FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: SOUND LOUNGE SAVED
With grassroots live music venues under increasing threat from spiralling costs and reports that we are losing one a week, it is heartening to highlight a recent success story. The Sound Lounge, a venue shoehorned into Sutton High Street in South London, needed an injection of £35,000 to save it from closure and raised all that and more within 24 hours of launching a crowdfunding appeal. The total now stands at over £46k with the extra funds meaning that the venue can convert to charitable status and service or replace vital sound equipment and a faulty boiler.
Two weeks ago, I floated the idea that commercially successful musicians could use some of their money and marketing reach to help support such venues which are so vital to the health of live music across the country. I still believe that idea has legs even though Sound Lounge’s rescue was achieved in marked contrast with funding from over 1,200 individuals each chipping in what they could afford. Music fans are not the only ones to benefit as The Sound Lounge fosters several projects around sustainability, charity and social inclusion. Long may its fine work continue.
Photo of Maya Lane by Melody Berkery
Maya Lane is exactly the kind of up-and-coming artiste who might grace the stage of a venue like The Sound Lounge. Last year certainly ended on a high for her as she encountered some larger stages on her first ever tour supporting Far From Saints, the new band formed by Kelly Jones of Stereophonics with Austin’s Patty Lynn and Dwight Baker of The Wind and The Wave. I have written about Maya’s music frequently over the past two years, motivated by the quality of her songwriting which is matched by her vocal purity and impressive range.
Her latest single, “Bump Into Me”, continues the convergence of bright pop tones with the bohemian Laurel Canyon vibe she carries at her core. A paean to overthinking – a trait Maya readily confesses to – the song tracks the inner conflicts that come when self-confidence and self-doubt jostle for position. Lyrically the fun of escaping and realising dreams is balanced by a recognition that you can’t run away from yourself. As always, her topline and layered harmonies are a delight while the summer vibe of the accompanying video provides a nice antidote to sitting here watching the Smart Meter whirring onwards.
Photo of Murder Club by Tom Damsell
Next to an act new to Fifty3 Fridays and what a great name for a band it is too. Murder Club is described as a four-piece Riot Grrrl-informed indie-pop/rock outfit from Newport, South Wales. The band first came together in December 2020, rehearsing in the gaps between Covid lockdowns and working towards a debut EP Sour Candy released in February 2022. In addition to headline and support shows around Wales and the West Country, Murder Club has toured with The Wedding Present and returned to the studio to record a follow up EP, The Night Out, which tracks a typical night out, bravely charting the realities of modern womanhood with honesty and humour.
“Pictures Of Myself” previews the new EP with the gloss of classic bubblegum pop immediacy, a memorable tune and tongue in cheek lyrics with an unlikely sting in the chorus. Candy sweet vocals and a tight ensemble sound rounds it all off nicely. Described by bass player and vocalist Kristy Cromwell as “an anthem for the folks who like to take their time when they're getting ready”, it’s not quite Hamlet’s “The readiness is all” but pretty close. The humour comes from obsessing about fringes and heels and the best light for a selfie while the twist is how all this could play with mental health. Murder Club clearly has a lot to bring to the party.
While I was racking my brains to recall what the do do do dos of Murder Club reminded me of (answers on the Contact Form please) I suddenly thought of this next song. Different do dos but as I am quite wont to throw in the odd random back track here, I thought I’d share it with you anyhow. “El Caminos in the West” is from the 2003 album Sumday by iconic Modesto, California band Grandaddy, led by Jason Lytle a former pro skateboarder and sewage treatment plant worker. Which might be way too much information.
Grandaddy split in 2006 and reunited in 2012, though sadly losing one of its founder members, bassist Kevin Garcia to a stroke in 2017. Sumday has always been a favourite of mine and “El Caminos” is probably my favourite track on the record. It brings images of once futuristic rusting cars in the desert and a strong yearning to be back home “for peace of mind and happiness” A wholesome fun and non-exploitative video too! Do do do do do do…
Our next song dovetails nicely with the Granddaddy track but the Americana-tinged harmonies of Fast Trains are the product of a home-grown talent, Portsmouth born songwriter Tom Wells whose solo project is the antithesis of an ASLEF go-slow. The ethos of Fast Trains is escapism. Tom has created an alternative visual space known as 'ourWorld' which comes with its own characters and coded language, running through all the visual art behind Fast Trains since its debut – the 2019 award-winning animated short Measure by Measure. Self-produced and self-released, the music of Fast Trains is always strikingly realised.
“Can You Take A Bullet for Me” is from Fast Trains’ EP ourWorld Volume 2, the 2023 follow up to 2019’s (yes) ourWorld Volume 1. The first EP confronted some weighty topics from men’s mental health and addiction issues to self-harm and even the British tabloid phone hacking scandal. The follow up moved the spotlight to smaller things: conversations, language, social class and relationships. “Can You Take A Bullet for Me” is the first record to feature all five live band members, rather than just Tom playing all the instruments. It is a song about the good intentions of wanting to tell someone you love them yet being terrified as to the likely response. Not, as Tom says wryly, that he wants to kill his postman. The angular guitars in the passages between the softer verses are particularly impressive in what is a atmospherically charged track. Fast Trains has a debut album currently in the works coming to a station near you.
We close this week with a plug for Tom Robinson’s Fresh On The Net which has been a massive and influential supporter of independent music since 2009. It is a genuine platform for artistes to submit new music, to have it listened to by a team of music enthusiasts who choose their favourites from up to 200 submissions to create a Listening Post of 25 songs. Fresh On The Net readers can then vote for 5 of them to help form 10 Fresh Faves which are then reviewed by one of the team. I find quite a lot of the music I write about via FOTN and was really pleased to be invited to join the team this week.
You can check out this week’s Listening Post here. It’s a really good one.