In the spotlight: Mark Cokes

Mark Cokes is a singer/songwriter and marathon swimmer. Mark was born in Dublin (Ireland) where he lived till his early twenties before emigrating to Australia, New York and Los Angeles finishing his travels in Bosnia and Italy.

“I returned home with a head full of cultured madness and a heart full of exciting opportunity.”

“I am now settled with a family in Wexford a short distance from Dublin. Ireland is a great country full of passion for music, poetry and the arts, a catalyst for everything that is creative in me. I feel so blessed every day to be able to express myself this way.”

What got you into music? What kind of music do you like?

“Well bands and artists like Thin Lizzy, The Cranberries, Boomtown Rats, The Stunning, Paul Brady and Rory Gallagher to name a few had a huge influence on me growing up alongside internationally, the wonderful era of Punk, Ska and New Wave with a sprinkling of the Grateful Dead to keep it authentic”

Who are your main musical influences?

“The Clash undoubtedly were one of my biggest influences showing how to change with the times and reinvent yourself with their iconic album ‘London Calling’. It was an album with so many different music genres on it, they risked losing their core fanbase of Punk/New wave; instead, they exploded on the scene after it.”

“This never left me, encouraging me at first to get my youthful angst out on a drum kit where I ended up in the Dublin school of music learning how to play drums and see how music came together in a disciplined format, something I struggled with at first. If I am honest, I skipped off a lot of theory classes (to my regret) to run across to the Dandelion Market to watch a very new band just starting in the tiny water puddled rat infested gig area, called U2. Yes, Dublin really was a music heavyweight at the time it just didn’t know it.”

Have your musical tastes changed over the years?

“I suppose the string of bands that I had the absolute fortune to drum with and have been a part of from my early teens till now (Rottweiler, Intensive care, Dead Drunk, One Too Many, Too Many goldfish, Open Vision and The Field), drumming with solo artist John McGlynn (Anúna/Riverdance) are like a sign post of how my musical taste knowledge and experience went from manic excitement to an urge to want to express what lay deep inside in a melodic yet lyrically evocative way.”

“Now amazing Irish singer/songwriters like Glen Hansard, Declan O’Rourke, Damien Dempsey and Damien Rice evoke emotions in me that are simply too amazing to describe but have helped target that inner poet that is Mark Cokes.”

You’ve played in bands before. When did you decide to go solo?

“I had always written poetry from a very early age and have amounted a selection of around a hundred poems. They have been faithful companions unveiling an unknown self that became strong enough to get me through the difficult periods of life none more so than the death of one my best friends from cancer. Out of a need to shout out the visceral grief from this monumental event unfolding in my life I picked up the guitar in an attempt to tell him how I was feeling and I suppose that’s when I became a solo artist, I think (laughs).”

What can you tell about the first song you wrote?

“I simply wanted to tell my mate two words “Thank you” for being you, and there it was my first solo song. I nervously approached my trusted musicians that I had played with as a drummer for twenty years on/off and they accepted me into the fold as a songwriter helping me put a wonderful shape on it. But here I ask, is anyone really a solo artist?”

“‘Thank you’ hasn’t been officially released yet, something I know there will be a right time for. Through my mate’s death he gave life to so many people and in particular to my song writing. It was so appropriate that he was such an ardent music lover but couldn’t play a note.”

What are your fondest musical memories?

“Well, ‘Thank You’ got the ball rolling and lots of those poems that had been hiding in the recesses of my heart found their way on to the strings of my guitar and out to the world as melodies so much so that the ‘Seannachaí’, which is Gaelic for “Storyteller”, was born.”

“In a natural progression the theme for my first solo performance in the iconic Dublin gig venue The Sugar Club was “Seannachaí, stories of Hope and Love” a musical experience I will never forget. I surprised my best friend by playing ‘Thank you’ in the middle of my set, having invited his 15-year-old son on stage to play piano with me and my band. My friend died shortly after this, but this memory in particular still lives on in me every dayand the bones of my first EP was conceived that night and is aptly named ‘Seannachaí’ of course. His death encourages me now to live everyday like it is my last, something he was a perfect example of.”

Let’s talk about your new single ‘Dive Right In’. What inspired you to write this song?

“Outside of music my other love is swimming and I am an open water marathon swimmer. Recently in August 2021, I swam 16 kilometres (10 miles) along the Irish coast to help raise awareness and funds for two great friends Marty and Al and their organisation Ataxia Foundation Ireland, who have this life limiting incurable muscle degenerative condition called Friedrichs Ataxia.”

