man festival later this year. 

What do they sound like?

Shades of Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen colour Big Thief's palette, which mixes low-key acoustica with sorrowful, introspective vocals and searing guitar-reverb flourishes. "There's only so much letting go you ask someone to do," Lenker sings on the album's uptempo title track, a bittersweet meditation on falling in and out of love. There's a darkness to their songs, too, as in Real Love, in which repetitive, rhythmic finger-picking is matched against lyrics about domestic abuse and blackened lungs. 

Who are their influences?

"My early influences when I started playing guitar were Michael Hedges and Joni Mitchell," says Lenker. "Recently, we’ve all been collectively inspired by Twain [aka Mat Davidson]; he’s my favourite singer-songwriter. Neil Young, too." Oleartchik, meanwhile, listened to a lot of his mum's blues CDs when he was growing up: "Johnny Winter, Coltrane, Keith Jarrett," he says. 

How would they describe their music?

"I'd say it’s an always-shifting organism," says Lenker. 

Big Thief's Masterpiece is out now on Saddle Creek Records. Their follow-up album, Capacity, is out on June 9

By Patrick Smith

IDER
IDER Credit: Lottie Turner

Who are they?

IDER are Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville, who deftly mix breathtaking folk harmonies with creeping electronic arrangements. The 24-year-olds from London recently passed the million-stream mark on Spotify for their song Pulse and have already sold out their debut headline show in April. Radio 1 contacted the duo just minutes after they posted their first track, Sorry, on Soundcloud in April 2016. Days later, the station's Phil Taggart selected them as one of his Future Firsts.

How did they get here?

Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville of IDER

Markwick and Somerville met at the University of Falmouth in 2012 while working on a music project together. They became good friends and gelled musically, both having played the piano growing up. But it's the flawless marrying of their voices – whether in unison or harmony – that has so far come to define them. "Both of us had been writing songs for a while and when we started writing together it was very much based around creating them with our voices," Markwick says.

Somerville moved away from the midlands after university in 2015 to live with Markwick in London. The pair have since learned other instruments such as the guitar and bass and enlisted producers (Aidan O'Brien, Dan Holloway) for their four self-released songs released to date.

What do they sound like?

Bar the upbeat tropical-pop climes of King Ruby, IDER make downbeat electronica that rewards listening in the small hours. Intimate harmonies and hushed synths harness tales of unrequited love on Sorry, while Pulse turns crystalline keys and hollow beats into a dense examination of love's maddening grasp.

Who are their musical influences?

"When I was a kid my dad used to play a lot of Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell," Somerville says. More recently the pair count Frank Ocean, Glass Animals and Blood Orange among their influences.

What do they say about their own music?

"I think it's pop but it's slightly more alternative than mainstream pop," says Marwick. "There's dark influences. Melancholic vibes." 

By Charlotte Krol

Julia Jacklin
Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin

Who is she?

Hailing from the Blue Mountains in the middle of Australia, Julia Jacklin is a 26-year-old classically trained singer-songwriter who weaves elements of alternative country-rock into sparse, indie-folk vignettes. A hypnotic performance at End of the Road festival in September was followed by the release of her gorgeous debut album, Don’t Let the Kids Win, a month later.

How did she get here? 

Julia Jacklin's Don't Let the Kids Win album cover

Inspired by Britney Spears, Jacklin began singing lessons at the age of 10. After studying social policy at university in Sydney, she split her time between working in a factory (making essential oils) and writing songs for her first album, which she went on to record at New Zealand’s Sitting Room studios with Ben Edwards, who produced the Aldous Harding LP. Her breakthrough came at South by Southwest festival last year. "Transgressive came and watched all eight shows I played," recalls Jacklin. "And they clearly liked what they heard because they signed me up immediately." 

What does she sound like?

Imagine the rich, dusty vocals of Cat Power blended with the sardonic observations of fellow Aussie Courtney Barnett and the retro musicality of Angel Olsen, and you're basically there. A wistful quality pervades Don’t Let the Kids Win, a record that wrestles with classic themes such as growing old too fast and seizing your opportunities. Lead single Pool Party, a languorous ballad about an ailing relationship, hums like a country tearjerker (“I want to give you all of my love/ But I watch you sink as they swam above”), while on Small Talk, a Fifties-style waltz, Jacklin ups the quirk quotient as she imagines Zach Braff and Catherine Deneuve as her parents.

Who are her musical influences?

"Fiona Apple is a big inspiration to me and always has been since I was about 14," says Jacklin. "I like her style of talking about heavy topics without getting too bogged down in feeling sorry for yourself. Same with Leonard Cohen and Father John Misty." Jacklin also grew up listening to New York singer-songwriter Gillian Welch. 

