The New Cue #24 June 4: Easy Life, The Pretenders, Debbie Harry, Folly Group, Hugar, Fatoumata Diawara, Colleen, Matthew E White, Greentea Peng
4 June, 2021
Welcome to your Friday Recommender edition of The New Cue. This week, Niall interviews Murray Matravers of Easy Life, whose debut album is, at the time of writing, sitting at number two in the midweek album charts. Will it make it to number one? Will there be one last splurge to get it over the line?
(Probably not, realistically. Olivia Rodrigo is miles ahead: that record is massive). It’s nerve-wracking for Matravers, but is it better than working on a fruit and veg stall in Loughborough Market? We find out.
See you on Monday for a not-exclusive interview with Noel Gallagher by Chris, which is nonetheless definitely the most enjoyable of his current PR run. We’ll see if Noel can get it together to send a selfie in time. Have a lovely weekend.
Ted, Niall and Chris.
Line One: Easy Life
Easy Life are one of the breakthrough bands of the past few years. After a run of excellent singles (fifteen of them!) and mixtapes (three!), they finally released their debut album this week. It is possible that, by the time you read this, Life’s A Beach will be Number One in the charts. And if it isn’t, I’m sorry we cursed it. In the run-up to its release, Niall spoke to frontman Murray Matravers about making the record and his days working on Loughborough Market.
Hello Murray, how are you?
Very good. How are you?
I’m good, thanks. By the time people read this, your album will be out there in the world. How does that make you feel?
Oh God... it's a bit nerve-wracking. I'm glad it's finally gonna be out. It's been a long time coming. I'm pleased, but I can't lie. I'm very, very nervous.
It’s been three and a half years since you released your first single. You’ve put out a lot of music since then, do you feel you’ve benefitted by waiting to release an album?
I guess time will tell if it was a good idea or not. We haven't done an album prior to because we hadn't actually written a big enough body of work. Every time I'd write five or six songs, I'd always want to put them out. All our releases leading up to the album were always little time capsules of two or three months writing in the studio. I was like, ‘I love the songs, I want to put them out’. But I've sort of shot myself in the foot because when it came to write the album, I had to start from scratch. I've always felt like we've been quite prolific, so I've never been too stressed about it taking ages to get the album out. I think that's why I feel nervous, because I have put so much music out but I've never put an album out. It does feel slightly different, like a flag in the sand.
You could have just kept releasing singles and been the first band to avoid ever making an album.
I know, I wish we could! A few more diversion tactics just to make it not happen. But it's happening, the wheels are set in motion and there’s nothing I can do.
Before forming Easy Life, you made music but hadn’t got anywhere and were considering giving up. What made this work?
The irony is that it was only when I really got really self-indulgent with the writing that people started to resonate with it. I always thought that I had to write something for someone else for them to appreciate it, and that’s an obvious place to wind up at, thinking, ‘right, what do people like and I will provide them with such things’. But when Easy Life really started to take off was when I was fed up with that mentality and fed up with doing it for all the wrong reasons. I was like, ‘fuck this, I just want to write the music that I enjoy’. And that was when Pockets came out, kind of like laid back, jazzy, stoner pop. A big part of that song is, ‘this is just for me and the guys in the band, if you like it, that's great. And if not, then we don't care.’ What I've learned over the years is that if I enjoy it, then other people can enjoy it too. It's that Ru Paul's Drag Race thing of, ‘if you don't love yourself, and how is anyone gonna love you?’. The process for us has always just been like, ‘do we really like this? Are we having a really good time?’ And if the answer is yes, then we put out.
How did it feel for you when your new music started resonating? You got a mass of diehard fans pretty quickly.
I just wish I started doing it earlier. It feels crazy. Honestly, we have such an amazing community of fans as well. We have fans who turn up to every single show and it’s such a lovely community, we're really blessed. They have their own Facebook groups and all these platforms where they try and arrange to meet up. They seem caring and really sweet people, I'm genuinely really proud of the sort of fanbase we have.
Before the band took off, you worked on Loughborough Market. Did you get involved in all the market hollering?
Yes, very much so. Very, very much. I thank my vocal cords for all the market shouting I used to have to do. I mean, I just love any excuse to shout at grandmas across the road, you didn't need to tell me twice, I'd be doing it straight away. It was great, man. I miss those days.
What was the vibe like on the market?
It was great. We just used to get up early. My boss was a chap called Pat who's a really good friend of mine. He taught me a lot of things, not just about the market, about life. We used to just have a great time, sitting there all day, stirring baked beans and talking about everything. He is a huge music fan so we had a lot to talk about. Life was simple then.
I suppose working there was pretty good for practicing between-song chat?