“In July 2021, in prep for previously mentioned swim above, I spent a very intense week swimming with some of the best marathon swimmers in the world in what is known as Cork Distance Week in Ireland. I was humbled and honoured to be there swimming every day for 4 hours on average and I realised how much support my fellow swimmers, friends, family, back home in Wexford, internationally and now in Cork were giving me. They have become the “light that shines on the water” which helps me to ‘Dive Right In’ everyday just like they do living with Ataxia. (Read about it here afi.ie)”

“My new single is serving as a tasty appetiser, for 2022 is going to be a massive year for afi and I, huge surprise and challenge coming.”

What does it feel like as an artist waiting for the songs you’ve lived with to be released to the fans?

“Releasing this new single in particular felt very emotional as not only is my friends “live everyday like it’s your last” and Marty and Al’s approach to life in it, but the warmth, support and friendship of all my other friends is so closely weaved into the lyric. What else can I do but Dive Right In and let it out to the world. I hope it helps people reflect about their loved ones and seize the moment.”

How do you balance music with your other obligations?

“Alongside my music I started to work with those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, something all too prevalent in the music industry. Most songs start out with a feeling of melancholy, even the happy ones, so the work music balance can be (but not always) complimentary.”

“In helping others, you need to know yourself very well, when you get lost for words to say, music helps you stretch out your fingertips in to the darkness and let go; as one of the concepts of AA states “in order to keep it you have to give it away”.”

“…just like swimming it never really is a solo sport you always need a team.”

What can you tell me about your creative process? What inspires your lyrics?

“It can be different every time, words first, music later or vice versa. Sometimes a guitar, sometimes a drum beat. For example, with ‘Dive Right In’ there was a melody on loop in my head as I looped the swim route in Cork, the lyrics inspired by “living in the moment” came to me. When I got home, with a very rough guitar I went to the most amazing producer/musician and friend Jimi Hemp, who just gets what I am trying to say and we weaved, together, a song that we are very proud off. Without Jimi it wouldn’t happen and just like swimming it never really is a solo sport you always need a team.”

What’s next? Are you working on an album?

“There is no album in the pipeline yet, but there are two singles which Jimi and I hope we can finish sooner than later. One about my soul mate and the other of course about the water as a place to simply let “the sea within me” tell the stories.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool 20?

“Oh, that’s easy ‘Paris’ by the Collective Music Society because they stand for everything that is right about indie music, literally the collective collaboration is brilliant.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“‘Breaking Through’ by A band Called Paul ft Joelid. There are few people that I know that I can call real musicians and this man Paul is one. He humbly teams up with American rapper Joelid in what is an amazing fusion of talent to bring out a kick ass tune.”

Spotify Mark Cokes

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Twitter @MarkCokes

YouTube Mark Cokes

(All photos by Una Williams)


Lean’s pick – Transit by Slow Res

This song was released yesterday, but it immediately caught my attention. Normally we only add tracks to the list that are submitted by the artists themselves, but I’ve made an exception for this one.

Slow Res is the alias for Dutch artist Nicky Hustinx. He is mostly known for playing drums on tour with Fink, a band that I have seen live quite a few times. This song is completely different from what you might expect from a drummer. Instead of showing off his drumming skills, he makes electronic mellow synth music. This song is perfect for a relaxed Saturday like today.


Padre Toxico – Summer in LA | Ambient Encounter

Padre Toxico comes from as he describes it “a small country in Europe, where law is being broken by the government on daily basis and where freedom is being taken away everyday from innocent people. Where tolerance is only a word in a dictionary, it’s Poland.”

If music was his main source of income, he would starve to death. It probably applies to a lot of the independent musicians. Then what drives you into music? Padre Toxico: “As far as I remember music was with me every single day since my primary school. But for a long time I was only a passive music consumer. Time was passing by and I was starting to listen to new genres, I started experiencing music on different level, listening to each track many times to get out of it all I can with my ears. I wanted to make music for as long as I can remember. I tried 2 times in the past when I had all the time I could wish for, but I was not ready. Finally in November last year my good friend talked me into getting music gear. I was telling her how I have this urge to create something and to give back the music community at least a part of what I got out of listening to music consciously. And here I am”.

Even connecting the hardware to my laptop and getting any sound out of it was a blast

Padre Toxico has no experience in music at all. He calls himself a ‘total noob’. “I just read the manual for my maschine mk3. Even connecting the hardware to my laptop and getting any sound ouf of it was a blast”. But now that he has mastered these skills, he creates his music all by himself. Only exception is the vocal version of „Summer in LA” which was blessed with Pri’s beautiful voice. “She made that track, that was released as an instrumental track, complete and made it sound like it should sound from the beginning.”

Padre Toxico is now busy working on the release of his new LP which is called ‘Mandala’. It drops 24.08.2020. “I am really excited to see if people will like it”.

In the future he would love to get some features from rappers as hip-hop is his first love. “I always wanted to make my ‘Life Supplement’ a vocal album”. There is another project on the side, but he doesn’t want to jinx it, so we will have to wait for more about this. It may take some time because he also feels he needs to rest a while as the last months were very exhausting.

