Posts Tagged ‘Hookworms’

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English five-piece Hookworms have followed up this year’s Microshift with a new remixes EP, Microshift Remixes EP, out on November. 23rd via Domino Recordings. The four-track EP features remixes from Nik Colk Void of Factory Floor, Luke Abbott, Free Love (fka Happy Meals) and XAM (with Hookworms’ own MB). The EP will be limited to 500 physical copies and they unveiled the first track from it this past week: “Ullswater (Luke Abbott Remix).” The new remix preserves the punchy, intricate electro-rock quality of the group’s album while drawing it out for a more hypnotic, rhythmic drone. The vocals cut out about halfway through, but they keep up the intrigue with mind-numbing synths and pulsing percussion, opening the sonic palette much wider than you thought they would, especially with the outro’s strange, waterfall-like percussive elements

Hookworms – “Ullswater (Luke Abbott Remix)”, taken from ‘Microshift Remixes EP‘ released 23rd November 2018 on Domino Recordings Co

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It was  just like being in a disaster movie.” That’s how Hookworms singer Matthew “MJ” Johnson remembers Boxing Day in 2015, when the river Aire burst its banks, engulfing the band’s studio and rehearsal space. He was having lunch at his parents’ house several miles away at the time. The moment he heard the emergency flood alert, Johnson abandoned the meal and drove through rising water to the studio, which was soon five feet under. “The electricity was off and there was an eerie calm,” he says. “It was genuinely scary. I’ve got strong legs through cycling but I kept getting knocked over.”

Because the building, in the Kirkstall area of Leeds, was on a flood plain, he’d been unable to get insurance (even though the last flood had occurred in 1866). By the time he went back two days later to assess the damage, the waters had taken his car, much of the band’s back catalogue, their new recordings and – since he ran the place as a commercial studio – his livelihood. “I looked around,” he says, “and there was nothing left.”

Two years on, the studio has been rebuilt, courtesy of crowdfunding, friends and other bands who rallied round. Hookworms have now poured their frustrations into Microshift, a glorious, electronic-psychedelic third album with motorik grooves and euphoric choruses. After two previous albums of brain-scrambling, fuzzy psych-rock, it is being widely heralded as a triumph. The Guardian called it “their most accessible work and their most intense”, while the Times, in another five-star review, hailed it as “an instant classic” comparable to such benchmarks as the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy and Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.

Not that the down-to-earth quintet are getting carried away. “The album got three stars in Crack magazine,” laughs Matthew “MB” Benn, the band’s synth player (an audiologist by day). They’ve learned to not take anything for granted. Microshift has a hymnal, giddy energy, akin to the ecstasy that can follow agony, which feels very appropriate – because floods aren’t all they’ve had to deal with.

“So much has gone on that I think there is a Hookworms curse,” says Benn. “We’d had such a terrible few years. So we wanted the music to be upbeat, uplifting.”

When the group formed amid the bustling Leeds DIY scene in 2009, lady luck initially smiled. The Brudenell Social Club booked Hookworms to support Wooden Shjips before they’d even heard a note. Then Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys started saying how much he liked Wooden Shjips. “So,” recalls Benn, “we played our first ever gig to a sold-out venue.”

Almost immediately afterwards, things started going wrong. Equipment was lost or malfunctioned, cars broke down, the band’s bank account was defrauded and a former booking agent sent them an abusive letter declaring: “You will never be successful.” Incredibly, Johnson’s first studio – a place in Armley he rented after quitting his office job to chase a childhood dream – also flooded. “The roof collapsed,” he says. “And it turned out the landlord hadn’t told anyone I was there, because the building had already been declared uninhabitable.”

None of this stopped Hookworms becoming the most promising Leeds band since the heady days of Kaiser Chiefs. But when their 2013 debut, Pearl Mystic, was acclaimed as a masterpiece, Johnson was horrified, having fully expected to end up with hundreds of unsold copies under his bed. “I had impostor syndrome,” he says. “If we were making perfect records, where could we go from there? And I didn’t think it was perfect.”

The frontman has battled “chronic depression” since his teens and was thoroughly unprepared when a comment in a press release he hadn’t expected many people to read (about a “half-hearted suicide attempt”) went viral. All he will say about the incident now is that it was “a cry for help”. Deep down, he says, “all my songs are about mental health”.

After rushing their second album, 2014’s The Hum, the band resolved to take their time with the third, spending the label advance on electronics to take their sound in a new direction. But during recording, the sound engineer – a close friend – died. He had loved their track Negative Space, having heard it in its early stages on one of the last occasions they were together. It is now Microshift’s surging opening song – and all about him. It hinges on the euphoric line: “I always see you when I’m down.” Says Johnson: “Soon after he died, I was in the supermarket and saw him. Then you realise it’s not that person.”

