Without fail, Woodhouse delivers radically relevant street funk leisure sportswear for the boys. The unashamed, recklessly worthy, rum runner renegades of the new fashion techno electric fused modern age. A welcomed overdose of oversized outerwear, puffed bomber jackets, with touches of velvety velour ribbed in sap moss and licorice and leather sparks alongside labeled chokers sang in perfected storytelling pastel pink salmon jumpers. Quilted features, raincoats and trenches mixed in presented in perfect formation, give spectacular spotlight to highlight the Woodhouse character. We are given a container of collector’s pieces fit for the guy with the crown of confidence.
In a millennial age where almost every second of our attention is absorbed by some form of technology it’s rare to find a voice who can make you stop and listen. Introducing Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – a man whose voice instantly commands your attention from the first note.
It’s a typical Tuesday night in south London but inside the intimate setting of Clapham Grand BRITs Week is off to a flying start. Rappers Dabbla and Nadia Rose take to the stage respectively before the main event, a performance from this year’s BRITs Critics Choice recipient, the aforementioned Rag ‘N’ Bone Man. The event is in association with War Child, a charity whose aim is to help and support children living in war-torn countries with the sentiment echoed in their slogan, ‘Live music changes lives’.
As the singer, real name Rory Graham, appears on stage his presence fills the room, standing before an awestruck audience it’s not the first time during the evening you could hear a pin drop between verses. The set is filled with a diverse mix of material from recent debut ‘Human’ and older EPs, and whether the song subject be melancholic or uplifting the rich, soulful tones that inhabit his vocals circulate around the venue captivating the crowd endlessly.
“I’d say I have another happy song but I don’t, I’m full of misery” he jokes alluding to the somber sensibilities that bleed through into his music and introducing ‘Skin’ with its primal percussion and heartfelt lyrics, “It was almost love.” Arguably gaining the most rapturous response from the Grand, ‘Human’ hits the hardest emulating sonic palpitations, while ‘Bitter End’ is delicately endearing.
Tonight also acts as a warm up for Rory who is soon heading off on a European tour before embarking on festival season with appearances scheduled at Isle of Wight Festival and Parklife Festival. Proving just why he’s the man of the minute, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man deserves more than a second of your time.
For more information about War Child head to https://www.warchild.org.uk
Words: Shannon Cotton
Photos: Anna Smith
With a number of theatre accolades already under his belt, Fisayo Akinade first graced our screens in C4’s “channel-defining” series “Banana”, “Cucumber” and “Tofu.” After adding a big screen debut to his resume in “The Girl With All The Gifts,” we caught up with Fisayo to delve a little deeper into the life of this rising star.
Your breakout role was in “Cucumber” and “Banana.” Can you talk a little bit about what it was like?
I had never really done screen before. I did a tiny role in “Fresh Meat,” which is a Channel 4 comedy. And so I had never really had an opportunity to do screen properly for the first time. When the audition came through for “Cucumber,” I was sort of really baffled, thinking: “I’ve never done screen; I don’t really know any of the producers.” Normally, you know somebody to get a role like that in a drama written by someone as prestigious as Russell T. Davies. I soon discovered that Russell likes to find new talent as does the casting director. And so, I just thought: “I’ll go in, I’ll do my best, and see what happens,” and then I ended up getting the role. Honestly, it changed my life. It changed my entire career path. It changed the agent I was with. It changed the work I was going up for. It was a real baptism by fire, because I had to learn very quickly how to be on a set, but luckily, we had the most wonderful, welcome cast and crew imaginable. You have Vincent Franklin leading the whole thing, and he was just so wonderful with me. Any questions I had, he answered without hesitation or without annoyance and you had Julie Hesmondhalgh; she was just wonderful. Although it was a bit of a baptism by fire, it very quickly became a joy and I was able to understand the inner workings of television drama. It was a real learning experience, but a joy, because I was surrounded by the most generous bunch of people. Also, I got to do a lot of crazy things at that job; I was very, very naked a lot of the time! Once you do that, then you can sort of do anything. It made me much bolder, I think, because you can’t half-do those things; you can’t half-do a sex scene ornude scene. You just have to do it. And so, it really emboldened me — the jobs I took afterward. It was a real eye-opener and a real formative experience for me.
It really kind of rerouted your career path. What were some of the best aspects of that happening?
You’re suddenly being seen for roles that you would never have in your wildest dreams considered. You’re suddenly up for a film that has Glenn Close and Paddy Considine and Gemma Arterton. “This is insane! When have I ever been afforded that opportunity?” You’re suddenly doing plays with Judi Dench and Mark Gatiss and Nina Sosanya and Hadley Fraser. You’re sort of thrust; it takes your career and not only raises it a level, but sort of shoves a rocket up its ass and fires you forward! So, I was suddenly in rooms, meeting and working with people that I never imagined I would work with.
That series explores 21st-century gay life. Obviously, that’s a hugely culturally important issue. How do you feel that’s impacted the prevailing culture?
The trouble with any drama that focuses on homosexuality is that because there are so few of them, all the hopes of the gay community get pinned onto this one drama, and no drama could ever hope to represent 100 percent of a particular community. And so, as true to life as I think it was and as honest a representation of certain types of gay men it was, I also feel that it couldn’t please everybody. I don’t think any show could. But for the character of Dean, I knew [people by the name of] Dean. I had met Deans. I had spoken to Deans. For me, it was very true to life, as was the character that Vincent Franklin played, Henry. I had seen them and I had heard about them and read about them or met these people in real life, so to see them represented was sort of amazing. It was odd, because we split audiences. Some audiences were going: “oh my god, it’s so true! That’s so me. That’s how I am.” And then a lot of people were going: “I’ve never met a gay person that speaks like that or talks that way in my life.” And so, it split audiences. But I think for me personally, I loved it. One, because the strength of the writing was just phenomenal: it was so raw and honest and so fully realized. The characters that were created were so real and vivid and unafraid to express their genuine feelings, whether that was “I’m really scared, but I won’t have another taste of adventure again, so I’m going to go live with a bunch of teenagers.” Or whether that was “I think my life is pretty boring, so I’m going to lie about my life.” All those sort of themes were the best things about it — those truly relatable things that people have, that they feel they are boring, so they fabricate stories, or they lack adventure, or they get intrigued by a slightly dangerous but incredibly sexy younger man, or whatever it is. The strength of the show laid in those universal truths.