“I would like to thank all my listeners, I was not expecting such support in my wildest dreams. Music is fantastic journey, and if you want to try your skills in dropping some killer tunes – DO IT. We live only once, and we regret the things which we didnt do.”

How did you come up with the name Padre Toxico? “Hey. it is a complex story, don’t want to bore anyone. Good thing is that there is only one Padre Toxico in music :)”.

You can find his handles below. Give him a follow!

In the spotlight: Riley Whittaker

Riley Whittaker is a 17-year-old indie alternative musician/songwriter currently living in Nashville (USA). In addition to playing guitar, she also plays the keyboard, ukulele and violin. Riley grew up in a small town called Sedona, Arizona. She lived in the same town her entire childhood, and didn’t move out of it till about a year and a half ago when she moved to Nashville.

“Coming from a small town I was surrounded by the same people almost every day. Sedona was a great place to grow up and I made some life-long friends. It really inspired me as a musician and gave me a good amount of opportunity as I was one of the few musicians living in Sedona. Although it got me started as a musician, Sedona had limited opportunity for musicians. Moving to Nashville opened my eyes to so much for more in the music world, and with things in general. Sedona will forever be my hometown, but Nashville has given me so much in just a year!”

Was it a hard decision for you to move to Nasville?

“The decision to move to Nashville definitely felt very spontaneous, although I had been begging my parents to move to Nashville for years prior. We moved right in the middle of the pandemic, so that aspect of things made it harder than it might’ve been. I started school online so it was hard to meet people, and make connections, but as the city started to open up, I fell in love with it more and more. Nashville has provided me with such amazing opportunity already, and I have met some incredible people. I find myself liking it more and more as I am here.”

How did you get into music, and what is your musical background? Do you come from a musical family?

“I have always loved music. From a young age I was singing and putting on small showcases in my living room for my family. I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock, as well as I was a huge fan of Adele and Taylor Swift. I knew quickly as a kid that music was something I wanted to pursue. My mom and dad aren’t musicians, but my uncle on my mom’s side is a full-time musician in Boston.”

You just mentioned Adele and Taylor Swift. Are they also the ones who influenced your music? Who are some of your musical influences?

“As a kid I listened to a lot of Adele, so I’d say she definitely is a big influence of mine. I also grew up listening to a lot of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Taylor Swift, and a lot of classic rock! My recent major influences have been John Mayer, Dave Mathews, Holly Humberstone, and Billie Eilish.”

If you had to convince people who have never listened to your music to start listening to your music, what would you tell them?

“Good question!! I would probably describe my newest music as oddly descriptive situations you probably have gone through to with catchy melodies you can scream in your car to!”

In addition to playing guitar, you also play the keyboard, ukulele and violin. Which is your favourite?

“Yes! I’d have to say guitar! Guitar is where most of my songs are written, and It’s just such a beautiful instrument. There are so many melodies, and chord progressions that stem out of a guitar, and I think it’s fascinating how long guitars have been around, and how they have stayed fairly similar to how they were 100’s of years ago.”

What can you tell me about the first song you ever wrote? 

“The first song I wrote was probably about my dog or stuffed animal in the second grade (laughs). But I really started to take songwriting seriously when I was 12. The first song I decided to write and take to the studio was called ‘Always on My Mind’. It was about a guy who made me angry in middle school, and I sat in bed, like an emotional songwriter does, and wrote a song about him. (laughs)”

I always love hearing about the song writing process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into that?

“The process for me is different every time. Sometimes it starts with a random melody in my head at 3 am, and me attempting to sing into my phone, or with a chord progression! A lot of times I find myself just sitting down with my guitar and coming up with the lyrics and chord progressions together, but it definitley depends on the situation.”

Your song ‘Love Somebody’ is currently in our chart. You also released a video for this song. Do you enjoy making music videos?

“Yes! I love making music videos! I did a lot of acting as a kid, so getting to act in music videos is super fun for me, and I love the whole visual side of projects. I also love getting to bring my lyrics to life with visuals. I feel like it allows people to connect with the song more, as well as sometimes I find myself discovering ideas or emotions that may have gone into the song that I may not have been aware of when I was writing it.”

What are you currently working on?

“I am about to release my first single of 2022! I’m super excited about that! As well as I’m booking a ton of full band shows around Nashville and surrounding areas!”

What can people expect from your live shows?

“To have fun!! I just want to connect with people emotionally with my lyrics, and speak to a room full of strangers in a way that makes us feel like we’re not strangers 🙂 To scream those catchy bridges we all love, and to just have a good time.”

What’s your favourite song to play live?

