Friday, 11 January 2008

Feature: The Firm (By Henning Koehler)


By Henning Koehler

02 September 2006. Somewhere in a stifling and dirty basement in Denmark Street The Firm rehearses for a gig at the Clockwork on Pentonville Road tomorrow. Easily blasting away some lousy metal band in the next rehearsal room the band sets a remarkable starting point for a consistent further development that is about to become a central benchmark of The Firm’s work. Obviously The Firm proceed to be much more than just a successor of the previous band of singer Ross Liddle and bass player Julia Sieradzki called Sub-Culture. Merging a weakness for the C86 era and a justified self-confidence within their definition of indie and shoegaze, The Firm seems to be more than ready to make the first step into a restless future.One year later, going through several line-up changes and gigs, Ross Liddle, Julia Sieradzki, guitarist Alex Avery and drummer Marcin Kasjanowicz built the fundament for the next step in the seemingly relentless development of the band. “There has always been a certain idea what The Firm should be, or should have been, but only this year it’s actually come to the point where this has materialised. Which is probably because we’ve finally got the right line-up right now, and we know what we want to do musically and there are no clashing opinions on which way we should go musically.” The determined sound of their latest recordings and live appearances isn’t at all the only evidence for the veracity of Julia’s statement. As the (not too) “shadowy organisation” behind their own clubnight, The Vapour Trail, The Firm implemented the significant aspect of their ambitions: “Our key inspiration for it was the clubnights from the C86 era, where bands put their own nights, DIY scenes and even fanzines together. Like-minded groups would play together in what seemed to be a reaction to the dull artifice of the times. The whole idea is based on wanting to do our own thing, a night where no doubt good music will be played and good bands will be seen, and to attract people who are actually into music, not JUST about dressing up and showing off their wardrobe, as an example.”As a matter of fact the concept of the Vapour Trail clearly bears the hallmarks of The Firm as Ross points out: “The Vapour Trail shows a love of good music and there really is nothing more to it than that. We're just tired of the same old arserot and London is ours, after all, and we shall do with it as we see fit”. “Whatever happened to the magic where you're counting down days to a gig you're looking forward to, or the release of a record? These are some of the most exciting things about being into music, and those who agree will surely love The Vapour Trail. It seems that about 99% of the times when you play a gig where more than one band plays, the bands will have nothing in common whatsoever. The first band could be a jazz act, followed by a man with bongos, followed by death metal. And noone quite knows why...One thing I know, this certainly won't ever happen at The Vapour Trail....” Julia adds.After all taking their destiny into their own hands probably is the most significant indication of what’s The Firm’s essence.Lately the band recorded an EP, containing four songs that aren’t less independent statements. The Opener ‘Fulfilment For The Faint-hearted’ is the only song on the EP that remained from last years rehearsals and gigs and proves the progress of The Firm. “Fulfilment could well have been the very first thing The Firm made, and lyrically it was a cry of defiance against our favourite subject of complacency, I suppose. And, as such, we crammed as many ideas into it as its groove would allow - but we still wanted to retain its energy.” ‘If You Don’t Want To Know Life’s Dismal Results’ is “quite clearly amusing, although it's also quite tragic” and as such a prime example for The Firm’s merciless and sarky attitude towards modern life or at least with the things that make it so hideous at times. ‘The Art Of Saying No’ is, according to the band, “a carefully constructed comment on conversation, no more, no less” and definitely worth a listen. The last song, ‘My Beautiful Launderette’, is clearly about the film of the same name (guess what, it hit the cinemas in 85/86) and places the band in the orphaned section of pop-culture that refuses to ignore. Asked about his dearest intolerance Ross comes up with a counter-question: “Must we narrow it down to one? We could be here till next Friday.” Alright, what about, let’s say, ten intolerances? “Obvious ones would be ignorance and stupidity. Blandness, complacency and mediocrity are pet hates. Other than that? The modern concept of beauty, fascism, The Pigeon Detectives, lame excuses for eating meat, politicans, Paris Hilton and the 29 bus to Wood Green can all be filed under ‘dearest intolerance’.” Julia remains within the subject of music: “Music talent shows like X Factor really annoy me - it's just another money-grabbing institution, all that money could have been invested in signing real bands with real talent that even write their own songs. Since all that bollocks is around it's so much harder for a band to get widely known, plus people buy less records anyway since you can download it all for free.” Ross bluntly declares, that “pop-culture is a very boring joke with no discernible punchline. Instead of wondering why the world is falling apart before their very eyes, people just immerse themselves in Heat magazine instead. I might actually be able to understand it if there was anything of interest in such garbage but, alas, there is not.” Nonetheless for The Firm pop culture nowadays isn’t inevitably happening in the hypocritical ivory tower of gossip and a consumer society. It might just as well happen at The Vapour Trail or in some grotty rehearsal room at Denmark Street. With this in mind The Firm again head for more. “Things are changing all the time and hopefully for the better. The plan now is to get as many people to be a part of The Firm and to grow as we go along.” According to drummer Marcin The Firm’s ambitions are yet to be satisfied. “We've just sent away about 300 our demos to labels and we are still trying new things in our music. But we have a solid base and we know who we are. Our plan is to record an album soon. We are working on it right now.” As Alex mentions “you don't get any characters in pop anymore, pop music should be about anyone and everyone having a go.” The Firm aim to rediscover the wit, the potential and the anti-formal attitude of pop. “The Firm's journey has only just begun so it is very much early days in terms of national exposure. But we intend to make everywhere our manor and we won’t stop at anything in trying to achieve that. As long as our music continues to explore the humourous in the bleak and the tragic in the trivial, then that's its best definition for now.” You had better not miss the band’s further development, or be blasted with relentless doom loops of middle-of-the-road-, let’s just say, europop.Anyway. Finally intelligent pop music is back.

