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Top 10 Moments of Brits 2014

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Considered to be the British version of the Grammys for the past 34 years, the Brits is the witty ad entertaining award show which is always sure to guarantee some amazing performances, awesome acceptance speeches, and the occasional unexpected blunder. Here, in my opinion, are the 10 most memorable moments from this year’s event which was held at the London O2 on Wednesday the 19th of February.

10. Ellie Goulding genuinely shocked

Most of us expected her to win Best British Female, but she definitely didn’t. Almost unable to speak, Ellie Goulding gave a hasty speech while trying to remind herself that the man behind ‘Purple Rain’ just handed her the trophy. Don’t worry though, she quickly came to her senses and performed an energetic mashup of ‘I Need Your Love’ and ‘Burn’ later on. And yes, this means Prince is still alive.

9. Katy Perry with her lifetime supply of highlighters

Looking like she just came out of a stationery, as well as giving some of our Carnival floats a run for their money, Katy Perry clearly showed off the biggest production of the evening. Apart from now slowly becoming predictable, and not really brushing up on her vocals, Katy miserably tried to put in anything Egyptian-related into her performance of ‘Dark Horse’. Insert a Sphinx headdress, and it would have been perfect.

8. Pharrell still very Happy with his hat

Closing the Brits are a huge shoe to fill, so Pharrell Williams again wore his American pilgrim headgear, since for some reason people now seem to know him more this fashion statement than his music. Teaming up with Nile Rodgers to perform his infectious hit from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, Pharrell ended the show in a great way. But seriously, am I the only person who can’t take him seriously with that goddamn hat?

7. Beyonce wows us all

Returning to the Brits stage after a decade, Beyonce was the complete opposite of her risqué appearance at the Grammys. No one can deny that this diva is still the most admired powerhouse in the music industry. A beautifully presented stage, the strongest voice of the night and a potential future Beyonce hit impressed everyone, proving you do not have to twerk to be memorable. We don’t need another Miley.

6. Harry Styles continuously teased

To accept their first award, the boy band everyone loves to hate were one member short when Harry Styles ‘had to do a wee’. This sparked on-going one liners targeted towards the heartthrob by the host James Corden, including my personal favourite when he told now-single Kylie Minogue “As for Harry Styles, I think you might a bit young for him”.

5. Bastimental

The most epic collaboration of the night came when British Breakthrough winners Bastille performed a mashup of hit singles ‘Pompeii’ and ‘Waiting All Night’ with Rudimental and vocalist Ella Eyre. The latter song went on to win Best British Single. This was one of those performances we couldn’t keep our eyes off of from beginning to end, including Ella’s black bodysuit. Google the image, you’ll thank me.

4. James Corden on fire, literally

This happened immediately after the opening performance by Arctic Monkeys, and I personally didn’t realize it was a stunt made just so that the host could say “that performance was on fire”. Yes, I am very gullible. You have to search for a video of it to fully grasp how believable it was, at least it was to me. But seriously, if you see an award show presenter with his arm aflame who starts shouting ‘Oh My God’, you have to end up checking whether you missed the April Fools Day memo.

3. Lorde in general

My obsession with this 17 year old’s music has grown to such a degree, that I couldn’t contain my happiness when Lorde beat pop superstars Lady Gaga and Katy Perry to win Best International Female. And Disclosure’s revamp of ‘Royals’, with Lorde herself providing the vocals, was almost better than the original. Say that she’s overrated all you want, but her deserved success at such a young age is undeniable. Thanks to her, I have accepted that I can never be part of the Royal family.

2. ‘Scotland, please stay with us’

This was officially the most random and confusing award given this year. In response to releasing a surprise album in 2013, David Bowie unexpectedly won the trophy for Best British Male, despite fan favourites Tom Odell and John Newman also being nominated. But that was the least of the weirdness. Noel Gallagher, evidently drunk, announced the ex-Ziggy Stardust as the winner, followed by the words “Did you think David Bowie would be here? He hasn’t got time for this s***!”. Well Noel, he could have at least left a thank you video. But no, he decided to send an even more drunk Kate Moss to accept the award on his behalf and read his speech, and who was wearing one of Bowie’s own costumes. And yes, the speech included the words: “Scotland, please stay with us”. Hashtag cray.