“Right now it’s definitely ‘Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked‘. It’s such a fun song to play, especially with a full band!”

Do you have any hobbies outside music or perhaps hobbies that contribute to your musicality? 

“I write a lot, as well as I love hanging out with friends. I feel like a lot of my songs stem from my social life. I also really like traveling and getting to see different places.”

What social issues are you most passionate about? 

“I’d say social media and how it reflects this idea of what a “perfect body” and “perfect life” is supposed to look like. It’s so hard not to compare yourself to others, especially when social media shows only what we want our viewers to see. I find myself falling down the rabbit hole of comparing myself to what others may be doing, or how others look and it’s such a dangerous path to fall down. It’s so hard to escape the false reality our phones can create, but I think today’s generation, and this day and age people are more aware of the issue, and there is a lot of positivity that goes around as well. We just have to remember we are all different and that’s what makes us beautiful. :)”

What do you think of talent shows such as American Idol?

“I think they can be a great way for people who love singing to take their passion to the next level, but I also think it depends on what type of path you are trying to take with music. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be on any of those shows, but I’m not a huge fan of voice competition. I did a lot when I was younger and it was fun for a while, but it starts to become more about winning then the passion itself, and I didn’t like that about it.”

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

“I hope to have released an album, and have a solid group of people who love my music, and to be able to go on the road and tour around the world and perform it for them!!”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“My favorite song from the Cool Top 20 is ‘Desert Marigold‘ by Ri Wolf and Sopie Dorsten. The song is super pretty! I love the cover art and the guitar in it is beautiful!”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track?

“I would like to add the track ‘Cooler’ by AJ Smith. I had the opportunity to play a writer’s round with him and he is an amazing artist and this was my favorite song I heard him perform live!”

Riley is on Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

New Release – Monsters & Heroes (album) by Shoun Shoun

Bristol (UK) based four-piece Shoun Shoun (‘shoon-shoon’) play unflinching, atmospheric dream pop and art garage rock wlth the urban ennui of Nico mixed with the noise of Sonic Youth with a certain Velvet Underground elegance.

Following up on the 2019 release of their EP ‘A Hundred Trips’, they are set to release their debut album ‘Monsters & Heroes’ on 28th January. The band describes the album as followed:

“‘Monsters & Heroes’ is a beautiful cocktail of abrasive garage rock, soporific dream pop, playful psychedelica and carnal post-punk. It embraces both darkness and bliss. The album counters breezy, echoing guitars, swooning harmonies, eerily seductive almost spoken word and then marries them with direct lyricisms, shrieking strings and a thick layer of fuzz which explodes into shrapnel throughout the course of the listen.”

“The album is a fractured collection of songs, reflecting how fractured a period of time the last two years have been. Half of the songs were written and recorded before the lockdowns began and the other half recorded once the band could be together again. Some of the tracks were written in my loft during lockdown as a way to cope with the loneliness. It was all done in complete DIY fashion in a hired studio space with a portable studio and then mixed and mastered in our loft. I’m really inspired by bands like Bob Vylan and Du Blonde who fiercely protect their independence.”

Alongside the album comes their next single ‘Did I Play Games’ also due for release January 28th.Did I Play Games’ is already available on Soundcloud.“

“This song was lyrically inspired by a friend that once drunkenly crashed on Annette’s kitchen floor; creating a story around that night with all of the fog and confusion the next day brings. “Don’t know how I got here, did I play games? Did I have fun?”

New Release – Butterflies by Sophie Dorsten & Alex Dorsten

Sophie Dorsten is an indie-pop singer/songwriter born and raised in the Phoenix, Arizona area. She has been singing her strong, dynamic sound around the Valley and beyond since she was 9 years old. When the world shut down due to COVID her brother Alex moved back home from college and they combined forces and started creating songs together.

Their new single ‘Butterflies’ is out 28th January. A pre-save is available here.

“It’s a very poetic, lyrical song about wanting to escape reality and live in this world of fantasy, but I know I have to wake up from that dream land.”

If butterflies could escape from my mind. What would they do? where would they go?

“Alex and I recorded it in our home studio. I wrote the song, lyrics and melody, and he created the music and produced it. Alex played all the instruments. We have fun working together in the studio and it always sparks us to create other songs – we probably have 5 more songs in the works! This is going to be an awesome year!”

“I created the cover art on my iPad with Pro-Create – I must’ve changed it a dozen times. I had a vision of it in my head when I wrote the song but kept losing myself in it and got too picky about it. The song is so “fantasy” and lyrical and I wanted that “surreal” feeling on the cover.”

“I am honored to have an amazing team behind us – Warren Wyatt – WorldSound, American Artiste, Mark Needham-mixing engineering, and Ingrooves/UMG for distribution.”


