Interview – Yes Sir Boss & Joss Stone; The New Single – Mrs #1

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Right to left: Tom First, Joss Stone & Matt Sellors at the video shoot for new single Mrs #1

At the end of last month I got an invite from one of my favorite Bristol based bands, Yes Sir Boss, to be part of making the video for their new single, Mrs #1 in a small pub in Easton. The new track started life as an EP when the Yes Sir Boss boys signed to Joss Stone’s label, Stone’d Records in May last year. After the release party for the EP I wrote an article saying the boys were going to make it big – and was pleased to see that now they are on the road to bigger things, they haven’t lost their original feel, and while the catchy hooks are as they ever were, very present, they still have a sense of fun that makes them playful and interesting.

Yes Sir Boss had previously recorded Mrs #1 for the album with no intention of it becoming a duet.  The idea arose after they arranged to do a gig with Stone in Holland where Joss was to perform one of their songs, and where they agreed to sing a couple of hers. However, the impromptu performance sounded so good, they immediately decided to record it as a single. Another track ‘Not Guilty’ had a  soft release last year, and trumpet player Tom First explained that Mrs #1 intended to be a more mainstream offering.

The band formed eight years ago when at University in Dartington, and bass payer Josh Stopford met Joss when they were kids in Devon. Tom explained that keeping the band together had been a struggle – music being such an unreliable career choice – and spoke about why they made the decision to collaborate with Joss for their first big single release.

The main reason, he told me, was his belief that the UK music industry has become increasingly cynical and susceptible to marketing.

‘Radio producers have become scared, and lack the courage to take a risk. No one takes a chance unless they know it will pay off’.

This was a large part of the band’s decision that after eight years producing music on their own, that they would collaborate with Miss Stone. Stone has been a fan of the band for some time, with her support for their music obvious in her decision to sign them to her label, investing her own money in their success.

BombOnYellowEP1

He also spoke about the fickle nature of the British media, whose current bad reputation makes him wary. ‘The press in the UK can make or break you, or at least make things very difficult. Joss is incredibly popular in Europe and the US, but when she first started out, she was slated by the British papers. She was only about twenty and had been touring in the US and they trashed her for picking up a slight US accent. I think the British attitude can often be negative towards other people’s success, and the industry can be a very cynical place’.

It is this attitude to marketing and the way the industry works drove some of the thinking behind the new release.

‘The new single is meant to be fun. Like any other band, we need to get our name out there and get noticed. We wanted the video to be low key though – we still want to look and sound like us. I love the song, and it was really good fun to make, but it wasn’t intended as anything profound. It’s just fun to dance to!’

This is what I love best about the Bossers – they are unabashedly honest, and it shows in their music. They have just returned from a tour of Germany, and Tom says the tour has injected fresh energy into the band.

‘We played much longer sets on the Germany tour than we do in the UK, which gave us a whole different set up, and more room to be creative. It was brilliant playing where the real focus was just on the music, rather than the marketing. Britain is so saturated with bands – most people here wouldn’t go to a gig unless it was someone they had heard of. People are skint, and they don’t want to spend the cash unless they already know what they’re getting. In Germany the scene is different – the gigs were packed, but it wasn’t people who had heard of us, just people who came because they love music’.

‘We need to reach a wider audience – the live scene is amazing, but you need to get aired and that is what we are hoping to do with this single! Joss has been coming to our gigs for years, so it’s been really great working with her. It’s such an honour to record a track with such a fantastic singer who has performed with some of the greatest musicians of all time such as Solomon Burke, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger and many more’.

That’s the great thing about the Bossers. Despite working with such a big name, there is no hint of arrogance to this band, and there is an honest sense of humour and a self-deprecating nature to them. Tom was quick to admit that the single is their biggest opportunity yet and is very excited about the prospect, but is prepared that it may not mean fame and fortune.

‘If it doesn’t work out as planned that’s fine, we’ll just have to wait and see. Not sure what we’ll all do if we aren’t in the band anymore though, we’ve been doing it for so long now!’

The video was filmed at The Plough in Easton, Bristol – a typically low key venue on a Tuesday night. The extras, myself included, were treated to a free shot on the door, and the whole atmosphere of the shoot was just a bunch of fans having a few drinks and watching an intimate gig. There was no sense of enforced fun for the cameras. No one was told to stand or do anything in particular, and there was no proper rehersal Just a warm up set including a few songs by Yes Sir Boss, (including a wicked cover of The Cure’s ‘Close To Me’) and some beautiful singing from Joss Stone, whose live vocals were truly striking. There was also a quick run through of how the video would be shot, mainly to prepare the crowd for front man Matt Sellors’ crowd surfing in a very small space, so he didn’t fall on his ass during the final take.