You mentioned Glenn Close. What was it like working with her on “The Girl With All the Gifts”?
It was incredible. So, I was in my hotel room, and I got a phone call from the second assistant director. He said: “Glenn would like to run some lines, and she’s asked me. I told her it’d probably be better if she read them with an actor. Would you like to do it?” I said, “yes! Absolutely!” And so they sent the car and I went into her massive trailer and read the scene with her a couple of times, and then we just chatted. It was really lovely. And I said, “I’m so sorry; I have to talk to you about ‘Dangerous Liasions.’” And then she just told me all these stories: how much fun she had working with John Malkovich. It was incredible. The thing that I love about her is that she’s so generous, because she’s had such an extraordinary career, and she’s so generous with stories from all the films she’s worked on. She’s really wonderful in that respect and so much fun! I think you can build up an image of a person in your head, and you may think: “I hope she’s not this Hollywood diva who keeps to herself,” but she was with us the whole time, played backgammon. It was just wonderful. She was really a part of the team.
One thing that intrigues me when it comes to acting is the horror genre. Specifically, it produces by virtue of the genre itself some very surreal scenarios. What’s it like for you as an actor to try to put yourself realistically into these surreal scenarios and adapt to that world around you and act within it?
It’s odd! We all know the tropes of genre movies. And so when I was reading the script and I knew Gallagher is going to die, you know he’s going to die. I think everyone in the audience knows: “well, he’s going to die. He’s going off on his own in a zombie movie, of course.” And I think the thing is to get rid of that analytical part of your brain that says: “this is the bit where Gallagher goes off and dies” and just go: “no, this is the scene in which Gallagher wants to help his friends and find some food and bring it back to prove himself.” And you start to live in the mindset of the character, which then eliminates that second after-brain that’s floating above you, going “I know exactly where this is headed.” If you focus it down to what the character wants, then hopefully what you’re portraying is completely realistic and believable, even though we are adhering to the horror movie trope of “man goes out on his own and dies.” If you bring it into the mindset of the character, it eliminates that bit, and then you try to pour as much belief into the fake scenario that script-writers worked out as possible in order to make that situation hopefully set apart from all the others that have come before. There will be things that are always repeated in every genre movie, things that are staples. But what you hope is that you can put either a unique spin or an emotional spin or just a new beat in there that just slightly tweaks it, so it is the same trope or the thing we’ve seen before, but it’s slightly different. People go: “Oh, the way it happened wasn’t the way I’ve seen it happen before,” I think. I think that comes from rooting it in the reality of your mindset of the character.
So then, in preparing for the role, how does that differ from a normal role?
Honestly, it’s hard because I don’t think it does differ; I just think there are things you’re aware of. You’re aware that you’re in a genre movie and you’re aware that “this is the scene when,” but I think like with any role, you prepare it through the script and the character and his interactions with the other characters in the screenplay. You go: “so, he’s like this. He’s not seen the outside world for ten years and he’s sort of afraid of Melanie, but also is really intrigued by her. There’s a really nice mirror image of her discovering the world for the first time and him being discovered in the world that he’s not known for ten years. There’s a really nice mirror image there, and that could potentially bring them closer.” All that sort of stuff that is exciting less so than the shooting guns and all that stuff. It’s the character stuff that you focus on rather than the genre stuff, because that will happen anyway, but the thing that makes it interesting and the thing that will hopefully keep audiences coming back for more will be the depth at which you play the characters.
You’re starring in “In the Dark.” Tell me a bit about that.
So, that is a four-part drama based off two novels. They’re completely separate stories. The first two episodes are set in a country setting and have nothing to do with the following two episodes. But the thing that links them is our lead actress, played by MyAnna Buring. She’s a pregnant police officer. She’s the thing that links these two separate situations. In my two episodes, I play a young guy who has a new baby and is desperate for money and like a lot of young people, he doesn’t have a lot of options. He’s not particularly well educated, and so decides in order to get money, he will join a local gang and join in their drug operation. What happens is as part of his initiation, he has to shoot a car. That car happens to kill a police officer. Then, slowly but surely, members of the gang start being killed, and they don’t know whether it’s the police getting revenge or somebody else, and then, there’s a big mystery as to who’s killing off these young boys and why that particular car drove into that bus stop at that time, killing that police officer. So, it’s a mystery that deals with gang culture and being a female police officer in a very male-heavy world. That’s where the two characters meet, and what happens happens. It has a really cool conclusion.
I grew up in Cleveland, which has a big gun violence problem, so gun culture is always interesting and relevant to me.
I think what’s sort of amazing about it is actually the reason why you get into it. The co-director and I had a lot of conversations about why people get into it in the first place, and I think a lot of the time, it isn’t about wanting to be the big, tough guy on the street. It’s actually just about survival, and they’ve got no other options. They have seen they have no other options. Even the gang leaders, they become father figures, I think, to a lot of these boys, because a lot of the time, they don’t have fathers in their lives, and so, this guy with all this money not only gives them work and money, but also protects them. I think there can be a sort of genuine love there with those characters.
What are some of your hobbies when you’re not working?
I am very into comic books. I’ve just started the new Batman 52. It’s absolutely stunning. There is a myth, a Gotham myth, about a Court of Owls that have been running Gotham City for centuries. Batman doesn’t believe in it because it’s a myth. He’s never met them, and he thinks it’s just ridiculous and silly. There’s going to be a new mayor of Gotham. Bruce Wayne is helping this new mayor get into power because he thinks he’s the right guy, and they meet at one of the old Wayne buildings, and an assassin from the Court of Owls turns up, almost kills the guy who’s running for mayor and almost kills Batman. It’s incredible, and you go, “whoa! Who are these guys?” So, then they write the very next day on a wall in fire, “Bruce Wayne will die in 24 hours.” That’s before this assassin shows up and attacks Batman. So, you go: “do they know he’s Bruce Wayne?” As the comic goes on, you realize how powerful these guys are and how many people they’ve killed. They seem to always target Waynes, and so, there’s a mystery about whether they were responsible for Bruce’s parents’ deaths. It just gets more complex and complicated and dark. It’s very dark and scary, actually. There’s a point in the comic where he’s in a labyrinth. You have to turn the comic landscape, then upside-down, then the other way around. So, it sort of reflects what’s happening in Batman’s head. It’s absolutely stunning. It’s really beautifully drawn as well. It’s incredible. You have to read it. So, that’s sort of my main hobby, and I’ve started writing. I have a few writer friends, and I’ve spoken to them, and they’ve sort of given me the confidence to put pen to paper and start to write, which is really scary, actually and really daunting. But if you have an idea, I think it’s only best to follow through, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m writing a short film at the moment and I’ve got an idea for a series that I’m hoping to make eventually.
