Amelia’s Magazine | A Summer Punch Up at Sutton House: Kotki Dwa Staycations Album Launch Party Review

Kotki Dwa Staycations CD bundle by Sam Glynn
Kotki Dwa Staycations CD bundle by Sam Glynn

Staycations. A word us Brits are getting more and more used to: when the sun shines, there is honestly just no place like home. Great Britain has been the centre of attention this summer. After all, if it’s good enough for world record holders and a Queen, it’s good enough for us. The beautiful rolling green hills, still blues lakes and near-empty endless beaches. We’re spoilt for these spots, everywhere. So why not celebrate them? Forget the rain and embrace our terrain right? Right. Amelia’s Magazine music favourites, Kotki Dwa, well and truly do. So much so, Staycations is the title of their follow-up album. But wait… Here comes a very interesting tale.

While fans sat patiently waiting for second record news, the boys Alex, Tom and Tristan, were hatching quite the plan. An idea long in the making, came true this summer on 2nd July, the release date of the album. And this plan? To ask the National Trust to be their record label. They gave a firm yes!

Kotki Dwa Cakes by Abi Renshaw
Kotki Dwa rice paper printed jam cupcakes by Abi Renshaw

So we’ve all been to a National Trust property right? Yes? Well there are over two hundred historic houses open to the public. Your folks probably took you to an endless amount as a kid. Visiting these properties seemed like a staple part of growing up. Now I’ve hopefully got you reminiscing, it’s filled you with fond memories hasn’t it. The pristine gardens (with a maze if you were lucky), the delicious dairy ice cream from the café, the views from high above. Kotki Dwa thought the same. Dreamt up by the boys, which must feel like an awfully long time ago now, was this rather genius idea. Once they secured the all-important ‘yes’, the possibilities became endless. They knew exactly that this would open all kinds of (historic and stately) doors – to be inspired by, write about and record in.

A Summer Punch Up on Saturday 14th July was their big night. The album was out there, glowing reviews were flowing from Pitchfork, the Guardian and the BBC. This launch party was set to go off. Plus, the venue was quite special in it’s own right. Many ran through the doors bang on 7pm into Sutton House, Hackney’s oldest house and a National Trust gem. So much so, Alex spilled they wrote a track based on its ghost. Buried deep in Homerton, 80 lucky people got to party in this property, built in 1535 by a prominent courtier of Henry VIII. WOW. The Summer (it was raining) Punch Up started with the twilight punch picnic.

Cucumber triangle sandwiches, scotch eggs, jam filled cupcakes with their Polish name on rice paper (lovely touch and too pretty to eat) and flower cakes fashioned in plant pots with Oreo ‘soil’. Delicious.

Kotki Dwa Summer Punch by Edie OP
The Summer Punch Up cocktails menu by Edie OP

They even had themed cocktails after three of their songs. Outside in the bunting-filled courtyard was an ice cream cart. Pay a donation for a scrummy pot of Taywell and cover it in their home-made Pimms syrup. Yeah!

Supporting Kotki Dwa were two fantastic bands, Glaciers and Niteflights. Each surrounded by Kotki Dwa’s British holiday themed set of picnic hampers, hay bales and a snorkel. Once the twilight picnic had gone down and the dancing to both bands over, it was to be their finest hour. The first quarter of the hall filled with the 80 strong crowd. I’m pretty small in height so was pleased with my wing position right by the grand piano, oohhh. The room was beautiful, with its red walls and high beams. Sticking to songs solely from Staycations, you could just see it in their faces, how happy they were they’d got to here. The idea had become an album, and it was rattling that ghost upstairs no doubt. I very much enjoyed the heavily loud instrumental ending of The Wolf, and the single Poison required some serious dancing. The absolute highlight for me was during the song Staycations. A girl dressed in a crab costume was throwing beach balls into the crowd to lyrics such as ‘you la la like it when we go away’ and ‘didn’t I read that sunshine repairs your sanity’. A fantastic night ending with a disco hosted by DJs Midnight A-Go-Go and NZCA/LINES.

Kotki Dwa King Crab by Dan Morison
King Crab by Dan Morison

Oh to re-live that night all over again, yes please! I did the next best thing, I quizzed singer Alex about how they bagged the National Trust as their label and where you can see them play live this summer: read my interview with Alex Ostrowski here.

