Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Interview with Luke Rainsford

Over the past few years Luke Rainsford has carved out a niche for himself in the Birmingham and midlands scene, as the singer for pop-punks Layover or the bassist in the of the Midlands Pop-punk group Fullshore. However, it is as a solo performer that Luke has found his ‘main focus’. I had met Luke a few times before getting to talk to him for this interview, yet still wanted to get to know Luke a bit better. You don’t have to meet Luke to get to know him however. As both of his albums are intently personal invitations into Luke’s world. Whether that be simple love songs such as ‘Streetlights’ or the alarmingly honest confession of suicidal thoughts named ‘I’m the coward I never thought I’d be’. Without asking for specific details of the girls he has sung about and his family. There isn’t much you could learn about Luke which you couldn’t from simply hearing his songs.
Our interview takes place on the bridge that leads punters into The Flapper. Luke is dressed casually in a simple shirt and jeans and despite the biting cold claims that after touring for so long he doesn’t notice it anymore. In person Luke is endearingly awkward. My admission that I’m not that great an interviewer is met by Luke saying ‘don’t stress’ and my comparison to my last interview with Crime & Punishment 2011’s Dan Carter, which involved him shouting and freestyling down my phone, Luke replies ‘I’m not as confident as that I’m a bit more introverted’.
Our 15 minutes talking outside the pub are regularly broken by awkward laughter, pauses and interruptions from Luke’s many friends. After a small chat about mobile phones I start by asking about influences.
Luke: ‘I used to be into a lot of pop-punk bands like The Wonder years and New found Glory now I’m, listening to stuff like The Front Bottoms’
Me: I’ve heard you cover them before but I’ve never listened to them
L: I recommend them! it’s like acoustic poppy -indie folk
It’s the name that puts me off
L: at first I was like what the hell! but they’re very quirky and indie.  They’re very tongue in cheek so the name does suit them
Some of my favourite bands have very crap names. I’m a big fan of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard
L: -Laughs- Sometimes great bands have terrible names. I know you’re into Crywank, at first it sounds like a terrible name, but it’s a pun on the phrase tearjerk isn’t it?
What happened to Layover then?
L: it just had its time really, we done what we wanted to do which is some dudes writing songs together, it was never meant to be anything that serious. We just wanted to have some fun with it. We were still having fun with it but we just wanted to do other things, like my solo stuff.
Who’s in your band then?
L: Darren from Fulllshore, and Zach from Coast To coast…
 So it’s like a pop punk supergroup?
L: Sort of, It’s just good friends of mine, they just wanted to help me out
Were any of these guys on the album then?
L: No I recorded everything myself, except for some piano parts.
That’s surprising because I heard a lot of interesting little guitar parts, that I didn’t notice on the first album
L: It was all me, the producer helped with some of them but I played it all.
I did notice a bit of a difference in the production. Like how Home Safe would just change half way through into something totally different.
L: I was interested in that; I didn’t want all the songs to sound the same because the first album was just all acoustic and I didn’t want to do it all the same again I wanted to mix it up.
Was the first album all recorded in your bedroom then?
L: It was done in a studio. it’s just that it was so simple there wasn’t much more to do with it. It started out as literally just some spare songs I had. It wasn’t meant to be anything too serious. As it wasn’t my main focus at the time.  For this new album, I wanted to put a lot more into out as this is my main focus now. I’m really happy with how it turned out. Especially with what you said about the songs changing halfway through. Home safe is a good example of that as it starts out really poppy and upbeat and suddenly drops.
I feel like only you could write a song with the chorus ‘You made me not want to die this week’.
L: I had the chorus for ages but I could never get it into a song. I’m happy about how it turned out. I wanted to do a really dark line over a really happy song.  I really like that vibe. It’s still kind of tongue in cheek.
At this point our interview turns to more of a general talk about the music we love. I talked a lot about Simon and Garfunkel, who I feel were masters of the happy song/sad lyrics idea. As well as other acts like Car Seat Headrest and Courtney Barnett. At this point I gave Luke a copy of Nick Drake’s 1969 début Five Leaves left, which he gratefully receives and seems interested in hearing. Our interview is short on scoops but he does seem surprised that profits from the gig are going towards the mental health charity Mind and hints at future fund-raising for the charity.
Luke also talks about his part time job as a drum teacher and the appeal of vinyl and cassettes over CD’s and downloads. The new album is being released on vinyl as a last-minute decision due to popular demand. The only subject we cross that Luke is reluctant to talk about is politics. Unsurprisingly for such an introspective artist, he isn’t the next Billy Bragg.
And with that our conversation ends, as the show is about to start. It’s a fantastic gig, with Luke and an audience singing songs of love, depression and despair. Luke hasn’t got fans, he has friends, and I’m happy to say that I’m one of them.

