"It shows young women that they can be successful": The Music Week Women In Music Awards highlights

The Music Week Women In Music Awards, held in association with UK Music, AIM and WIN, has only been around for four years. But, in that short time, it has firmly established itself as a must-attend event for the entire ...

Hitmakers: The Darkness reveal the story behind I Believe In A Thing Called Love

Dan Hawkins (guitar): At that time, we were rehearsing in crappy places across London, but we didn’t have much money to do it, so we used to play in each other’s bedsits. On that day it was at mine and Frankie’s flat in Hampstead. We used to write on acoustics, then amplify it. We were sat round a table trying to come up with world-beating rock songs. In my head, it went something like us trying to write the silliest, most ‘80s chorus and Justin going, ‘Well if you want silly and ‘80s, what about this…’ Justin Hawkins (guitar, vocals): I remember us saying, ‘We can’t do that!’ And then going, ‘It’s fun to play though isn’t it?’ We were trying to justify it to ourselves really, we knew when we were creating it that it was not of its time. But we didn’t know if it was timeless or just stupid. Frankie thought the riff was upside down, which says more about him than the riff!Frankie Poullain (bass): Justin had this intro that was so strong it stuck around. If it hadn’t been for that riff, the song would have probably been tossed away. It gave it such a strong foundation, it was such an original riff and it worked as an intro. It was thinking, ‘This riff has got legs’. Riffs are so important, and if you’ve got an original one… Riffs are a black art. Dan’s usually the riff master, but on this occasion it was Justin. DH: We had two elements that were really big, obvious and stupidly catchy. To be honest, I didn’t really like it, it wasn’t like the other stuff we were doing at the time, which was more like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.JH: It wasn’t something we wanted to have to nurture for it to exist. We didn’t want to toil away at something that was supposed to be fun to play. It was always throwaway, right up to recording it, I don’t remember spending any time on the lyrics or anything. Whenever management came to rehearsal, it was always like, ‘That’s the song’. We said, ‘Is it really? Is it not this one?’ Bands don’t necessarily know, we always thought it would be Love Is Only A Feeling, because we’d spent a lot of time on it and were really proud of it. DH: It wasn’t surprising when it became a hit, there was so much momentum behind us, we’d had a No.11 hit and we knew it would be the next single. That’s when the major labels stepped in and things were starting to catch fire. It was obvious what would happen next.JH: As soon as the song was in our live set, the clapping started happening. It was so obvious that everybody who heard it was into it. Some people pretended they didn’t like it, but they were just lying. They did like it! It’s the wisdom of crowds.DH: The clapping in the video came from people doing it spontaneously in pubs and clubs, we latched onto it. I had to fight really hard to get some of the keyboards Justin had put on there turned down. When people go back and remaster albums, I’m looking forward to delving into that one. There’s some incredibly ‘80s keyboard work on there. Pedro [Ferreira, producer] did a great job. It was recorded in the tiniest little studio in Willesden, called 2Khz. We recorded everything in a little cupboard, almost. It shows how much you can do with not very much…

