Wednesday, 4 May 2011

FAC251 - Painfully Good

Factory - the new Haçienda?
FAC 251 - A different kind of venue
When I found out we had a gig booked at Manchester's FAC251 I couldn't help but feel a huge sense of pride in the city I live in. For those who don't know why, I shall give you a brief history lesson. Back in the 1980s Manchester music was growing. A new record company founded by Tony Wilson opened up a whole new world of music from Joy Division and New Order to the Happy Mondays and James. As part of Factory records New Order opened a club called 'the Haçienda'. I won't bore you with the details but basically it was a world of messiness, drugs and - above all things - music.

The day before the gig...
Outside it looks industrial
... I felt a bit rough with a slightly soar throat. I woke up the next morning after an early night feeling like a sheet of razor blades were slashing at the inside of my unnaturally dry throat. And I felt achey. Great. So I texted our manager, Pete, saying "I think I have tonsillitis, tonight is gonna be a struggle. I'm definitely not singing!"


...How wrong I was!
Inside looks similar to the old Haçienda
After chewing on a fair few painkillers and spraying some throat spray I entered the venue. To say it is run differently to other venues is an understatement. When we usually play gigs we are told to sell a minimum amount of tickets and then (and only then) we will get a small cut of the money. At FAC251 however we didn't have to sell a thing - not a sausage. That was nice! So we got on with the soundcheck - Pete brought me some vitamin tablets which tasted like gone-off Calpol! We then played some songs and I attempted to sing into the mic...

It bloody hurt.
Wristband - Artist: No Really. I am...
Never before have I enjoyed a gig while wishing I could just curl up into bed, but this night was different. We started playing to about 15 people who, collectively as a band, we all knew! By then end we were playing to a sizeable crowd (probably around 90 people) who were cheering and applauding despite my croaky attempts at backing vocals! The vibe was amazing. Some gigs just feel right and this one felt electric! But, by the end I was tasting blood and my throat was on fire! Not so good.

Since the gig...
Matt at the gig.
I've recovered and my throat feels much better (thanks for asking!). Also FAC251 have got back in touch... they want us to headline a night in July. Can it be part of the next Manchester music movement?

Hopefully it already is.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Recording

It's been a while... 
But after multiple days of being shacked up in a tiny DIY studio the band have finally finished recording a 5 track E.P. Of course as soon as they have been produced I shall put some tracks up on here so you can finally here the sound of my band!

Jon Ellis.
Oceansize - Bassist Jon Ellis (on right)
That name may not mean anything to you, but to the band he is a Mancunian God! Jon is the man who has been recording with us and used to be a member of Oceansize (check them out as they were pretty speical). Jon has been more than a man who presses record and makes us sounds sexy, he's also been a fantastic mentor in helping the band to find our sound. Along with manager Pete, they are the two people who have selflessly made the band sound like we do.

Hopefully a CD will be available at the next gig
The Tracks
All five songs are equally as important to us, with each carrying different meanings and reminding us of memorable times. Some are slightly older than others in terms of when they were written but all are current and in keeping with The Marivaux's sound.

The ones to watch out for..
Without a doubt, 'Track Record' as it is our swan song of the new era for the band. It is the most likely to become a single and every time we play it people seem to love it and attempt to sing along.
There's also 'Altitude' which morphs the sounds of old school rock and new age indie with Guy playing a fantastic Harmonica layer over the tune. More of an anthem than a stand alone single but equally as listenable.
Finally, Come With Me has the melody and riffs of any good tune. Hopefully people will agree.

Not long now... 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

OMG Acoustic Band Night

Photographs by Dom Cusick
Where to begin on this one!?


Last week I said The Cavern was one of the best gigs I've ever played. This week it was most certainly the best all round night I've had in the band! In fact it'd be in my top 10 nights of all time. It started off without me driving! Instead I just stayed at my house in Stoke and waited for the lads to come to me.