What does she say about her own music?

"It's about finishing university and this whole world opening up before you, and you really not being sure what to do next." 

Julia Jacklin's Don't Let the Kids Win is out now on Transgressive

By Patrick Smith

Tom Grennan
Tom Grennan: 'My biggest inspiration? Amy Winehouse'

Who is he?

A big-voiced graduate from Bedford who spent his summer after university playing some of the UK’s biggest festivals thanks to a surprise collaboration with dance producer duo Chase & Status on their hit of the summer, All Goes Wrong. He’s since been playlisted by Radio 1 and signed to Craid David’s label – all before hitting 22.

How did he get here?

Grennan’s remarkably relaxed about his route into music; his voice was only discovered as a happy accident. “Singing kind of happened randomly,” he explains. “I was at a party, and to be honest with you, I was quite drunk, and I started singing. My mate called me the next day and said,  ‘You were singing last night’. I said I didn’t want to know anything about it.” But Grennan’s friends, who were studying music A-Level at the time, did: they asked him to lend his vocals to a project which nurtured an interest for music he never knew he had.

While at university, he spent a year “hibernating and playing guitar” before getting ready to gig around London. Record label A&Rs came to gigs and a deal was swiftly signed with Insanity Records at the start of 2016.

What does he sound like?

A cross between the deep, estuarial soul of Adele and the jaded experiences of Wimbledon troubadour Jamie T. Grennan manages to splice brassy, old-school soul with spit-and-sawdust storytelling in demo track Barbed Wire, while Sweet Hallelujah, from his Something in the Water EP, shares the anthemic, strummed guitars of Mumford and Sons.

Who are his influences?

Grennan grew up to a backdrop of The Carpenters, The Who, Queen and Take That thanks to his mum, but his adolescence was soundtracked by the opposing sounds of grime and indie, from bands such as Bombay Bicycle Club, The Kooks and Arctic Monkeys. “But my biggest inspiration is probably Amy Winehouse,” he says. “She writes real life and that’s what I want to write. Real music and real lyrics.”

What does he say about his own music?

“Soulful, bluesy stuff.”

By Alice Vincent

Ardyn
Rob and Katy Pearson of Ardyn

Who are they?

Ardyn are a folk-pop duo from Stroud, Gloucestershire comprised of 20-year-old twins Rob and Katy Pearson. They make emotive, intelligent music that belies their age, often detailed with lyrics inspired by nature. The siblings have enjoyed airplay from the likes of BBC Radio 6 Music's Lauren Laverne and BBC Radio 1's Huw Stephens. Last November, they supported Wild Beasts on their full UK tour.

How did they get here?

The self-taught musicians – who between them play guitar, bass, piano and drums – started writing songs together in their early teens. When they were 15, they sent a track (called A Song) to BBC Introducing in the West and were subsequently invited to play the Introducing stage at Gloucester's Underground Festival. They were also asked to play the festival's battle of the bands competition to open the main stage.

"We just enjoyed [playing music] for fun and we never really took it seriously until we shared our music," Katy says. "Suddenly, someone from outside of our family unit said 'oh you're quite good.' The battle of the bands was our first ever gig and we ended up winning it." 

Rob and Katy Pearson of Ardyn

The siblings were spotted by their current manager, George Shepherd, at Underground Festival. "We were very young but we were very lucky to meet a really good management team who've left us to it for the last four years to really get to know who we are as musicians," Katy adds.

Their debut EP Universe was released via London-based indie label National Anthem (Haim, Chvrches) in November 2015, produced by indie label giant XL Recordings’ go-to man Rodaidh McDonald (credits include The xx, King Krule, Sampha). The Valley EP was released via Brixton-based independent label Aesop last July.

What do they sound like?

Ardyn make strikingly melodic pop music, frequently driven by frilly folk guitar lines, crystalline glockenspiels and poignant piano chords. There's an ethereal quality to Katy's quivering husk, complemented by her brother's warm backing vocals. A beautiful gloom permeates their music, lifted by soaring choral harmonies, meandering bass grooves and epic crescendos.

Who are their musical influences?

The Beatles, Kate Bush and Coldplay are the band's main inspiration, the latter of which Katy is quick to defend as "the best band ever". "They have such good songs," she says, "but people think it's cool to hate them."

Rob says: "I really like Beach House, Katy does too, and we've both recently really got into Interpol. They're a big inspiration for us at the moment."

What do they say about their own music?