Ullswater, a frenzied electro shimmer of a track, refers to the Lake District beauty spot where Johnson’s father used to take him before he developed Alzheimer’s. “My dad was – is – into poetry,” he says. “When I was very young, he introduced me to Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath and then Neil Young. A lot of those things went on to really shape my life, so it was important to get the lyrics right. Alzheimer’s is talked of with shame, in the way cancer was in the 1960s. But that absolutely needs to change, because it’s going to affect so many of us.”

Other songs on Microshift address male anxiety, body image and – on Opener – toxic masculinity. Given its subject matter, why does Opener sound so joyous? “I’m arguing that it’s OK for males to admit to failings. Even now, there’s still this notion that the man is the breadwinner – this 1950s, 60s culture that I find really weird.”

These are refreshing subjects for pop, but Johnson is keen to let it be known he despises the notion of the tortured artist: he says he writes some of his best songs when he’s happy. “There’s a certain type of man who reads Bukowski and wants bad things to happen to him so he can write terrible, deep lyrics. Personally, I’d rather be totally sane and stable and never have made any music than be depressed and make music that people like.”

The band members have yet to give up their day jobs, and feel grounded by their employment (pub work, teaching, Citizens Advice). Nor do they have a manager. Benn has taken over the role, answering emails and booking hotels. “We were being ripped off by promoters,” he says. “I was naive. It’s been a steep learning curve.” He’s not the only one doubling up: bassist Johnny “JW” Wilkinson looks after graphic design, while guitarist Sam “SS” Shjipstone keeps the books.

It’s rare to see a pop act have such a disregard for careerism, but Johnson points out that making records at their own pace – without management or label pressure – means they can carry on for as long as they want. “I never want to have to do gigs all month to pay the rent,” he says. “We can make a record like Microshift – but then our next one might be incredibly difficult and uncommercial. And that doesn’t matter. That’s really important to us.”

Two years after the flood, Johnson remains in “a ton” of debt but has enjoyed rebuilding the studio. “I taught myself joinery,” he says proudly. “I’d never done anything like that before.”

Hookworms suddenly seem to have a lot to look forward to. Do they think Microshift is lifting the curse? “It’s hard to see what else could go wrong,” says Benn. “I’d better not tempt fate.”

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What a long, cold, lonely month January has been . very few gigs but some great music so things are looking up.
Sad to say that Anna Burch has been pipped to the post for album of the week. I have been so hyped for her debut album and it really doesn’t let you down, definitely someone you will be seeing a lot of this year. You will be buying this anyway so I went for something you might not know.

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Hookworms – Microshift

Microshift marks a seismic shift in the Leeds band’s sound, dynamic, songwriting and production, whilst still bearing all the ferocious energy, intricate musicianship and bruised but beautiful song-craft of the previous releases which have quietly made them one of the UK’s most revered young bands. This is the band’s third studio album technically but arguably the first in which the studio has been central to its creation.

Radiant, immersive and teeming with light, but still heavy and forceful – the music on Microshift acts as a very deliberate counter to some of the difficult topics the album’s lyrics address. Death, disease, heartbreak, body image and even natural disaster are all present here but the overall effect these songs achieve is euphoric catharsis.

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Anna Burch – Quit The Curse

Originally from St. Joseph, Michigan, Burch later moved to Chicago to study cinema. She relocated to Detroit a few years ago and quickly immersed herself into the local music scene, and has been involved with acts like Frontier Ruckus and Failed Flowers. After learning the ins and outs of playing live and recording with various acts over the last several years, Burch found herself accumulating a growing amount of solo material. These songs, full of sincerity and undeniable depth, caught the ears of Collin Dupuis (Angel Olsen, The Black Keys) who mixed the tracks and helped develop the final product into her debut full-length album. The nine songs that comprise Quit The Curse come on sugary and upbeat, but their darker lyrical themes and serpentine song structures are tucked neatly into what seem at first just like uncommonly catchy tunes. Burch’s crystal clear vocal harmonies and gracefully crafted songs feel so warm and friendly that it’s easy to miss the lyrics about destructive relationships, daddy issues and substance abuse that cling like spiderwebs to the hooky melodies. The maddeningly absent lover being sung to in 2 Cool 2 Care, the crowded exhaustion of With You Every Day or even the grim, paranoid tale of scoring drugs in Asking 4 A Friend sometimes feel overshadowed by the shimmering sonics that envelop them.