1. Alex Turner gets hilariously drunk

Good old Alex, the man you can rely on to make you laugh your socks off when he becomes extremely intellectual after a couple of glasses. After an abundant intake of champagne, the Arctic Monkeys frontman spent his acceptance speech for Best British Album philosophizing about the science of rock music. In the meantime, award presenter Emeli Sande stood on the side smiling awkwardly and wishing she had presented a different award. For ending his slurry monologue with the strong words: “Rock n roll will never die, and you can’t do anything about it”, I applaud you Alex. Nice save.

Posted in Music

Best 10 albums of 2013

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It might sound dramatic, but it was extremely difficult to limit the list below with only 10 albums. This is simply because 2013 was another great year for indie music, and particularly for up and coming bands who have attained international acclaim in these past 12 months. So, before we start off with our top 10 personal picks, here are some other albums from the year which we also loved but couldn’t fit in to the shortlist: Home by Rudimental, The Golden Age by Woodkid, If You Wait by London Grammar, Tribute by John Newman and Mechanical Bull by Kings Of Leon.

For all those who say modern music has nothing to give, these 10 albums will probably prove you wrong:

10. Native by One Republic

After the underrated success of 2009′s ‘Waking Up’, many One Republic fans were anxious as to whether the band would make a comeback. However, they did so stronger than ever with their third record Native. With lead singer Ryan Tedder’s indescribably amazing songwriting skills, released hits such as ‘If I Lose Myself’ and ‘Counting Stars’ have paved the way for a brighter future for One Republic. Although I personally believe they have even more to give, this band has finally opened itself to versatility rather than sticking solely to its soft rock trademark sound.

Most popular single: Counting Stars
Favourite track: Feel Again

9. AM by Arctic Monkeys

Although slightly repetitive for my personal taste, consensus among critics is that AM was by far one of the best albums of the year, and still rightly so. Upon releasing ‘Do I Wanna Know’ in June as a teaser for their 5th record, Arctic Monkeys regained outright respect from the music industry for polishing their hard rock stamp and making it larger-scale. From head-banging moments in ‘Arabella’ to a touch of John Lennon inspiration in ‘No.1. Party Anthem’, as well Alex Turner’s glorious lead vocals, this album needs to be on your playlist pronto if you love to feast on fresh rock music.

Most popular single: Do I Wanna Know
Favourite track: One For The Road

8. Days Are Gone by Haim

Constantly nicknamed the modern Fleetwood Mac, the 3 sisters from LA provided a critically-acclaimed debut that cannot go unnoticed. Combining 70′s Americana and classic rock with modern synth pop, Haim were the most intriguing breath of fresh air for 2013 after releasing ‘Forever’ and ‘Falling’. Apart from their strong girl-power messages and catchy tunes, Days Are Gone contributed to an increase in appreciation for raw rock music within the teenage crowd, also since Haim have been one of the few recent bands to sound even better live than on the record.

Most popular single: The Wire
Favourite track: Don’t Save Me

7. Fire Within by Birdy

At the age of 15, Birdy became the angelic voice stuck in everyone’s head due to her magical debut of covers, including ‘Skinny Love’ which attained more popularity than Bon Iver’s original version. Two years later, the 17 year old has shown off her songwriting skills to the fullest with 11 astounding new singles, which inevitably give us goosebumps. While holding on to her piano in ‘All You Never Say’ or ‘No Angel’, we cannot help but also love her voice in the more upbeat folk tracks ‘Light Me Up’ and ‘All About You’. Effortless and elegant, yet completely relatable, I put Fire Within on repeat quite a few times this year, and I suggest you do the same.

