“Not scared of no darkness” – The Americas “Guitar Music is Dead” review
When I look back, there is a cinematic quality to it. I can see it in my mind unfolding like a film. A girl is walking into a local venue, wrapped in her over-sized winter jacket. She`s very nervous to the point of feeling lightheaded. Yet, she is very determined. She came to this place to find bands to promote. She is about to rebuild her life from actual scratch and it’s the music business with no plan B. She will find herself some local acts to promote and it will snowball from here. It`s a Phillip Hall or Tony Wilson type of thing. You would not understand.
The bar is half full with some people talking and listening to songs played via PA system. There could have been an open mic night but it ended. The girl was late. She loiters with a glass of cola for a while and then strikes rather awkward conversation with two guys at the bar. They seem like a perfect target. And the conversation goes like this:
– Sooo, are you in a band? – she asks
– Yes – one of the boys is irritated because he has just been mistaken for his twin brother
– We are … ummm a five piece…
– And have a female singer – interrupts the brother and they do look identical
– Would you describe yourself as a good band?
The boys stare at each other:
– Suppose so? – says the first one measuring words – But if you want to find a good band in this town there`s The Americas…
The boy is Fergus Brazier – lead guitarist of incredibly potent indie pop/shoegaze act named nth cave. His hair is still not dyed blue, he is months away from departing to London to work at the Beeb. His brother is Hector Brazier, drummer in the same band. They recorded a session for BBC Hereford and Worcester but have no idea that it will become one of the most popular sessions for local chapter of BBC Introducing. They are unaware that in the future they will co headline Musicians Against Homelessness in Worcester collecting more funds than a similar event in Birmingham. It is also too early for their demos to end up on Steve Lamacq`s desk. It`s only winter 2016 and we have just met.
Similarly, the entire local music scene is yet nameless. It will take several more months before Andrew Marston of BBC coins the term “WorcesterWave” to describe our collective push to be recognized. But the stars are aligning. The nth cave boys just introduced me to The Americas. I don’t know many people in town so it is hard for me to name others in the room. But it is full of people with whom I will work and whom I will call friends. Jesse River Dylan Murray is packing up his guitar – dressed in his fashionable coat, Troy Tittley of Nuns of the Tundra is out in the little garden in the back of the venue. Hanna Webb is saying good bye to her mates from Population 7 by the doors, there is a song by Soeur on the speakers…
The girl goes home quite ignorant that she accidentally stepped in to an environment that resembles Seattle in the late 80s – where local music scene is full of incredible talent and it is ready to make itself known to the country. So far the girl has just learned names of two local bands. One of them will change her considerably. She gets home and puts The Americas into Google…
It took 547 more days (I have been counting, not sure what it says about me) to finally see the band live – on 16th September 2017 during Worcester Music Festival. By then, The Americas had three singles out and they toured the country playing all the important festivals. They rounded up the year being featured by Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music during his Christmas program.
Second time I`ve seen them was on 30th March 2018 (tendency to remember life events by the gigs), they played to a sold out crowd in the same venue when I first heard their name. They were dressed in matching red suits and white shirts. They debuted some new songs and taunted an upcoming EP.
If I can conjure some more of this nonexistent film about the Worcester scene. In March 2018, I am now at the side of the stage screaming out America`s lyrics and having a very emotional time. Over the two years period The Americas found a way into my soul and into my playlists. I interviewed them for my blog, I discovered their previous project (Holy!), I have their song on my ringtone and I march into work at a local authority to their beat. If allowed – I am harping about them (and The Blinders) to anyone who was unlucky to show interest in anything music related. The band kind of become friends since we all live in the same town.
The WorcesterWave is in full swing – local artists have been on BBC Hereford and Worcester, BBC West Midlands, Black Country Radio, Radio Brum, XS Manchester, BBC Radio 1 (including a Maida Vale session for Soeur), 6 Music, Radio X, Amazing Radio and festivals around the country. Local press (Worcester News, Malvern Gazette, Hereford Times), big rock magazines (Louder Than War, Kerrang, NME), independent zines (Leather + Denim, Some Might Say) have featured artists from the scene. It becomes the norm to see local bands regularly gigging in London, Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, opening festival stages and even being considered for labels. If a movie about us is ever going to be made – there surely will be a scene of Fergus (with his now trademark blue hair) pitching local acts to some indie labels at a music fair in London for an hour and forty –five minutes. Or The Americas singing their hearts out at The Lexington while opening for The Blinders…
Our combined efforts, support from Beeb and DJs such as Andrew Marston, Steve Lamacq, John Kennedy, Daniel P Carter, Huw Stephens, Mary Ann Hobbs, Lauren Laverne or Tom Robinson and simple luck pushed WorcesterWave further than anyone of us would dream. But one thing remains certain: The Americas seem to be ahead of everyone. They set trends and go places like they have found a crystal ball and can see the future. Whatever they do today, the scene will try out tomorrow.
