Amelia’s Magazine | Truck Festival


No two festivals are the same. Which is lucky since we would be stringing our genitals up by the linings of our straw hats if they were. Truck Festival, however, seems to hold a beautiful sense of naivety about it, pretty impressive considering its 11 year jog since its first outing in 1998. What seems to set it apart is its strong sense of community spirit. Throughout the weekend many of the acts expressed their respect and admiration towards Truck organisers, Robin and Joe Bennett. And with ice cream supplied by the vicar and food from the snowy members of the local rotary club, you can’t help feeling you’re a part of it.


Following an early morning sprint from the more fresh faced end of the car queue, I managed to make it to the heavily odoured cowshed for Oxford’s pop darlings, Alphabet Backwards. Headed by the eccentric James Hitchman with his merry entourage, from appearances you may be excused for thinking you’re in for another melancholy strangling of your sanity with tales of first loves and heartbreaks. Thankfully not. Alphabet Backwards’s brand of energetic lo-fi poptro found the entire cowshed transfixed as we were taken into the rather alternative musings of Hitchman’s brain box. ‘Disco Classic’ was a particular favourite with its synth heavy, building intro. ’80’s Pop Video’ was one of the most involving tracks of the entire festival with the crowd taking over, to ad lib a bizarrely synchronised clapping solo, halfway through. Looking around found many a laughing face or tapping foot whilst the 5-piece bounced around the stage. In the words of Alphabet Backwards themselves, “pop’s not a dirty word”. Thank god for that.

After aimless wandering, I found myself back in the cowshed for the highly anticipated, Youthmovies. It’s hard to argue that they don’t know what they’re doing but amidst the thrashing guitars, flashing lights and smoke machines, it’s also hard to see much else beyond that. The proclamation that we were watching the best band in the world found me wondering whether the farm fumes had projected me to a mediocre parallel planet. If you’re into turned backs and guitar noise you’ll get on well with it but I couldn’t help feeling it was a bit like watching other people eating food when you’re hungry. Strong cheekboned lead singer, Andrew Mears, who was once involved with ‘math rock’ tyrants, Foals, is clearly a talented soul, confirmed after I later heard him deliver a rather intricate poetry reading possibly to an audience that didn’t understand. But there certainly wasn’t enough water around Youthmovies to go floating any boats. Or trucks for that matter.

These New Puritans, with skinny-framed Jack Barnett emerging in a shimmering gold roman-esque shirt, which seemed rather fitting considering the thumping drums which at times, sounded like a call to arms. As Barnett delivered his rap-esque vocals I couldn’t help think this is what Linkin Park would sound like if they were from the UK and just a bit more cool. Don’t let that put you off though. In fact don’t even use it as a comparison. ‘Numbers’ played on our human desire for repetition, perfectly wrapped up in a stupidly named parcel of electronic nu gaze. Whatever you call it though, I dare you not to be stirred at least a little.

Truck isn’t exactly spacious but preceding Noah and the Whale, it was chlaustrophobic madness. Crowd control had to make a forceful announcement that if people didn’t move, they were out. Fun fun fun indeed. After a 25 minute wait they finally arrived. Following the onslaught of skinny kids with 80’s haircuts, the cutesy summer strawberry pop was hideously refreshing. Exactly what you’d want to listen to before taking off all your clothes and dancing in long grass with a childhood friend. Naturally, ‘5 years time’ was a favourite, sending limbs all over the place although it’s a good idea to not write them off as some kind of one hit wonder hippy outfit. A lot more lies beyond the band than just a youth celebratory summer anthem. Frontman, Charlie Fink, holds faint similarities to the early Johnny Cash with his collected swagger, well groomed hair and waistcoat/tie combination. This mixed with the love heavy vibe and modern mish mash of jazz and folk rock made me wonder why I’d want to be anywhere else.