Most popular single: Wings
Favourite track: Strange Birds

6. The Fire by Ira Losco

With strong competition from The Crowns (Someone Else) and Stalko (Grandiloquence), I had to include Ira Losco’s fourth album in this list, being my favourite from the local scene. The general public is mostly aware of the 3 amazing singles released from The Fire, but you need to hear the track-list from start to finish to truly appreciate Ira’s determination to make Maltese music sound international and professional. Heavily influenced by RnB in ‘Is This The Love?’, reggae in ‘What I’d Give’ and soft rock in ‘Waiting’, the former Eurovision star shows us she is capable of maintaining public interest without kicking aside her versatility and originality. Able to effectively tell a different story through each song, this is an album which affirms the overrated phrase ‘Proud to be Maltese’.

Most popular single: The Person I Am
Favourite track: The Way It’s Meant To Be

5. New by Paul McCartney

The living legend himself shows no hint of halting his career with his 16th studio album, which has literally been music to my ears since the first listen. Containing 12 original songs including the released title track, New provides a perfect mix of songs which, either hint at the former Beatle’s initial writing styles, or entice listeners with Paul’s constant desire to experiment with new genres (excuse the pun). While ‘Alligator’ could have easily been featured on a Beatles album, or ‘Queenie Eye’ on a record by Wings (Paul’s band after the Beatles), other tracks like ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Save Us’ keep us excitedly guessing as to what the 71 year old still has in store for his loving fans.

Most popular single: New
Favourite track: On My Way To Work

4. Bad Blood by Bastille

Being a fan of Bastille was on every music lover’s mind this year. Thanks to the worldwide success of ‘Pompeii’, this London band’s debut was exposed to the interested ears of countless potential die-hard followers, mostly owing to this album’s unique indie sound. Their ingenious cover of the 90′s club hit Rhythm of the Night (‘Of The Night’), for instance, evokes Bastille’s capability of remaining original yet current. With a consistent quality playlist, Bad Blood should be your first choice for those boring traffic weekdays or never-ending study sessions.

Most popular single: Pompeii
Favourite track: Laura Palmer

3. Long Way Down by Tom Odell

Becoming the first male to be chosen as Critics’ Choice at the Brits in early 2013, undoubtedly helped Tom Odell’s highly-acclaimed Long Way Down to become the ideal soundtrack for broken hearts everywhere. But what this British singer-songwriter does differently is make love develop into epic-sounding records, leaving positivity post break-up. Between unconditional love in ‘Grow Old With Me’ and losing one’s other half in ‘Hold Me’, are a beautiful collection of tracks to ease anyone’s broken heart.

Most popular single: Another Love
Favourite track: Sirens

2. Pure Heroine by Lorde

Firstly, I will never be able to conceive how Kiwi singer-songwriter Lorde is only 17 years old. Secondly, it is astonishing how 11 songs consisting of simple beats and relatable lyrics succeed in leaving listeners in awe of this girl’s undeniable talent. She may have become an overnight household name thanks to the chart-topping ‘Royals’, but this teen sensation has been writing and preparing her debut record since the age of 12. With themes ranging from adolescent crushes in ’400 Lux’ and true friends in ‘Team’, to low self-esteem in ‘A World Alone’, Lorde is evidently driven by her avant-garde self. She herself has admitted to choosing the title Pure Heroine because of its grand but controversial double connotation.

Most popular single: Royals
Favourite track: Glory & Gore

1. Night Visions by Imagine Dragons

Upon discovering them late last year with the track ‘It’s Time’, I was instantly hooked to the uniquely powerful sound of Imagine Dragons, and Night Visions is one of the few albums from this year that I thoroughly loved listening to multiple times from beginning to end. Despite being known mostly for rock hits ‘Radioactive’ and ‘Demons’, this debut introduces the band as extremely experimental. From the easy-listening ‘On Top Of The World’ to the anthemic ‘Nothing Left To Say’, Imagine Dragons prove they have no fear of crossing boundaries into folk, alternative or electronic music. If you want a versatile album which leaves you pumped with excitement to hear more, you need to bring ‘Night Visions’ into your life as soon as possible.

Most popular single: Radioactive
Favourite track: Tiptoe

Posted in Music, Opinion

Introducing Juno and the Wolf

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Enthusiastic and full of energy, Geraldine Sammut and Sophie Vella talk to student band Juno and the Wolf about their influences in creating their music, and about their upcoming  plans.