Categories ,A Summer Punch Up, ,Abi Renshaw, ,Alex Ostrowski, ,Bandcamp, ,BBC, ,Beach balls, ,Box Hill, ,bunting, ,Crab costume, ,Dan Morison, ,Edie OP, ,Geoffrey Taylor, ,Ghost, ,Glaciers, ,Great Britain, ,hackney, ,Halloween video, ,Harpsichord, ,Hattie Newman, ,Homerton, ,Ice Cream, ,Kotki Dwa, ,Lake District, ,Limited edition CDs, ,Lunch EP, ,National Trust, ,Niteflights, ,Picnic hampers, ,Pimm’s, ,Pitchfork, ,Polish, ,Queen, ,Recording, ,Robin’s Clogs, ,Sam Glynn, ,Sam Parr, ,Scotch eggs, ,Staycations, ,Sun shine, ,Sutton House, ,Taywell, ,The Guardian, ,Triangle sandwiches, ,Twilight picnic punch, ,World record holder, ,YCN, ,Yorkshire, ,Yorkshire Dales

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Amelia’s Magazine | Kotki Dwa Staycations Album Launch Interview with Alex Ostrowski

Kotki Dwa at Sutton House by Sam Parr
The band at their Sutton House album launch by Sam Parr

Your 5 track EP ‘Lunch‘ came out in November 2011. Before that, It had been a wee while since you put any music out other than your Halloween video and exclusive Amelia’s Mag song for the USB Issue. Did this help you prepare for writing and recording Staycations, plus getting you back into performing live no doubt?

Yes we tend to leave quite big gaps in between our major projects. This time around it gave us the chance to develop our sound in the ways we’d been wanting to. The Lunch EP was kind of a ‘study’ to try out some new ways of doing things, moving forwards from our first album. We’d been working out how to be more economical with our part writing, so that things slotted together more deftly. Hopefully that comes through on the new album.

Great videos have always featured pretty heavily with your singles. I was locked in when I watched Robin’s Clogs! You all look like you have a lot of fun making them. As the three of you are all a creative bunch, this must be a pretty great extension of making music right?

We do love making videos and tend to have a lot of fun making them, perhaps too much sometimes! It’s good having a different outlet for ideas.

Kotki Dwa tied to their cardboard keyboard
Kotki Dwa tied to their cardboard keyboard

Love the new video directed by Hattie Newman for the song Staycations. Plus she just played flute for a track at your gig. Where did you film this?

It was actually directed by Geoffrey Taylor but art directed by Hattie Newman (she worked with Geoffrey on all the styling and made some cool props). We’re pretty good friends the lot of us, so we all mucked in. To make the video we went on a jaunt around Great Britain, trying to take in the jaw dropping sights of the National Trust’s properties around the country, whilst also changing battery packs, avoiding parking tickets and generally trying to make a music video on the fly with only a few warm scotch eggs to fuel us.

Everyone loves a scotch egg. I’m sure many bands are kicking themselves that they didn’t come up with approaching the National Trust. Are they doing exactly as any other record label would?

We approached the National Trust a long time ago with our ideas. They’ve been great sports and have supported us with many of the resources that a record label might sort out — space to record in, help promoting the album etc. Fundamentally the setup has enabled us to operate very independently and do everything exactly how we’ve wanted to, which is good fun and never disappointing.

All the teapots inside Sutton House
All the teapots inside Sutton House

So, as you started to formulate a plan to approach the National Trust, how did you do it? I imagine no one had ever asked them to be their record label before. Did they sit and think on it or jump at the chance to be involved? You must have been dying to tell everyone…

It was tempting to tell people about it in the early stages but we kept schtum. We approached the National Trust very carefully and very directly as a band. We knew exactly what we wanted to ask, and we knew exactly what the reasons were for them to say yes, so we explained everything with as much clarity as possible so that they would understand what we were on about. They got it pretty quickly and it took a couple of months to put the plan in place, but we got there!

How did this lightning bolt idea arise? I’d love to think you were just in a castle and thought, hey, imagine recording a track in here!

We wanted to partner with somebody other than a label for the release, because we thought it would throw up some interesting challenges. We’d already decided upon the title of our new album – Staycations – which we chose for its bittersweet connotations. And so, the National Trust sprang to mind because they look after so much of the British outdoors and so many weird & wonderful places for us to record in.

Alex from Kotki Dwa at the making of the video for Staycations
Alex from Kotki Dwa at the making of the video for Staycations

How many places did you visit up and down Great Britain in all? Do you have a favourite one? Did you write the album before or after these visits?