New Release – Turquoise Tears (EP) by Chenél No.1

From sunny South Africa, songwriter Chenél No.1 likes to focus on expressive country, folk and rock music. Her lyrics are rich with imaging and storytelling. 2022 will bring more opportunities to showcase her lyrical content. Her new EP ‘Turquoise Tears’ will be out on 28th January. You can pre-save the album here.

How would you describe the EP?

“This 4 song EP will take you on a journey of reliving a failed relationship, perhaps even contemplating a current one.”

“The first song, ‘Turquoise Tears’, is also the title of the EP. My favorite colour has always been turquoise and I’ve built most of my artist branding around it. Continuing to hone my skills as a songwriter I did a song challenge using a colour as my starting point. The alliteration worked well. So I slowly started drafting my song and molded it into a story of a person caught off guard when a lover suddenly dumps her. I loved the imaging of sadness harnessed in crying so much it could block out the sun and fuel fierce rivers.”

“Continuing on the path of heartache, ‘Will I ever love again’, was written in 2020 with a strong acoustic vibe. Here the character has to deal with rejection and the fact that the person she loved keeps crossing paths with her and opening old wounds all over again. The main question keeps returning whether healing will take place for her.”

“The next song, ‘In a Moment In a Flash’, makes a little U-turn from this sombre direction and deals with a person declaring their adoration and commitment. It’s a song of hope and knowing in a split second that you’re willing to ensure the other party’s emotional and physical well being is placed above your own.”

“To end of the EP, ‘You don’t care at all’, the distraught lover is left to pick up the pieces and feel betrayed by the person they thought would never leave them. It’s a story familiar to most as everyone has had that one unbelievable breakup where they question themselves and what they could have done to prevent it.”

How long was the recording process?

“This project was completed over two months and I’m really proud of the acoustic vibes and overall sound of the song collection.”

“As I work fulltime, I have to schedule my recording times after hours with my producer. I usually pitch my song idea, lyrics and chords in advance. We discuss the feel, instrumentation and genre. There after we prepare a guitar reference track which I then sing to. After that the real magic happens when the musicians contribute their talent to the track.”

Is there a story behind the cover artwork? Did you make it yourself?

“I designed it myself as I have experience working with different artistic mediums. Mostly I draw/paint/design for my own projects and pleasure.”

“As the title of the EP implies, I really wanted to create the artwork that shows a person drowning in their own tears. I chose a beautiful freckled face to show vulnerability and imperfections. The water/tears have a flowing motion to indicate the rising tide causing the person to drown in their brokenness. It’s a simple design, but fits well with the overall sadness of the EP.”

More: https://chenelno1.com

In the spotlight: the Vain Travail

The Vain Travail is a five-piece collective from the Netherlands, whose members are top Dutch session musicians. They started in 2018, and only ever rehearsed once: it’s all about writing and arranging beautiful songs, and they do so from their home studios scattered across the country.

The project started in 2018 as a new way of having a band: they had the same basic idea of what kind of band they wanted to be in, but no time for another source of endless rehearsals and band meetings. And that worked, albeit slowly.

When the world slowed down due to Covid-19, the Vain Travail made the best of it and sped up working on their album. Their debut album ‘After a Silent Disaster’ was released in November 2021. It is one of my favourite albums from 2021. I asked lead singer and lyricist Arthur Adam ten Cate, some questions about the album and the backstory of the band.

You played in a one-off Radiohead tribute band in 2016 together with Dirk Schreuders, Len van de Laak and Bertolf, which laid the foundation for the band. As I understood, you then started sending each other song ideas. When came the idea of recording an album? Did you already have a name for the project back then?

“At first Dirk and I thought that this could be the band we dreamed of having. We weren’t thinking about recording an album. A few songs, a few gigs, maybe. About a year later we had four demo songs and we agreed on the band name. Early 2018 Dirk and I started thinking about recording an album for the first time. Len too, but he’s this really laidback guy who was just like “yeah, cool I’m in”.”

The band name derives from a poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt. How easy was it to come up with a band name that you all agreed on?

“Fairly easy, actually. I had thought of the name before, and thought it was so cool I already registered the domain name. I told the others: well, we have a band without a name, and I have a band name without a band, what do you think? They all agreed.”

When did Dave Menkehorst and Jonas Pap join?

“Dave joined the band in August 2017. Dirk, Len and I were also playing in another tribute band, with Dave: ELO. At the time I thought he was just a really cool drummer and a nice guy, later on he turned out to be a mixing genius and quite the singer too.”

“Jonas Pap was part of the same ELO tribute band, and he used to be Dirk’s roommate in their Conservatory years. I found Jonas intimidating at first: insane music skills, big guy, quite loud. Dirk convinced me Jonas would be good for the band, and he joined us early 2018, around the same time as Bertolf left the band to focus on his solo work. Dirk was right.”