Luke Rainsford. Album release show review (24/2/17)

Luke Rainsford was in good company for this show at The Flapper. Proud Ember, Ben Bestwick and Crafterface are all in a similar vein to his own material. All three of them playing emotional acoustic numbers. Ben Bestwick has some beautiful love songs, all complimented by his soft voice and acoustic style Craterface provided a bit of a contrast, being much more punk rock in style, and having a fantastic roar of a voice.
J-Dead was a break from the acoustic sounds but still very much in the same heartfelt emotional style as many of the other singer-songwriters that night.  Backed by his soon to be Ex-Band mates (from Brummie Grime-core bruisers Crime and Punishment 2011), Jason Tyler on production and Dan Carter for some of the other songs. Most of the set came from Jake’s début ‘Headspace’ EP yet he already played some newer songs from his next EP. The set was short and sweet with Jake telling tales including those of domestic abuse and his troubled relationship with his father. He mixes both rap and spoken word, over sparse beats and production as well as also using songs by The XX and Twenty One Pilots as the backdrop for his own stories. 

Less than a year on from the release show at the flapper for Luke’s debut album ‘I’m nothing like my dad turned out to be’ (where he played the album in full) came the album release show for Luke Rainsford’s second album, the newly released ‘I feel at home with you’. This show was also special because it was the first show Luke had ever played with his backing band. A sort of pop-punk supergroup of Luke’s friends including those from bands such as coast to coast and Luke’s other band Wallflower.  Despite the sadness that lingers in many of Luke’s songs tonight felt like a celebration, with Luke being surrounded by his friends. After the first few songs from his new album were played with the new band, a selection of older favourites from the debut were played with a stripped back set up of Luke his guitar, and his drummer tapping on a wooden box.  Despite the band leaving this was far from being a lull in the show, many of the songs from this section are fan favourites. Crafterface joined Luke onstage for his guest vocals on ‘Never Could’ and Luke’s old friend Maddy Cheny joined him for the bittersweet love song ‘Lucid Dreams’.
While Luke may be far from the mainstream acclaim he deserves, he remarked that the crowd had doubled since his last album release show. Despite being only a year old, songs like ‘a note to my teenage self’ ‘a song about alcohol’ and ‘streetlights’ inspired singalongs from the crowd who knew every word by heart. Unfortunately, ‘streetlights’ was aired for the last time as Luke’s understandably a bit tired of playing it every other night. Not that this matters too much as newer singles such as ‘tie’s and ‘home safe’ with its chorus of ‘you made me not want to die this week, as weak as that might make me seem’creating an unlikely sing along. Despite being barely a week old many of the songs from ‘I feel at home with you are likely to be as adored as the songs from Luke’s début.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Luke Rainsford - I feel at home with you. Album review.