I think we’ve lost count. We’ve been to the Yorkshire Dales, Borrowdale and Upper Wharfedale in the Lake District, Heysham Head on the West Coast, Arnside Knott, Box Hill in Surrey, Pulpit Woods, Pitstone Windmill, plenty of the London properties including Fenton House, 2 Willow Road and Sutton House – the oldest house in Hackney! We really enjoyed visiting Malham Tarn in Yorkshire, where we had a relaxing boat ride.

Any plans to do anything further with them? I guess they’re helping you by stocking it in their NT shops now right? How many did you press?

We’ve just done a launch show at Sutton House, which the National Trust look after. We also put on a special exhibition at YCN on Rivington Street which showed some National Trust bits including some amazing old postcards which show some of the places they still look after today. We have stocked the album in a handful of their shops too which is nice, only fifty special physicals in existence.

Yes I have one. It’s hand bound in cloth with a lyric-postcard set and 4-colour risograph poster. Staycations has had good things written about it by the Guardian and Pitchfork. It couldn’t have gone much better!

It’s very flattering and we’re truly delighted by the response. We’ve been working on this for so long so it’s great to hear that people are enjoying the results. Hopefully if people enjoy the album they’ll buy it via our website!

During the making of Staycations video
During the making of Staycations video

Yes, it’s great you are selling it through Bandcamp. You all must be super chuffed with how well it’s all going. Especially as your loyal fans got to snap up just 50 limited edition CDs. Your original artwork or unusual features have been a pretty strong USP for Kotki Dwa. For instance, with the yellow Robin’s Clogs vinyl, I got the CD single, a flower pressed badge and fold out poster with lyrics. You really do think about the whole package, where many bands just don’t. Do you enjoy providing all these touches on the side of your music or is it just as important?

Yeah we enjoy making the whole thing as perfect as we can. We’re a fairly small operation so when we do something we do it wholeheartedly. I work as a designer at YCN so that comes in handy on the packaging front.

For me it makes it more treasured. Plus you obviously want your fans at your gigs to know the lyrics. For instance, with the Staycations MP3 version, I’m shown the lyrics on my iPhone! Don’t think I’ve ever seen this before!

Really? Cool, didn’t know that!

The sold out limited edition Staycations bundle
The sold out limited edition Staycations bundle

Well what a nice surprise! The album launch for Staycations: A Summer Punch Up, how did it go?

We had a really great time! We recorded some of the album at Sutton House so it was nice to revisit for a party. We had some great other bands playing too — Glaciers, fronted by brilliant illustrator Nic Burrows, and Niteflights who are an impressive new 4 piece well worth a listen.

Have you had to abide by a load of restrictions, like no noise after 10pm and you have to wear white cotton gloves?

National Trust visiting hours tend to be from 11 until 5 we’ve found, although we’ve bent a few rules like that over the past year! I did have to audition in order to be allowed to borrow one of the Trust’s oldest harpsichords though. Luckily I passed the audition and got to record with it — it’s on the album!

Inside the limited edition Staycations
Inside the limited edition Staycations

Oh great! Have you pencilled in a UK tour for this year? Any other events planned like your Polish paper-cutting workshop?

Well we’re playing Midnight A-Go-Go in London on 25th August, which will be fun. Let’s see what else comes up…

You can catch Kotki Dwa playing at Midnight A-Go-Go on Saturday 25th August at The Waiting Room (underneath The Three Crowns) on Stoke Newington High Street. 9pm – 4am and tickets are just £5. Read my review of the Staycations launch at Sutton House here.

Categories ,A Summer Punch Up, ,Abi Renshaw, ,Alex Ostrowski, ,Bandcamp, ,BBC, ,Beach balls, ,Box Hill, ,bunting, ,Crab costume, ,Dan Morison, ,Edie OP, ,Geoffrey Taylor, ,Ghost, ,Glaciers, ,Great Britain, ,hackney, ,Halloween video, ,Harpsichord, ,Hattie Newman, ,Homerton, ,Ice Cream, ,Kotki Dwa, ,Lake District, ,Limited edition CDs, ,Lunch EP, ,National Trust, ,Niteflights, ,Picnic hampers, ,Pimm’s, ,Pitchfork, ,Polish, ,Queen, ,Recording, ,Robin’s Clogs, ,Sam Glynn, ,Sam Parr, ,Scotch eggs, ,Staycations, ,Sun shine, ,Sutton House, ,Taywell, ,The Guardian, ,Triangle sandwiches, ,Twilight picnic punch, ,World record holder, ,YCN, ,Yorkshire, ,Yorkshire Dales

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Amelia’s Magazine | Celebrating Women in Music: Producing It For Themselves

FKA Twigs by Tiffany Baxter
FKA Twigs by Tiffany Baxter.