What’s the short film about?
The short film is about bereavement and the lengths a person will go to to achieve their desires, I suppose. I don’t want to say too much.
What’s it like coming from one side of the script to the other?
It’s quite daunting, but one of my friends said to me that if you watch a film and it isn’t a particularly good film and you sit with your friends and say: “oh, what they should have done is this, and they should have taken out that scene and done that” — he says what you’re already doing is editing the script. So, if you can edit a script, then you understand the story structure and narrative structures, which means that you can create your own narrative structure. And then, what it all becomes about is your voice as a writer and how you like to write, rather than whether you can or can’t, because you can, because you understand narrative structures. Then it becomes what your voice is like, how you want to present your story, your narrative to the world, your attitudes about your narrative voice. So, I think it’s quite nice and quite freeing, and it’s really nice to type three pages and see it, and go: “that’s the beginning of something.” And then you write a bit more and go: “actually, I can take out those first three pages and just start here.” And that’s really exciting. You’re building something, sort of like how a carpenter makes a table. It’s just a big hunk of wood, this really ugly thing, then it becomes this beautiful, ornate table or chair. I think it’s sort of the same thing; you just have an idea, you plop it onto the page, then you start chipping away until you’ve made a narrative you’re happy with, I think.
What would your dream role be?
Oh gosh! Theater-wise, I would love to play Belize in “Angels in America” or Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Those are two roles that I loved when I first read them and have stuck with me ever since. And then in terms of tele and film, it’s less about roles and more about genre. I’d love to do a big blockbuster film, just because I think it would be fun — like a proper big space odyssey blockbuster would be really fun. I’d really love to also work Paul Thomas Anderson. I think he’s one of the best directors in the world and his films constantly fascinate me. He shoots in a way that is really interesting and he writes in a way that’s really interesting and really dynamic. He really gets into people’s heads and his ideas are always so well-thought. I just think he’s incredible. And then you know, everything else! They’re the sort of main things. Also, I think TV is heading in such an amazing direction; over the last couple of years, we’ve seen some of the most outstanding writing from people and on TV. That’s something I’d love to get involved with, whether it be Netflix or HBO — whomever it is. I’m really interested in complex characters and fine writing.
You’ve worked in stage, TV, and movies. How does it compare, what’s your favorite? Tell me about the contrasts.
It’s hard because I don’t really have a favorite. They all offer merits of their own. Theater is such a great training, and it keeps you so sharp and alert, because you have no choice but to be completely in the moment with a person, because it’s happening live. So, it’s such great training: being in the moment, being spontaneous, because anything could happen. You could forget a prop, a set could fall apart, the actors could forget their lines and instead of saying: “can we go again?”, you’ve got to just improvise something and help your fellow actor. It’s such a collaborative, wonderful thing, theater, and I really love doing it. And then you’ve got film, which again is another medium that challenges you to be honest. You can’t really lie in front of the camera, because it picks it up. As soon as you lie or have a false moment, the whole illusion is shattered, and the audience go: “huh? That was weird.” And so I think the challenge for TV and screen is to be as truthful as you can, which is often about being relaxed. It’s about being relaxed and knowing your lines. I think what you need to do is be so relaxed and confident with your lines that all you are thinking about when you’re acting is what you are doing to the other person and what they are doing to you, so you can just react. So you’re not going: “what am I saying next?” Because all the audience will get is a sort of confused, half-performance, because your brain is occupied with remembering lines rather than being in the moment with your other actor.
Speaking of stage, you’re starring in “Saint Joan” at the Donmar. How did you prepare for that role?
Because it’s all based off historical fact, I read as much as I could about Joan and particularly about King Charles VII. It was fascinating, and the thing is: all that research, the audience won’t see about 90 percent of it. A lot of it isn’t in the script. What it does is color certain lines. If I hadn’t done the research, I wouldn’t have known that his mother and father disowned him, and that has an effect on a person. It’s suggested in the script that he’s a coward, he can’t fight, and he’s not a soldier. He’s not a military leader in the way that a lot of kings were. He was more of a strategist. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t done the research. So, what happens is as you do more research, it props up and fills the text that is already there with another layer of complexity, which is always really interesting to play, because then, rather than just saying the lines, you’re saying the lines with a sense of the history where that line has come from and what that line means. So, when he talks about his father or talks about his great-grandfather, it has a certain weight to it that wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t done the research. Then, you just go into the script and you read it as many times as you can and get those lines in your head and make some choices and then get in the rehearsal room and genuinely just play: “I wonder if I could try it like this. And do that thing there…” And then you slowly, with the director and writers, build something that makes sense and serves the play and the story.
He’s historically such a complex character. I imagine that’s a really rich character to play.
It’s so lovely, because he’s incredibly funny. He’s written incredibly comically. That comes from a sense of wit, which is again George Bernard Shaw highlighting the character as much more brains than brawn, because wit is about a sort of intellectual dexterity, I suppose. So, you’re able, through his wit, to see that he has brains, and his brains ended up winning the Hundred Years War. It wasn’t him going into battle and wearing armor, it was him going: “if we make a treaty with these people, ally ourselves with these people, then we can amass these numbers and go to war with them and prepare ourselves.” He was much more a thinker. So, then at the same time, having that strategic brain, he’s a terrible coward — just likes to stay in bed and eat sweets and cakes and be looked after and not really have to do anything or have any responsibility. And so, you’ve got these two sides of him that are doing battle, I suppose, which it is his birthright that he should be king, but he’s terrified of what that means, which is really lovely and fascinating to play.