Feature: Untitled1961


They describe their sound as abstract expressionism. They have been described as being one of the best live bands in London and as looking psychotic as they put on one of their furious shows. With a dynamic sound that owes as much to the likes of Godspeed as it does the Cocteaus, it’s little wonder that these N7 boys are the perfect band to help kick off 2008 at The Vapour Trail. We give you Untitled1961…

First of all, tell us how the band got together and an insight into the story so far.

Seb (guitar): We've been playing together since Spring 2006. We formed when my last band split up. Steve had been playing bass for that band too, and then Marc joined on drums, he and I were living together at uni at the time. We rehearsed and rehearsed and unleased the '61 monster on the general public for the first time in May '06 at the Bull and Gate. Since then we've gone from strength to strength, improving our songs, performances and playing some quality venues in London and Oxford. This paid off early last year when we were declared 'Best Unsigned Live Act' in the Pickup Magazine Awards. All three of us live within 100 metres of this very pub, and we are very proud Holloway residents!

What inspires your sound and style? Clearly post-rock and shoegazing seem to be big influences.

Steve (bass): My sound is aluminium, steel, copper, germanium and silicon. In that order. It's understanding every step involved in playing the bass, and the materials involved, and then stretching them to their limits. My style comes from all the players who understand that bassists aren'tguitarists who play low; We're something else entirely. The gods I pray to for strength to play are Bob Weston, Dave Sims, Hooky, Tod A and Sid Vicious.

Marc (drums): It's all about the feel. If you can't feel it, it's not there. Luckily LOUD = Movement of Air particles, thus feel. I think what it boils down to though is the sheer pleasure of beating the shit out of something you love and not feeling bad about it.Seb: As a band we're definitely all influenced by post rock in general. The shoegaze part is mainly just me- I certainly try to rip off Kevin Shields a bit and Cocteau Twins are one of my favourite bands of all time. Then there's your Shellac, Explosions in the Sky, My Vitriol and newer bands like Youthmovies and Biffy Clyro. Personally I think we're moving away from the post rock sound into something new.Your songs and their structures seem to be based around quite a thrilling sense of build-up and suspense. Was this approach premeditated or did it come about naturally?

