Best Years interview

BESTYEARSCOVERRecently I reviewed the sophomore EP Drop Out from the pop punk outfit which I loved, and now you can read why they always wanted to make pop punk music, their career highlight, and if they would make music for a Christmas soundtrack…

What pushed your decision to leave ‘reality’ as mentioned in your press release, and fully focus on committing to the band?      
Every band any of us have ever been in had either not worked or run itself into the ground, we all knew that if we dropped everything and focused properly that we could make something of ourselves this time round and so far we’ve done exactly that.

Was pop punk music always the genre you wanted your music to fit in, and for future releases do you want to stay close to the sound you have developed, or explore different sounds?
When we started this was the initial idea, I would like to say “yeah this is what we’re going to do for the rest of our career and it will never change from pop punk”, but you never know what’s going to happen. For now we’re loving it and we want to make a dent in the scene by attempting to bring pop punk back to its roots instead of every band trying to sound like The Story So Far.

What has been the highlight of your band career so far?                                                                                    For me (Ed) I would say playing our first ever show at the Camden Barfly with As It Is which was completely sold out! I’ve seen plenty of bands there over the years and it was pretty surreal. Also having a chance to play with some of my favourite bands from my childhood (Man Overboard).

Where can you imagine the band in a year’s time?
I imagine us still as strong as we are now, even better friends and hopefully smashing it with our newest release… maybe even touring Europe or further. Who knows.

If you were to describe the ‘unique selling point’ of listening to Best Years, what would it be and why?
We’re not trying to be anything we’re not; it’s all natural and we intend to keep it that way. We just want to have fun ourselves and also make sure everyone else does too.

Who would be your dream collaboration?
Dream collaboration would probably be with Good Charlotte/The Madden Brothers, that would be insane and we would be blown away by it I think!

Have you as a band experienced any setbacks – if you have, then how did you learn to deal with them?
We experienced a bit of a setback with being able to afford new gear to gig with and stuff like that, and with only one of us being able to drive it kind of makes it harder to transport all of us and our gear to gigs, but it’s all fun and we have a good time in the Corsa.

If each of you was placed on a desert island, and could only take one album each with you, what would it be and what are the reasons behind your choice?
Joel – Yung Lean / Unknown Death (2002), as it is one of the most emotional albums of all time and would be perfect to listen to for the rest of my life in perfect solitude.
Holland – Transit / Young New England because it has my favourite track of all time on it and it sums my life up perfectly.
Ed – Alt J / An Awesome Wave because I don’t think I could get bored of it and it’s a very chilled and easy to listen to album.
James – Anything by the Foo Fighters they’re the kind of band that really make me think about the important things in life.
Berzins – Slipknot / self titled so I would have a good soundtrack to end my life to and I could also throw up those God damn horns – am I right?!

Would you ever consider making a Christmas-themed track, or contributing your talents to a film soundtrack?
Yeah definitely if it was for the right kind of thing and we all felt comfortable doing it – I guess that would be cool! We’ve had friends who have done some film soundtrack work and it hadn’t worked out that well for them but I guess we would try it.

If you weren’t in the band, what would your dream career be?
Joel – Film/ Multimedia Camera work.
Holland – Navy / Military / Air Force.
Ed – Touring Guitar Technician.
James – Rubix Cube factory worker.
Berzins – Ralph Lauren model.

Drop Out EP by Best Years will be released on the 28th August, and you can listen to Overrated below.

Best Years – Drop Out review

BESTYEARSCOVERBest Years’ Drop Out EP harvests a bold sound, echoing its members’ bold decision to drop all other ‘reality’ in their lives to focus on the band, hence the inspiration behind the name. The EP, featuring three new songs including leading single Overrated, is the sophomore release from the Mancunian group following on from 2014 debut offering Footwork.

Before I even begin reviewing individual songs, the whole sound of Drop Out undoubtedly has a whiff of nostalgia of early material from pop punk bands resting in the mid-2000s such as You Me at Six and All Time Low. Such a throwback sensation won’t fit everyone’s taste, but as an avid listener of this genre of music, I am delighted whenever I hear new music bringing back a taste of pop punk’s glory years.

A sensible place to begin is indeed at Overrated, which is everything a listener of pop punk would expect. A plunging guitar riff? Tick, courtesy of guitarists Ed Lawson and James Hunt and bassist Josh Holland. Strong co-ordinated drumming providing secure scaffolding for vocals and instruments? Tick, from the skilled hands of Josh Berzins. Motivational lyrics rallying people on which ultimately have a strong message? Tick, as vocalist Joel Plews exclaims that “you don’t realise your life’s the same / Week in and week out” and hints that better is to come. Overrated will become the song crowds scream out at Best Years’ gigs, with an insanely catchy chorus. Yes, the song may be very safe and not step out of the dimension of the pop punk box, but it certainly has the power to become a feel-good, almost protesting anthem of a life that ultimately could be better.