What do you want to do in the future then?
I’ve been very, very lucky, I think, actually. I’ve been able to work with some fine people. I mean “fine” from casts, to crews, to directors, to writers, and I just would like that to continue in whichever medium it takes, whether that be screen, stage, or TV. I’m just interested in good, complex, interesting work, work that I can stretch myself in, because sometimes, I think there can be a danger of being typecast, and so you end up playing very similar roles. I feel I’ve been quite lucky in that I’m not really too many parts too similar. I’d like to keep that trend going, because I think it stretches you as an actor and as a person, because you get to learn about a varied range of people and situations. I had no knowledge of the Hundred Years War or of Joan of Arc or of Charles VII at all until I started “Joan.” I’d like to say now I can hold my own in a conversation about them, and I think that’s a real asset. I think it’s one of the big positives of being an actor: you get to explore things you wouldn’t normally choose to look into. On an average day, I wouldn’t decide to pick up a book about Joan of Arc, but I have been — quite a few of them now — and it’s opened my mind to Joan and the Hundred Years War and all of that stuff. I think that’s the one of the best things about being an actor: you get to explore things you wouldn’t normally choose to.
You mentioned that you’re getting into writing. Are you looking to try your hand at anything else like directing or?
I would quite like, because I have a visual brain, to direct. I’ve done a bit of tele and a bit of film, but I don’t know the inner workings of directing yet. I’m getting there, and every time I do a job, I ask everybody: “what’s that you do? How do you do it? How does that feed into this? What’s your role? Ok cool.” And so I’m amassing a knowledge of how to direct and how one would even begin trying to. I would love to direct something, something I’ve written as well, but not star in. I don’t think I have the sort of impartiality to watch me. I think we’d end up doing my scenes for weeks on end until they were perfect. I’d give that to someone else. There are amazing people that can direct and star in their own stuff. I don’t think I could do it. I’ll hand it over to someone else.
Is there anything else you’d like to chat about?
The cast of “Saint Joan” are so collaborative and open. I’ve been so lucky with casts, actually. It genuinely feels fresh every night, because everybody is so on it and so focused that the tiniest little change in intonation is picked up by everyone, and sometimes, entire scenes can feel differently because one person does something slightly different, which then has an effect on everyone on stage. You can only achieve that stuff if you are working with actors that are completely and totally with you. They’re not acting for their own sense of ego, they’re acting to serve the story. So, what happens is a collective “ok, we’re moving in this direction.” It’s really, really wonderful to be a part of and to work with people that intensely connected. I just want to give shout-out to them, because they’re amazing.
That sounds like a wonderful experience.
I’ve been lucky. My “Cucumber” and “Banana” cast were exactly the same. It was just wonderful; it was a joy every day. And the thing is, to me personally, I have to work from a place of joy. I can’t do it otherwise, I don’t think. I think if I’m not happy or there’s just something amiss, I find it really hard to then give the best of myself. I think you’ve got to come from place of joy and warmth. I’ve been very lucky with the casts I’ve had over the years. They’ve all been wonderfully joyous. It just helps.
What is your fault?
I think I’m quite ambitious, which is great, because it means I work hard at the roles I get and the work I get, but it also means that when things aren’t going my way or I feel like they’re not going my way, it can really negatively affect me. I do get a bit down when an opportunity that I’m really excited about passes me by or a job that could lead me close to say my goal of working with Paul Thomas Anderson or HBO — whatever it is — slips through my fingers. I think the fact that I’m so ambitious and the fact that I want those things so badly or to experience those things so badly can sometimes make me get a bit down in the dumps about it. Me being ambitious is a double-edged sword, because it propels me to do well, but also, when things don’t go my way, it makes me a little sad.
“SAINT JOAN will be broadcast live to cinemas on Thursday, 16th February. For tickets go to: http://ntlive.
Words – Alex Cooke
Photography – Stephanie YT
Styling – Plum O’Keeffe
Grooming – Justine Jenkins
Photography Assistant – Erica Fletcher
Styling Assistant – Natalia Schegg
Fresh from the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album ‘Another River’ in late 2016, Alpines sit down with Fault Magazine to discuss everything from their upcoming European Tour, Bob’s bugs and Catherine’s extreme hide and seek.
Hi Catherine, how are you doing?
C: Yeah good good! Bob is here as well.
Hey Bob, how are you?
B: Hi there, good thank you.
Long time no see since the Moth Club show, which I had the chance to attend.
C: Ah amazing! Thank you for coming.
C: Aw that’s cool, it was quite a funny day that day because we woke up to the news that Trump being announced as President; so it put us in quite a weird place in the build up to the show. But it was great; people came down and were up for it.
The vibe was strong in the room; did you feel it on stage?
C: Yeah I definitely did, it was such a nice crowd and it was lovely.
Were there lots of family and friends there?
C: Yeah quite a few friends were there, my mum, dad and my brother there too. My brother always sells the merchandise for us, or he has done for a while so it was lovely.
Couple of free drinks at the end of the night for him then?
C: Oh definitely, he always says to me “Catherine, you know the day that you made it when you no longer need me as the merch boy” [laughs] one day!
What have you guys been up to since the show?
C: So that was in December so obviously we had Christmas; I was away In Antwerp for Christmas as I have family there, and New Year; we’ve both got January birthdays so we went to the Peak District for Bob’s birthday. There were like 22 of us up there in this lovely, big house.
Well happy belated birthday guys!
C: Aw thanks, the rest of January was spent working; we had this live session where we recorded in Metropolis’ studios. We did a few of the songs off the album including making a video for the next single.
Can you announce the name of the next single?
B: Yeah, definitely.
C: Yeah, it’s going to be Motionless.
C: So yeah it’s going to be really nice so keep your eyes peeled; I think it will be coming out quite soon.
The video has been shot?
C: Well what we did is set up as a live band we also had backing vocalists and cello in this big studio. We had a film crew there and they just filmed us doing the song live basically. The main influence for that was Jamie Woon’s video for ‘Sharpness’ performed live from Konk Studios. When we watched that we felt it was so powerful just to see them as a band performing, but obviously that’s an incredible song and I just feel like now people really respond really well to live performance. So we just wanted to capture that and it sounds cool!