You released an EP ‘All is quiet’ in April 2021, which was followed by your debut album ‘After a Silent Disaster’ in November 2021. Are you happy with the response?

“Well, we are happy with your response. And quite a few indie sites found out about us. We get great responses from the people that have heard us and that’s really cool. But it’s hard to get attention from a bigger audience, especially when you can’t – and won’t – do shows and tours. And even more so when you release an album towards the end of the year – magazines and radio stations tend to have different priorities in December. So, yes and no. There is still some vain ambition driving us.”

The album was mostly written and recorded from your respective homes. How did that work? Did you just send files back and forth or did you have video calls?

“We sent files back and forth. But I have to explain some more. Before Covid-19 hit Europe, we already had the back story and concept for the album, and the skeletons of about 11 songs. Dirk, Bertolf and I wrote and recorded some cool parts of songs in Dirks studio, I wrote the basics for a few songs myself en made demo recordings at Jonas’ studio with Dirk, and that’s the stuff we sent each other, adding layers, deleting layers, cutting songs into pieces again, starting over. We were really happy with the song material and the ideas, but they still were sketches, as if we were afraid (and too busy) to really finish them. And that thought also slowed us down, we were thinking that this would maybe never get finished. But then Covid happened: everyone had to stay indoors, all gigs were cancelled, the others had time on their hands and we had the setup to work online, so we said: let’s turn this shit around, make the best of it, let’s make an album!

Did you work on one track at the time or multiple ones at the same time? What can you tell me about that process?

“We worked on multiple tracks at the same time. I tried to coordinate stuff, by giving people assignments and deadlines, like “by the end of next month Dirk has done the bass part for this, added vocals on that, played harmonium on a third song, etc”. And then the harmonium part was awesome, but made the guitar part obsolete, and then that had to be redone. And the same went for several instruments. On all songs. At the same time, more or less. And when finally everybody was happy about the parts, we sent the stuff to Dave, to mix it. And then Dave would send messages, like “ok, I had an idea, check it out, but if we’re going with this, you have to redo the vocal. And the guitar”. So it was really studio madness, crazy creativity, but without being in the same studio together.”

Do you have any favourite memories of writing and / or recording the album?

“A lot of memories come to mind, but for me personally the heaviest one is: my wife and I went to Ireland on holiday in 2018. A week in I got quite ill, having fever dreams in a tent. I could hardly move but my mind was really active, it was there and then I thought of the title of the record, the backstory and I wrote the lyrics and melody for the title song.”

You wrote most of the lyrics for the album. A recurring theme on the album is derealization. Do you consider it to be a concept album?

“Almost all of the lyrics. ‘I must be dreaming’ is a reworking of a song Bertolf and Dirk wrote. In that song I just changed the message and some words to fit the backstory, and to fit the atmosphere of the song better.”

The songs are possibly about different people and different disasters, but they could be read metaphorically to all fit the same person.

“And yes, it is a concept album, but not with a coherent storyline. All songs revolve around people that found themselves in a world that was broken, or weird, in a reality that wasn’t theirs anymore. And that is what the title ‘After a silent disaster’ says: There has been a life changing event (heartbrake, earthquake, pandemic, psychosis, war, fallout), but did it really happen? Is this a dream? What will happen next? And how do we recover? The songs are possibly about different people and different disasters, but they could be read metaphorically to all fit the same person.”

“The order of the songs reflect the stages of dealing with the new situation, from picking up the pieces to disbelief, denial, to “the end of everything logical” and then some light at the end of the tunnel appears, we feel hope and power again and in the end we will fall back into our old habits, so maybe the story will be repeated.”

What’s your personal favourite from the album and why?

“‘All is quiet’, at least today it is. It just works for me, but also technically, I think it sounds awesome, and I’m really happy with how words, harmony and sound work together.”

One of my favourites is ‘Ghost Light’ which currently holds the top spot in our chart. What can you tell me about this particular song?

“It’s a philosophical horror story 🙂 I got the idea when there was a thunderstorm hitting our town, and it got really spooky and dark when it was just after noon, and I thought that that would be a good time for the dead to roam the streets. In the song the dead have risen and are knocking on doors, to tell people that the way they’re living now is not sustainable. Mankind has become a monster beyond control and will start to eat itself if we go on like this – this is a dramatization of my actual thoughts on this matter.”

In 2021 you also released an EP ‘Other Life Forms’ under your own name Arthur Adam. How does your solo work compare to The Vain Travail?

