BACK TO BRILLIANT: COLD WAR KIDS

Posted on May 14, 2013

There are some bands that hold a special place in our heart and for a few of us here at Topshop HQ, Cold War Kids do just that. The band became an iPod, iTunes and general stereo regular for us when – to the joys of many an indie kid – they launched their debut album Robbers and Cowards in 2007. NME declared them the best new band in America and the rest of the presses heralded their sound as something completely new (which is pretty special in these days of mass music and shared sounds via the ever growing music blogosphere). Our personal penchant for dancing around our bedrooms to Hang Me Up To Dry aside, we’ve been keeping track of Cold War Kids’ movements since their early days. It’s been a bit of a ride for the band – founding member Jonnie Russell left to pursue his own projects and their second album was met with mixed reviews – but we’ve got a feeling 2013 can surely be all about their second coming. The foursome are back with the new album Dear Miss Lonelyhearts and once again embracing their melodious, blues-inspired, indie rock with the same sensitive lyrics and gorgeous vocals from Nathan Willett. This time around there’s just a little more energy, it’s vibrant and varied with Miracle Miles keeping us dancing at our desks and Louder Than Ever sending us back to 2007 with big smiles.

We chatted to the face behind the bass Matt Maust about their latest album, favourite gigs and Nick Cave.

How does this new album differ from your earlier stuff?

Oh, it’s got a great mixture of songs that were kind of “built in the studio”, and then songs like we had on our first record that are very much 4 people playing live in a room, and then a few songs that are kind of a mixture of both.

Did anything specifically inspire this new album?

Nathan read a book called Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, but I haven’t read it yet. I know some of the lyrics were kind of inspired by the book. I think our new guitar player Dann, (who also produced the record) inspired us some. Gaining a new member always makes you rethink your band and style. He brought ideas to the table that were new and refreshing.

How does your creation process begin? 

Very organic. For lack of a better word, I think we sometimes “jam” and ideas come that way usually. It’s a healthy mixture of spontaneity, and zeroing in on things with a microscope.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever played? 

At La Cigale in Paris. We’ve played a few times there and it’s the best crowd and room that I’ve ever been to.

What have you been listening to recently?

The new Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grinderman, Roxy Music, Can b-sides and rarities and Richard Swift. Also this band We Barbarians.

What artist most excites you?

Dieter Roth for visuals, Nick Cave for music, Michael Winterbottom for film, and Wim Wenders for everything.

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

Wim Wenders or PT Anderson.

What are your touring must-haves?

Coffee, pens and crayons, postcards, Fernet.

Watch the video for their latest track Miracle Mile, below and catch them on tour here.

When we were 15 we were having sleepovers, revising for exams, and eating a lot of junk food. Hayley Williams on the other hand was putting together a band and writing the music we’d be throwing our hands in the air to in just a few short years. Doesn’t it make you just the tiniest bit jealous?

Green eyes aside, the band Paramore have been somewhat of a phenomenon, speaking to teens, pop-lovers, alt-fans and wannabe-punks across the world since they exploded onto the scene with All We Know is Falling in 2004. They were the answer to many a youth’s yearning for something more than the bubble-gum, manufactured pop of the early noughties. For us, in leadsinger Hayley Williams, we found an alternative style icon we didn’t know we even needed.

From her metallic orange hair to fitted t-shirts and Dr Martens, us Topshop girls have a serious soft spot for Hayley Williams’ under-done punk-inspired look. (Did we mention she’s wearing a much-loved Dweeb t-shirt from Topshop in her video for Still Into You?) This lady’s locks alone have influenced millions of fluorescent tresses and even inspired a standout copper and coral make-up range for MAC.