By the time the shoot began, everyone was suitably hyped up and in the kind of good mood you get when you go to see any great band, and the performance was great. Joss Stone and Matt Sellors goal collaboration sounded great, and despite her and Matt owning the stage for the performance the band and backing were flawless and full of energy as ever.

There’s a tongue in cheek mischief to Yes Sir Boss – a sense of being irritatilgy catchy but knowing it, combined with a genuine talent and passion for the music and the fun of it that make them something unique. It’s an honest sense of fun that is so lacking in main stream music. Accessible to all, but independently and intriguingly rough edged, combined with that typically Bristol sound – ska trumpets and a nod to gypsy – that shows their roots. The new single is full of that same style, offset by Joss’s soulful voice and makes this track one that is bound to attract attention on release.

I urge you to check the rest of the album out. Although the label, and the collaboration with Miss Stone is bound to earn this track publicity, the band has staying power. I’ve always thought so, and this first dip into the mainstream has not changed my mind. They are what they have always been. And that is bloody good fun.

The single is out on April 15th, and Yes Sir Boss will be playing at Thekla on April 27th.

mrs #1

Natalie

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Occupy Bristol News Report 26th Oct 2011

click this link for report

Occupy Bristol! The movement is still going strong, but can we really change anything?

On Saturday 15th October the Occupy movement set up it’s camp in Bristol, on College Green – right in front of the Cathedral. As with other similar occupations in various cities around the globe, the news was spread via social networking sites, and the local authority has obviously (politely so far) requested that they move on. The site has received regular visits from both the councils gypsy and traveller representative Ian Holding and the police representative Sargent Amanda Frame.

However, so far the only real problems either of them have had to deal with have been the lack of organisation concerning use of public toilets (Bristol City Council have refused to provide a portaloo) and the city’s Friday and Saturday night revellers who, after a few two many, have tried to get inside the tents on site. Not the first issues that spring to mind when most people contemplate a fairly large scale act of civil disobedience. However, the Occupy movement (which began on Sept 17th with Occupy Wall Street and has now stretched to over 1500 cities around the globe) has been unlike other protests. There have been fewer of the usual protest staples – violence, noise, disruption to public services, and more notably, this movement seems to have lasting power, and so far shows little sign of dissipating. Instead, the Occupy movement seems to have gathered pace, determination, and more importantly, organisation since its start. And each localised movement seems to be in support of the others. It’s a global phenomenon uniting people who feel genuinely let down by a powerful few.

When I heard that Bristol West MP Stephen Williams had not only addressed the protesters, but had after an impromptu phone call from one of them, taken time out of his busy schedule to visit them at the camp, it occurred to me that this really may be something different. Maybe politicians are starting to take notice. I ventured down to the site to see what was going on. I turned up on a dark and cold thursday evening for the agenda meeting, which was being held around a fire in a wheelbarrow, and to be honest, I was a little worried about it. I didn’t know anyone, and I was concerned that wandering into the middle of a field on my own to tell a group of angry protesters I was a journalist was not going to go down well. Firstly, I stood out like a sore thumb, i.e., I don’t look at all like a revolutionary, and secondly, some of the members were pretty riled up and clearly drunk. I decided to blend in for a bit and see what the meeting was about before saying anything. However, my concerns were completely ill founded. The drunk and rowdy contingent were immediately and politely removed by the other protesters, who made clear that drink and drugs weren’t welcome at the site – that wasn’t what this was about. What followed was avery well organised and democratic debate, and after confessing my journalistic intention to the group around the fire, they gladly agreed to meet me for interviews in the morning. Although, with no one in particular in charge, simply a group of people with shared concerns, I agreed to return in the daylight, and just wander round and speak to people about why they were here and what they hoped to achieve.

In the daylight, it was clear that it just short of a week, the protesters had achieved something very impressive indeed. Having initially no funds, and having never met each other, they had kept the green immaculate, kept the tents moving around in order not to damage the grass, set up a media centre, an information tent for passers by, a creative area where they were painting banners and a cooking crew. And it clearly wasn’t simply a bunch of hippies either. The people I spoke to, both just lending a hand, or camping permanently varied hugely in their background, personality and the skills they were lending. However, they are all bonded by one thing – disillusion concerning the elected few who are supposed to represent us, and more importantly, the unelected few who so greatly influence them. In short, those gathered were simply a disgruntled sample of the public who had chosen to betray that truly British trait of grumbling a lot but taking little action, and instead had made a stand to be heard. I spoke to people running various parts of the site, who were happy to tell me why they had decided to join the protest, but all were very keen to point out that as a gathering of people with common interests, they all had slightly different reasons for joining the occupation, and that the opinions they expressed were theirs, and theirs alone.