It makes a nice change...
... to be able to drink. I sometimes feel like the wet lettuce when the band and people around us are having a few drinks and I'm just chilling with a lemonade. But not this time! Together we got all the alcohol we could muster up (none of us have any money) which was; a bottle of rum; a bottle of Jack Daniels; half a bottle of Teacher's Whisky; a bottle of Rosé; some beer and a bottle of White Wine. 

I knew it would be one to remember!
Me and the band, plus legendary harmonica player, Guy, all went to the sound check. They weren't ready. So we went to ASDA and bought more pizza than any man could ever wish to consume... In the morning there wasn't a single piece left (except Phil's half eaten, half trodden meat feast next to the sofa!).  


The sound check...
Was actually the first time we've ever played acoustically as a whole band. I start to wonder if we've bitten off more than we can chew as we stumble through the cover of Layla... At least the sound engineer seemed chirpy - and by chirpy, what I actually mean is, I've seen more cheer in a graveyard.  If looks could kill then he would have committed genocide during that soundcheck. What do manners cost anyway? Well I guess it is the recession... 


Nothing like being prepared!
So after the soundcheck we decided to have a practice for the gig! Matt got lumbered with wearing a bright orange vest with the Charity's name on that we were playing for. He loved every second of it. If he could put in a transfer request to Take That, he wouldn't think twice! I ate some pizze, played some songs for the first time and learned some lyrics and then it was time to go to the LRV to play...


I think we got away with it...
Honestly? I think we killed it! Considering people weren't there just to see us, people really seemed to enjoy the gig! Altitude with Guy was a mint opener - I cannot wait to get that track out to people so they can listen guy all day long! The crowd seemed to enjoy Layla and Molly's Hangover (slow acoustic version of Molly's Chamber) the most. I even caught sight of a few people attempting to sing along to our own songs. I think it was the happiest gig we have done together - probably because we were so relaxed and were literally having a jam on stage!


The aftermath.
After the gig most of us went back to my student house. We nearly got started on by two big scally scumbags but all in all spirits were high! And spirits were also what was running through our bodies by the end of the night! Phil strolled in on his own at some point and Ben and Pete came shortly after. We also seemed to gather people along the way including my housemate's (Dom) girlfriend's brother! And his mates! They passed out, Phil was found face down in the garden at one point, and we carried on playing acoustic guitar and singing until the sun started to come up! It was truly magical. 


The morning...
I was awoken by Matt asking permission to make us a cup of tea... Well there are worse ways to wake up! The house smelt very stale though... 11 people in total stayed and it is a house no bigger than a pea. Phil was still rather merry and Pete went before I had a chance to wipe the sleep out of my pink and sore eyes! Ben's enthusiastic playing on the wooden box the night before meant his hands were killing and I woke up with a curious cut on my face - I soon remembered that Phil had given me a loving chew on my face... nice! My favourite quote from the morning, once again, went to Guy who half way through Fleetwood Mac's 'Don't Stop' chorus (yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone) sang in a angelic voice "unfortunately". 


Amazing!
All in all, it was a fantastic road trip for the band and another stamp on the map where the Marivaux have been and left a good impression. For an unprepared, under-rehearsed, first acoustic gig, I had an amazing time and so did everyone along with us! 


This summer is going to be special...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Cavern Club

Possibly my favourite gig of all time...

The Cavern. Just saying those two words conjures up images of John, Paul, George & Ringo making a name for themselves amongst other acts like the Rolling Stones in the 60's. Of all the gigs I've ever played this was the one to put on the CV!

Start at the beginning

It's Friday and for the first time ever Matt is early for a band practice (even though it was his Birthday the night before and he guaranteed he'd be late!). Phil and myself pack the guitars into the car and head to the 'shack-like' Bolton studio where we record/jam. We get to grips with a Beatle's medley and get the harmony sounding sweet. Three hours later and we're feeling ready.

Quick bite then back in the car...

Road trips are usually special in the band because it gives us time to talk to one another without a clatter of drums or a drone of bass or a twang of guitar like in our normal rehearsals. I'm driving (as ever!) with Phil and Matt for company next to me. To begin with I disagree with TomTom's directions and believe I have a much faster way... Never mess with TomTom.



