Wakey Wakey

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Soulful, contemporary pop with a folky edge and a bit of piano led gospel thrown in for good measure perfectly describes some great new music I heard recently.  This eclectic mix of sounds comes from the first full length album from Brighton based singer songwriter, Mi’das aka Mike Davies.  I say first full length album as over the last few years, Mi’das has recorded enough EP’s and singles for two or three albums but All Inside Your Head is his first proper album release.

Davies has a voice full of soul that easily adapts to folk, gospel and full on pop and All Inside Your Head has the songs to match that versatility of voice and this is probably explained by the fact that some of these songs have been with him for years, just waiting for the right recording vehicle to come along.  I interviewed Davies while he was preparing for a short headline tour next month and asked him what the album title means (it’s not the title of a track on the album).  He quickly explained that it was originally a track on the album but although the song didn’t fit, he still wanted to use the title for the album as whole as “it’s about a way of looking at the world, sometimes things feel bad but sometimes it’s all just inside your head”.  This approach to naming an album led me to ask why Mi’das and not Mike Davies and it turns out that he “just wanted a stage name, some artists I like had similar names”.  Writing this now I’m struck why I didn’t ask if any of those artists were Wakey Wakey or Oktoba, both of whom have featured here.

All the songs on All Inside Your Head were written in full or part by Davies and I’m always curious about other creative processes (fascinating!).  Some of the songs had been with him “for years” and others came more recently but they were all started with an instrument and the melody – the lyrics came later.  The album is full of different sounds from gospel to folk to soul and anyone listening won’t be surprised to hear that amongst his influences, Davies lists Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.  In particular, Grace, Get On Up, If I Were You and Twilight are the ‘big songs’ and the ones where the influences work best.  That being said, my favourite track is Justice, which opens the album.  It’s a big ballsy song and makes a powerful anthem against injustice in all forms.  Maybe the fact that I’m writing this and listening to the song the day after the Hillsborough inquest means that I’m thinking more deeply about the meaning of justice but either way, it’s a great song. The album ends with an eleventh track, a live recording of Everybody’s Changing:

All Inside Your Head is an album full of soulful music which you feel has been lovingly crafted over a long period and it turns out that music that has been created with care and artistry is just the kind of music that Davies cites as good music.  I asked what he would class as bad music as let’s face it, everyone’s idea of bad music is different.  Ever asked someone what music they don’t like and they name your favourite? Awkward!  Davies said in response that for him, bad music is “music made with no thought or artistry in it; music whose sole purpose is to be sold as a product”.

Creating music with no care or artistry is unlikely to be levelled at musicians on independent labels and sure enough, Mi’das has his own label.  Not that he would ever be averse to singing a major record deal, he just wants to “get there by doing it myself and I haven’t arrived at my destination yet”.  Being a musician for a long time means that Davies is aware of the flip side of signing to a major label, having seen others land seemingly great deals and then get dropped when targets aren’t met.  Having your own label is a sure fire way of avoiding that.

All Inside Your Head is available now:

midas

His headline tour starts on 9 May.

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Last week I told you about a great new album from New York based indie band, Wakey Wakey.  The album is called Overreactivist and I loved it.  My favourite track has the best video too and it’s called Homeless Poets:

In honour of the album release on  26 February (that’s tomorrow, people!), Wakey Wakey are giving away a free track from Overreactivist – aren’t they lovely?

I’ve teamed up with Angry Baby Music to bring you this, so please click here to download the fabulous track, Adam and Eve.

Enjoy!

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Spend half an hour in the company of Michael Grubbs, the creative force behind indie band Wakey Wakey and you’ll come out with a renewed enthusiasm for old school music making – and you’ll also laugh a lot.  I recently interviewed Grubbs and his producer and long time collaborator, Chris Cubeta, to talk about Wakey Wakey’s new album, Overreactivist and I remember laughing a lot but nowhere near as much as was evident when I listened back to the interview.  I can only wish that all interviews were so enjoyable.

Overreactivist is Wakey Wakey’s third album and a radical departure from the previous pop album, Salvation, in more ways than one.  In contrast to the first album which was full of youthful expression and captured the spirit of making music with no money and no expectation of success, Salvation was a collaborative experience with a team of writers, producers and musicians and the end result turned out to be even further from Grubbs’ first intention of making a pop album.  Whilst acknowledging it was an amazing team experience, Grubbs says this experience and way of making music made him feel “disconnected from myself as a musician” and as a result he returned to the ‘old days’ and decided the next step would be to write and record an indie rock EP.  The natural choice would be to use producer Cubeta’s studio which as it turned out was shortly to be demolished (it now no longer exists).  Happily, they managed to find enough studio time to record enough material for not just an EP but a whole album.