It’s helped to capture the raw power of both of you performing together and with the backing band?
C: Yeah exactly!
I’m sure fans will enjoy seeing the video.
C: We hope so yeah; it’s a good time for it, as we’re quite known for doing intense and elaborate music videos in a very classical way. We have never done anything quite like this so I think it shows a side to us that the live side is very important to us; we’ve put a lot of time and hours and energy into being good live performers.
When you’re about to embark on a live tour, how do you prepare for it?
C: You just have to be realistic; we’ve got a lot of rehearsals obviously in the next couple of weeks but I think you’ve just got to steady yourself and I mean particularly as a vocalist I feel the pressure of not to overdo it. I just bought some Manuka Honey that I didn’t realize quite how expensive it was, in the hope of maintaining vocal health. I’ve had a vocal coach for years and you just have to keep it real and look after yourself a bit.
Try and ground yourself a bit before having back-to-back shows?
C: Yeah exactly, and just taking it one step at a time really.
It is all you can do! Are you looking forward to the new tour though?
C: Yeah really looking forward to it and I think what is great is that we have put a lot of work into doing this album live; since the last album we’ve pretty much taken everything off the backing track in order to give people a real experience, a raw experience basically.
With a lot of emotion brought in?
C: Yeah exactly.
B: I feel like it’s brought a lot more energy to the show that was lacking; things were a bit on the rails. So yeah, it’s going to be slightly different to the record in terms of sounds and worth coming out for.
C: Yeah exactly.
Both: Yeah! If you want to come to the next London show, it is on the 6th of April and it’s at Omera, I don’t know if you’ve been to that venue before?
Not yet, but I’ve heard amazing things so far.
B: Oh it’s great!
C: My friend Ben’s space; (Ben from Mumford and Sons) it’s his baby; it’s his project. He has kind of set it all up and obviously with Mumford & Sons being an amazingly experienced touring band they’ve designed it around everything you would need as a musician. In terms of easy access to stage, a nice green room, incredible layout for the audience so it’s tiered. Even if you’re right at the back you can see the stage very easily. Great lighting too and it looks like an old school theatre; it’s really cool.
C: And amazing acoustics obviously yeah, with a great sound system.
Sounds like the perfect venue!
C: Yeah, I mean everyone is playing it at the moment; also it’s London Bridge so it’s pretty easy for everyone to get to.
For your raw power and your sound, it is going to be special.
C: Yeah I think so too! I think what is also great with the London show we’re going to have are backing vocalists that we’ve been working with there as well, who are brilliant. So taking things to the next level and try and get the cellist we’ve been working with too.
B: It’s going to be a pretty special one.
Extra members who you didn’t have with you at the last show at the Moth Club.
C: No, to be fair we wouldn’t be able to fit any more people on stage. It’s quite close up there!
It’s a great sweatbox.
C: Yeah, but it does have a glittery ceiling so that helps!
When you were writing this last album, did you feel any second album pressure?
C: Yeah I mean were in kind of an interesting position because we’ve had a very interesting journey and I think it was pressure in a different way for us. It’s not like we had this huge first album and we were trying to kind of keep that momentum in the second; we didn’t. For us the second album was very self-pressured as we wanted to create something great which we didn’t have necessarily a team behind us or anything like that. We had to almost in many ways scrap this album and just let the music do the talking and had nothing to lose really!
Getting back to your creative roots?
C: Yeah definitely, it was really, really intense and very hardcore; we wrote nearly a hundred songs for this album and it took a lot of narrowing down and back and forth you know, over 2 years of working on it softly. So yeah, it was intense but we’re really proud of it and it’s done good things for us.
This is only the beginning really isn’t it?
B: We hope so yeah!
C: Yeah! That’s also what’s nice, the team that we have now which is part of the independent label and all that.
At Metropolis Records?
C: Yeah exactly, it’s very much so the model that we’ve gone for; it’s not this sort of release it and expect number 1 in the first week. It’s very much so an 18-month long campaign whereby it will grow over time, which is really nice. It’s exciting and rewarding in that way, yeah.
It gets the word out there in a calmer manner so fans can reach you over a progressive period of time, which is quite nice.
C: Yeah totally.
So this second album all went to plan, without any hitches? Are you both happy with the outcome of the release?
C: Yeah, I think we definitely were; I don’t think we could have spent much more time or altered much.
B: Yeah we took our time a bit to make sure we were happy with the songs and not rushing it; and not bringing it out until we were ready. Yeah but that’s not to say that there weren’t moments where we were kind of “I’m not sure this is very good or not sure we’ve got enough songs.”
I guess that’s the creative process behind an album though?
B: Yeah it’s a big part of it, you’re going to have doubts in everything that you’re doing even if you’re the most confident person ever; there’s always going to be that self doubt there and “Yeah I don’t think this is any good”, you have to work hard to get past that.
It’s good to have the two of you bounce off each other, as one might say “I’m not too sure” and the other “No, we can do this to refine it…”
B: Yeah I think it must be really hard if you’re a solo artist dealing with those voices in your head telling you that you’re not good enough; it’s so great that we’ve got each other to work with to encourage and challenge each other.
And you get along well so that helps!
C: Yeah there definitely are moments! But actually you know what is amazing is that what is part of writing so much over such a long period of time, is that you just learn; it’s quite symbiotic really. We rarely really disagree with anything that comes to writing or sonically. You know, we’re often on the same page.
Both: Yeah! Too right.
In regards to the new tour, you’ve got the likes of Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam coming up…are there any places that are special to you that you’re playing, or even an early favourite?
B: I think Bristol is quite special to us because that’s where we met.
C: Yes, that’s true yeah.
B: We love the vibe of that city, it’s got so much interesting music going on and it’s quite liberal and forward thinking; we love that! It’s also a nice size.
C: It is where I went to University so I know it really well. I lived there for like 3 or 4 years so I always love going back there.
Hopefully some of the friends might turn up and say hi?
Both: Yeah! Hopefully.
C: Yeah also excited to play Brussels as I’ve got Belgium family, and that venue is meant to be really beautiful, Its like a botanical garden.
B: It’s like being in a glass house.