If you have been to any shows in Birmingham lately there is a fair chance that you will have seen Luke Rainsford. Whether as the singer for the now defunct pop-punks Layover, or playing one of his several acoustic solo shows. Luke is an affable Wolverhampton lad whose shows are usually attended by a gaggle of pretty but sad eyed girls. Last year saw the release of Luke's Début album 'I'm nothing like my father turned out to be'. The entirely acoustic album had a raw quality to both the sound and emotion of the lyrics, while many of the songs focussed on Luke's relationships and issues with mental health. The album was on this blog's best of 2016 list and appeared on many others as well.
Less than a year after it's release comes the sophomore album 'I feel at home with you'. Which is released on the small independent label Scylla Records. Its released on the 17th of this month on cassette tape, CD and download.
The song titles alone give a clue of how this album will sound, 'All my songs sound the same' 'Boy meets girl writes song' and 'cliche' all reflect Luke's admiration for the similarly emo acoustic group Crywank. While both bands share an emotional honesty, the black humour of Crywank isn't present in Luke's lyrics. This début physical release is a mix of songs with a full band and other songs which are stripped back to just Luke and his guitar. There is a similar contrast to the songs themselves. While tracks such as the 'corny' ukulele ditty 'boy meets girl writes song' and 'home safe' are positive, hopeful love songs, other tracks such as 'nightmare's' and 'burned' are dark looks at Luke's own psyche. Luke seems to be constantly falling in and out of love, and there are too many telling lyrics here to share. On 'Burned' he sings 'when I'm with you I feel in control of my mental health' on 'Frame' he sings that he's 'too broken for anyone to love me'. Luke never wraps up his feelings in complex metaphors, his darkest thoughts are all delivered bluntly.
However none of this is is quite as miserable as it all sounds, many of the songs are backed by light drumming, and the guitar playing is often much more melodic than the handful of chords on his début. 'Home safe' mixes upbeat guitar melody's and a jaunty rhythm with the sing along chorus of  'you made me not want to die this week'. Half way through the song changes entirely to a backdrop of handclaps, backing vocals and strings. 
None of the songs here sound like they were recorded in his bedroom, but none of the songs have been ruined by the new production or backing band, the focus is still entirely on Luke and his lyrics.
The final track 'I'm the coward I never thought I'd be', is the darkest song here and the most stripped back, Luke mostly talks over a handful of strummed chords. He talks about suicidal thoughts and feelings, and how they affect both him and those around him. Rather than wallowing in misery he talks openly with a surprising bravery and honesty. The more people do this, the less stigma around mental health issues there will be.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Protest In Birmingham - Lets end the Muslim Ban!

As you already know, The recently elected president of the United States Donald Trump has issued a blanket ban on immigration to the United States from Muslim majority countries. Over a million UK residents have signed a petition (both on-line and in person) which states that until the ban is lifted Theresa May should postpone her invitation to allow Donald Trump to visit our country. This was supported by protests across the country, where thousands of people took to the streets to demand that their council members and MP's consider this plan. I was one of them. I hastily wrote up a sign with black marker pen on the back of a Nike shoebox with the message
"When things seem the most hopeless and dark, we're being tested to see if we will give up on the world and each other, Be strong - Andrew W.K"

On the back of this piece of cardboard I wrote "inspiring message on other side". Over 1200 protesters were expected to partake in this demonstration and the number was exceeded. Many speakers represented many different groups. The speakers came from groups such as Greenpeace, teachers union's, LGBT groups, anti austerity groups, refugee support groups and an amusing and inspiring poem from a local punk poet. There was much chanting amongst the waving of home-made signs, such as 'dump trump!', ' say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here!'. We also cheered the message that refugees should not be blamed for the government's privatisation of the NHS . While the banning of Donald Trump is currently set to be debated in parliament, the other main goal of these protests is to spread love, to make racism scared and to encourage everybody to join groups and support their causes. I live streamed a lot of it via Facebook and attracted some attention. Which made the freezing hands and complication of holding a sign at the same time worth it. Many friendly faces of all races, colours and nationality were present and ultimately the event was as much fun as the circumstances would allow. I felt better afterwards, but I AND YOU can do more.
This Saturday once again thousands will march on downing street, and those who cannot can join another protest in Birmingham by Waterstones. You can write to your MP, and at the very least sign the many petitions yourself. We must draw the line here, remember our past and say Never Again.
Tell the President we ain't forgot, Tell the Prime Minister we still remember.

Watch the Video here.