Juno and the Wolf are Corey Farrugia (left), Samwel Mallia (middle), James Azzopardi (right) and Kristian Schembri (top).

How did you guys meet and what inspired you to start making music together?

Sam: It all started off as two projects. Corey, Kris and I used to be in a separate band.  During a few spontaneous jamming sessions, we found that  we really jelled well together. James and I also used to get together and have our own jamming sessions.

Kris: Corey, Sam and I decided to branch out on our own, but we needed another guitarist. That’s when Sam introduced us to James.

James: Sam and I had already created new material from our jamming sessions, and Kris, Corey and Sam had material from their previous band. Once we all collaborated together, it all fell into place.

What are your musical backgrounds?

James: I was 9 when I started to learn the clarinet and study musical theory at my local band club. When I was about 15 I became interested in the guitar, and I never really looked back from that.

Corey: I was given my first guitar as a gift by my parents a little before I entered sixth form. Although having been part of various bands such as “Skatenati”, this is the first time where I am mainly playing guitar.

Kris: I was always interested in percussions from a very young age. When I was 6 years old, I started to learn the violin but later I stopped once I had grasped playing drums at the Seminary. Eventually, I joined the National Orchestra and played at various churches. Now I play part-time with the National Orchestra, and play more seriously with the band.

Sam: As for me, I learnt to play the guitar at the Seminary. Two years later, I was given an electric guitar for my 16th birthday, so I started to take it more seriously. I’m mainly self-taught. I learnt to play the bass guitar when the band realised we needed one.

Who are your influences?

James: When I was a child, I was influenced by my father who used to listen to the Beatles. Later, I enjoyed listening to Iron Maiden and thrash metal bands. Then, I really got into progressive and art rock, listening to bands like King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Camel and Rush. The emotional guitar work of John Frusciante is on of my major influences, but I am also inspired by countless other genres and bands.

Corey: My musical roots started in punk rock but I became disillusioned with it. I started to get more interested in grunge and 80s rock music. Then I came across TOOL which resulted in an instant fascination in their brilliant lyric writing, and their progressive type of music. After having experienced this, I started to get more involved in the genre. This resulted in my current interest in desert rock and progressive stoner/ doom rock (namely Godless Funk of Bonanza, Planet of Zeus, and Beehoover). I am currently also exploring hip hop and electronic music.

Kris: My family is quite musical, so I was introduced to classical music at a young age. The more I grew, the more that genre intrigued me. The first band I was seriously interested in was Led Zeppelin. I went on to listen to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and old military Maltese marches. Classic composers like Wagner, Mozart, and Beethoven really inspire me too. Ethnic music and jazz, especially Brian Blade, are also great influences.

Sam: I first got a taste of rock music with Green Day in my early teens, coupled with classic rock like Led Zeppelin. The true turning point was Bloc Party’s debut “Silent Alarm” that introduced me to the alternative/indie rock scene. This is where I discovered acts like The Joy Formidable and Radiohead. I’m also hugely influenced by the 90s Alternative Grunge sound, which led to my most profound influence- The Smashing Pumpkins. Shoegaze acts like My Bloody Valentine and the soundscapes of Post Rock acts like Mogwai also greatly influence me. I’m currently listening to progressive and math rock acts, amongst many other varying influences.

How did you settle on your band name, “Juno and the Wolf”?

We came up with our band name at a gig, but the process took around 7 months. We filtered through various names until we came up with one which reflected the duality of our music. Representing the softer side, we named it after Sam’s cat, “Juno”. She was always loitering around during band practice, so we thought it was fitting. On the other hand, our music carries an aggressive tone, represented in the “Wolf”. Once merged, “Juno and the Wolf” presents an idyllic image – the balance between soft and aggressive effects which creates our sound.

How would you describe your music to other people? What genre would you consider it to be?

Our music changes and adapts to the music that we’re currently listening to, be it jazz, progressive rock, classical music or grunge. Every member of the band has their own musical background and we improvise to create a backbone for our music. It’s mainly about the culmination of emotion and sound, not about any specific genres.

Do you think your music has evolved in any way since you began playing together?

