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lucyroseparton

It is a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon in Whelan’s when I meet singer/songwriter Lucy Rose Parton in the midst of her lengthy European tour promoting her debut album, Like I Used To. Somewhat surreally, the first thing the waif-like 23-year-old does is proffer a tupperware box in my direction and ask if I’d like a brownie. This, I muse through a mouthful of chocolate, isn’t that incongruous coming from an artist who, along with the standard merchandise of CDs and t-shirts, is known to sell own-brand jam and tea (“Builder Grey” – two parts English Breakfast, one part Earl Grey).

The brownies are in fact a gift from a fan, but Parton concedes that selling her own tea is unusual as far as music merchandise goes. “It’s nice to be able to sell different merch if they’ve got the CD already,” she says, though of course – so the story goes – she started selling her tea at shows back in the days when she didn’t have any CDs to sell.

That was a few years ago, when Parton secured a place to read Geography at University College London. “It was always a back-up plan”, she explains, “I went to London to try and do music but I had a place at university in case things didn’t work out. I didn’t know if I was gonna like it or not but I really wanted to give music a shot . . . and then I loved it.”

When she left her native home of Warwickshire, Parton played countless open-mic nights, tirelessly perfecting her craft and climbing the hefty ladder of London’s music scene. Looking back on those early days, Lucy is quick to dismiss the idea that she is really that far removed from where she started. “It feels like I’m still right at the beginning, and I’m still working towards something . . . ” She hesitates before continuing, “It’s really good so far, but it’s not like things are mad crazy or anything. It still feels like things are getting better and better – a really natural progression.”

On the subject of her progression since she started out, at Bestival last September she noted the strangeness of seeing familiar faces from her old school among the sizeable crowd. “Yeah, that was weird. There was another gig recently, actually, and there was this girl who was like . . . the “cool girl” in the year above – and I remember her being like a “mean girl”. And I was probably a geek in her eyes at the time but then she came to the show and queued up and she asked for a photo with me. And I just thought, that is hilarious.” Former-Regina George cases aside, she is grateful for the support she’s been getting: “I mean, people that I knew before are like, ‘It’s amazing that you’re actually doing this,’ and, y’know, it’s really nice of them.”

Her music is pretty and light, her vocals fluid yet powerful, but it is her lyricism especially that has captured attention – it feels a bit like eavesdropping on something very private. Did she feel awkward about playing such candid songs to people for the first time? “Definitely”, Parton agrees immediately. “That’s why ‘Red Face’ is called that – I was embarrassed. I mean, all of my songs, really. I don’t write songs for anybody else but myself, as a release of my own emotions.”

We discuss her musical influences (including Joni Mitchell and Neil Young) but she says that she’s not really limited to a particular artist or genre: “I’m influenced by so many things – by good music – by powerful songs, true emotions, interesting musicality . . . Great art, in general.”

The first time Lucy Rose came into the public consciousness was probably around the time she started singing with Bombay Bicycle Club, featuring heavily as a vocalist on both Flaws and A Different Kind of Fix, and touring with them before veering off into her own music. “I’d love to work with them again,” she says of her time with the band, “It just felt like it was the right time to try and make music for me – I didn’t want to be a backing singer for the rest of my life or constantly hanging onto the coattails of somebody else.”

In person, Parton is a little more reserved than the openness of her songs might imply, but later that night when she gets on the stage, she really comes alive.  She tells me earlier that the part of tour where she’s happiest is when she gets to play to a new crowd every night. I ask her what I fear is a somewhat clichéd question: where does she see herself in five years time? Her response makes me glad I asked, however: “I don’t want to be anywhere but where I am right now. If I’m still getting paid to make music then I’m gonna be truly happy.”

Originally published in tn2 Magazine.

There is a certain tender simplicity to the beauty of Londoner Pete Roe‘s music.  It’s music that sometimes recalls the likes of Nick Drake, with that warm, organic sound that’s rich yet stripped back all at once.  His guitar style is flowing and assured while his vocals are delicate – at times cautious, at times powerful (if, in a restrained sort of way).  His sometimes evocative, poetic lyrics also contrast wonderfully with his often more colloquial phrasing.

There’s just something quite affable and charming about Roe’s music – a sentiment that is apparent in buckets during his live show.  While his brand of folkish musings is not exploring groundbreaking territory, per se, it makes for some warm, somehow quite comforting listening, and makes the prospect of an album from him next year seem quite a treat.