C: So that will be really nice, we’re excited to play everywhere really as pretty much every venue on this tour we haven’t played before.
B: Yeah, we’ve never really toured Europe, we played one show in Paris and so that was new to us. Germany is going to be really great, we’ve got a lot of support and fans over there that we want to play to so that’s going to be great.
C: We actually release our album on our German label on Friday, it’s quite good timing.
Very good timing, hopefully the reception you’ll receive will be just as good as you had here.
B: I hope so!
C: Hopefully, yeah!
Got a support act for the tour?
C: Yeah so we are doing pretty much all the tour apart from one date with an act called Tusks, and she’s amazing. She’s just a one-woman band so that will be really, really cool.
Where is she from?
C: She is from Hastings, but now based in London. She’s quite a new act, and signed to ‘One Little Indian’ Records. She is also managed by our manager so we’re part of the same team. It makes things a lot easier. I said to Jack [their manager] that I really want a woman on tour, I want another woman otherwise it’s just me and like 9 guys on a bus. It’s fine but like after 3 weeks of football statistics I get a bit like “Oh god!”
Especially European football statistics!
C: I know, exactly – but it will be nice to have a girl on tour definitely.
You’re playing quite intimate venues like the Paradiso in Amsterdam, does that mean you might change things up in terms of taking the backing band and cello player on tour with you?
C: No, we’d love to but it is just too expensive, that’s why we want to make the London show a special moment. As you say they’re more intimate so we might not have the room on stage also. It’ll just be the four of us on stage.
Have you got a craziest tour moment?
B: Craziest, hmm…
C: I think one of the weirdest moments we’ve had is probably our Paris show actually because it was at David Lynch’s club in Paris called Silencio.
It’s kind of inspired by Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive, so it was weird and crazy fun. It’s quite an exclusive place in and of itself; it’s quite weird but then the show itself we did was really weird because before we went on stage there was a mime artist. Then after, the headline act was this really famous 1970’s French icon called Arielle Dombasle, she’s a king of model and actress from the 70’s. She had this amazing operatic voice and basically got on stage and did this opera acapella with a fiddle player. Then we did our set and it was just bizarre. We had people and friends who had come down to the show like my brother who had come down from London and then his best friend who lived in Paris. It was just one of those weird nights where everything was surreal, very odd but kind of awesome.
Have you two got any phobias?
C: Its quite funny, what are my…[pause] I haven’t got any weird phobias, like I’m not scared of any buses or anything.
B: I’m not good with spiders. That’s a pretty common one.
C: Yeah Bob really hates spiders, for us in general it would have to be Bob’s bugs and in various places. It is funny because we were talking a lot about this in the Peak District during this three hour hike. Its really funny how people’s phobias come out as half of the people had fears of vertigo because we were up quite high on this peak. They were really struggling and it was like “Oh, God”. I don’t like enclosed spaces too much; I have to say I’m a bit phobic yeah. I feel like humans aren’t meant to be in closed, underground spaces. It stems from when I was little I would play hide and seek at my house and my mum and my dad couldn’t find me because I’d hidden away so well in this little cupboard, and I’d lock myself in this tiny cupboard from the inside. I couldn’t get out and had to kick my way out after half an hour because they couldn’t find me. I had to ninja my way out, and I think ever since I don’t love it. [laughs]
None of that on tour hopefully! One last question for you guys…what is your FAULT?
C: Oh I’ve got a few you know [pause], that’s why I’m pausing because I realise I’ve got many but I’m sure Bob will be like…
B: No not many, [laughs] mine is that I’m impatient, especially with technology. Slow loading screens or my computer starts to crash; that enrages me.
C: [laughs] Yeah I think my two main faults would be that I overthink a lot and that I’m very hard on myself.
You’re too self-critical?
C: Oh my God, majorly. I’m learning to try and just be less; I think when I was young it was perfectionism and being a perfectionist is a nightmare. I was very hard on myself and always put a lot of pressure on myself.
Has that pressure motivated you forward?
C: Yeah definitely, I’ve worked hard in a lot of situations where maybe I wouldn’t have naturally excelled, definitely in terms of life generally. But yeah, I think its important to have a lot of drive in music because there are a lot of times where everybody is going to be on your case. You’ve got to have a lot of self-drive and a lot of determination, but sometimes that for me that can turn quickly into self-pressure which gets too much. But you know, I think I’m learning. I’m learning to just accept that side of myself.
It’s one of life’s negatives that can turn into a positive quite quickly.
C: Yeah exactly!
Have fun on tour!
The duo embark on a UK and European tour starting in Birmingham on the 14th of February, across the channel to Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin among others; before ending in a special hometown show at Omeara in London on the 6th of April.
‘Another River’ is out now on Metropolis Recordings. Tickets for the dates can be purchased from www.alpinesmusic.com
Words: Stuart Williams
Kaleo bandleader JJ Julius Son met drummer David Antonsson and bassist Daniel Kristjansson as a young teenager in Reykjavik, Iceland. While they didn’t start the band up until three years later, the trio bonded instantly over their passion for classic rock. In 2012, they brought on guitarist Rubin Pollock and officially formed Kaleo. In 2016, they released their hit single “Way Down We Go.” But as JJ tells us in this interview, one song isn’t enough to capture the stylistic breadth of the band.
FAULT: Having grown up speaking mostly Icelandic, were there any challenges that came with singing in English?
JJ: No, because most people in Iceland speak English quite well. I remember growing up, TV and stuff — we didn’t really dub that, we just had subtitles. And once cell phones and computers came along, everything was in English. So you kinda had to learn how to speak English back home.
FAULT: What enabled Kaleo to break through and get recognized by the wider world outside of Iceland?
JJ: To be honest, we kind of had really quick success in Iceland. Then we released “All the Pretty Girls,” and I guess through the internet or somehow, someone passed the music on to the next guy and the next guy. Before we knew it, we started flying to L.A. and New York, doing these showcase shows for all these people and companies. So it’s really been quite an adventure — a crazy ride for us for the past three and a half years.
FAULT: Has the success of “Way Down We Go” changed you guys at all?