I was starkly unimpressed by all the bands named as headline acts. Lemonheads were uninspiring and I would of been equally entertained had someone just stuck a CD player containing their album, centrestage and pressed play. After seeing ‘It’s a Shame about Ray’, I had to go and flog a dead horse for a while. Camera Obscura delivered gentle sugary pop melodies to a laxidasically sprawled audience. Coming across as completely inoffensive in the good sense. But it was within the smaller acts that the most exciting, raw and breaking performances came.


Pivot delivered the most lip biting, mind blowing set of the weekend. Not an attack you’d usually experience at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. Seemingly gentle chaps turned into thrashing electronic noise warriors, pulling at the very bottom of the hairs in my neck before tearing them out. Comparisons could be made to a heavier Metronomy or a more broken Soulwax but it would be a weak attempt at pigeonholing something than shouldn’t be. Richard Pike tribally howled his way through a few sections whilst brother and drummer Laurence pounded at the quaking drum kit with such force that I thought a heart attack was only a matter of time. Definite highlight. Their album ‘O Soundtrack My Heart’ comes out August 20th although it’s hard to portray the passion and power that they play at, through a disc or music file.

Young hearts, Orphan Boy, a 3-piece from Manchester were one of the most exciting and promising of the weekend, only stumbled upon whilst I tried to find the person who had my plastic cup of warm cider, which rapidly paled into insignificance. There were few bands at Truck you could claim had any relationship with progressive post punk, but Orphan Boy more than made up for the lack of it. Thrashing their guitars into their vigorous yet half polished anthemic delights, they had the controlled arrogance of musical greats, creating a sound similar to The Fall if you stuck them in a pan and mixed them with a pinch of Arctic Monkeys. I couldn’t help feeling they weren’t getting the reaction they deserved but the few that were there shared my appreciation.


It was then time to put away my dog eared notebook and effeminate pen and get involved in a good ol’ game of wallet fishing before jumping in a skip, picking up paralytic drum and bass kids and then passing out in someone elses shirt. Holy truck. Ouch.


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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Julie Ann Baenziger of Sea of Bees

Sea Of Bees by Calico Charlotte Melton
Sea Of Bees by Calico Charlotte Melton.

Sea of Bees released her new single Gnomes on Heavenly Recordings yesterday. It’s yet another heart rending slice of Julie Ann Baenziger, treatment so it seems high time that I finally publish the interview I did with her earlier this year, unhealthy just prior to a gig at Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush.

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
Sea of Bees in February 2011. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

jenny robins - amelias magazine - sea of bees
Sea of Bees by Jenny Robins.

Watching Jules live it is hard to believe that she was once a shy church going suburban girl. Since signing to Heavenly Recordings for three albums last year she has become submerged in the intensity of touring, experiencing a very different world to the one she left behind.

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
YouTube Preview ImageGnomes

Jules was born in Roseville, a suburb of Sacramento. ‘A place where you go to school, have crushes, go to college, go to church and very little else.’ She was brought up a Catholic but from an early age knew she was different. As a shy and awkward 6 year old, she remembers becoming enchanted by ‘this hippy man with curly hair and glasses singing with a wobbly vibrato‘. She instantly knew she wanted to sing but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

Sea of bees by Lee
Sea of Bees by Lee.

Her mum loved Cher, Celine Dion and the Bee Gees (in their bad stage, Jules hastens to add). Her dad thought The Mamas and The Papas were bad because they all slept with each other, and he would say things to scare Jules away from popular music. At church they listened to U2 and Christian music. Apparently U2 made it their goal to reach religious congregations. ‘I don’t mind them,’ she says ‘but I don’t like them in church.’

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
jenny robins - amelias magazine - sea of bees
Sea of Bees by Jenny Robins.

Never aspiring to do anything more than play in small bands, Jules taught herself to play an out of tune one string bass that she found in the shed when she was 16. She had lots of long hair, and looked like a real girly girl – but she liked girls. ‘There was nothing to do but go to church and school, and I was in love with a girl at my church who had the voice of an angel,‘ says Jules, ‘so I learnt a song that she always sang note by note.’ She had just one goal: to find the right person for love. When the object of her affections told her ‘that’s great Jules‘ it lit a fire beneath her which inspired her to practice hard every day, yet still she felt frustrated because her feelings were not returned. ‘I felt I couldn’t love anybody or play good music.’