In the past, the technicality of the creation of music was something which we didn’t really take seriously. But now we feel the importance of creativity. Our music evolved a lot and as we progressed, we realised the importance of balancing creativity, simplicity and technique. There needs to be a balance between the more ‘primitive’ essence of music, and the technical aspect.

Have you faced any major challenges as a band? If so, how did you overcome them?

Corey: Since I moved to Budapest for my studies, the framework and communication of the band were tested. But we still make it work by communicating on a regular basis.

James:  We have encountered challenges every band faces such as lack of seriousness from tertiary people, technical problems and so on. However, we have always focused our energies on what matters and I believe that we always made the right decisions at the right time.

What are your goals for the band?

Our short-term goals involve creating more songs and doing more gigs. Eventually, we want to record our music and perform abroad on a larger scale.

See Juno and the Wolf live on Friday 16th August at Coach and Horses @ 9pm!

Posted in Music

Meet Mana Tapu

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Insite got in touch with Mana Tapu, a local band with big ambitions after winning the Hard Rock Rising competition, which is their second competition win in less than six months. Although they think that the idea of a battle of the bands is kind of silly, their motivation is drawn from a desire not to lose rather than from a desire to win.

It’s your classic band formation story, with Maltese lead guitarist and bassist, Dario & Fran going back years playing music together. They later met MC Pupa Chile & guitarist Jogy one night while out drinking at Juuls reggae bar. What started out as casual moonlight jams by the beach led them to meet their other MC, Tete in Bugibba, and finally finding Andrew to get behind the drums.

Mana Tapu represents quite a mix of nationalities with all but two band members hailing from different countries.

“It isn’t easy, but making music with a bunch of other people never is. It always takes an enormous amount of cooperation, collaboration and compromise. But our number one rule is to do what’s best for the song, so that synergy is what governs the song-writing process in Mana Tapu. There’s something really amazing about composing music with a bunch of guys from different cultural backgrounds and influences that is bound to result in some interesting sounds. And it really does – we’re thrilled with the result.”

They’re all pretty passionate about song writing, each of them drawing influences from different genres therefore guaranteeing something different and original as an end result. Rooted in reggae and ska, they are musically versatile and can throw off into funk, folk, punk, blues and flamenco, among others.

Their single “Babylon Aside” sends the message that in order to lead a happy and good life you need to start off by keeping all that is bad in this world, aside.

“None of us are particularly religious but you don’t have to be to agree that the world would be a better place if everyone made more of an effort to stop doing bad things. If we were all a little less selfish and materialistic, this world would be a hundred times better.”

After winning The Hard Rock Rising’s local competition, they will now compete with the winners from around the world. The competition’s final aim is to sign a band to Hard Rock Records & tour the world in support of an album with other big name acts.

“The amount of support we’ve received from our fans, and even people who are just catching us live for the first time, has been incredible. We’re always amazed at how much fun we have on stage with the crowd in front of us. The way we see it, it’s a positive feedback loop – our fans are out there singing with us and dancing, and that gives us a huge boost to give ‘em as good a show as possible.”

Between two music videos they’re working on, time booked in the studio over the summer and the numerous gigs they’ve got lined up, they’ve got their work cut out for them. Having recently returned from Ibiza where they had some down time as a band, recharging their batteries, they’re now getting ready for a long summer of music and partying here in Malta.

Despite the restricted size of Malta’s music scene, they believe that there is definitely some solid local talent out there, and what is needed is more venues, more bands and more fans. They also that believe the local scene would grow quite easily if more widespread support for local bands by the general public is shown. It’s by attending shows, requesting local artists on the radio and purchasing music that the local scene can really grow and thrive.

“Conversely, musicians and artists have a responsibility to make a proper effort to give people something enjoyable. It’s a two-way street.”

Mana Tapu also have a number of songs in Maltese which they are looking forward to play in front of large audiences this summer who have never seen them before or heard their stuff. Despite all of this, they accept the fact that as artists they will not be able to sustain themselves by their music alone in Malta.