James – Originally from Salisbury, teaches English as a foreign language both at home, and abroad. He has been camping at the site since the protest started a week ago.

‘I hope this type of political action creates a space for a public forum and a new style of political discourse – because at the moment, no one is listening. I heard about it through Facebook. I see this as a way to implement change. Basically, the government is elected in to represent us, and at the moment, they simply aren’t doing that. Voting for a group of people, none of whom really represent you is a poor substitute for getting directly involved yourself. But at the moment, what choice do we have? We need to change the structure from the bottom, we need to move outside the normal political framework, and formulate a new way. I think if enough people can come up with a better process, and consolidate those opinions, we can take our suggestions to the government, and I don’t see how they can then deny the need to change. It’s going to be incredibly difficult, but that’s why everyone is here.’

Polly – Studying a masters in international political economy, and currently studying political finance, which is what made her join the occupation.

‘It’s not a protest. It’s not a case of we will go if these things change. The problem is too big for that. We need a space to voice our differing concerns. One of mine is the monopoly that first bus have in Bristol, if they didn’t have such a monopoly, the fares would be much more affordable. The Council are being fairly amicable, but they simply aren’t addressing what we want. We’ve set up a communication and networking centre, and we are trying to keep in touch with all the other occupation sites, to gather their views. I believe in the movement in general – there needs to be some kind of change. I’m not a revolutionary, there are people here with much more extreme views than mine, but we are all united in feeling that something has to be done. We need accountability in politics, and a change concerning lobbying – that money needs to be taken out of politics. I think a lot of people have been waiting for something, and this seems to be it. We need a proper investigation into what happened with the banks. It’s fraud, and thats a crime. The parliamentary watchdogs are a joke. The bankers, the government and the regulators are all involved.We need independent scrutiny of that. If people in government commit a crime, they should go to jail. If we commit a crime, we go to jail. We want to show the government that we aren’t stupid. We can see whats going on, and we aren’t happy. We’ve been printing leaflets, building mailing lists, setting up social networking accounts. We want to show we are rational, organised people who are ready to implement a change. And it’s not just the people camping here, the public and local businesses have been really supportive.’

Sasha Patterson – Previously a public servant in London who now runs community projects.

‘None of us knew each other, I heard about it on Facebook, and just turned up, and now I’m running the information tent! I was aware of occupy Wall Street, and people kept sending me information about Occupy London Stock Exchange. When I heard about Occupy Bristol, I wanted to show my support. It’s all getting more organised as we go along. There was hardly anything here when we arrived, and now there are all these sections working together – it just show what you can achieve when you try. It’s like a real democracy should be! We’ve had agenda meetings, we’ve come to consensus agreements, and we’re getting on with it. At the moment British economics and cooperations are questionable to say the least. There are solutions available to the economic crisis, but the 1% at the top keep ruling in their own favour, and thats why we’re in this mess in the first place. People aren’t stupid, the public simply aren’t given the information to understand whats going on, and if they were, they would get more involved. For me this is a movement. It’s not a protest which is going to last for a week, a month, it’s a movement against something that has been very wrong for a while. It’s not just a bunch of people in a field, it’s a meeting of people who have debated, raised issues, and are trying to make a difference in an informed way. It’s really exciting. I just want to say to people come here and have a voice, or even just come along because it’s a moment in history – this isn’t going away. People are genuinely worried about where we will be in two years. I worked for ten years in a very well paid senior service job. But I got fed up of dealing with bureaucracy and people who didn’t care, fed up of hearing about Blair’s targets all the time. People don’t realise how corrupt public services are now. That’s why I decided to run community projects. People there are honestly trying to come together to achieve something, they support each other. People are ready for change, good news, hope. Personally, I want to know how long it will take us to get into the general British public’s consciousness an understanding of the real issues. People know the economy is in a mess, but many don’t know why. All we need is a clear explanation, and time for it to seep into public understanding. I really think there are solutions to these problems, and for me, this movement is about raising awareness. The government need to realise we’re in for the long haul, and this is just the beginning.’