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
Julie from Sea of Bees by Lilly Allen
Julie from Sea of Bees by Lilly Allen.

Her mother was supportive yet still she remained depressed, haunted by a nagging feeing that she would die young, wanting but unable to have the things just out of her reach. Folks at church told her ‘don’t let your gift overthrow your heart‘ – meaning that she shouldn’t obsess all the time. But everyone in Christian bands seemed to break up and have kids, so eventually Jules left Roseville and the church at 23 years old to live with a 19 year old guy, a producer, that she had met online. They lived in a ramshackle old house in Sacramento where they hosted lots of parties which trashed the place. ‘Every night we played music and some mornings there would be 25-30 people sleeping on the floor… lots of mad hipster kids. I would just get drunk to stay numb.’ They lived together for two years, Jules playing bass for their punk band, Find Me Fighting Them, and working as a coffee barrister in the daytime. It was in the coffee shop that she met her Orange Farben. ‘She had a bowl haircut, green eyes, vintage shorts and a ruffled shirt – and I knew it was right. She was like ‘Do you like boys?’ and I was like ‘Phew, that’s a bold question!’ She freed me, she was the thing that I needed.

Sea of Bees by Sarah Matthews.

A year and a half ago she met John Baccigaluppi of Hangar Studios, who encouraged her to use his studio to record some acoustic songs. Straight away he was keen to remix her songs and the first short EP was born. Since then she has been busy gigging all over the US and Europe. ‘I just try to keep moving and enjoy the moment. I know I can rest when I’ve had a good day.’ She credits John with teaching her ‘what’s good in life‘ and aspires to lead a similar lifestyle to Martin Kelly of Heavenly, who is married to Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne. ‘His quality of life inspires me.’ Jules dreams of setting up her own studio at home, where she will nurture a calm environment far from the partying demands of being on tour. ‘I like to eat carrots and nuts and salads. Stay put at home and enjoy my friends.’

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
Sea of Bees by Lilly Allen
Sea of Bees by Lilly Allen.

Jules has songs already recorded for the next album, some of which she wrote whilst on tour with the Smoke Fairies. When I met her she was fairly certain that the next album will be called Orange Farben, after the love that meant so much to her. ‘I want to be a good person and care,’ said Jules, as she prepared to go on stage. ‘Keep doing what you love and good things will come – that’s what I keep telling myself. Of course there’s loneliness but I have to let it go.’

Sea of Bees-Jan 11- photo by Amelia Gregory
Sea of Bees by Jane McGuinn.

Why the reference to sadness? Her last song at Bush Hall was dedicated to her Orange Farben – a statement which was lost on the majority of the audience, as was much of her slightly garbled interludes, but I had just hugged her backstage as she spilled over into tears, and I knew that her girlfriend of one year had split up with Jules over Skype the evening before. ‘I just want to love somebody and take care of them,’ she had reiterated to me. ‘That’s my goal, that and make music. Right now I have heartbreak but everything is going to be okay.’ Sea of Bees‘ unique talent lies in her ability to share emotion on a visceral level, the melancholy of her music slipping deep inside when you least expect it. Orange Farben may have broken her heart but I have no doubt that the album dedicated to her name will be a therapeutic experience not only for Jules, but also for her ever growing sea of admirers.

Gnomes Tunng remix, free download for a short period only.

Categories ,Bee Gees, ,Being of Unsound Mind, ,Bush Hall, ,Calico Charlotte Melton, ,Catholic, ,Celine Dion, ,Cher, ,Christian, ,Find Me Fighting Them, ,Gnomes, ,Hangar Studios, ,Heavenly Recordings, ,Jane McGuinn, ,Jenny Robins, ,John Baccigaluppi, ,Julie Ann Baenziger, ,Lee, ,Lilly Allen, ,Martin Kelly, ,Orange Farben, ,Roseville, ,Sacramento, ,Saint Etienne, ,Sarah Cracknell, ,Sarah Matthews, ,Sea of Bees, ,Shepherd’s Bush, ,The Mamas and The Papas, ,Tunng remix, ,U2

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Amelia’s Magazine | Favourite Christmas Indie Tunes for 2011

Ukulele Christmas Carol by Abi Hall
Ukulele Christmas Carol by Abi Hall.