Rather unsurprisingly, the remaining two tracks on the EP continue to channel the choppy guitar riffs and fast pace set of Overrated – Built at Last is set in stone as the group’s strong-headed break-up anthem, comforting those who’ve experiences a broken relationship that despite their partner moving on, the outcome is the best part and they will be completely fine eventually. Back Then being played live is almost certain to result in some serious moshing somewhere in the audience, and just like in all good pop punk songs, there is also a part where the crowd can easily join in, as Joel leads a battle-cry of “woah” which the crowd can gleefully join in at the top of their voices.

There is a danger that if Best Years do carry on future releases in the same vein, they may cruelly be drowned out in a field containing more established pop punk groups with similar sounds. However, for now the band has produced a record that works well, with three catchy songs that are almost certain to become anthems for the Manchester group.

You can listen to Overrated below.

Notts Pop Punk Fest at The Maze, Nottingham

On January 3rd, The Maze hosted what was probably Nottingham’s first festival of 2015 with Notts Pop Punk Fest. Last Saturday, a little further into the year and at a more sensible time for a festival, it returned to the same venue with two stages (main and acoustic), all geared up for over seven hours of music. Though described as a pop punk festival, only a handful of the acts fell strictly into that category – this might explain why the festival’s pages have been scrapped and replaced by Hood Fest, ready to return next March.

A prime example of the non-pop punk side of the festival came from main stage openers Pack Mentality, who we saw give a solid show at Derby’s The Vic the night before in celebration of their EP launch. Though largely similar to their Friday night performance, The Maze’s low stage gave them chance to get involved with the crowd, with frontman Daniel Kevan joining the floor in single Salvation, and better sound quality was reflected in the more comfortable vocals.

The fest seemed to be good at getting opening acts right, with Lauren April on the acoustic stage delighting the crowd with her nigh on flawless vocals. Among a selection of her own work came a handful of well known covers, from Alanis Morissette’s Ironic to Sam Smith’s Stay With Me, and an infectious rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing that even had people outside singing along. Lauren gave a performance that demanded attention and respect, boasting the sort of voice that if you heard it drifting out of a pub or cafe would encourage you to step inside and stay till the last moment of her set.

With all the energy of a band with only a few months under their belts, Our Saving Day took to the main stage, along with the crowd working ability and confidence of an established act. A few moments saw the vocals fall flat or be covered by the instrumental, but the atmosphere drummed up from a couple of well known covers (a Fall Out Boy number and trusty pop-punk anthem Stacey’s Mom) left these moments forgotten in the dust.

Other noticeable points across the day included On The Open Road’s clear comfort to return to a more intimate venue after the well tackled main stage at Rescue Rooms which they graced last Tuesday, having less trouble keeping up with the energy of recently-announced lead guitarist Jack Dutton, and Requin Blanc’s upgraded-to-main-stage show, making the most of the significantly improved vocal power available.

Though both stages’ openers had been impressive acts, the stages’ closing sets managed to top that. With the inside of the venue reaching a point of boiling insanity (credit to pop-punk enthusiasm for that), acoustic headliner Arthur Walwin took his set out to the venue’s beer garden with support from Willowen’s “box monkey” – that’s percussion to you and me – George Fullerton. By the end of the first track any general chatter had died down, possibly in awe, as the unexpected duo worked their way through Arthur’s catalogue of hits alongside tracks from his forthcoming debut album. A medley of pop numbers and a mix of the two best known Taking Back Sunday tracks (“the band that got me into pop-punk”, Arthur claims) also cropped up in the setlist.

Quite the contrast to the quaint sing a longs and fairy lights of The Maze’s beer garden, Manchester quintet Milestones had the stage inside to cause a stir. With frontman Matt Clarke and bassist Mark Threfall taking to the floor to bounce life into the all but worn-out crowd, they perfectly reflected the band’s ethos; keep giving it your all. Since releasing their debut single More To Me in December and their debut EP Nothing Left a few months ago, they’ve gone from strength to strength, never slowing down or pausing for breath. A couple of front row fans showed the band the dedication they deserved by chanting every line with the same force Matt did, and the introduction of new, more vocal lead and assertive work went down a treat. Milestones feel – literally and from their position in the music scene – like an act ready to explode into the big-time shows at any given moment.

Though it came across as more of a rock party than its title would suggest, Notts Pop Punk Fest proved another interesting day, with the best acts standing out a mile.