Katy thinks their music is quite hard to define but says it "always has quite a melancholy undertone." Rob calls it "melancholic pop".

Ardyn's The Valley EP is out now

By Charlotte Krol

The Amazons

Who are they?

A quartet hoping to make rock music cool again – and from Reading, of all places. The Amazons have been recognised by Q Magazine, who nominated them for Best Breakthrough Act this year, as well as BBC Radio 1 DJs Annie Mac and Huw Stephens, who selected November single In My Mind as their tracks of the week, for their fun, unabashedly guitar-focused anthems.

How did they get here?

The Amazons

Frontman Matt Thompson, guitarist Chris Alderton and bassist Elliot Briggs have been playing in “various bands” together for nearly a decade, but it took Joe Emmett to take over from an ever-changing line-up of drummers for The Amazons to figure out that their sound: “We tried eight drummers in 18 months and nobody hit the drums harder than Joe”, Thompson explains. “We were experimenting with loads of different sounds and got him playing on backing and he was having none of that, so we thought we’d strip it back and be a rock band and that’s suited us since, really.”

The Amazons put out their maiden demo, Something in the Water, on Soundcloud in September 2014, and within a month were receiving a flurry of emails from A&R. They signed a deal with record label Fiction within a year.

What do they sound like?

If Queens of the Stone Age were a bunch of happy-go-lucky teenagers set on making Berkshire the music capital of the UK (“The eyes of the world come in for three days a year and the rest of it people don’t really give a s---. And wouldn’t it be exciting if a couple of bands were successful out of Reading, when did that happen?”). In My Mind blends the primal thrill of the Californian band’s saw-toothed guitars with vocals that recall Alex Turner. Nightdriving, however, conjures youthful freedom with the high-pitched guitar lines of mid-Noughties indie and anthemic choruses.

Who are their influences?

Thompson explains that The Amazons’ influences are “quite a fluid thing – it could be a hook on the radio or a particular sound”. But the “dark and sexy” sound of Queens of the Stone Age, Tame Impala’s psychedelic throb and Arcade Fire’s hymns to the suburbs have all been collectively shared by the band, as well as Miike Snow’s Genghis Kahn and The Last Shadow Puppets.

What do they say about their own music?

“It’s rock n roll man, we’re not trying to overthink it.”

By Alice Vincent

Boxed In
Boxed In: Jack Benfield, Mark Nicholls, Oli Bayston and Liam Hutton

Who are they?

Named after the famous painting by Francis Bacon, Head VI, Boxed In are a London-based four-piece that thrillingly meld the motorik tug of krautrock with catchy, idiosyncratic pop. Tune into Lauren Laverne's show on 6 Music and you'll hear them within minutes; the presenter can't get enough of the band's second album, Melt, which was released in September to much acclaim. 

How did they get here?

The brainchild of Oli Bayston – who'd worked as an assistant to producer Dan Carey on albums by Toy, Mystery Jets, Steve Mason and Willy Mason – Boxed In were picked up four years ago by Moshi Moshi, who began managing them. In 2013, they were signed to American label Nettwerk Records, through which they released their 2015 eponymous debut album, produced by Carey. "It was Dan who said we should imitate electronic music with live instruments," explains 34-year-old Bayston.

A classically trained pianist from the age of four, Bayston also sings and writes the songs, with Liam Hutton on drums, Jack Benfield on synths and guitars, and Mark Nicholls (who was in Keith, Bayston's previous band in Manchester) on bass. 

What do they sound like?

Combining metronomic beats, spacious melodies and introspective lyrics delivered in a melancholic drawl, theirs is a sound not too dissimilar to Caribou and LCD Soundsystem. Listen to their 2013 track Legacy and you'll also detect aspects of Hot Chip's burbling, earworm electronica. As their recent gigs supporting Kate Tempest have proved, Boxed In have plenty of muso suss as well, their tracks incorporating as many classical elements as they do pop. Recent single Jist was one of the funkiest underground dancefloor hits of the summer. 

Who are their musical influences?

"With Boxed in, there's a huge focus on repetition in general," says Bayston, "so obviously I'm a huge fan of Daniel Avery and Philip Glass. Any of the more electronic, housey stuff you hear in Boxed In tends to come from the early Nineties French House scene – like Pépé Bradock and early Daft Punk." Bayston also cites Seventies German acts such as Can, Neu! and Harmonia as inspirations.

What do they say about their own music?

"Our sound is rhythm-based acoustic dance music," explains Bayston. "I make music because I have to – it is an addiction, it's an obsession and it's my first love." 

Boxed In's Melt is out now

By Patrick Smith

 

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