“A lot of people can’t stand touring but to me it’s like breathing. I do it because I’m driven to do it”.
Whether they love it or not, touring has become the bread and butter of a musician’s lifestyle. While once tours promoted albums, now they fund them. David Bowie predicted it years ago when he said that music would be available on tap, and warned the generation below him, “you’d better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left”.
While most musicians, but by no means all, enjoy being up on the stage performing, it’s the travelling and grind that gets people down. Bernard Sumner laments the tedium of, “waiting for your bags at the carousel”, Moby described touring as, “a very strange and isolating experience”, while Julian Casblancas described the whole experience as, “a vegetal state”.
Gruelling certainly, but ultimately it’s a lifestyle many would kill for; touring might be a gruelling world of roads, planes and hotels, but it’s still a small price to pay for the joy of living your dreams.
One band adapting to life on the road are New York quartet Poppies. The band formed a couple of years back when lead-singer and guitarist May was dating guitarist, and sometime singer, Ian’s housemate. The pair bonded over music, and the idea of Poppies was formed, now fleshed out to a four piece by the addition of bassist, Keith and drummer, Lex. The band recently released their debut EP, the quietly confidently titled, Good.
Poppies’ sound seems to draw from a huge variety of influences, there’s nods to the anti-folk of The Moldy Peaches, the slacker stylings of fellow New Yorker’s, Forth Wanderers and at times in their louder moments even a touch of Sonic Youth. Vocal duties are shared between May and Ian, often singing different melodies and lyrics, giving it a slightly uneasy and eerie quality, a bit like a lo-fi bedroom rock version of a playground singing game. Recent single, Dumb Advice, builds around driving guitar chords and twangy lead lines; throughout it feels as if on the verge of collapse, as if it at any moment it could descend into a wall of noise. Elsewhere, Dog Years bounces on light jazzy drums and a prominent bass-line, Dynamo bristles with an uneasy intensity and the album’s only acoustic moment, Sunburn, is just brilliantly minimal, all hissing tape and intimately muted vocal delivery.
Lyrically, the record seems loaded with quiet doubts, it seems to touch on growing up, but while always questioning whether anyone actually wants to. On Sunburn, May sets out with good intentions about putting her life in order, but ultimately concludes, “I tried but I tried too hard, I’m tired and I’m done wondering if I’m not living good. Let’s do stupid things and get our teeth fucked up”. Opening track, Devin, takes the exploration of growing up further, with the soft, simple melodies of Frankie Cosmos, May looks at a child, perhaps hers, perhaps a younger brother. The opening line, “rip the head off Mr Bear, but he’d had his run”, sets the scene of childlike innocence but instantly adds a quiet darkness. Throughout the track May tries to justify his behaviour, quoting the old clichés like “boys will be boys” and “he just confuses right and wrong”, but the doubts creep in. “Charming when he feels like being, seen it a few times, but I don’t feel what I’d call love when I’m looking into his eyes. Sometimes I feel like he’s not mine that boy is Rosemary’s child”. It’s perhaps the sense of normality with which it begins that makes this conclusion so harrowing, the way we always want to see the best in our loved ones, even when everyone around us can see their flaws.
Good is a fine introduction to a band, an EP that showcases Poppies versatility, songwriting and ambition. The band are going to be heading back into the studio later this year to start work on their debut album, the results could well be spectacular.
Fresh from the road the band have today made us a mixtape showcasing some of the tracks that, “keep us going during those long stretches of road”. Check out the tape below featuring the likes of Prince & The Revolution, CAN and Hank Williams.
1. CAN – Moonshake
2. Puff Pieces – Goths & Vandals
Love this band and dying to catch them live!
3. Psychic TV – As Tears Go By
4. Hank Williams – Blue Eyes Crying
Can’t have a road trip without some Hank Williams.
5. Asphixiation – L’acrostique d’amour
6. Pearie Sol – Love Is For The Loving
We played our Baltimore and DC shows with Perry and both of his performances were a real treat.
7. LaVern Baker – See See Rider
8. Cluster & Eno – Wehrmut
9. Prince & The Revolution – The Screams Of Passion (1984 Soundcheck)
This was the crazy Prince track we heard when driving to Philly. The whole song is based around this one drum loop and piano groove, and he directs the rest of the band as he’s playing the song. You can tell the lyrics aren’t exactly written yet either haha.
10. Dougie Poole – Don’t You Think I’m Funny Anymore?
Lucky to have had Doug play our EP release show. This song is a classic.
Good EP is out now via Topshelf Records (cassette) & Super Fan 99 (vinyl). Click HERE for more information on Poppies.