Style aside, Hayley and the boys have championed their own brand of emo-pop perfectly. After three albums, a very public band shake-up and all still in their early 20s, Paramore are back with a record Hayley describes as, “needing to find whatever’s next.” Undoubtedly the pressure is on for their first foray as a threesome but we’re equally not surprised to find the album an all around good ‘un. Most surprisingly is how much brighter it is; brimming with energy, high-octane melodies and  a lot less of that teenage angst and a little more sweetness than what’s come before. Fear not, it’s a far cry from the saccharine teeny-boppers out there but some of our favourite moments have come from Hayley’s new opportunities to flex her vocal cords – an emotional Hate to See Your Heart Break and a very soulful Ain’t It Fun - are our top tracks to hear Hayley rock the mic.

We spoke to the  busiest women in the music biz — as she tours across the states – to get the low down on writing a new album in a very new way, what she’s listening to and being a t-shirt and jeans girl.

How did the band’s new make-up alter the album making experience?

Everything with us works differently now. The writing process was the most insane head trip. Taylor stepped up into a primary writing role and I’ve been wondering why we ever waited so long to start writing songs together. He is a mad scientist when it comes to composing music and experimenting with sounds. It was all very new and it made the writing and recording process the most fun we’ve ever had creating for Paramore.

Was there an element of catharsis in the album’s creation or a central inspiration behind the album as a whole?

I guess the main idea behind the whole thing is getting up in the morning and just putting one foot in front of the other. Growing up. Rising above your own past and people’s limited expectations of you.

Did living in LA rather than Tennessee influence your music?

Yeah, I feel like it totally did. For one, it’s constantly sunny there. Almost to the point of it being obnoxious! Haha. The vibe went along with most of the songs we were writing. On top of that, it was good to get away from familiar places and comforts and all that.

We’re big fans of your style here – do you work with a stylist to perfect it?

If we’re doing a video or a big performance, our friend Elizabeth Barrois styles us. Well, except for Taylor. He’s adopted the Johnny Cash uniform. All black everything. For the most part though I really just like to dress myself. I know I’m not great at it… I don’t even know anything about fashion but I think that’s why I can enjoy it.

What are some of your favourite designers or brands to wear?

J Brand, Rag and Bone, Tripp, Topshop, Jeremy Scott. Nothing too fancy. Well, some Miu Miu too. Really though, I’m a t-shirt and jeans girl at heart.

Do you have any style icons or women in music whose aesthetic you appreciate?

Siouxsie Sioux, Cyndi Lauper, Gwen in the ’90s, Missy Elliot in the ’90s —remember the trash bag?—, oh and Scary Spice.

What music are you currently listening to?

A little of everything… Purity Ring, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Iceage, my guy’s band (New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert)  What’s Eating Gilbert, the new Tegan and Sara album.

What are your touring must-haves?

I like the bus to feel like home. Candles, aromatherapy oils, herbal teas… And then of course my computer and other technical crap, which is why the world needs candles and aromatherapy in the first place.

Do you have any shows you’re particularly excited about playing?

We’re playing my favorite ballroom theater type venue in NYC next month. The Hammerstein Ballroom. It’s completely gorgeous. The contrast between the whole place and our music and our fans and all the sweat is perfect to me.

If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?

I never can decide who’d be the most interesting or the most fun. I’m also not great at co-writes. It makes me nervous. Writing lyrics and all that feels so personal. How do people sit down in the same room and do that with strangers? Maybe I’ll find out someday…

Watch the latest music video from Paramore, Still Into You, and get Hayley’s  Topshop t-shirt here.

IN THE LIFE OF GUARDS

Posted on May 3, 2013

If you don’t believe in guardian angels, believe in Guards to guide you down the melancholic, rock-centric road. This threesome caught our attention in California where we threw our hands in the air to their Coachella debut. They didn’t need much time to make a lasting impression on us and we spent the entire set nodding our heads in amazement. With faces hidden by long hippy hair and preppy suits and dresses to boot, Guards revisited old school rock with lush lyrics drawing from broken hearts. But this isn’t their first outing, the indie rock trio released their first LP last February and have already enjoyed acclaim from critics and fans in abundance. Their musical and stylistic influence hails the ’60s mixing upbeat melodic pop with a rocky edge – they’re a true mix of old and young. (NB: You won’t be surprised to hear that lead singer Richie Follin is the brother of Cults’ lead singer Madeline Follin. In fact, a handful of the songs Follin has released with Guards began their lives as Cults tunes!) When it comes to fashion, Guards cut quite a striking figure with Richie and Loren squeezing into skinny pants and shirts and Kylie rocking some of the cutest mini dresses we’ve yet to see – all with a ’70s twist.