Exactly. I feel like I could chat to anyone now, I've had to chat to some wrong’uns in my time for sure. It was good practice for all those kind of things. I’ve moved to London now and the markets here are like £10 for a block of cheese. The market where I worked was where you’d go to get a discount or a bargain, it was all a bit hustle and bustle. It's more of a Midlands northern thing.
Do you find yourself judging other markets when you pass them?
Definitely, I go by the fruit and veg stand and think, ‘Yeah, he's done well there’. You can't take it out of me.
Returning to the record, I love the last track, Music To Walk Home To.
Everyone keeps saying that. Going back to the self-indulgent thing, that was the most self-indulgent thing I think I've ever written. I was completely steaming and just freestyled that and that came out. We just put it out anyway.
What music do you walk home to?
It really depends what time it is. If it's like daytime then usually jazz or something really mellow, but if it's at night then usually Burial or something like that. It depends on the weather. I think the weather very much dictates the playlists for me.
Story Behind The Song
Alone, 2016, by The Pretenders
Chrissie Hynde tells Adrian Deevoy - the generous donator of our finest Story Behind The Songs - about the title track from her group’s tenth record.
“Alone was a good song. We were in the studio hanging out and I didn't really know Dan Auerbach [Black Keys frontman and producer Alone album] that well at this point so we were just talking about this and that and he’s telling me about his family and friends and what they are doing. I said, “Well I do everything alone. I go to the cinema alone. I go to restaurants alone. I live alone. I pretty much do everything on my own. And I don’t mind".
Dan says, “Write a song about it”.
I said, “OK” and I went back to my room and I wrote this lyric out. Then on the last day of recording I was waiting for my cab to come. Meanwhile, they had gone and bashed a song down in the studio. I came in and said, “My cab is going to be here in 20 minutes”. Dan goes, “Do you want to have a pass on that song?” I went, “Yes, let’s go”. I went in and had one pass on that song Alone. The doorbell went and I said, “Right, that's my cab, I've got to go”. That was it. That was the song Alone.
Then I went home and listened to the album. And I played it to my guitar player James Walbourne. James and I text each other every day. Just generally being grumpy because we’re the two grumpiest people on earth.
But, James texts me and goes, “I really like the song Alone. It’s my favourite song on the album." I kept playing it to people and that seemed to be their favourite song. The more I thought about it I kept thinking, I’ve heard 1000 songs in my life that I remember. They are all about, "I am so tired of being alone. I can’t live without you. Since you’ve left my world has fallen apart. When am I going to see you again? Marry me and be with me for the rest of my life". Every song I have ever heard is about, "The sun doesn’t shine anymore now that you have left". I have never heard anyone celebrate being alone in a song. I couldn’t think of one.
So, I played Alone to some other friends. I’m afraid I don’t know very many men who are alone. Men can’t seem to be alone very often - they can’t survive alone but I know a lot of women that are on their own. People think that everyone is out there on social network looking for a partner all the time but, actually, a lot of people are glad to just be able to get on with their life.
Morrissey - I’m proud to be one of what he calls his seven friends - says being alone is a great privilege. Not only is it a privilege but it is a great privilege of an affluent society because two thirds of the world you cannot be alone because you have to be in a huge team just to survive daily.
But let us not in any way diminish the fact that loneliness is an epidemic in our society. I have been alone most of my life. As has Morrissey and I know for a fact that he fucking hates it too. We hate it but it is a privilege. We hate it and we don’t want to be alone but on the other hand we accept it because it affords us a lot of freedoms that otherwise we wouldn’t have.”
I couldn’t put my finger on what it was about Sand Fight, by London’s Folly Group, that had me listening on repeat over the past week. Then I did put my finger on it. Shrill guitar hooks, a vocalist who sounds like he’s squeezing an extra syllable out of every word and a rhythm section perfectly balanced between precision and wonkiness: it sounds exactly like Late Of The Pier. I loved Late Of The Pier, they were smart and funny and had great songs and if the rest of Folly Group’s Awake And Hungry EP, out on So Young next week, sounds like this, then I’m all in.
Jawny might sound like the name of a character from Grange Hill who gets in trouble a lot, he’s got a good heart, leave him alone, but it’s actually the artist handle of Californian Jacob Lee-Nicholas Sullenger. His new single Take It Back is an up’n’at’em joy. The verse is nice enough, with its playful little Beck-style groove, but really it’s all about the chorus and the big singalong hook, pummelling drums and fuzzy guitars. It’s dumb as you like, and I like it a lot.
But, hey, don’t worry, it’s not all high-energy rock’n’roll round here, I’m still doing my civic duty to bring the vibe down wherever I go, and for that I have turned to Hugar. They’re an Icelandic duo who make rather miserable and lovely ambient music and their new EP Þjóðlög / Folk Songs is out now on XXIM. I’ve got no idea what Icelandic folk songs are about, but I imagine it’s things like expensive beer, volcanos, the supermarket Iceland, Damon Albarn nicking your parking space and Game Of Thrones. Stuff like that.