“For me it feels totally different. In The Vain Travail I am part of a team, where my part stops ideally after I have delivered the basics of the song, so the others can do what they’re best at, and I can ideally just sit back and enjoy the ride or support the creative process of the others, without intervening. The songs all turned out way more awesome then when I would have had a bigger say. If you check out some chord progressions or phrasings, maybe you could tell I was involved, but soundwise it is like nothing I have ever made. Also, normally I like to keep my musical arrangements really sober, often conceptually so. Like on ‘Other Life Forms’ I restricted myself to having a maximum of one lead vocal, one backing vocal, one guitar and one string quartet, played by Jonas, on each song. The Vain Travail is quite the opposite of that, and I’m really happy with it.”

What inspires you to write music?

“A lot, but mostly the absurdity of trying to get my inner world to correspond to the world out there. And love.”

When creating music, what is your personal purpose or goal?

“Beauty and pride. I would really like to be the selfless creator of beauty, but I’m also the narcissist that craves recognition. I wish it weren’t so.”

What does the future hold for The Vain Travail?

“I have no idea, really.”

The Vain Travail is basically a virtual band. Do you have any plans to get together and do a tour?

“Well… All the other guys are involved in a lot of other musical projects, that had tours cancelled or postponed, so when performing is an option again, they will have a lot on their hands. So we decided to wait and see how this album will be received. If there are enough people that want to see us play, we’ll do that.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

“We are a band that doesn’t rehearse or perform, but for the release of our album we made an exception. Last October we spent one day in a studio together, for the first time ever with our own music – we were in a tribute band together long ago, but that doesn’t really count. We recorded a session and it turned out quite alright, we’re really proud of the result.” (The session is available here, ed.)

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“It is ‘Feel That Way’ by Fake Shark. It could be different tomorrow or next week, but the last few weeks I’m just not in a guitar music mood. This song has weirdness, accessibility and a really nice bassline to it, and a sense of irony. I like that.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“‘So Far from Flawless’ by Tim van Doorn. He is one of my favourite musicians, and one of my favourite people actually. He is a singer and songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist, and a great producer/engineer too. And the fun thing is that he has difficulty choosing between being an indie-singer-songwriter or a badass pop/punk artist. So he released the “same” album twice last year: Skylines I and II, they have the same songs, but one is just him and his acoustic guitar and the other one is in full band mode. And he played most of the instruments himself. A true indie hero, living in Antwerp, Belgium.”

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New Release – Corridors by Sean Buckley ft. Joe Peacock

Sean Buckley is well known for his collaborations. His forthcoming release ‘Corridors’ is a collaboration with singer-songwriter Joe Peacock. The song will be available for streaming on 1st February.

Sean: “I haven’t met Joe, or any of the people that I have collaborated with, so we have Twitter to thank for these collaborations.”

Joe: “My friends in 3 Little Wolves had just released a collaboration with Sean called ‘Loose’ and they suggested I get in touch with him about doing something, so I did and here we are only about a week later!”

Joe: “Sean wrote the music some time last year, I think, and released it as an instrumental track originally on his album ‘Mintball, the Third’. I contacted him about doing a collaboration last week and he said I could just pick a song and he’d send it over. I loved the feel of this one and thought it would fit well with the lyrics that were forming in my head. Then I wrote the lyrics and recorded the vocals over the weekend. It was super quick!”

Sean: “Joe has taken one of my more funky pieces and turned it into a commentary on the Corridors of power.”

Joe: “Yeah, I thought it sounded really funky like a long lost Prince song, but everyone on Twitter has been saying it sounds like Talking Heads. Obviously, it doesn’t have quite the sexiness of the Purple maestro, as I’m singing about Boris bloody Johnson! It’s an attempt to poke fun at the idea that he didn’t know what was a party or a work event.”

Joe: “We’ve actually put the video out first for this, because we wanted to rush it out in case Boris Johnson is booted out before the end of the month. It’s a very home-made affair. I created it all on my laptop, just by creating a few illustrated images in an online design programme, grabbing a few bits of video of the prime minister, other ministers and people pretending to be Boris Johnson dancing around next to Downing Street. The reaction’s been really good to it so far!”

Sean Buckley was born in Hope, Salford and is currently living in Shropshire. He has been involved in music in various ways since his teens as a DJ, manager and musician. Sean is a composer of descriptive melodic electronica pieces. He has released three albums and is collaborating with various artists, turning these pieces into songs.

Joe Peacock is a singer-songwriter from Birmingham who released his first two solo albums in 2021. The acclaimed singles ‘Is not everything morbid?’, ‘Blind bends’ and ‘Keep the nightmares out’ established him as a unique solo artist to look out for. Joe writes songs that explore different themes from most. He’s written about writers, explorers, hermits and even animals, but doesn’t shy away from expressing strong opinions on political and social justice issues, either.

New Release – Show me where you hide by Lucy, Racquel and me

Lucy, Racquel and me are a band where the moon never sets, literally, Three talents, three continents, one project.