An hour and a bit later...

And we're parked up and walking down to find the famous Cavern Club with guitars on our backs and nerves in our stomaches. Nothing that a cheeky beer on the docks won't settle! For a fairly sunny day it wasn't half cold - lets just say if I'd been 'bagged' then it wouldn't of shown me in the best of lights!

Inside the venue

As you walk up to the club itself you see a busker singing Beatle's tunes and foreign looking people taking pictures next to a statue of John Lennon (Phil immediately feels at home and starts to sing with the busker as we pass... what a man!). We go down a few flights of stairs and into the famous setting of arched brickwork, accompanied by the sound of 'Love Me Do'. Unfortunately this wasn't our room and we ventured past the bar and into what can only be described as a scene from CBeebies.

14 Years Old!

I know rock and roll begins at an early age. I mean, I played my first 'gig' at 11 in a high school talent contest with Matt. But to play an over 18's venue, with more musical heritage then any other venue, when you are 14, is a bit of a piss-take. Especially when they are on after us! To top it all off the opening band arrives and they're not much older, at a premature 15! I wouldn't mind, but they didn't even offer us one of the cans of Foster's that they'd stole from their Dad's fridge!

Pre-drinking - friend or foe?

Now, as you will have gathered, I am usually the designated driver. This gig was no different. Yet, for about 3 hours before we were on, we went to numerous pubs where the band were getting steadily merrier and less coherent! When we we're in one Karaoke pub we all wondered what we'd done to end up in a place like this... Still, our friend and harmonica god, Guy, was enjoying himself, playing along to every tune under the sun!

The Gig.

8.45pm and we begin the set. I can't hear a thing except bass and rhythm guitar. The crowd don't seem to impressed by the attempt at harmonies that me, Matt and Phil have... But, luckily they are distract by the sweet sound of harmonica that Guy was throwing at them! A few tunes later and things seem to settle down. Cue our Beatles melody that we'd practiced earlier that day... at 100MPH!! I've never heard a band sing "beep beep, beep beep, yeah" so quickly! Seemed to go down well though!

10 minutes later and its all over

The gig was good. Not great. It was a bit too loud and as a band we'd probably been to too many pubs before hand, but all in all, it was good. People seemed to enjoy themselves and I'd had a good time on stage with the lads. Unfortunately our good friend 'Mule' couldn't be there as he'd crashed on the motorway on the way down. He and his passenger, Ash, were fine but nonetheless they should have been there and we're sorry they weren't.

Time to go...

We left half the band in Liverpool (the Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle is a 24/7 job you see) and I set off with Matt, Guy and our fantastically drunk friend Aron in the car. I don't think I've ever laughed so much in my life! The conversation between Aaron and Guy in the back was priceless! Aaron, "how's your KFC guy, is it nice?" Guy, "it was at first... but now I'm just used to it" - was a particular favourite of mine!

A lot of fog and a weird route home later (TomTom's revenge)...

And we were back in Manchester. We had a brief stop off where Aron was staying and had a sing-song with the guitar and harmonica. Aron sang a song about a man whose uncle died. Matt cried. The whole day had been a wonderful experience and all in all it was probably the most fun I've ever had with the band. Now though, it was time for bed...

We played The Cavern. 



Sunday, 20 March 2011

Venue Review: MOHO LIVE

Moho Live 

"...when we were sound checking at the venue a bouncer tried to have a fight with me..."

Read the full review here.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Vintage Rock Club

Doncaster is a strange place...
It's 6.45pm and I'm in the shower. My iPhone lights up and I stupidly answer dripping wet (the speaker has only just started to work again... ). One thing that our band is never great at is organisation. This gig in Doncaster's Vintage Rock Club is a prime example as we're supposed to be at the venue in an hour and a half and it takes us an hour and a half to get there! Perhaps I should get out of the shower...

Two hours later...
We arrive in Doncaster to be met by a man who looks like a tubby Jesus. I immediately like him. Looking around Doncaster we see many people with golden chains around their necks with polo shirts and Reebok shoes... Not a place I would associate with underground rock bands. We set up and sound check with Jesus who performs miracles on the sound of the tiny basement we're in. So far we're all tired, fed up, and not looking forward to playing. Did you know that Doncaster only has 5 live music venues?