Christmas tunes from respectable bands have never been more popular – both original compositions and covers of old favourites – here’s my round up of the best.

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Piney Gir has put together this absolutely adorable lo-fi animated video for her festive ditty Christmas Time – just a few paper dolls with joints and a tacky set. And it works brilliantly! Best of all there is a free download of the tune.

Christmas, Single - Viv Albertine by Sam Parr
Christmas, Single – Viv Albertine by Sam Parr.

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One of the original purveyors of girl power – Viv Albertine of The Slits – has put together a typically alternative single, radically titled It’s A Christmas, Single. I love the lyrics, which include gems such as ‘I like being single, cos I get stuff done.’ Speaking as one who has spent many a Christmas in the single state I can testify to this truth. It’s another free download so get stuck in.

On a slightly different tangent make sure you check out Darren Hayman‘s Christmas Advent Project. Together with Fika Recordings he has been releasing a split single every day of December. In the spirit of Christmas all the tunes will be distributed for free at the end. Watch accompanying videos for the project above.

Christmas Illustration by Camille Block
Christmas Illustration by Camille Block.

My Tiger, My Timing take on the commercialism of Christmas in 2011 for the cute sleigh bell driven ditty See You On New Year’s Day.

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From Manchester Flow Machines bring us their remake of the Saint Etienne and Tim Burgess classic I Was Born On Christmas Day. In exchange for a download they are encouraging fans to make a donation to Barnardos – a very nice touch. The single also has a fab retro inspired video.

I reviewed the debut album from Fairewell recently, and singer Johnny is hot on the case with a festive offering – he lends his inimitable woozy filmic sound effects to a new no-sing version of In The Bleak Midwinter, accompanied by a sad little film.

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Dog is Dead present Christmas Wrapping, a song by seminal 80s band The Waitresses that most will recognise – only this time harmonised by men in fairisle jumpers. Nice. And free to download too.

Honour Before Glory
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On the cover tangent how about Honour Before Glory‘s cover version of Chris de Burgh‘s festive classic A Spaceman Came Travelling. It’s a real oddity – a spaced out laid back version of the original.

Reindeer music by gaarte
Reindeer music by Gaarte.

Yet another free track: A Wombling Merry Christmas by The Very Most gets the lilting folk treatment that transforms it into a song that can be enjoyed by adults as much as kiddies. Indiecator have released a whole EP for Christmas.

Summer Camp

Summer Camp cover a famous tune with their oddly titled All I Wonderful Christmas Is You.

Finally not forgetting the latest single to be taken from A Very She & Him Christmas, also reviewed on these pages: Christmas Day can be heard here.

Next up: my review of whole Christmas albums. Yup, some bands have really taken the festive theme to new limits.

Categories ,A Spaceman Came Travelling, ,A Very She & Him Christmas, ,A Wombling Merry Christmas, ,Abi Hall, ,All I Wonderful Christmas Is You, ,Barnardos, ,Camille Block, ,Chris de Burgh, ,Christmas, ,Christmas Advent Project, ,Christmas in Haworth, ,Christmas Time, ,Christmas Wrapping, ,Darren Hayman, ,Dog is Dead, ,Fairewell, ,Fika Recordings, ,Flow Machines, ,Gaarte, ,Honour Before Glory, ,I Was Born On Christmas Day, ,In The Bleak Midwinter, ,Indiecator, ,It’s A Christmas Single, ,Laura Millward, ,Moshi Moshi, ,My Tiger, ,My Timing, ,Piney Gir, ,Saint Etienne, ,Sam Parr, ,singles, ,summer camp, ,the slits, ,The Very Most, ,The Waitresses, ,Tim Burgess, ,viv albertine

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