6 fresh guitar artists you need to hear in February

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(Image: © Neelam Khan Vela)

This month we check out Fangclub, Toska, Voyager, Upcdownc, Protomartyr and Goodbye June...

Fangclub

Irish grungers sink their teeth into life

The only benefit of a dead-end job is that it forces you to find another way forward - or rot. Aged 9, Fangclub frontman Steven King had a punk rock conversion thanks to the revelatory discovery of The Offspring’s Americana, but years later he found himself hoisting white goods around a warehouse, slowly derailing.

“I hated my job. I was a scrawny little punk rocker who wasn’t able to lift the washing machines as well as the other guys,” laughs Steven. “But they would ask me to play them my demos and they were always really supportive. They’d say, ‘Man, you need to do something…’”

I saved up all the money I had and went to New York for a month. It just kicked me into action

‘Something’ came in a flight to New York. “I just wanted to get out,” says Steven. “My girlfriend and I saved up all the money we had and we went to New York and did this Airbnb for a month in the East Village. It just kicked me into action. I went to see loads of local punk rock shows and all of these DIY artists on the street. Like punk rock, it was this inspiration that you could do whatever you want.”

The songs poured out. Tracks like Bad Words and Follow combined explosive calls to action and taut melodic lines into palmmuted grunge paeans. On his return, Steven had 25 tracks crying out for a home and the momentum started working in his favour. Two weeks in the studio saw all of the tracks recorded and mixed, a deal with Universal followed, a headline tour and a support slot with heroes The Pixies.

“We did our first big headline show a few months ago and there were teenagers screaming Dreamcatcher and Bullethead back at us,” reflects Steven. “It felt like it had come full circle. I just needed to do it and it worked.”

  • For fans of: Early Foos, Dinosaur Pile-Up 
  • Gear: Fender Jazzmaster,  (with humbuckers), Gibson SG, Fender Twin Reverb, ProCo RAT, Ibanez Tubescreamer, MXR Carbon Copy

Toska

Expansive, engrossing instrumental ride

You will likely know Toska’s Rabea Massaad already from his YouTube channel or role in metallers Dorje, but Toska is where the talented guitarist pushes himself to the fullest extent as a player and writer, combining complex interlocking riffs with ambient soundscapes.

“What appeals to me most is the feeling it gives me hearing it back,” he tells us. “When I hear a chord progression where all the instruments are intertwined, it provokes emotions. I feel Toska doesn’t necessarily need vocals because it’s so engrossing.”

When we catch Rabea, he is still reeling from a weekend of polyrhythms, pedals and power trios at ArcTanGent festival, but attention will soon turn to their debut album. “It’s an evolution,” says Rabea. “It’s less aggressive and erratic. Without being cliché - more of a rollercoaster!”

  • For fans of: Plini, Karnivool 
  • Gear: Chapman Guitars, 2x Victory Kraken amps, GigRig

Voyager

Beauty and the beef

Australian prog metallers Voyager specialise in delivering razor-sharp riffs and super-addictive vocal hooks in face-punching packages. Their songs are refined repeatedly before recording and, listening to their sixth album Ghost Mile, the results of this approach are apparent.

“It’s a long and arduous process, but very rewarding,” admits guitarist Simone Dow. “When critiquing you have to be honest and ruthless with one another and there’s no room for egos. You write for the song, not yourself.”

The likes of The Fragile Serene - combining endearingly heavy rhythm parts and deftly-woven harmony lines - are irresistible, escalating with Muse-like grandeur.

“It has to be a balance between tight and precise,” says Simone. “It’s not just the guitars, it’s every instrument.”

  • For fans of: Leprous, Caligula’s Horse 
  • Gear: Ernie Ball Music Man JPX 7, Mesa Boogie Simul-Class 2:90, Axe FX 2 Mk 2

Protomartyr

Who: Detroit guitarist Greg Ahee
Sounds like: Electrifying soundtrack to the US’ modern dystopia, puncturing drones with crunchy outbursts of ugly anger
Gear: Fender American Pro Deluxe Tele with ShawBuckers, 1978 Silverface Fender Twin
For fans of: The Fall, The National

Goodbye June

Who: Landon Milbourn and Tyler Baker
Sounds like: Southern hard rock with an ability to produce tremendous hooks
Gear: Tyler - Gibson ES-335, Bad Cat Black Cat 30R; Brandon - Nash 72 Thin Line, Matchless DC30
For fans of: Barns Courtney, The Cadillac Three

Upcdownc

Who: Kent post rock-type Chris Garth
Sounds like: John Carpenter joins zombie Russian Circles. Burns studio to prevent spread of outbreak. Fails. World ends.
Gear: Gibson SG, Airline Baritone, Orange AD14O, Behringer Ultrabass AX3000T
For fans of: Goblin, Russian Circles

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