And here we get to the meritum of this longish essay – the debut EP from The Americas aptly entitled “Guitar Music Is Dead”.
On September 7th 2018 The Americas debuted a six track EP – their first offering to the world. Recorded at a secret studio located in Oxfordshire countryside, “Guitar Music Is Dead” has been mixed and produced by Mike Hill and the band, using tape instead of digital technology. It gives the record unique, old fashioned feeling – something that you don’t hear on other indie releases. However this is not nostalgia for the golden era of rock and roll. The EP feels very modern, both in sound and output. It just has that “thin mercury sound” that Bob Dylan spoke about – for a lack of better definition.
Analogue approach brings forward the beauty of The Americas that could have been overlooked before – that of honesty, that comes from hearts and experiences of the members. The band does not shy away from hard topics on the record: loneliness in “Come on Out”, political and economical mess of the world in “American Morning” or drug use in “I Don’t Wanna Go Home”. But everything is delivered with a dose of sadness and poetry, rather than a blunt force. The Americas look at the world and see what surrounds us and react to it in their own ways. They do get angry in “Bad News” that seems to be directed at people in music industry (or any industry where you work and struggle) but also deliver a beautifully crafted song about getting away in “Backyard Love Song” and a love song in form of “Rosanna”. This is my personal favourite. If I may dedicate few lines of text to it.
“Rosanna” closes the record with a bang and a wonderful jam at the end of the track. But it is the lyrics that won me over. Perhaps I am wrong, but this is not an ordinary love song. This is a “love beyond the grave” type of a story – where two people have each other for ever, no matter what. “Rosanna” is a possessive, us vs. the world, Bonnie and Clyde, True Romance kind of a feeling. The one that each of us dreamed of but very few will ever experience. And then there is this passage “I am not scared of no darkness, as long as I’ve got you here in my heart”. For a whole list of personal reasons that should not go into the review – this line got to me and became some sort of a mantra in times of trouble. It is nearly a protective spell, and I don’t believe in magic. I do however believe in power of music and “Rosanna” is one hell of a powerful statement.
The EP also brings in a new element to band`s repertoire. For the first time, both Harry Payne and Aaron Whittaker share vocal duties. Aaron takes leads on “American Morning” and “Backyard Love Song” – both compositions he authored. While Harry Payne`s vocals are expressive and at times cutting like knives (last minute of “I Don’t Wanna Go Home will leave you with deep emotional scars), Aaron vocals are soothing and gentle. Harry and Aaron complement each other, when one sings leads, the other does backing parts and it works like magic. I have yet to find an indie record that has this sort of chemistry and fellowship between band members.
That partnership is very much visible on stage when The Americas play live. They instinctively know what the other person will do, where the music goes, what songs follows. Off stage, they sit together like a family unit rather than a bunch of mates. I have seen other acts being fiercely jealous of the unity in The Americas. Come to think of it, “Guitar Music Is Dead” would not be such an exemplary record if it wasn’t for the brotherhood shared between Harry, Alex and Aaron.
And I have to mention something about Alex Bradshaw`s drumming. The legend has it that he was “stolen” by Aaron and Harry from his mother group and was convinced to join The Americas instead. I`m not particularly sure this is what really happened but Alex`s input in the band is crucial for the sound. He hits the tubes like there is no tomorrow in “Bad News”, only to bring delicate textures of “American Morning” next and contributes groove to the phenomenal jam at the end of “Rosanna”. How many times you get to listen to a record and say – yep, the drummer is the right one for the band. The chemistry between Aaron and Harry is kept in perfect balance by Alex and there is no doubt about it.
“Guitar Music is Dead” is a great EP, lasting about 30 minutes and it’s one of two records of the year for me, alongside with “Columbia” from The Blinders. What is a small disappointment to me, unlike “Columbia”, “Guitar Music Is Dead” doesn’t fully capture how the band sound when playing live. You still need to see The Americas on stage to fully understand their powerful mix of Americana, soul, gospel and classic rock. The EP is an excellent record but The Americas are capable of so much more than the format could handle.