The music industry would have us believe women are dominating the music scene right now. Fierce, female, singer/songwriters are in abundance. We’ve got Miley on her wrecking ball, Beyonce grinding her surf board, Lady Gaga covered in ham. We’re winning ladies… I digress, we shouldn’t be laughing. Whilst the dominant, mainstream female artists claim to be writing their own music and be heavily involved in the creative process, the other side of the mixing desk is another story. The domination does not extend to production.

Trina Shoemaker mixing desk
There are plenty of high flying women in other areas of the music business. But despite the BBC starting to train female sound engineers in 1941, it is still a predominantly male playing field. Trina Shoemaker is a brilliant exception to this and was the first woman to take home a Grammy for ‘Best Sound Engineer’ in 1998 for her work on Sheryl Crow’s album Globe Sessions.

Women in music illustration Louise Andersone
Women in music: illustration by Louise Andersone.

However, only three women in history have been nominated for ‘Best Producer’ at the Brits and Grammys and we are yet to see the day a woman goes home with the prize. Perhaps this isn’t even a gender issue. According to The Music Producers Guild, women only hold 4% of the equity in music production. There just aren’t enough women in the sector. There are an array of arguments on the reasons behind this figure, ranging from women being disinterested in the technical side of things to sexism, to the age old restraint of becoming a mother and its incompatibility with the lifestyle and all consuming nature of a being a studio producer. Who knows what the truth is. Perhaps it’s a mish mash of the lot of them and then some.

Joni Mitchell Clouds Album Cover
Joni Mitchell complained that whichever man was in the room with her when she was recording, he would take credit for her work. Bjork has recently echoed a similar sentiment in a recent interview with Pitchfork stating that time and time again she has been denied due credit for the production of her albums. In another Pitchfork interview in 2007, the highly skilled MIA laid into the interviewer regarding the production of her records, ‘I just find it a bit upsetting and kind of insulting that I can’t have any ideas on my own because I’m a female… After the first time it’s cool, the second time it’s cool, but after like the third, fourth, fifth time, maybe it’s an issue that we need to talk about, maybe that’s something important, you know.’

Delia Derbyshire Radiophonic Workshop
Despite their low numbers, there have been some formidable women sitting behind that mixing desk throughout the history of recording. Take Delia Derbyshire for starters. Delia who? Derbyshire. Despite being told in 1959 by Decca Records that the recording studio was no place for a woman, she persevered and joined the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1960. A genius to sound, Derbyshire was responsible for the recording of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who theme in 1963 and earned herself an incredible reputation as an innovator in sound before the age of the synthesiser. At a time when groups and composers were exploring Psychedelia, she was feted by musicians all over the world including McCartney, Hendrix and Pink Floyd and in her latter days she co produced with Sonic Boom and heavily influenced modern experimental groups including Portishead, Orbital and The Chemical Brothers.

Remember The Sugar Hill Gang and their hit ‘Rappers Delight’? Product of a woman. The first commercially successful rap recording that brought rap music to a global audience was produced by the late Sylvia Robinson in 1979. For this alone she should be a household name, but by no means was that the extent of her success. At the age of 16 she had a number 1 hit in America, she penned hits for the likes of Ike and Tina Turner, produced one of the first ever disco singles and founded multiple record labels. In the late sixties she was one of the few women to be producing records and in 1979, when she started Sugar Hill Records, almost all of the recordings were still produced in house and overseen by herself. That other big hip hop classic ‘The Message’ by Grand Master Flash? She was the driving force behind that too.

Women may be few and far between in production roles but that doesn’t take away from their ability. As music technology is becoming more accessible, a new generation of self taught, self sufficient, women are rising, producing their own records, and taking the music industry by storm. Check out this lot.