Ten years ago a trio of brothers from Yorkshire started a band and, on the back of an exciting demo and purportedly explosive live shows, it wasn’t long before they were being lumped in with the likes of The Libertines by a music press desperate to find this side of the pond’s answer to The Strokes.  Fast forward to the present day and The Cribs have outlived all the questionable labels, can casually cite Johnny Marr as an ex-member and, somewhat to their own surprise, find themselves at the forefront of the UK’s guitar bands.

On the question of whether they considered being likened to that particular “revival of British rock” music scene as a fair comparison, drummer and youngest brother Ross Jarman is contemplative, as he hesitates before saying, “Ever since we’ve started, people have always tried to lump us in with different scenes; whether that be Yorkshire or London with The Libertines…but people seem to find it hard to put a finger on what exactly we are.  We did come around in that era, and we played shows with them guys in the early days, so people maybe thought we were from the same cloth, but I think we’ve got a different sound.”

Certainly, The Cribs’ jangly garage vibe has endured and kept them with a secure and ever-growing fanbase, but in general there’s a growing perception guitar music is on the decline.  “It doesn’t really affect me and my brothers”, Ross admits, “Even back in 2007 we could see that ship was gonna sink, you know, but I think we’ve always been a bit distanced from that.  I mean, our last two records have been the most successful ones we’ve put out.”

He makes a valid point – The Cribs’ last two albums have both made it into the top ten in the UK charts, which would certainly suggest that guitar music is not quite so dead as some music critics and bloggers might presume.  Then again, does chart success really mean anything to bands with an indie background such as themselves?  “I mean, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care where it ended up..It feels like more of a victory for us because we haven’t necessarily got a top ten record on the basis of most other artists up there – we don’t really get all the media channels and the promotion or that much radio play.  We must’ve played, like, pretty much every venue on the way up to the ones we’re doing now – we’ve been going for ten years now, and that’s helped build some solid foundations.”  He seems tentatively proud as he says, “We’ve done it in our own, independent way and it’s really rewarding.”

‘In the Belly of the Brazen Bull’ is their most recent album, full of lo-fi almost shoegazey garage that recalls ‘90s American alt – not entirely a conscious thing, Jarman says, though he tells me that none of them were ever really interested in Britpop when they were growing up, instead citing American alt as more of an influence.  Gary Jarman’s recent move to Portland may also have played a part in the more American sound to the album, though Ross says that grunge bands such as Nirvana have always ranked amongst their favourite bands.

Which must have made it particularly exciting working with producer Steve Albini on this album, given that he’s the man behind ‘In Utero’.  “Yeah, he’s definitely a character is Steve.  He’s been someone we’ve always wanted to record with – we were talking about it even for the first album.”  Jarman speaks  quite plainly and professionally about the whole thing, suggesting that The Cribs aren’t the sort of band to get too phased by big names.  “He’s got this thing where he doesn’t care what band or what label it is – he just does his thing.  We’d already recorded, like, the bulk of the album with Dave Fridmann” [another seminal American music producer] “and we had some leftover stuff lying around on the cutting room floor – you know, bits of songs that were leftover and we didn’t know what to do with them. Then we just kind of had the idea, as they were quite raw kind of things which we thought would work with Steve Albini’s sound.”

Ross is in fact in Norwich when I speak to him, getting ready for the third night of The Cribs’ lengthy European tour after a long summer of playing festivals.  When I ask about what he’s been listening to lately he speaks very highly of their supporting acts for the first half of the tour – Mazes and fellow Wichita-signings, Cheatahs both of whom he says he’s “really enjoyed so far”.  In Dublin they’ll be playing with some local support from The September Girls whom Jarman refers to as “good friends of ours”, saying they used to play together in the early days and that “everything they’ve done we’ve really liked”.

Before I let him get ready for the night’s gig, I ask if touring really does live up to the rock’n’roll clichés of a massive drink and drug fest.  “We’ve been doing this a long time now”, he replies, thoughtfully, “I don’t know, whatever you end up doing you’re naturally gonna become bored, you know.  You can’t keep things up for that long, I guess, whatever it is.  This tour’s not been too wild, though I guess we’re only three days into it – I mean, I think the only drugs we’ve been doing on this tour is Ryan taking his inhaler every night…”

A big thank you to Ross and the band.  Check out The Cribs’ tour dates here – I very much recommend you try and catch them.  You can buy ‘In the Belly of the Brazen Bull’ here.

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