If you can get yourself a copy of the EP, do so. It will be exciting for me to see where the band will go from here. And perhaps for the entire WorcesterWave scene as well.
It was very hard to write this review. Took me about a week. I wrote at home, in a hotel at 3AM when on a trip to Manchester, on buses and in bed. I reviewed “Columbia” in about 5 hours from start to finish and required four revisions. The Americas took about thirty. This record hits so close to home that I had to take chunks of text out not to make it too personal. Morrissey once said that we should never forget the records that saved our lives. “Guitar Music Is Dead” did just that. On at least three occasions this year.
Alex, Harry and Aaron – thank you.
“Guitar Music Is Dead” was released on 7th September 2018.
1. Come On Out
2. American Morning
3. Bad News
4. Backyard Love Song
5. I Don`t Wanna Go Home
Interview with the band:
You can follow The Americas using the links below:
Or listen online:
The EP has been promoted by three singles that were released throughout the summer. You can find them on band`s YouTube channel with respective lyrics.
Please do not take just my word for granted how good The Americas` EP is. Here is a whole bunch of other reviews (and this is just a small fragment of what`s out there) if you cannot make up your mind if you shall get your own copy of “Guitar Music Is Dead”:
Gigslutz: „Every track varies from the last, showing the incredible talent and individual sound the band is bringing to the table, and this just the start of what The Americas are capable of”
This Feeling track of the day: “Anthemic, groove laden guitar music you can dance to – and no one’s doing it better right now”.
Oddscene (French online magazine): “The Englishmen of “The Americas” start a brand new chapter with their first EP that will see the light of day in September”.
Words For Music: “EP packs a whole load of guitar in one place. The ring of the classic bluesy vocals are complemented by rock and country guitars while hats are surely tipped towards indie music, making you really question the Midland origin of the band”.
The review was followed by Q&A by the magazine:
Counteract: “The Americas are ensuring guitar music is in rude health”.
Northern Exposure: “The Americas are a British guitar band trying to make it pay in the 21st century. Taking influences from 70’s Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and American pop-culture.They put on their suits, strap up their boots and take their rock and roll gospel to anyone who’ll listen”.
North Exposure: “These indie rockers cause quite a ruckus when playing and have taken that riot on tour with a slurry of festival appearances last year which were all well received”.
We Close Tonight: “If you can find me a trio of blokes from Birmingham who are better at making Americana music than The Americas, I’ll buy you a pint of something bitter.”
One Great Song: “From indie infused country guitar to melodic piano and bluesy vocals, the trio’s debut EP is shaping up to be a refreshing offering of proper guitar music with a nostalgic twist”.
One Great Song: “Heavenly melodies meet with bluesy, soothing vocals to create a classic rock n roll edge”
One Great Song: “Nobody else is producing a sound quite like theirs right now, and the Guitar Music Is Dead EP is all the evidence you need of that. Traditional but quirky, nostalgic and powerful; The Americas are proving that guitar music is in fact thriving”.
Indie Central Music: „The Americas have just released six-track EP ‘Guitar Music Is Dead’, and prove in 29 minutes of 60’s-flavoured rock’n’roll that they are one of the new wave of UK bands making sure guitar music is very much alive”. (also user rating for the band is stated at 8.2 out of 10)
Reyt Good Magazine: “With their reputation and fanbase rapidly growing across the independent scene, the band look to be a definite hit this summer”.
Popped Music: “Once again the guys have smashed it and given us a summer anthem that we can listen to all day, every day. “ (about “American Morning”)
Popped Music: “Have been a big fan of The Americas since seeing them gracing the stages at some small venues and then smashing their set at Isle of Wight Festival (…) Judging from this release, the EP, “Guitar Music is Dead”, is something to look forward to”. (about “Come On Out”)
Indie For Bunnies (Italian Indie Blog): “For lovers of that sound of the ’70s but also for those looking for a half hour of great music: do not waste your time and listen to it, guitar music will never die.”
Denim+ Leather: “Beautifully refreshing in a sea of indie rock and their songs truly mean something”.
Till the next time.
“Everyone can enjoy the sun on their face. It’s a basic privilege even the plants have.”