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Field Music – Open Here

Field Music return with their sixth album, Open Here. The two years since Commontime have been strange and turbulent. If you thought the world made some kind of sense, you may have questioned yourself a few times in the past two years. And that questioning, that erosion of faith – in people, in institutions, in shared experience – runs through every song on Field Music’s new album.

But there’s no gloom here. For Peter and David Brewis, playing together in their small riverside studio has been a joyful exorcism. Open Here is the last in a run of five albums made at the studio, an unprepossessing unit on a light industrial estate in Sunderland. Whilst the brothers weren’t quite tracking while the wrecking balls came, the eviction notice received in early 2017 gave the brothers a sense of urgency in the recording of Open Here. There probably won’t be many other rock records this year, or any year, which feature quite so much flute and flugelhorn (alongside the saxophones, string quartet and junk box percussion). But somehow or other, it comes together. Over thirteen years and six albums, Field Music have managed to carve a niche where all of these sounds can find a place; a place where pop music can be as voracious as it wants to be.

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Kyle Craft  –  Full Circle Nightmare

Full Circle Nightmare Kyle Craft’s second album is entirely autobiographical. Sonically, thematically, lyrically, it’s a huge leap forward from his 2016 release. A straight-up rollicking rock’n’roll album, it traverses all the different nuances of the genre; from the bluegrass twang of Exile Rag, to the gothic style of Gold Calf Moan, it’s a timeless piece that could exist in any of the past five decades. In terms of contemporary peers, Craft likes to stay in his own lane. He’s an old soul who sticks to his tried and tested influences. The ironic thing is that Full Circle Nightmare sounds exactly like Kyle Craft’s America. That is what he’s built for us: the story of one man’s trials and tribulations to find his passion and voice for art and creativity in this vast opportunistic country. Where did he find it? Among the historic riches of America’s most honest sounds.

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Carlton Melton –  Mind Minerals

The new Carlton Melton album Mind Minerals is their first full length release since 2015’s widely lauded Out To Sea double opus, itself a languid drifting of drones and psychedically enhanced riffmongering. Sure, there’s been some long EP releases since.. Hidden Lights in 2017 (featuring the immeasurable drone sike float on Rememory) and Aground in 2016 (a companion, the Desert Island weather beaten psych-flow follow up to Out To Sea), now its time to soak up.. Mind Minerals. Mind Minerals finds Carlton Melton in fine fettle, all the songs were recorded and engineered at El Studio in San Francisco by Phil Manley on September 3rd and 4th 2016 (except ‘untimely’ – recorded at the Dome by Brian McDougall), the studio setting suits them – a logical progression from a weekend’s recording out at the Dome. Under Manley’s watchful ear / eye, Carlton Melton have created a futurescape soundtrack.., a 3001 Space Odyssey. The drums are more pounding and direct than before, the constantly re-assuring bass creates a helping hand to propel you through the clouds of static and shards of electrifying guitar dazzling your horizon. Synths help soothe the sharp edges and lull you into some out of body experience whilst and orchestrated calamitous scree pulls you back…. This is a breathless, yet deep breathing album. It demands full immersion. Searing guitar piercing the drone with relentless power, the core trio of Carlton Melton; Andy Duvall (drums / guitar), Clint Golden (bass guitar), and Rich Millman ( guitar / synth), have some alchemical bond that’s helped them create a post-rock / psychedelic / freeform organic slab of American Primitivism / space drift , this is unashamed head-music from the melting pot of Northern California.. 5 decades ago this album would have been released on the ESP Disk Label or even Apple.. there would have been no helter skelter if the desert Hippies had locked onto these vibes, plug in, turn on, tune out..float free.. Carlton Melton can provide your own aural microdose to reset your Mind / Psyche!!


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After revealing the video to ‘Static Resistance’ last month, Hookworms now share the visuals for another new track from their imminent album.

Directed by Sam Wiehl, the video for ‘Each Time We Pass’ – which features Alice Merida Richards of Virginia Wing on vocals – can be viewed below, ahead of its recorded version on ‘Microshift’, which is out tomorrow (February 2nd) via Domino Recordings Co. Hookworms – “Each Time We Pass” from ‘Microshift’ released 2nd February 2018 on Domino Recording Co.

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Check out the Ciaran Lyons-directed new video for ‘Static Resistance’, a track from the forthcoming new Hookworms album, ‘Microshift’, due out on February 2nd via Domino Recordings.

“‘Static Resistance’,” say the band, “is the oldest track on the album, we wrote and recorded the first version of it early 2015, not very long after ‘The Hum’ had been released. It’s one of only two pre-flood songs on the record. It’s a song about the wax and wane of depression and an eternal want to escape the life you’ve built.”