“Let’s face it, artists are martyrs to their craft until they either die, succumb to societal pressures, or achieve success, and only a small fraction achieve measurable levels of success. And yet, it’s these musicians and artists that make life so much more palatable, whether you’re stuck in traffic, doing homework, painting, or out for a beer with friends.”

The way they see it, the problem with Malta is a sort of vicious circle, the lack of good venues puts bands off, which in turn puts venues off from investing in getting better, and which as a result puts off potential fans from attending local gigs. One also can’t exclude Malta’s geographical isolation from all this, which prevents foreign bands from coming out on tour here and generating more interest through big names. It’s just not cost-effective for them to make the trip here.

“Imagine if the government in Malta subsidized some of the costs of traveling to Malta for bands from abroad, or the costs of concert promotion, as long as local bands are on the bill. That would be GREAT for the music scene here! Malta needs a major infusion of culture, and the government needs to invest. If Malta wants Valletta to be a credible cultural capital in 2018, then it needs to be the actual hub of culture in Malta. Currently, what is going in Valletta aside from lots of construction, and a few restaurants and wine bars? Nothing, absolutely nothing, and that is immediately apparent to anyone walking through the streets at night.”

In the mean time, Mana Tapu have a number of live gigs coming up this summer. For more information just visit their online pages listed below:

www.facebook.com/manatapu

www.manatapu.com

 

 

Posted in Music

Living the Dream – Voices 2012

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With just a few hours to go for Voices’ opening night, your InsiterOnline editors Chiara Bartolo and Desiree’ Attard have luckily managed to lay their hands on two tickets for last night’s final rehearsal at the beautiful Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, and can exclusively report to you, our faithful audience, on the happenings of the night. We promise not to spill the beans on the best parts of the show, but we will prepare you for the ‘dream flight’ that is this year’s Voices concert.

The ‘Dream’ theme chosen for this year’s soirees is strongly felt throughout, from the cloud-like stage setting to the songs featured. Keeping things flowing are presenters Josef Bonello and Ronald Briffa, who periodically inject humour breaks as well as sticking to the chosen theme: from taking the audience on a flight of fantasy to confessing their own secret dreams, the two characters provide comic relief and continuity to the show.

Voices is, indeed, the brainchild of the late Louis Naudi’s dream. Way back in 1991, the originator and founding member of Voices, Louis Naudi envisaged a musical performance on a national scale. His dream has certainly come to life: this year’s concerts, running for 10 days, are made up of a 200-strong choir, a band of 11 musicians and another 100 people involved backstage. Strength is surely in numbers, as the people involved are not only living the Voices dream, but are also dream makers, in the sense that the aim of Voices is to reach out to those in need. All proceeds from the concerts are donated to charity and chosen beneficiaries. In addition, a lead project is selected and funded.

This year’s main project is ‘Dar Mamma Margherita’, a Salesian adventure that aims to support youths in difficult family situations who risk homelessness. The idea is to create a bridge into adult life by offering a subsidised accomodation for a few years, in return for serious commitment towards work or education. ‘Dar Mamma Margherita’ will offer six studio flats to these young people to use as a stepping stone towards their future.

As for the concert itself, it is indeed a dream to behold. The choir, donning bright T-Shirts, are a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. Well-thought choreography ensures that the scene is not a stationary one, as the singers, perched on ‘clouds’, sway as one to the beat of the songs, or move their hands in unison. Making 200 people clap or move in perfect synchronization whilst singing harmonies at the same time is no mean feat, but Justine Odom and Gillian Portelli have accomplished it, and the result is a delight to watch.

The song lineup is varied to say the least. From Abba to Pink Floyd, Adele to Michael Jackson, most songs are well-known and will make you dance in your seat. Naturally, this variety of genres will mean that not all songs are to everyone’s liking, yet one cannot but appreciate the musical talent in this team. Most soloists were incredible and gave very emotional performances which gave us goosebumps; some were better than others, some lacked character, but on the whole both soloists and choir members were excellent, and if there were any tiny glitches (there were), they were outweighed by the spectacular energy the performers gave. It was evident that they gave their all on stage and were enjoying it. Which is definitely remarkable, considering that the show was a whopping four hours long. Thank God the seats at the MCC are comfortable.