How things change...
We have 40 minutes to fill with our own tunes. Sounds easy but choosing the songs for a set is a difficult art. You have to start big, but not too big. You have to bring the crowd up with crisp sounds to draw them in followed by a catchy tune to make them stay put.  Then you bring them down with a slower tune somewhere in the middle to try and captivate them. End big and leave them wanting more.



That's what we did.
Despite the disorganised beginning, the long journey and the "chronic cba" we felt before the gig, it actually turned out to be one of my favourites. It wasn't a massive show. There wasn't a big crowd. But somehow the band (and Jesus) put on a great performance and importantly we have planted a seed in another town.

After the gig...
We stuck around for a while and listened to the other band (who spent more money on their equipment than time on their song making) and went to the upstairs to have a few beers... well, lemonade for me as I was driving! All of us had experienced an equally fun gig and we enjoyed singing along to 'My Shorona' while looking at the strange mix of young, old, 'chavtastic' and 'piratey' people around us...

Doncaster is a strange place.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Ram & Shackle

No matter how well you play...
You can still sound as terrible as a one man band falling down a staircase if the set up is terrible. And on Monday night the set up was terrible; no monitors to hear ourselves; no microphones for the guitar amps or drums; and no stage to give presence to our set. 


And yet, I still had a good time. Even more surprising was the fact that the crowd seemed to find us bearable if not actually good too! 


The moral of the story is...
...as long as we're enjoying our playing, people will enjoy our gigs... even if it doesn't sound great!


Although it just might've had something to do with the amount of alcohol consumed...

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Cavern

Today...
Today would've been George Harrison's 68th birthday. He is the Beatle I have most respect and admiration for. In my opinion, he is one of the greatest music writers ever to have lived. Any guitarist would put him in their top 5 influences.


How amazing that on this day we managed to get a gig at The Cavern, the home of the Beatles. For me and the rest of the band this is an absolute honour. The stage isn't quite the same as what the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Hollies played on but the history is there for all to see. March 25th. 


This is going to be special.


Need I say any more?



Sunday, 20 February 2011

War of the Bands

Last Night...
It's 9.30pm and we are waiting to go on. My fingers feel cold and my throat is tighter than normal. I look around and only see Matt who seems as cool as a cucumber. We're at Dry Live, the poster in the corner reads 'War of the Bands' and the band on stage finally finish with an over-enthusiastic clatter of drums and guitar that lasts for nearly 3 minutes. 




Four people clap. 


I need the loo but it doesn't look welcoming... ah well, when duty calls...
I finally spot Phil and Ben who both look how I feel, nervous. The 5ft 2" host reads our name out "...the ma.. the... matrix? ... how do you say it lads?" - good start! However, he has been a controversial figure all night with comments aimed at the crowd, telling them to "cheer the fuck up". It didn't work. This announcement just adds to a long run of blunders that have prompted jeers from a bunch of lads near the stage. 
Probably had too much to drink. 




Just for the record, it's pronounced "Ma-ree-voe". 


Plugged in and lit up, we wait for the compere to stumble off the stage and then we begin. The nerves immediately turn into adrenaline and we are doing what we love to do. The crowd cheer and we all smile. It was a good performance - even if we were cut short by the sound engineer. People start chanting 'one more song'. Good gig. Cue the drunk midget. 




Slight downer on the night...


All the money made went to charity. That's not my complaint. What I took issue with was when the venue said we'd taken £50 for ourselves. Phil and Pete sort it out but there is a slightly sour taste left in our mouths. 


It's now 11pm and the winner won't be announced until 2am. We did our best but now it's time to leave. I go to get the car - now £15 lighter in petrol - and pack the up the equipment. Home time now and I look back at the venue with a feeling of satisfaction. The drive home is calm and quiet - I enjoy night drives. Quick stop at McDonalds and then to bed.






By the way, at 3am they announced the winner... we won!