Live dates

23 LIVERPOOL Invisible Wind Factory
24 BRIGHTON Patterns
04 BIRMINGHAM Hare & Hounds
09 MANCHESTER White Hotel
10 MANCHESTER White Hotel
24 LONDON Electric Brixton
25 SHEFFIELD Picturehouse Social

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We weren’t sure we’d get another Hookworms record. The Leeds, England band wowed with their first two albums of roaring motorik drone rock, not to mention a transcendent, ferociously loud live show, but the band suffered some major setbacks in 2015. Their North American tour was cancelled due to visa issues at the 11th hour (a tough blow even for bands whose members don’t all have serious day jobs), and bandleader MJ’s riverside Suburban Home studio was destroyed in a flood. Following a crowdfunded rebuild of the studio, Hookworms set to work on their new album. Despite the title, it’s more than a microshift, sonically, from what came before.

If first single “Negative Space” is any indication, the new album is more than a Microshift, sporting a decidedly more pop direction, embracing dance music and MJ taking the occasional break from wailing to reveal an appealing singing voice. The record reflects the tough three years that preceded and the light at the other end. “All of our records are to an extent about mental health,” says MJ, “Largely this is an album about loss but also about maturing, accepting your flaws and the transience of intimacy.”

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Hookworms have announced their first new work in over three years after unveiling plans to release their new record Microshift in February via Domino Recordings. The Leeds band have given fans a teaser of their new album.

There’s plenty of synths at play on this lead track ‘Negative Space’, from the forthcoming new album announced by Hookworms today.  The album marks a seismic shift in their sound, dynamic, songwriting and production, whilst still bearing all the ferocious energy, intricate musicianship and bruised but beautiful song-craft of the previous releases which have quietly made them one of the UK’s most revered young bands.

This is the band’s third studio album technically but arguably the first in which the studio has been central to its creation. Pearl Mystic and second LP, The Hum were heavily informed by the band’s live sound, Microshift on the other hand came to life in the studio, formed out of loops, modular synthesizer sequences, drum machines, homemade samples etc. which were jammed around and layered until the songs began to emerge.

The record was written and recorded in full following a complete rebuild of the band’s Suburban Home Studio after the River Aire floods in Leeds in the winter of 2015 which devastated the studio.

‘Microshift’ is set to arrive on February 2nd 2018 through Domino Recordings, and you can hear its first cut streaming below. Hookworms will two solo shows before Christmas, followed by a UK tour early next year.


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Early this year Matthew Johnson otherwise known as MJ from the band Hookworms began sharing solo material, stating that there “will be a whole record as soon as I can get some studio time to finish it.” It seems that time has finally arrived. Writing under the name Family Scraps, the musician has shared his debut single proper in the form of “Mistakes”.

Echoing melodies and shimmers of distortion are as engaging as they are electric. Punchy rhythms power the song from its core, vocals uttering words of self-deprication with an astounding grace. There’s a certain beauty in the breakdown, a blazing guitar solo guiding the way to the chorus’ gentle harmonies. Giving doom and gloom a polished sheer, Another track following the recent release on Too Pure Singles Club ‘It Follows’, is the latest effort from the musical maestro MJ. The frontman from Hookworms and the man now behind the Family Scraps moniker.

The track was recorded during the Christmas floods which destroyed his studio by the river in Leeds. It has the tone of hope whilst still taking in the damage. It reeks of the artists mercurial stamp and bodes well for the promised upcoming LP. Both tracks will be out on Too Pure Singles Club in early 2017.


Both songs written by Matthew Johnson
A full length album will follow in 2017. No live dates are currently planned.

Image: The Hum

Leeds five piece Hookworms have now proved for a second time that you can find beauty within the sound of confusion, and you can be psychedelic and danceable at the same time. The Hum is a shattering, all-encompassing experience; there’s climactic rage, broken organs and blank-eyed trance outs. At times it’s like listening to war, but there are also moments of beauty, musical tantrums and periods of bummed out weirdness.


Leeds-based five piece Hookworms – and their latest release.  The Hum, combines their raging, visceral approach to drone, noise and psych (to pick just three genres) with a sharper approach to leaner, more direct songwriting, with thrilling result. One of the best Albums of last year here is  a full insight into the making of the record from the bass-wielding MB.

The Impasse I think this was the first track we wrote with the album in mind, and it was clear straight away that it would open up the record. We were feeling a bit contrary and wanted this album to start in a very different way to the last one, which was a slow build for the first 3 or 4 minutes, and so this bursts out of the gates, a bit of a line in the sand. Easily the most aggressive thing we’ve ever done, and closest to the punk/hardcore roots that a couple of us have. I think that deep down we knew that this would separate the wheat from the chaff; if this track is too much for you, we’re probably not your band.