White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again review

tumblr_nmi6zt6bUo1txpsn4o1_1280It’s been a while since a decent blend of post-punk and garage rock appeared on the scene. Thankfully though, July 17th will see Kentucky-based punk outfit White Reaper release their infectious debut album, White Reaper Does It Again, via Polyvinyl Records. Having recieved some acclaim (from both NME and The Guardian) for their self-titled EP last year, you almost can feel the anticipation in the air as the release date closes in. Needless to say, White Reaper do not disappoint.

Opening track and lead single, Make Me Wanna Die, takes the form of a psychedelic track with bubblegum-punk vocals, similar to that of the infamous Joey Ramone. It’s a great start, kicking off the album with a Pistols-esque vibe and some riveting basslines, followed shortly by second single I Don’t Think She Cares. This doesn’t stray much from the first track, but has a much more commericalised presence on the album, playing the middle-man between classic punk rock and that Arctic Monkeys signature sound we’ve all come to either love or hate.

Pills and On Your Mind, on the other hand, has a remarkably distinct 21st century indie rock feel to it, with vocal work that could easily be matched with that of The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. But if that’s a turn off, I wouldn’t worry too much – Last 4th of July stays true to those infectious riffs, blasting us back into the late 70s, while Alone Tonight is more like a Ramones track than anything else on the record.

Unfortunately, almost every record had that one track you should probably avoid. In White Reaper’s case, this is Candy, with its melodies sitting closely next to various rock-does-Christmas songs – perhaps a little too cheesy for this record? However, Sheila soon makes up for this though, with vocalist Tony resembling something close to Johnny Rotten. Either way, we’re not complaining, and it’s bloody good to hear a voice like this again.

Next up, and probably the best track on this record (and perhaps one of the best track I’ve heard so far this year), is the fantastic Friday the 13th. I mentioned that ‘Brandon Flowers meets punk rock’ vibe earlier, but this track takes it to a whole new level. Friday the 13th takes verything you could possibly expect from a massive Killers track, and smashes it together with some gritty vocals, anthemic riffs and messy drums. Impressive work.

Wolf Trap Hotel takes us back to the Pistols-esque atmosphere or classic, 70s punk rock, while Don’t You Think I Know sees the White Stripes meet The Undertones with chanty vocals and catchy indie riffs. The record closes with BTK, the track that occupies the middle ground between the Ramones’ grungy bubblegum punk and today’s heartfelt pop punk. Good and bad point combined, White Reaper Does It Again is exactly what the punk scene needs right now.

Listen to Make Me Wanna Die here:

We Came From Wolves – Self titled review

We Came From Wolves (SSR 015) cover artMay 25th brought us the release of We Came From Wolves’ self-titled debut album via Saraseto Records. The Glasgow-via-Perth quartet had already thrown themselves into the spotlight with the impressive 2014 EP, Paradise Place. This time around though, the band have stepped away from the pop punk melodies of Stallion, Foals, Foxes, Crows and taken a more alternative rock approach.

The album debut opens with a beautifully haunting, one-minute acoustic intro, titled Wolves, before crashing into Glasgow Stranger. With such strong Scottish vocals from Kyle Burgess and some powerful pop-fuelled guitar riffs, this track is going to do well among Twin Atlantic fans. However, it’s Am I Useful? that sees Burgess’ vocal work really stand out – backed up by melodic riffs we’d expect from Deaf Havana’s Fools And Worthless Liars and steady drum beats, it’s a heartfelt and memorable track that won’t disappoint.

Coraline leans towards the band’s older pop punk roots, and there’s a hint of Franceschi-esque vocal work in there too, while Butterflies treats us to anthemic riffs and heavy basslines. Where’d Your Love Go? is the highlight so far, opening track six with a slow, spine-chillling riff. There’s a sense of power behind this track as the chorus kicks in and Burgess sings, “You’ve been keeping secrets from me / All this has to stop right now,” and it’s guaranteed to be a live crowd-pleaser.

Up next comes Validate Me, starting out with an intimate acoustic verse before an explosion of metal-esque riffs takes over in a Young Guns-meets-Framing Hanley spectacular – you can almost hear Kenneth Nixon within Burgess’ vocals here. You’ve Backed The Wrong Horse sticks to this sound, despite another hint of heartfelt pop punk, before I Know You’re Leaving surprises us with a McBusted pop fest and Ruiner draws us in with its catchy lyrics.

Finally, I Need Something slows everything down completely in an emotional acoustic effort. This song alone is enough to make you teary and will ultimately melt your heart when the electric guitar kicks in at the halfway mark. We Came From Wolves’ self-titled debut is packed with ups and downs, but they’ve got an exciting road ahead of them. Good work boys.