In conclusion, the whole production had a perceptible dreamy feel to it – by the end of the show, the audience was most definitely in a very positive, albeit weary, mood. Genuine smiles could be seen all around, and that is the highest praise one can give to a show – the ability to induce happiness and peace. One last sneaky giveaway on the night? Just when you think it’s over, it isn’t.

Voices – Dream a Little Dream are held at the MCC from the 3rd – 7th and the 10th – 14th October.

(Photos: Chiara Bartolo)

Posted in Culture, Media, Music, Theatre

A pop dude playing blues – An interview with Jesper Ejrup

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Matt Bonanno interviews Danish guitarist and bringer of Maltese bands to Copenhagen, Jespr Ejrup.

I first interviewed Jesper Ejrup a couple of months ago when he came to play a concert at the Black Pearl. While he was strumming a battered acoustic guitar in the spring sunshine in Nick Morales’ (singer and guitarist for Nosnow/noalps) backyard, we talked about the ins and outs of the local music scene.

Jesper is probably best known in Malta as the super-charged Danish guy who takes promising local bands to play in Copenhagen. He has been playing music himself since he was 9 years old, when he was taken out of normal school because he couldn’t fit in. “I was too loud and too hyperactive. I was taken out of that school and admitted to another school that helps you ‘calm yourself’ when you’re not fitting in. There I was helped by a guy who listened to my problems. He also played guitar and I thought ‘wow, this is amazing, I want to play guitar too.’ After that I learned music theory and all that. My solo career is only about two years old. Before that I was a guitarist for several artists and other people’s bands in Denmark.

So what first brought him to Malta? “Well I met Nick Morales, who was in Denmark to network, and we instantly made a connection. We both wanted to go out and play music all the time. And then he brought me over here to play with my band in the Nadur Carnival. After that Nicky came to Copenhagen with his band and we had such a great time. Since then he’s brought several bands to Denmark, like Red Electrick and Cable 35.”

As a foreign musician who has been coming to Malta for the past seven years to help local bands, as well as play his own music, Jesper is in a unique position to see how the Maltese music business has changed over time. I ask him what difficulties he thinks Maltese bands face. “I think the thing with Maltese bands is that at a certain point they feel that they have hit a roof, that they have nowhere else they can go. Also, musicians don’t get paid here, which is like 100 years back in time. It’s funny but it’s also crazy. You can be number 1 in the charts several times, but still have to have another job. I hope it changes in the future.”

He continues, “Another thing is that in Malta many clubs and bars act like they’re doing you a favour by letting you play at their venues. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone. We had a gig at Gochi’s in Paceville and they treated us like royalty. Rookies is another bar that is really helping the local music scene.”

It’s not all doom and gloom though. “A really good thing over here is the support which people give to bands, and also the help that bands give to each other. That’s really something to be proud of.” He also believes that the quality of recording is on a par with other, bigger countries.

There is one thing that he doesn’t like about Maltese bands, however. “Maltese bands aren’t very punctual. I know it’s a cultural thing but when we’re meant to meet at 5 and people show up half an hour later, I just think that I could have been playing guitar instead of waiting around!”

Jesper also thinks that Maltese bands play too many covers. “I don’t like it when bands play too many covers, and even covers of covers. It’s important to have your own style. I look for originality, both in terms of music and image. Music is a professional business after all.

Jesper’s own music , which he plays while almost constantly bouncing up and down live onstage (“I have 100% craziness in my head”, he tells me), is a mix of pop, R’nB and blues. As a fellow lover of the blues, I ask him how he came to discover the genre. “Well one day the guy who I mentioned who was helping me with my problems started playing Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, and I was hooked. Then he got me into Jimi Hendrix. By the time I was 10 I was already listening to BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and so on. It’s the best style ever. For me playing blues is a part of my soul. I also believe a song needs a good catchy hook. I’m a pop dude playing blues.”

The phrase ’love affair’ comes to mind to describe Jesper’s feelings towards Malta. “I feel lucky and privileged that I can come here to enjoy the sun and play good music.”

Jesper will be playing live at V-Gen in Paceville on July 13th


 

Posted in Culture, Music