Recently returned from their Coachella experience, we had a chat with the threesome who kindly also supplied their favourite tracks of the summer.

You’ve just come back from Coachella how was that?

Surreal.  It exceeded all expectations.  We had so much fun.

How would you describe your music to someone who’d never heard i before?

Psych power Pop Rock.

What can we expect from In Guards We Trust?

Wonderful songs!

What was the inspiration behind it?

A lot of the record was written while we were in the van touring for the EP…so, traveling inspired a lot of it. 

What are some of your must-haves when touring?

A book, noise canceling headphones, iPad or comp filled with movies, recording equipment and vitamins.

Who are some of your favourite bands of the moment?

Tame Impala, Beach House, MGMT, Cults, White Arrows.

Which artist or band would be your dream collaboration?

Joe Meek.

Check out their tour dates here and see their playlist  for the summer below complete with their annotations.

The Action: “Brain”
We love the wahwah peddle guitar part

The Zombies: “whenever you’re ready”
How can you not love Colin Blunstone’s voice?

Can: “Vitamin C”
We love the drum groove.

Count Five: “Psychotic Reaction”
One of our favorite garage songs.  Isn’t it everyone’s?

The Flamingos: “I only have eyes for you”
This is our favorite slow dance song

Francoise Hardy: “En T’Attendant”
We love her voice.  It’s so easy to get lost in it.

Iggy & The Stooges: “Shake Appeal”
How can you not love the guitar line of James Williamson

Jacques Dutronc: “Et Moi Et Moi Et Moi”
We love the production: Raw but innocent.

James Brown & The Famous Flames: “Please Please Please”
Um, Because he’s the godfather of soul.

Little Richard : “Long Tall Sally”
He has the greatest Rock n Roll voice of all time.  Period.

STARLET RISING: GABRIELLE APLIN

Posted on April 29, 2013

There’s a surprisingly large number of people described as internet sensations these days but 20 year-old Gabrielle Aplin is one who can firmly take claim of the title. Aplin made her name as the sweet vocals behind some of the most gorgeous covers we’ve ever heard (and have been playing them around the Topshop office ever since!) Just a few years back Aplin uploaded her blissful songs through her YouTube channel covering bands like Paramore and You Me at Six to the ears of millions of raving fans. But this was a girl destined for greater things.

After her sumptuous cover of The Power of Love for John Lewis’s Christmas advert gained her a wave of brilliant press, she’s broken free from her digital chains and signed to Parlophone, touring non-stop and has a killer album out next month. Aplin isn’t just a cover girl either, she’s been flexing her songwriting skills since she was young and been described by the industry as a “whip smart teen sensation.” Whatever preconceptions you may have of Aplin let them be squashed. This girl (who also has the most perfect fringe we’ve seen for a while and a penchant for cute dresses) has a lot more to offer.

We chatted with the budding songstress about her favourite gigs and being inspired.

What inspires the music you make?

I write based on things that have happened to me or around me. I think it’s important to know what you’re writing about! Musically, I’m inspired by Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, John Martyn…

When did you know that you wanted to go into music?

I never really knew to be honest, there was never a point where I decided it was what I was going to do. It just kind of happened and I’m really grateful.

Did you expect the reaction you got after you recorded your song for John Lewis?

I didn’t have any expectation at all. I knew the John Lewis covers have had varied success before so I didn’t expect anything with mine. I was really lucky that it did so well and was so well received.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?

My biggest headline show so far was at Koko in London. It was sold out too and I remember being the support act there a few years ago

What are your touring must-haves?