Lykke Li
Lykke Li plunged onto the music scene back in 2007 with her debut EP ‘Little Bit’. Her voice was quirky and her tracks an intriguing take on indie pop. Writing her own songs, composing melodies and recording demos, Lykke has then worked with male counterparts Björn Yttling and Lasse Mårtén to produce the finished product. As co producer on her latest LP ‘I Never Learn’ she had more creative input than ever and has come up with all the ideas for her music videos since she started. Having established herself as a credible artist and three albums into her career, she still notices and comments during an interview with The Guardian that ‘the rules for women in music are tacitly different… If I’m on stage and it’s warm and I don’t want to wear trousers all of a sudden I’m a victim, but if Iggy Pop takes his shirt off? Oh, that’s fine.’ Thought she was just another female performer surrounded by great people producing and directing her? Think again. She’s business savvy too having created LL Recordings in 2007. Releasing all of her work under her own label to protect and give herself freedom, this woman is a power house of vision.

Tw-ache – Twigs remixed one of her first tracks ‘Ache’, co directed the video with Tom Beard and shows off her dance moves. A force to be reckoned with.

FKA Twigs
English Singer/songwriter FKA Twigs has taken the world by storm. After teaching herself the music software package Ableton, Twigs went on to produce her debut EP in 2012 entitled EP1, which she self released on bandcamp. In 2013 she worked with top producer Arca and released her second EP, EP2. Having proved herself, Twigs collaborated with several other producers including Arca, Emile Haynie, Devonté Hynes, Paul Epworth and Clams Casino on her debut album LP1 to help her fill in the gaps in areas she felt she needed guidance. Both male and female artists employ these methods. As a professionally trained dancer, Twigs has also taken full control of her music videos. She knows what she wants and refuses to sacrifice her creativity for popularity. It seems to be a winning philosophy as in her few years on the music scene she’s already been nominated for a Brit, a Grammy and the Mercury Prize. This woman is fierce and a real inspiration to young women.

snowapple illusion album cover

Video for Snowapple’s latest single ‘California’

This unassuming, all girl trio are another wonderful example of women taking control of their music. Snowapple play dozens of instruments, layering beautiful harmonies over the top, creating an eclectic folk sound. Being entirely responsible for the creative side of things they’ve gone one step further and are also in charge of their own bookings, management and production. The Amsterdam based trio have many self made women as colleagues and see a shift in the way things are moving, ‘The music industry is still an old boys club but we believe the decisiveness of female entrepreneurs is very powerful and we are conquering more and more space!’ Their new album ‘Illusion’ is out now.

Isolde women in music
An emerging artist from Bristol, Isolde is yet another young female, producing her own material. Creating each track from scratch, she then gets busy fleshing them out with instrumentation and samples. She knows what she wants to hear and has taught herself how to communicate that. However she notes ‘I feel a lot of pressure, when entering this predominantly white, affluent, western male playing field, to prove my ‘techni-ness’. What I care about is the music, and how the technology enables me to create it.’ I don’t think she has to worry too much. Her debut EP ‘Seed Bud Bloom’ is a glorious patchwork of sounds she has collected over the years and full of her own personal essence.

There is a real platform now for women to have a shot at commercial success as producers and artists in their own right, moving away from the traditional glamourised and sexualised image. Women are becoming more confident in their abilities in all aspects of the music business and are reflecting their own identities and ideals.

It’s been a long road and there is still a considerable amount of distance to cover but it’s an exciting time as more and more women are challenging traditional perceptions.

Categories ,Ache, ,Arca, ,BBC Radiophonic Workshop, ,Best Producer, ,Best Sound Engineer, ,bjork, ,Björn Yttling, ,Brits, ,Clams Casino, ,Decca Records, ,Delia Derbyshire, ,Devonté Hynes, ,Emile Haynie, ,EP1, ,EP2, ,FKA Twigs, ,Globe Sessions, ,Grammys, ,Grand Master Flash, ,I Never Learn, ,Ike and Tina Turner, ,Illusion, ,Isolde, ,Joni Mitchell, ,Lasse Mårtén, ,Little Bit, ,LL Recordings, ,Louise Andersone, ,LP1, ,Lykke Li, ,MIA, ,Music Industry, ,Music Production, ,Paul Epworth, ,Pitchfork, ,Rappers Delight, ,Ron Grainer, ,Seed Bud Bloom, ,Sheryl Crow, ,Snowapple, ,Sonic Boom, ,Sugar Hill Records, ,Sylvia Robinson, ,The Message, ,The Music Producers Guild, ,The Sugar Hill Gang, ,Tiffany Baxter, ,Tom Beard, ,Trina Shoemaker, ,Women in Music

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