On Leaving This followed The Impasse pretty quickly, and it wasn’t long before we’d stitched them together like they are on the record, and they’ve stayed the same ever since. It’s felt very strange any time we’ve had to start playing On Leaving from nothing. The instrumental of this song always felt very minimal and garage-y, I think we were aiming for something along the lines of The Stooges or maybe Eddy Current Suppression Ring with the primitive, two note riff, but once all the vocals and overdubs were laid down it really morphed into a fully-formed pop nugget.

iv We recorded this live during one of our demo sessions at the studio, everyone sat round on the floor like hippies playing with pedals and feedback. It just so happened that it was in the same key as On Leaving and they worked nicely together when we came round to talking about the sequencing of the record. We’re all big fans of drone and loop music, stuff like William Basinski, Grouper, Oneohtrix Point Never etc., and it’s important to us that we keep that element running through all of our music, even the more poppy or garage-y stuff. We realised more than ever that if the general pace of the ‘songs’ this time round was to be more upbeat then there was even more need for the respite of these interludes. A lot of thought goes into the ebb and flow of our records; we want our albums to be listened to as one big piece rather than individual songs, which can occasionally throw up some issues when single tracks go up for streaming or radio play.

Radio Tokyo This song was originally released on 7” for the Too Pure singles club last May. We actually wrote and recorded it before Pearl Mystic had even been released, so this is easily the oldest track on The Hum. We really enjoyed playing it live, and quickly worked out that it’s more fun playing something like this over the slower jams, so it subsequently became a bit of a springboard for writing the rest of the LP. Saying that, we were already quite far along with the album before we decided to re-record Radio Tokyo, but it was obvious that it fit in really well with the aesthetic of what we’d worked on so far.

Beginners This is probably my favourite song at the moment, both on the album and to play live. It was a total ballache to finish though. You always read bands talking about one song on an album that won’t click, and this was definitely it. We worked on the structure for months and months until it finally started to make sense, but definitely almost gave up on it a few times. It began life as an attempt at an ‘on-the-one’ soul stomper with the drums and bass, but ended up being nicknamed “Stereolab” in the practice room because of the MS-20 and SH-101 bubbling underneath the track. On reflection, when I listen back to it now I actually think it has a bit more in common with some of our friends and contemporaries like Vision Fortune, Tense Men, Cold Pumas etc. We wanted it to be really linear, something that builds and builds in layers sonically, like a track off Drum’s Not Dead or Sound of Silver.

We knew that we wanted Beginners to fade out, and Off Screen to fade in, so there was a need to bridge that gap. We had invested in a few synths between this album and the last, and there’s a lot of that going on in these interludes. It’s something that interests me greatly, and hopefully we can expand on it in the future. For me, a lot of the more interesting music in the UK at the moment is being made with synths and electronics.

Off Screen This was originally going to be one of two slow jams on the album. The other was left out right at the very last moment and has ended up going on a bonus 7” that comes with some limited copies of the album. We realised that we didn’t have to stick every single idea we had on the album, and that a bit of restraint was not necessarily a bad thing – a lot of our favourite records barely scrape the 30/40 minute mark, so we had no issues with it being slightly shorter than the last LP. At one point we talked about making The Hum exactly the same length as the last record for a laugh – fucking idiots. The middle section of this song was one of the most fun parts of the album to record, lots of a musique concrète and treated piano. We wanted it to be like something off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, though I doubt Wilco are the first reference point for everyone when they hear our music…

vi MJ’s love of the band Emeralds and the arpeggiator on his Juno show through on this interlude, well spiritual. We wanted this to be really soothing to juxtapose the start of the next track which opens up with these big Oh Sees-y garage chords.

Retreat Similarly to The Impasse, we wanted the end of this record to be the polar opposite of the last one. The final track on Pearl Mystic had this long drone fade out, coming out of a pretty dreamy, stripped-back lullaby, so we wanted this one to go out with a bang and end dead. It has this ‘race for the finish’ feeling to it, building up to a euphoric finale. I’d say this was probably the poppiest number on the record next to On Leaving, and where our undying love for the first Modern Lovers LP shows through the most. Sam’s guitar sound towards the end of this track is my favourite on the record, so woozy. I remember being really excited watching him record that part. In fact, his playing on this song is great right from the start. It gets kind of hidden by the other instruments, but he’s playing this great Neil Young/Keith Richards lick for the first half of the song. My guitar hero.