I literally take my whole life with me on tour. You never know what you’re going to need. I take lots of traveling and stage clothes. I think it’s Important to eat well too and keep healthy too so I stock the bus up with good food and lots of berocca!

What have you been listening to recently?

Recently I’ve been listening to Kodaline quite a bit, I’m really excited for their first album. Abbey Road by the Beatles has been on quite a bit at home too.

What artist most excites you?

Hannah Grace is an amazing artist and  I’m really excited to see how well she does in the near future

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

Probably Bruce Springsteen. He has the best fun on stage

How would you describe your style?

Quite casual, with a 60′s vibe. I love Jane Birkin and Francoise Hardy.

Where do you like to go out, socialize or shop?

I love west London for all of those things! Camden’s good for going out but Portobello Road is always good for shopping.

How was it being shot by Rankin for Hunger magazine?

I’ve worked with Rankin a few times now so it was really nice to be back for Hunger magazine. He’s an amazing photographer

What’s next for you?

My next single Panic Cord is due out early may and my album English Rain is out on the 13th May. After that I’m I to festival season!

Watch the latest video from Gabrielle Aplin, Panic Cord, below. Buy the album on iTunes here English Rain – Gabrielle Aplin and snap up the single here Panic Cord – English Rain.

THOSE WILD BELLES

Posted on April 22, 2013

It’s sibling duo Wild Belle that have caught our ears’ attention this week. The Chicago pair, Natalie and Elliot Bergman, are a mysterious musical troop that are difficult to unravel; a blend of varied influences and smattering of genres. Reggae, soul, electro-pop and chill-wave all come through in their saxophone-heavy tunes and by some magic these two manage to pull off a new sound with nuanced gusto.

Tracks range from swooning and beautiful to dancehall classics. There’s a great clanging bass and electro keyboards while Natalie declares she “needs a man who treats her right” in It’s Too Late and a languid reggae vibe pulls you through for Keep You, the video of which features a dashing Natalie chasing around a cute seven year old and singing sweetly, “I’ve got a pretty face and a nice dress.”

There are a lot of nice dresses when it comes to this band.  There’s generally just a lot of nice clothes. Natalie Bergman is all about ‘70s with vivid flares, mini denim cut offs and printed halter tops taking lead as her style staples. Her brother Eliot is just as fabulous, preferring beautiful African-printed shirts and the slickest of suits.

Unsurprisingly the band have been well received through the coolest of publications and hottest of festivals. Fresh from Coachella they’re soon off to play Chicago’s cooler than cool Lollapalooza and recently played in a live session for Nylon magazine. They’ve also won press over, appearing in the cult Interview magazine and the little know fashion tome, Vogue. There might just be no stopping this hip and very hot duo. We spoke with the ravishing Natalie about Brazil and her favourite gig.

What inspires the music you make?

Love, travel, colors and patterns. We love Sun Ra and Doo Wop. We love Brazil and will get to visit Sáo Paulo in April! We are drawn to Artists like Malick Sidibé and his stunning photography. Etta James is another big inspiration to me. I could sing along to her music and voice forever.

When did you know that you wanted to go into music?

Music has always been a part of my life – and so I never really thought twice about it. I kind of figured that I had no other choice but to make music.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?

We had a wild show in El Paso a few months ago and TONS of kids came over from Juarez, Mexico to see us. It was one of the most fun nights of the tour. Lots of smiling lots of dancing.

What have you been listening to recently?

Lots of highlife music. Sam Cooke (Darling I Need You Now). Digable Planets made an appearance on the van speakers the other day while we were driving through Amsterdam.

What current music have you been listening to?

The new Tame Impala record is super dope.

What artist most excites you?

DIPLO

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

I think it would be fun to work on a track with Pharrell. I love that Neptunes sound.

What are your touring must-haves?

Tape recorder, books, mascara, somebody back home to send love letters to.

Watch their latest music video, Keep You, below and snap up their latest album, Isles, right here.