Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Discovering Childhood (the band)

One of the best parts of being a kid is the ability dream without bounds. The world is just waiting for you to accomplish anything and everything. Doubts don’t cloud your vision. Incredible thoughts seem close and obtainable, and no one has the nerve to tell you otherwise.

And while Childhood is London-based band made up of four full-grown adults, Leo Dobsen, Ben Romans Hopcraft, Daniel Salamons, and Jonny Williams haven’t lost that optimistic feeling that following your dreams can yield huge results.

Two and a half years after meeting at the University of Nottingham, the now-graduates can finally forget about degrees and textbooks, and focus all their attention on their music. What started as “hanging out with each other, getting drunk with each other, sharing music with each other” has become a full-fledged passion and obsession. Now, it’s all music, all of the time.

“That’s all we do. It’s the only thing we’re passionate about. It’s the only thing that we do now, so everything’s moving a lot faster now that we’re done with the old education,” says Dobsen.

The band’s aspirations go way beyond London. Childhood is recording material for its first album, slated to come out early next year, and plans to soon venture out of Europe to play its first shows stateside.

“We don’t write having the intention of our songs being played in arenas, but we love huge qualities. We love huge melodies. I guess one day we could be playing arenas, but that’s a long way away. It’s kind of hard to think about that now. But we want a big pop song.”

Considering this is their first band, this foursome’s instincts are overwhelmingly and fortuitously on the money. The handful of songs they’ve released so far ring clear and true. They center around Dobsen’s melodic guitar lines, each soaring and expanding wider than the next.

“Blue Velvet” is the second song that Dobsen ever wrote, which is mind-blowing, considering some people spend years trying write a song this gorgeous. A towering riff wraps around sentimental lyrics, one of many Childhood songs that revolves around women.

Dobsen explains, “We want to evoke feelings of pining, of longing, a kind of romantic nostalgia. When we hear songs that we really like, that’s the kind of feelings that we feel, and we want people to feel those emotions from our music.”

Romans Hopcraft paints his love stories with lines like, “Does it reach your heart when I touch you that way?” It’s the kind of sentiment that tiptoes between mushy poetry and sincere yearning. These are lyrics that you can belt at the top of your lungs at live shows, feeling like they were written just for you.

Dobsen speaks positively when discussing the future. He tosses out phrases like “life-affirming” and “that’s a dream.” But when it comes down to it, his goal is simple.

“I just want to make the kind of music that I’ve always wanted to hear.”

I wrote this for the upcoming issue of Under the Radar. Find it in a real, live print magazine next month. Yes, it's one of the last great music magazines.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I wrote this on my blog almost exactly 3 years ago:
I prefer to think that I am more interested in the stories behind an album or an artist, but sometimes that story can be so hard to crack through indecipherable lyrics and shady phone interviews. I was really thinking about just the ability to find a journalism job where I can explore these things in-depth, where I can contribute days upon days to finding more out about people and situations and ideas in this world around me, and learn about the most efficient and interesting way to communicate these things back to the world.
 In the same entry, I also wrote this:
I'm sick of reading music blogs with literal reviews and lofty descriptions that don't mean anything, and don't have relevance to my life. I'm ready for the real. I want someone to make the comparison between the struggle of climbing mountains and the sound of an album. I want things to relate to my everyday life. I want the M.I.A album to remind me of that time I got an MRI.
It really freaks me out that I may have become the opposite of what I hoped to be as a journalist. As a music journalist, at least. When I wrote this entry, on 7/7/10, I wasn't working in journalism. I am now. I churn out cut and dry news stories for a local TV station. I do enjoy my job, and I feel creative freedom. I don't take it for granted for a second.

But when it comes to my creative writing passions, I fear that I have lost some of my eagerness and some of my earnestness. Even some of my post-college angst, where I was angry with the world, but that fueled my desire to strive for things.

I still remember this period of my life where I would isolate myself in my childhood room of my parent's house, listening to Cloud Nothings. I hated the world. I hated everything at that time. I was miserable and had little hope of finding a career that would satisfy me. It was that period of time that I think most college grads (with non-science/math degrees) face so much rejection that nearly all the hope is sucked out of you.

But back then I strived. Then I dedicated myself to spending hours, analyzing music, enjoying the creativity that would flow from my fingers when I wrote about it. Now, I go about my daily life, very rarely finding time to sit and think and ponder. And is it because I'm generally happy that my creative drive has flickered?

I don't really feel much pride in the reviews or music journalism I've written of late. Some of the spontaneity seems to be missing.

Gonna turn on some Cloud Nothings, I guess, and think.

Also, a sidenote: my blog analytics tell me that I have nearly 6,000 page views from Germany in the last week. WHAT?! Can someone please tell me what German site has linked to one of my posts? Because I'm puzzled.

King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath the Moon

What does an 18-going-on-19 year old have to do to get his voice to sound like the deepest, darkest cauldron of secrets? King Krule is but one man, but that doesn’t stop Archy Marshall from finding a way to sound like he has the weight of this complex, tumultuous world on his shoulders. Harsh and unharnessed, Marshall expresses so much emotion that it doesn’t matter when some of the songs here are merely peppered with instrumentation – like shrubbery in a desert.
Small atmospheric synthesizers float through “Foreign,” creeping under Marshall’s lyrics. You can hear trip-hop influences on the sparse “Ceiling” and album closer “What Is There To Say.” Both are the kind of incredibly chill numbers that rattle languidly, floating into the background.
But 6 Feet Beneath the Moon is also often raucous – even abrasive at times. “Has This His” isn’t an exercise in conventional beauty, and the minor key tonality never lets on to an ounce of hope. The same antagonizing tone rings through “Lizard State,” but the latter is much more playful, with jazzy horns and a racing fit of percussive bass.
“Out Getting Ribs” is starkly different from an earlier version, released under Marshall’s previous moniker, Zoo Kid. Where the early version coated his vocals with reverb and echo, and the guitar riff reigns supreme, the final version is less forgiving. Marshall’s throat sounds rubbed raw, and his anxiety heightened.
This album gives you a taste of Marshall’s many moods, but even the more upbeat songs have an undertone of misery. It’s a harsh listen, but it sounds fresh because it’s also unique. What will really blow your mind is seeing a picture of Marshall after listening. That voice – coming from his babyface – is really something of a miracle.