JJ: I think it just makes things easier. For me, every song is as important as the next one because I write very different songs. I think you have to include all of them to kind of see the big picture. When people come to a show, a lot of them don’t expect us to be a rock ’n’ roll band because we play a lot of diverse music. It’s very uptempo, but it’s also very melodic and slow-tempo. Like I said, I think every song counts, but success will always make things easier and help you get recognition.
FAULT: You guys have kind of a handprint motif going on with your album cover, the name of your tour, and David’s drum kit. Is there any kind of a special meaning there?
JJ: It was really just an idea for an album cover at the time, and then we felt like it could be something connected to the tour as well. It’s kinda fun. I think it’s different, and it seems like people react to it and remember it. So I think it serves its purpose.
FAULT: What are Kaleo’s plans for 2017? We know you’ve been on this massive our. Is there anything else on the horizon?
JJ: Yeah, there’s been an insane amount of touring for the past few years. That’s probably going to be the case this year as well. But I’ve also been writing for the next album, and hopefully, we’ll be able to get into the studio this year at some point. And I’m very excited about festival season coming up — some big festivals. Then the fall tour, hopefully. The last months and years have been very exciting, visiting places around the world. I think we’ll keep doing that, and hopefully go to some places we haven’t been before. Because so far it’s been a great experience, visiting all these new places and seeing people come out to the show already knowing the music. That’s very special for me.
FAULT: How has the UK been treating you?
JJ: It’s been great. People are very passionate about music here, as they obviously have been for a long time. I love so much music that comes from the U.K. We’ve had a great time, and we had a great time playing here last fall, so we’re very excited to be back and playing a bigger rooms now. Very exciting times.
FAULT: What is your FAULT?
JJ: Sometimes my mind is too busy thinking about everything and everyone, and I kind of forget to live in the moment.
Catch Kaleo’s latest tracks below:
As one of the world’s most iconic musicals, landing a role in Dreamgirls is a stage actor’s dream gig. The high-octane dance moves, emotional storyline and powerful musical numbers have blown away theatre audiences since the show first premiered back in the early 1980’s. Dreamgirls gained further worldwide acclaim thanks to the 2006 Hollywood blockbuster release of the same name starring vocal powerhouses Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson. Today, there are few who don’t know the story of the Dreamgirls journey and fewer who aren’t familiar with the iconic ‘And I Am Telling You’ musical number midway through the show. Returning to London’s Savoy Theatre late 2016, audience’s expectations from the whole cast have been high, to say the least.
With a gruelling eight shows a week schedule, FAULT wanted to find out just what it takes for cast member Joe Aaron Reid to prepare for the big stage. Playing the business minded and (sometimes) antagonist Curtis Taylor Junior (played by Jamie Foxx in the 2006 movie) – we find out just what it’s like to be part of such an iconic production.
FAULT: Did you know much about the character of Curtis before you took the role?
Joe: I knew what Jamie Foxx had done, I didn’t know much more than that though. I auditioned for the movie many years ago but for the role of Cici as I was much younger at the time. I didn’t have much connection with Curtis until auditions came around this time and I realised it was far more fitting for me.
The Jamie Foxx version is very famous – does that make it harder for you to make the character your own?
I think anytime there’s a movie of something that you can replay and watch over and over, often times it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, that’s just what people know and as an actor, it’s hard to force yourself into someone elses perceptions. The great thing about this production, often times people who love the movie have come up to me and said they love the production so much because they can appreciate both independently and that is very reassuring.
Is there a big difference between your version of Curtis and the ones we say in the movie?
I’m a bit younger than Jamie Foxx is in the movie which helps because we start so early in the story to when it finishes. Especially with act 1 – we can explore their younger years which isn’t really touched on in the movie so you have a longer story arch for all the characters. We all start as naïve and ambition young people and so we can show a broader character development.
Are you playing Curtis as less the Hollywood villain because of this?
It’s a mixed bag – I just try to be true. Some days it can be an ambitious portrayal and other it’s pure villainy. It’s an interesting role and I’m learning from the audience that no matter how I play Curtis, they’re looking for a bad guy. Everyone is always onEffie’s side and what’s funny to see is that people forget that Effie is not always easy to work with.
Curtis isn’t innocent but despite always making decisions for the benefit of the whole group, Curtis is always hated! I try to veer my performances towards the ambitious and to make it clear that it’s about survival in the industry and less about the personal feeling. There’s a line in the show which reads ‘It’s business baby’ and with Curtis, it really is about the business over everything.
What about Curtis attracted you to the role?
Curtis was a role that I’ve always had my eye on. He’s a meaty character and the growth he goes through in two hours in realy engaging. To start the show as wide eyes and end the show as broken as he becomes and everything in-between, is an actor’s dream. To be part of a musical with the big performers and performances but to play the person who acts as the glue for all the build up is something that as an actor, I’m lucky to get that.
So opening night comes and the whole cast is ill…
[Laughs] I know right! There have been a lot of people who were ill throughout the whole process. It’s such an iconic show so stress just destroys your immune system. I was fine up until the week before previews and I have two kids who are in nursery and they bring home everything! I ended up having a viral and bacterial infection which wiped me out and two other cast members were also very sick.
I then had to miss the following three shows and I came back and then as luck would have it and I got the neural virus and press was in so I couldn’t pull out. The team were literally following me around with buckets and I was in tears but we all pushed through opening night and then it all fell apart. It hasn’t been easy but we pushed through and it looks as though everyone is on the mend now.
What are you looking for when you pick roles to audition for?
Everyone wants the meaty roles; the big songs, the showy moments, the challenge and the recognitions that come with it. Sometimes you’re blessed with that and sometimes you’re not. In the show before this, I got to play Benny from ‘In The Heights’ and that was a dream role for me. His character is such a huge departure from Curtis because he is a young lover who just wants to have success and love the girl he loves and when he can’t do that, he just lets it go. With Curtis, he’s also misunderstood but he still ploughs through anything in his way. The difference in character there is a great thing for me to play. When people say they’ve seen me in both they always say “it’s great to hear you play such different characters.”
Is the stage where your heart is and where you want to stay or do you think you’ll go into film and television?