Seb: Something I've always loved in music in general is building up the sound to a massive crescendo. The whole quiet/loud thing has been done to death, but it is effective, both in building up the volume and texture to sonic eruption and going from silence to violence in the bat of a deer's eyelid. All three of us love the bands that pull such things off with perfection, Godspeed, Mogwai etc, so it is a natural to us as well. However, certainly in our newer material, we're moving away from the post rock soundscapes to more immediate, richer musical waters.You've been described as one of the best live bands in London.

How important is live performance to you and how do you approach it?

Steve: '61 are almost entirely about playing live. We don't consider playing a gig as just a chance to do our songs; We're aware that it's a performance, and we try to bring so much more than just the music to the stage. It's all about intensity and control. We put all our emotions out in front of the stage and, in some ways, we see ourselves as alchemists, wizards or atomic scientists; We unleash these huge energies and then control them, tease them,and direct them to make a sound and a show. It's a real physical and mental effort playing a '61 show, and you'll probably find we can't walk or think properly afterwards.

Marc: Live performance is what its about! You don't start a band and think 'Oh man, we're gonna sound so AWESOME on record. I'm gonna go tune my drums in preparation...' You think 'HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.....NOISE!!!!!'

You note Steve Reich as an influence which is interesting as, although fundamentally your sound is quite minimalist by the very virtue of there just being three of you, you do create big walls of sound. Can you see yourselves stripping it back in the future or adding further layers to the wall? Where do you see the sound going?

Seb: Steve Reich is a big influence for me, but not in terms of minimalism. Musically he does things that I aspire to do- chord changes that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, time signatures that make your face fall off. I went to see his '3 Movements' last year and I spent the whole performance feeling like someone had hooked me up to a pylon. It's all about intelligent, interesting music that actually makes you feel, something the droves of Libertines' covers bands need to learn...In terms of stripping it back or adding layers I don't think it will be the former. We've been talking about the possibility of more layers, but that wouldn't be by adding more members. At the same time we love the whole three people, three instruments only sound. We'll see in six months!

Finally, what's next for you?

Steve: I shall retire to my lair with a selection of fine wines and an armful of voluptuous women.

Marc: Holloway Best Kebab. mmmm.......

Seb: After some falafel, we'll continue bettering ourselves. I'm going to take up archery and sailing, at the same time, in case of a post-apocalyptic situation where advanced weaponary is redered useless. We've got a new EP which will be ready any second, in the mean time check out the tracks from it on our myspace!

Feature: Doe Face Lillian


Grabbing the attention of Waks Records last year with their snarling and guttural yet highly melodic sound, Doe Face Lillian kick off proceedings at the first Vapour Trail of 2008 with what is sure to be an unforgettable show. With a sound that mixes spiralling guitars and deep distortion with electronic beats, theirs is a frenetic brand of rock’n’roll designed for the 21st century. As influenced by mind-bending pharmaceuticals as they are aural destruction, here are Doe Face Lillian……..

First of all, tell us how the band got together and an insight into the story so far.
David - played in other bands that all collapsed in unpleasent ways and had tried and failed with other people and then just meet rob in a club some saturday in sugust 06 when I was pretty fuckfaced on MDMA and yeah it works and the rest is history or whatever!Rob - Pretty much that... Chewing his face off and almost begging me to go over for a jam despite the fact I'd owned a bass for a week. What inspires your sound and style? Clearly what you might call the darker side of rock seems to be a big influence. David - I like big guitars that sound big and menacing and have a sort of swirl of beauty and ugliness I feel like creating a sound has been almost a subconscious thing there has been no real plan its more a sound that has evolved with lengthy jamming, we have tried to create something with dips and troughs like life but soundguys tend not to get it really "Too much Noise/feedback" or "the levels are wrong" seems to be a common cry from sliderman! Fuck that, I find it quite disgusting and patronising that the assumption is that their view is the only correct one !Turn up everything! A FUCKING LOT!Rob - There was no real plan, and it's quite strange how things turn out the way they do. I'd always intended on being in a straight up punk band!Although your sound is based around natural instrumentation, you do have the electronic element of the drums? Was this intended from the beginning, to combine the two elements?
David - Not really, just we couldn't find a drummer of any worth and it was a case of wait to find one or find a solution and this solution turned out really good! And in a really boring muso way the electro drums are perfect for the sort of wall of noise that is created using delay! And a laptop or Ipod is much smaller too!If I remember correctly, you seemed to be on the cusp of putting a single out not long ago, what is happening with that?
David - you clearly don't remember correctly but Waks records do want to work with us to release something in the future but they are kinda of busy at the moment with Hatcham Social !