First of all, feast your eyes and ears upon this wonder…
During the first lockdown, Malian singer, songwriter and actress Fatoumata Diawara enlisted an all-star, all-female group of musicians of African origin or descent to work on a song that she hoped would underline the importance of harmony in challenging times. The result – starring Diawara alongside Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves, China Moses, Inna Modja, Somi, Mayra Andrade, Thandiswa Mazwai and Terri Lyne Carrington – is Ambè, which means ‘altogether’ in Bambara. Check it!
I’ve been listening to the gentle but intense looped ambience of Colleen’s The Tunnel and the Clearing constantly for the last week. Using sparse electronics and organs, she creates a sound as opaquely psychedelic as a stain-glassed church window on a summer’s morning. It’s beautiful. While she was honing her craft two decades ago, Cécile Schott, the artist otherwise known as Colleen, was an English teacher at a large school in the Parisian suburb of Poissy, recording her first four albums while still delivering lessons to surly French teenagers, before she quit teaching in 2007(ish). Twenty years after recording her first demos, she has here delivered her defining statement. Let that be an inspiration to all bedroom dreamers.
A few weeks ago, Niall recommended Real, a single by New York-resident and Uruguayan national Juan Wauters that featured Mac DeMarco. It previewed Wauters’ fifth album Real Life Situations which came out at the start of May and has been keeping the home fires aflame ever since. It’s a sunny mix of Latin textures, squelchy pop and hip hop that does not respect musical boundaries or moods – it’s as funny as it is wistfully melancholic. A thirty-minute banger.
For your consideration, I have compiled some of my favourite tracks that came out in May (including Dot Allison’s new single which actually came out in June). I make this Best of My Month compilation every month, if you want to rummage through my archives.
With his Spacebomb label, albums, numerous collaborations and production work, prodigiously bearded Virginian Matthew E White has been a one-man Cosmic Americana hit machine. Or he would be if a mix of psychedelia, gospel, soul and krautrock bothered the charts much.
Following on from an album with septuagenarian visual artist Lonnie Holley in January, White’s got a new solo record, K Bay, coming later this year. Out now via Domino, the lead single Genuine Hesitation is a blast. Seven minutes of fleet-footed motorik that manages to thematically stitch together Born Under Punches by Talking Heads, Steve Reich and Bowie’s V-2 Schneider. It also sounds quite a lot like Nick Cave. You can watch the video below too if you like…
If you like third eye-opening jams of a stronger brew, neo-soul polymath Georgia Anne Muldrow is always a reliable port of call. Out today via Foreseen, VWETO III is the third instalment in a series of hip hop instrumentals designed to showcase her production chops and invite collaborations. As a musical C.V. it's a tour de force - a dizzying splurge of Afrofuturistic funk, boom bap beats, psychedelic wig-outs and disjointed electronica. Although given Muldrow’s previous clients include Arlo Parks, J Dilla and Erykah Badu you can’t imagine she’s desperate for the work.
You’d suspect Greentea Peng would make an interesting record with Muldrow. Out today via AMF/EMI, the Bermondsey singer’s debut album, Man Made, has its antennae up to receive similar cosmic reverberations. Erykah Badu is touched on in its jazzy, stoned soul but Peng’s glottal stopping attitude and the soundsytem dub that clatters throughout root it firmly in Peng’s South London postcode. It’s brilliant…
Hello mate, got anything good I should hear?
Record shop staff show off their finest wares
This week: Jon Clifford, owner of Dreamhouse Records on Francis Road in Leyton, East London, which opened last Friday.
Gyrate, by Pylon, (released in 1980 on DB Records)
"I first heard this when it was reissued by DFA a good few years back and it’s safe to say it’s been one of my most listened to albums of recent times. Upfront bass, tight drums and snarly vocals, so many bands have taken their cues from this album since, and it’s become one of those albums that I go to when I can’t decide what to listen to, and that happens a lot. Hundreds of plays later and I still love it, absolutely essential listening."
Plenty more of where that came from down at Dreamhouse. More info about the gaff here
Debbie Harry on why you should never accept lifts from strangers.
“Never hitchhike [before joining Blondie, Harry accepted a lift from serial killer Ted Bundy. Realising something wasn’t right, she let herself out of the car at some traffic lights]. I was recently reading Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America and his adventures were so unbelievable that I walked away wondering if he made the whole thing up. But I would definitely say don’t go hitchhiking. Do I look back and think, “What was I thinking?” No, I knew exactly what I was thinking but I just got lucky.”