I think my heart will always lie here. When I was a kid, movies and musicals were so my “thing” and it’s certainly in my heart but in NYC I was able to work on a tv show and I’d love to sink my teeth more in there. Not that I want it to take me away from the theatre, I just want to be able to pick and choose where my time is spent especially now I’m older and I have a family.
Finally, what is your FAULT
My FAULT is that I’m a perfectionist. I like things to be perfect all of the time, which I’m fully aware is impossible. As I get a bit older, I’m learning not to be such a control freak but you know what they say.. ”old habits die hard”
Words & Photography: Miles Holder
Australia’s Jessica Anne Newman, better known as Betty Who, is among the most effervescent artists you’ll ever meet. Her new song, “Some Kinda Wonderful,” came out Friday, and — as she explains in this interview — is absolutely insane. She also opens up about protesting Donald Trump and touring with Katy Perry.
FAULT: How did you come up with your stage name?
Betty Who: There was a kid I went to high school with who always called me “toots” because he was super-old school, and I thought it was like the cutest thing in the entire world. He would also say about women, “Oh, she’s such a Betty.”
You know that scene in Clueless where Cher walks past the painting of her mother and she’s like, “Wasn’t she a total Betty?”?
I loved that — that kind of colloquial term for a woman really stands out to me as representing a woman, not like a chick or a girl.
And I kind of felt like I was deciding who I wanted to be, which was where the “Who” came from.
FAULT: How did you get your start in music?
Betty Who: I’ve been a musician all my life. I started playing cello when I was four years old, and I studied it until I was 18; I went to performing arts high school for it. And then after school, I went to college for singing and songwriting, which is the first time I actually had studied singing (like, really?). When I went to Berklee, about a year in I started making music with producer Peter [Thomas], who has been my producer now ever since then. So since I was 19, pretty much, I’ve been making music with this boy.
FAULT: It’s pretty clear based on your Twitter that you’re not a fan of Donald Trump. What do we do about him at this point? As regular people, what’s the best way for us to carry on?
Betty Who: Jesus … [laughs] … I have absolutely no idea, and I don’t think anybody does. I think that’s what the scariest part is about it. My godmother is a 66-year-old woman. Her boyfriend before her husband was a Black Panther. She was from Berkley, California, and she’s like an original hippie. So when we went to the Women’s March together, she was of the generation of: I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit. We did this before, and we did it so our kids wouldn’t have to. And here we are, doing it again.
I think hearing her talk about it, you never know what to do about a narcissistic dictator except for try to make your voice heard and stand up and say, “No, this is absolutely 100 percent not acceptable, and I put my weight behind that belief,” as opposed to not saying anything and just waiting it out.
I think there’s a lot of that right now, particularly in the cities. Between New York and L.A., there’s so much movement and dedication to standing up for what we believe is right. But I think there’s a whole lot of the country that also believes what Donald Trump is doing is right. And I think that divide is really apparent given the fact that he won the presidency. So it’s a really scary time to be neighbors with some of the people.
You go: How can you feel this way?
And they go: How can you feel that way?
And you go: Oh, we really just don’t agree.
It’s really interesting, and it’s really a strange time to be alive. I’m quite shocked, and my heart is just constantly broken by the things I hear about that his administration has already done in such a short period of time.
FAULT: On a lighter note, what was it like supporting Katy Perry?
Betty Who: It was fabulous. That month of my life that I spent in Australia with her is to-date one of the most fun things I’ve done in my entire life. I look back at it fondly, and I miss it all the time. I made so many good friends on the tour, and I had the most exhilarating experience performing for her crowd. Katy’s fans are die-hards, and they’re lovely, and the people were really, really great.
Still to this day, people will comment on my Instagram like: I saw you open for Katy Perry in Melbourne, and that’s how I know your music.
I miss it all the time. Sometimes I’ll just like sit in my bedroom alone and watch the Prismatic Tour DVD like a stalker and be like: Ohmygod I miss it so much!
FAULT: What was the writing process for “Some Kinda Wonderful”?
Betty Who: I was in with papnokes for four days total, and on the third night we were together, we were talking about the kind of artist I wanted to be and the kind of music I wanted to make. We were kind of having this big existential conversation about my career, and I was telling them basically: I love pop music. I love how it makes people feel. And I love that there is perfection.
It’s hard to find perfection in the world, just in general. As humans, we are destined to be imperfect. I love pop music because I think there is such a thing as a perfect pop song. My quest to create something that feels like a perfect pop song has been one of the greater challenges of my life, and it’s something that I’m still trying to do and I still love to do. So I was talking to them about that, and I went in the next day, and they had come in early and started the track.
I walked in, and they were like: Dude, we’ve done something crazy, and I don’t know how you feel, or if you’re gonna fuck with it, but I’m gonna play it for you.
I heard it and was like: This is arguably the most up-beat song that has ever existed in the in the world. From the very beginning, it’s like buck-wild. It’s like if you took three shots of tequila in a row — that’s what it makes me feel mentally.
I loved it, and they were like: What are you gonna do over that verse?
And I was like: What else am I gonna do? — I’m gonna yell. Like I can’t do anything it’s like so crazy, like I’ll just yell what the 808 is doing.
And they were like: I knew you were gonna say that!
I think we wrote it in like two hours. I called my manager and left him a voicemail (He still has it; he saved it.) being like: I just wrote the craziest song, and I am literally obsessed with it.
FAULT: What is your FAULT?
Betty Who: Ooh, many a flaw in this girl — let me think [laughs] …
I have a habit (This is, like, not one of the really bad ones, because I want you to still like me after this.) of talking during movies. My boyfriend is a really big movie guy. He went to film school; movies are his passion. His dad is a director, and it’s like a big thing thing in his family.
So when he watches a movie, I imagine it’s similar to how I feel when I listen to a mix of my song or something. If I’m showing somebody a song, and they’re talking over it and texting or something, I get so frustrated. It’s like: You’re not listening. You’re gonna drive me crazy. So I think it’s a very similar experience for him, and I’ll ask questions like: Wait, why is this happening?
And he’ll by like: I swear to God, if you don’t fucking stop talking, I’m gonna freak out.
So it’s a very bad habit that I’ve been working on, and that I get reprimanded for often [laughs].
Words: Cody Fitzpatrick
Listen to ‘Some Kinda Wonderful’ below.