Sophia Collins – Runs a science education project

I heard about Occupy Bristol through Twitter. I think social media is the way most people find the news they trust now. People no longer trust the mainstream media. I came down on my own because I believe in what’s being done here. It’s such a positive thing. I was amazed by what a diverse and interesting group of people had joined forces. There’s a sense of people being united. It’s not just extremist political people, it’s just normal members of the public who have a sense that what is happening to them is unfair. I’ve never done anything like this before. One of the most interesting things about this for me is that Steven Williams (Bristol West MP) actually came down to talk to me, a trainer in non-violent communications has been down to run a workshop for the occupiers, and members of the public who aren’t involved in the camp come over just to talk. They’re really happy that we are here as it provides a space for conversation. People can discuss the things they care about – they have somewhere to discuss their frustrations with whats happening to them and to hear other peoples experiences. The government need to recognise that we have a lot of support. The important thing is that this is only the visible part of Occupy Bristol. It’s so much more that just what you can see here. So many people stop at the welcome stand and donate money, blankets, food – they just want to show support. We’ve been deciding between us how best to use the resources to keep this going. Interestingly, there seems to be more of a democracy here that there is within the government who are trying to criticise it. What we need is more consensus decision making and a move away from playground politics. We’re getting more organised all the time, we’ve set up a bank account with the credit union, there’s someone at the camp employed as treasurer, we agree on the amount of money we can spend on what – and that’s all been achieved in a week between a group of people, most if whom have never met before. It’s not just a bunch of wasters – it’s a group of committed people, and there are so many people around the world doing the same. There’s a real sense of being part of something bigger. ‘

So it seems Occupy Bristol is not just a bunch of hippies shouting about capitalism. And despite the objections of the council, there appears to be a dogged determination to stay put. The very different thing about this movement is that the vast majority seem happy to let them. In this case, no matter what they think about it, the government have been outvoted, and their decisions seriously called into question by an electorate who really appear to have lost the faith. It simply remains to be seen wether the unelected members of the community can call their elected representatives to account. They should be accountable for their actions – after all something is very wrong if people cannot trust elected officials ability to govern to the extent they feel they have to take matters into their own hands. At the very least the government must now know that their people are watching.

Interview with Radio 1′s Dominic Byrne about their band ‘Folkface’ – playing @ Prom in Bristol Aug 6th.

Interview with Radio 1 breakfast show’s Comedy Dave & Doninc Byrne

Dominic Byrne & Dave ‘Comedy Dave’ Vitty are ‘FOLKFACE’ – Interview about their first Bristol gig

What did you make of Bristol?

Bristol was great! We’ve both been here before, but never as Folkface. Its night one of our tour, and we couldn’t have asked for a better crowd. We had major rehearsals before hand in the village hall where I live, which at least gave us a rough idea of what we were doing. The crowd was brilliant, the venue was great, and everyone here is called Dave – and I like Dave’s!
So Bristol hasn’t put you off doing the rest of the tour?
No. I think Bristol really suits us. We were saying so when we were driving in. Bristol has a lovely arty feel to it. It’s really laid back, and although we aren’t really that arty, we are really laid back, so it suited us well! We couldn’t have asked for a better start really.

So is this the first step on the road to bidding farewell to the Radio stuff and becoming ‘proper’ musicians?

No. It’s something that started on the Chris Moyle’s show, and we thought it would be interesting to see what we could do with it. Venues like this are absolutely perfect. In our heads, we’re playing Wembley stadium. It’s an indulgence for us. Genuinely I thought the crowd were lovely, and there were lots of hands in the air, which is always a good sign. We don’t want to give too much away about what we do in the gig, or we’ll spoil it for anyone who may come to the future gigs, but it’s not just music, there’s a certain amount of audience interaction, which is really fun. Obviously it was the first night for us in Bristol, and you never know quite what is going to happen from one song to the next. I really enjoyed not knowing what was going to happen. And Dave’s noseflute was amazing this evening I think.

How different is performing as Folkface from your dealings with radio 1? What did it feel like being the ‘feature’?

It’s weird, because we’re used to being part of the backline I suppose. We’re usually just part of the team. That’s quite comforting really, because in a nice way, you don’t get all of the attention. Then walking in tonight you panic and think, ‘Oh God, they’re all here to see us’. It carries with it a certain level of expectation and responsibility, but there was no animosity whatsoever in the crowd. It was a bit like doing a gig for family and friends. The fact that it was so friendly meant that we were totally at ease. I mean, well, any gig that has a raffle half way through has a friendly vibe! That and the self appointed Q & A session. I mean the Arctic Monkeys never did a Q & A session. And they’ve definitely never done a raffle.