Smoking Thrills: Cigarettes After Sex on their global touring success

Greg Gonzalez has a knack for making people cry. Music Week meets him after the latest incident, which occurred on an autumn night outside Philadelphia’s Union Transfer venue. You see, things tend to  get very emotional when Cigarettes After Sex are in town. “I met a couple in their forties and they greeted me with tears,” the frontman says. “They had lost a friend in a car accident and they said our music had been helpful to them, it was really special.” An increasingly massive amount of people are reacting similarly to the New York-based foursome’s duvet-like sound, driven by Gonzalez’s androgynous vocals and informed by his obsession with pop (he namecheks Madonna, Justin Bieber and Frank Ocean) and cardigan-friendly indie bands such as Red House Painters and Cocteau Twins. This week, they play their biggest UK show to date at London’s Roundhouse, part of a seemingly endless tour supporting the self-titled debut they released in June (11,109 sales, OCC). Gonzalez is still getting to grips with his increasing profile, which has been ballooning ever since 2012 track Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby blew up suddenly on YouTube late in 2015 (its current view count is 64 million). Up to that point, Cigarettes After Sex had been in a state of flux, members coming and going as Gonzalez crafted threadbare love songs around his day job making music for video games. All the while he was desperate for people to sing along - now, they are. “Everyone seems to have this very unique experience with the music,” says the frontman, who’s fully aware of the growing hysteria around the project he formed in El Paso, Texas in 2008. “It’s definitely getting crazier and more fanatical, we have the best fans. It seems like the kind of music that’s applicable to many different occasions. I think that’s what brings everyone to the shows, it’s so broad in what it can do and what people like about it.” By definition, Cigarettes After Sex fit the mould of a cult band, their soft, dense shoegaze stylings perfect for Mazzy Star-loving musos to treasure. So how did the group – completed by keyboardist Phillip Tubbs, bassist Randall Miller and drummer Jacob Tomsky – end up on what looks increasingly like an express service to stardom? The story starts at Fontana’s in New York’s Lower East Side in September 2015. “I was really blown away, the minute Greg opened his mouth I knew there was something special about them,” says Ed Harris, an old friend of Miller’s who’d finally made it out to see the band for the first time that night. “I started managing them pretty much straight after that show,” he continues. “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby was on something like 500-600,000 views on YouTube and I loved the music. We said, ‘Let’s do this…’. “It was spreading fast and we were ecstatic. It makes sense, but most of the time this doesn’t happen, it’s very special being involved.” Harris talks up the “instant synergy” he struck up with the band, revealing that “purity” immediately became the basis for their plans. “We knew how to roll out the music, there was organic growth and we wanted to keep it as pure as possible,” he says. “You can’t buy what was happening, you can’t market it. The plan was to let the fans get the music directly, not to mess with what was going on already, then eventually roll into more conventional means of promoting the record, which we were already planning.” Enter Partisan Records. Founded by Tim Putnam and Ian Wheeler in 2008, the indie won out after a classic hot band scramble. Harris remembers an “amazing label interest” at a show at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn last January, while Gonzalez lists 4AD, Secretly Canadian and Interscope among his potential suitors. Both are tickled pink by how things have turned out. “We’d established that we could do these things on our own, the music and aesthetic were there before we signed,” says Gonzalez. “The label just said, ‘We can put more hands on deck to get the music to more people’. They spread the word in the industry and added more expertise, muscle and reach. “In the best way possible they’re almost invisible, they don’t want to meddle in any creative decisions. It’s never, ‘You have to do this or that,’ it’s, ‘How can we help?’ It’s our show, which is a nice feeling.” Partisan MD Zena White has been obsessed with Cigarettes, as the team call them (or, as Lauren Laverne put it, “Fags After Shags”) since Putnam first played her the music. “We were on a work trip in France and we were captivated to the point of looking up flights to see them in Istanbul that weekend!” White likes the idea of artist and label “building our brands at the same time,” and remembers the band “already being in a magical position” when the deal was made. “Something’s really bubbling here, it’s without a doubt the independent breakthrough of the year, a real sense of the cream rising to the top,” she continues. “The band had been growing their fanbase organically, so we wanted to put in more traditional distribution, sales and marketing to elevate that. The numbers are real, Spotify overtook YouTube as soon as we got involved. The secret is constant communication, empowering the band and not taking them down a different road.” The model was further enhanced when Blue Raincoat Music signed the band, plus Harris, to its management division in August. CEO Jeremy Lascelles was attracted by their unconventional rise, explaining his organisation’s role as “providing support, from logistics, to social media, sync, financial structuring and strategy – exactly what we set the company up to do.” Still getting used to the business, Gonzalez is just happy doing what he set Cigarettes After Sex up to do. “I write pop songs. I grew up listening to the biggest pop stars, so that’s where my goals lie, that’s the level I want to rise to,” he says. And with a May date at O2 Academy Brixton already on sale, there’s no sign of the rise stopping. “They’ve gone from 200 to 3,000 capacity shows in 18 months,” says Primary Talent International’s Martin Mackay, who came on board in December 2015. “Who knows where this band can go...” Poland, Brazil and India are just three of the places Gonzalez rattles off in a list of locations he never anticipated reaching, while White counts 111 shows in 36 countries over five continents in 2017. Clearly, this campaign has some way to go, but Gonzalez is already lining up album two, with summer sessions in Mallorca – organised by Putnam – already completed. “Greg is the real thing,” Harris says, ending the story so far with excitement in his voice. “In Mallorca, that environment mixed with their chemistry and their growth created a real energy. You’re really going to feel that on the next record.” It seems smoking is cool after all…

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