“The three of us have never met, but you can meet us through our music. Lucy (Australia) is in charge of the lyrics, Racquel (California) is our impressive singer, and Me (France), surrounds her with a musical jewel box. The magic of the internet does the rest.”

“On a defunct songwriter forum, I was collaborating with an American lyricist on an EP recorded with a Danish singer. Lucy, also present on this forum, contacted me to propose me some texts/poems. I composed the music and looked for a singer, made a test with two and I retained Racquel, and our first title ‘All true’ was born. Then, we continued on this mode.”

Their new single ‘Show me where you hide’ is out on 21st of January.

“As with all of our tracks, due to the configuration of our band, the recording and mixing is spread around the world, even if, for the first time, the musicians are all French. Racquel recorded the vocals at her place in California. I took care of the keyboards and drums. Jean Michel played all the guitars including the Rickenbaker for the sixties pop feel I wanted to bring out on this track as well as the wurlitzer. Slobo played the bass, added some sounds and mixed the whole thing.”

“Doubt is the first word that comes to mind when releasing a new single. Is the song good enough, did I get the orchestration right, is the melody effective? Excitement of course, on the day of release. The only tangible measure is the number of listens. Will it exceed that of the previous single, will the pre-bookings be good? – even if, in our case, the figure is ridiculously low.

“I gave up the idea of releasing albums a few years ago. With Lucy, Racquel and me, we released two albums and two EPs. The time doesn’t lend itself to albums anymore in my opinion. The world goes faster, everything is zapped quickly. Devoting 40 minutes to the complete listening of a record is out of fashion, that I regret it is another point. As an independent artist with a small fan base and little visibility, it seems to me more judicious to publish songs regularly than to hit a big blow with an album that will have taken a year or more to make and that will quickly sink into oblivion. To maintain the attention with regular publications seems to me more efficient.”

New Release – Happy When It’s Raining by Nomden

Diederik Nomden aka Nomden is a Dutch multi-instrumentalist, singer / songwriter. He played in several bands before releasing his first solo album under the name Royal Parks in 2012. The album ‘Wingman Returns’ (2019) was the first release under his own name Nomden.

“I’ve been recording for quite a while and I enjoy playing and recording all the parts on my own. I love to make orchestral arrangements, which I then record with really great classical musicians.”

‘Happy When It’s Raining’ is the second single single of his new album ‘Parallel Universe’, on which the lyrics of the songs revolve around the question; ‘What if?’ When you would have made different decisions in your life, what would your Parallel Universe look like?

“This song about the attraction of two opposites, a theme that’s as old as time. On top of that, he always feels as if he’s only required when she feels like it.”

“She’s only smiling when her clouds are in my skies, she’s only worried when my sunshine hits her eyes. I have always been an extra on her set.“

Happy When It’s Raining – Nomden

“There was no direct inspiration for this song, just general issues between people who are attracted to each other but one wants the other more…“

“I wrote it in the spring of 2020. I like the lightness of the music in combination with the serious subject of the lyrics. It’s happy and light in tone, though is serious in undertone.”

“This single is probably an ‘easier’ song than the previous single ‘Parallel Universe’. It might be the most ‘single-like’ song I’ve ever written!”

“The cover artwork is basically the album artwork, made by Victor Meijer. But only with a different title. It’s a bus with people under the sea, in a parallel universe so to speak. It appears they are in control, but when you see the inside of the gatefold, it’s not at all the case!”

Happy When It’s Raining’ will be out on Friday 21st January. The album ‘Parallel Universe’ isn’t available on streaming services yet, but is available to buy on his website.

New Release – Higher Low by Leigh Thomas

Leigh Thomas is an Australian based singer/songwriter/guitarist, with a lengthy history performing in both the Melbourne indie scene and cover scene. Over the years Leigh has performed with various bands and as a solo artist, has been involved in national tours, pub circuits, has played live on JJJ Radio, and has been a constant live venue performer. Recently, Leigh has returned to writing, recording and releasing his own material, which could be described as guitar based, melodic pop/rock, ranging from heavy and beat driven, to softer and sometimes poignant ballads.

A new track ‘Higher Low’ will be out on 21st January.

“‘Higher Low’ in a nutshell is about fear. Fear of failure, fear of success and fear of letting others down. It hints at fear avoidance, risk avoidance, staying comfortable and settling for mediocrity.”

“In general, I have always been a risk taker and a rebel, despite my music being somewhat on the commercial side. That’s just my musical influences and schooling, and being true to myself. But regardless, I think most of us have experienced those fears at some point.”

“The song was written and recorded in November/December 2021.”

“The art work was my concept, based around the Greek mythological figure Icarus, substituted with a crow, (a bit of a recurring figure in my art), and produced by a very talented artist friend of mine named Aimee Bridgman. It has had a fantastic response too!”