When you’re interviewing famous band with Radio 1, have you always had the itch? The feeling that you want to be there, doing what they are?

Well, we get a lot of bands through the doors at radio 1, and an awful lot of them are very good. I wouldn’t even dare compare Folkface to any of them, but there are few who you think, well, they shouldn’t even be there, let alone be being played on Radio 1. Not naming and names obviously. But Folkface, well it’s just tongue in cheek. It’s a bit of a laugh. We’d just like people to like it, and that’s the only level it’s at. We wouldn’t want it to be more serious than that. We took rehearsals quite seriously. But all we wanted to do was hope that we didn’t massively screw it up, and to remember at least most of the words. And I don’t think we screwed up majorly. It was ok. No. Scrap that. Bristol was a triumph. Prom was a perfect starting point, there were lots of friendly faces, and we had loads of fun.

So will you continue Folkface until you get bored?

Well, who knows. Either that or until everyone else gets bored! I think the decision about how long we will continue will be made for us by the fans. If we have any!

Any plans to release an album?

Well, who’s to say. The world is our oyster. It would be nice though, having a folk album. Who knows. Maybe we could do one and call it who knows.

Check out www.theprom.co.uk for gig photos & upcoming gigs

Bristol – Drug Problem?

Trippy

Picture taken from Trippin’ Daisy Blog

 

With two universities and a massive student population, Bristol has been named one of the coolest cities in the country. People like Banksy have made Bristol’s street art infamous (did anyone manage miss the unfeasibly massive queue outside the museum during his exhibition?) and areas like Stokes Croft have worked tirelessly to drag themselves from rough and run down to become ‘Bristol’s cultural quarter’.

Like any other large city, Bristol has a ‘drug problem’. What’s arguably different here is that many of Bristol’s inhabitants don’t consider it a ‘problem’. The people who enjoy the cities seedy affair with drug use are as varied in their habits as the range of drugs on offer.
The selection is huge – and available in most areas of Bristol (although you need to head to places like St. Pauls to get crack or heroin apparently). This may well be the case in many cities. However, the thing that sets Bristol apart is the commonality of drug use.
So, is the scene is simply part of Bristol’s character? Drugs usually link with music, fashion, art and culture – so which came first, the street art and the music, or the drug use? I spoke to a few people involved in the scene (whose names, for obvious reasons I have changed here) about Bristol’s habit.

After becoming homeless aged 12, Mark began stealing drugs to sell on, and has been a dealer ever since.
He explained ‘I’d break into houses and take drugs and money. I wouldn’t take goods because you can get into trouble with the police. You can’t phone up the police and say, oh sorry officer, but someone has taken my drugs, so it was just safer’.
He hasn’t taken drugs himself for around 5 years.

‘I’ve got lawyers that come in three times a day, and still hold down a job. I don’t know what it is about Bristol, but everyone is just so laid back about it. People look down on the crack and smack, but weed, coke and pills, everyone is doing it. It’s just looked at like drinking in the pub really. And I personally don’t see there’s much difference’.

He also used to deal in London and believes dealing in Bristol isn’t so rough. ‘I lived in London for a couple of years and people are much more likely to beat you up to score…I know less people here that don’t take drugs than do, but that might just be because of the work I’m in!’

Joe, a dealer from Sheffield,comes to Bristol for nights out – ‘there’s a lot more drugs here, and they’re easier to get hold of. In Sheffield, if you don’t know those sorts of people, you’ll struggle. Down here you can ask anybody on a night out and chances are you can get what you want. There seem to be a lot more young people and students into drugs in Bristol. The Sheffield scene is more isolated…in Bristol it’s everywhere’.

Rightly or wrongly, it seems Bristol has a more tolerant attitude to drug use, or at least to some drug use, than other cities, despite the problems it brings.

Mark also said ‘People kick off on coke, and skag and crack bring no end of problems. Regeneration of places like St. Pauls and Stokes Croft will just spread the problem further. And it’s not like drug use is only confined to deprived areas anyway, it’s just what drug people take that differs. St Pauls for example is a place where you’d sell more crack or heroin, but I sell there because people need to buy the coke so they can turn it into crack, and that’ll mix now that the richer people are coming’.

So maybe the drug scene here is constantly changing, as is the music, art and culture. What drugs different people take and why is also obviously inextricably linked to affluence and area, and effected by social problems and forces. But for the time being at least, Bristol still seems set on getting high and enjoying the ride.