In terms of the future, can you see your sound changing at all? I.e. building upon the electronic element, etc.
David - well the sound changes by its own accord experimentation leads to change! I can see things moving in extreme directions possible heavier ideas emerging and also pretty beauty soundscapes emerging too!Rob - Definitely heavier, but not in a silly snarly metal way. I might actually learn to play bass properly too! Finally, what's next for you?Rob - More writing, more gigging, see if we can't actually make something big of this. We're a bit lazy, so we've vowed to actually work at it now. We've vowed many things though...David - Think I might watch a bit of telly?




Who Are You: A mini festival celebrating each of the deadly sinsWhat Are You:A night combining unusual fashion shows, experimental burlesque and fetish performance artists, top bands and djs

When Do You Happen: 2nd Saturday of every OTHER month: December 2007 (a special THIRD Saturday deviance), February 2008, April 2008, June 2008, August 2008Where Are You: The Purple Turtle, Crowndale Road, Camden, (next to KOKO), London (nearest tube: Mornington Crescent)

What Time Should I Be There: Doors open at 8pm, close at 3am. Performances are 9pm to 11.30pm.Get a flyer for £6 entry (or it is £7 on the door, and £5 before 9.30pm)
Music: Dirty Electro, Sexy Electronic, Dark Rock, Twisted Glam Rock, Industrial, Wicked Goth

What To Wear:Use your creativity to dress to theme, but we won't stop you coming in unless you're in a football shirt...come and explore...Some ideas: Debauched, Bizarre, Lustful…feathers, silk, sequins, red shoes, shiny lips, big hats, pvc, latex, ballgowns, rollerblades, barefeet...let your imagination go wild. Don't feel intimidated, have fun and enjoy watching what everyone else is wearing!

What Are The Themes June: Lust; August: Wrath, October: Pride, December: Greed, February: Envy (Our very own alternative Valentine Party?), and more...

What Else Do I Need To Know: The fashion show kicks off the night at 9.15pm...and the decadence and debauchery carries on until 12am, when the sexy djs take over...You can get a special Seven Deadly Sins Cocktail at a discount, ask the bar. The night will be filmed in all its decadent debauchery: ask us for a copy to prove you were there. Resident fashion photographers will be on hand to take shots of all you beautiful, sumptuous ladies and gentlemen.THE VENUE IS AN 18+ VENUE AND (if you look lusciously young and deplorably youthful), ID MAY BE REQUIRED. Bring your driving licence or other form of ID, in case. You don't want to miss this debauched music event.


A fashion show by Valkyrie Corsets, a Brighton based designer creating exquisite pin up corsets. In a change of direction, this will also be the first event to feature her collaboration with fetish forge, using metalworking techniques to embellish her corsetry.

A special fashion show by the well known Lacing Lilith, featuring beautiful handmade corsets and clothing with a victorian edge and a punk sensibility. The fashion show will feature a selection of Lacing Lilith favourites and some one off pieces that will be become part of the ever expanding range in the near future. A unique fetish performance by Twisted Cirque, expect lots of needles and lots of beautiful artistry.

Performances by the bands Envy & Other Sins (as seen on T4), The Firm and Adfinem.

Burlesque by the infamous Fancy Chance, and the glamorous Crimson Skye. Pole dancing by Nyuszi. Gimp stilt walkers and body painting by Twisted Cirque. …Look out also for burlesque jewellery, limited edition hand made nipple tassels and hat stalls.

DJs: Kate and Guy Problem Being.