Talking to Grubbs and Cubeta it is plain that the recording of Overreactivist was a form of therapy and respite for both of them from (Cubeta’s words) “an insane part of my life”.  Telling only a very small number of people that they were making a new album and taking the decision to only allow those people to hear it if they came to the studio meant that the two of them had complete creative control over the entire process.  Cubeta says that as a producer his job is “to find the essence of the artist at the core of the music and bring it out…to make them the best version of themselves. People connect to music that captures the artist at their core”.  Unknowingly, they did just that with the first Wakey Wakey album and in Overreactivist they have gone full circle in finding the core of the music they were making and then doing what felt right.  Happily, the urgent need to make this album quickly meant a perfect harmony in doing what was best for the song and makes for a tribute to a great collaborative partnership.

Listening to Overreactivist as a whole feels like a very personal album and indeed Grubbs confirms that this is his most personal album so far, even autobiographical.  To me, at least, the songs can be read in a number of ways with a strong political current throughout but when asked, Grubbs laughed and says that “although I am very political in my personal life…at home, I make an effort not to be on the right or the left publicly as I don’t want to spend my life justifying my position”.  Grubbs then goes on to talk about the “undeniable reality that people don’t pay for music anymore, people don’t pay to support artists in the way that they used to.  How did we get here?  How am I supposed to support myself as an artist?”  These are questions that are brought together in the stand out song of the album, Homeless Poets and in a previous interview Grubbs touched further on the ups and downs of braving the creative dream. I love the video so much I have to show it to you again (Buster the dog is a superstar in the making):

Leaving aside the political undertones for a moment, Overreactivist is an album that challenges the listener on many levels; there is an upbeat message and sound throughout although there is also a touch of  disilusionment  (Golden’s”if I believed all the things we said when we were young I’d be a broken man with a broken heart and broken dreams”) apparent too. Listening to the album left me with a strong emotional connection to the music, it hangs together very well as a whole and this is due in part to the arrangement and structure of the songs.  Grubbs wrote all the songs and proves to be an accomplished songwriter; his early musical influences of Billy Joel and Elton John are apparent with the piano driven melodies.  Having said that, the guitar playing of Chris Cubeta is one of the many joys of this album.

Wakey Wakey are lovely people and ahead of the release of Overreactivist on 26 February they have given me a free track to share with you – told you they were nice!  If you liked Homeless Poets click here to go over to the Angry Baby blog to get your free track, Adam and Eve (my second favourite track after Homeless Poets).

Overreactivist will be released on The End records on 26 February. Pre-order the album here:

overreactivist

Wakey Wakey are coming to the UK in March for a short tour: click here for details and tickets

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Here on thoughtsofjustafan, as well as keeping you up to date with all things Alfie Boe, I like to bring you new music too.  I recently became aware of a band called Wakey Wakey although strictly speaking, the band consists of just New York based musician Michael Grubbs.  Why is he not simply called Michael Grubbs you ask?  Well, Michael made a conscious decision to let the music speak for itself and to also be part of a collective experience – there are many people on stage with him at concerts, they are not solo efforts.

Wakey Wakey are shortly to release a new EP, Homeless Poets, with a single and video of the same name (if this isn’t the coolest and cutest video you’ve seen this year, I don’t know what is):

As part of an interview with Michael, I asked him about the song and the constant illusions to bravery and he mentioned that he wrote it in response to the frustrations of “trying to exist in the world of musicians”.  In other words, the world is full of musicians who nearly made it or are just bubbling along below the surface of stardom (think Alfie for many years) and it’s a kind of bravery to keep on putting your music out there, hoping for a receptive audience.  As Michael says, it’s either “brave or stupid”.

This interview (click here for the full article) made me think about the comparisons between musical and other forms of creativity; it seems to me that whatever form your creativity comes in, there comes a point where you have to gather your courage and jump wholeheartedly into it.  All those years ago, Alfie Boe did just that when he left his garage job with TVR (come on, it’s been a while since we read that in an article!) and joined the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and began his rather twisty road to fame and fortune.  Closer to home, a little while ago I took the plunge and began to write about something very dear to me and over two years down the line, Alfie himself reads my work.  It certainly seems to me that creativity is indeed a mixture of bravery and stupidity although infinitely rewarding (when it works).

This then led onto thinking about how I got to this point – what happened to make me take those first steps to realising my hopes and dreams, my goals.  The things that got me started were the desire and willingness to start, a receptive audience and the unstinting support of a mentor.  So then, of course, my thoughts turned to you, what are the things that you would like to achieve? Your goals, dreams, targets? Is there anything that you have always wanted to do but never had the chance?

So, I would like to know what your goals and targets for the next twelve months are; whether it’s losing a few pounds, training your dog, mastering a craft, learning a musical instrument – whatever. Have you tried before and not got there? Have you had this goal for a long time but never got around to it? Or is this something new for you? Just tell me via the contact form below and let’s see if we can make those goals a reality.#

Wakey Wakey’s EP, Homeless Poets is released on 25 September on The End Records.

Wakey Wakey will be appearing at The Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton, for a one off gig on 30 September. Click here for tickets.

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