This month we experiment with Thank You Scientist, Larkins, Bokassa, Julia Shapiro, Kyle Craft and Dude York.
Thank You Scientist
Prog brainiacs’ jaw-dropping rock experiment
Thank You Scientist make a brainily unhinged mash of prog rock, psychedelia, jazz, metal and pop punk. At the core of it all is guitarist and band leader Tom Monda who, like the rest of his group, is a player of voracious technique, inspiring energy and bounding range.
“It’s an amalgam of my musical journey thus far,” he says of his playing. “I cut my teeth playing in punk and metal bands growing up, studied a little classical guitar and then got way into playing/ studying jazz in school... Just instead of compartmentalising the different music I love, I tried to find a way to mush it all together.”
Remarkably, latest album Terraformer - the band’s fourth - sees three new faces make their recording debut (drummer Joe Fadem, saxophonist Sam Greenfield and trumpet player Joe Gullace), but manages to brew up the band’s most seamless, adventurous and complete record yet. Monda even plays a fretless Vigier Surfreter, proving that that desire to erase boundaries even extends to his fingerboard.
“I was really trying to push forward to find new idiosyncratic things to do with the fretless guitar,” says Monda. “There’s not much of a fretless guitar canon out there, so it’s fun to put more stuff into the universe.”
Pick any track and you’ll see the fretless universe is expanding exponentially. Few other groups could make such gleefully elastic work of 2019’s post-playlist attention deficit disorder - stretching things to progressive widescreen before snapping back with brass-backed punch and rock choruses.
“My approach is just to create music that’s fun to play with my friends,” says Tom. “And maybe a percentage of that will be good stuff. I would be satisfied with 10% good stuff. So in summary, my approach in the short term is to get 10% more good stuff!”
- For fans of: Coheed and Cambria, Aiming For Enrike
- Gear: Vigier Excalibur and Surfreter, Mesa Mark V, Line 6 Helix
North West’s Larks ascending
Manchester’s Larkins have probably written the summer singalong you didn’t know you wanted, but tear yourself away from bellowing the choruses and it’s a masterclass in rich synth-y indie crossover, full of unique sounds and shuffling textures.
“I think pedals have always taken a massive role in my approach to the guitar,” says guitarist Dom. “I’m not very big on understated sounds. Loud, high, weird sounds are what I’m all about.”
It’s these glassy notes you’ll hear interspliced with electronics cutting their way across the likes of addictive hits-in-waiting TV Dreams and Sugar Sweet.
“I think guitar wise we’re never shy of trying the latest gear, pedals or plug-ins,” says frontman Josh. “We’re no traditionalists in that sense. Guitar music definitely isn’t dead yet, but in many ways, it’s time to define new tones.”
- For fans of: The 1975, The Maccabees
- Gear: Dom - 70s Reissue Tele. Josh - Fender American Professional Jazzmaster
Super power trio get rhythm
Jørn Kaarstad, frontman with Norwegian three-piece Bokassa, is a man with a special relationship to rhythm. “At an early age, I was a guitar player who only cared about the riffs and the song,” says Jørn. “So I consider myself a riff guitarist.”
Bokassa’s bulldozer rock recalls the kind of punk-metal power bounce that you get with Cancer Bats, albeit loosened with a little stoner slack. They’ve been supporting Metallica this summer, which makes all kinds of sense, given Jørn’s Hetfield-ian love of rhythm. He shares that knack for counterbalancing meat and melody, too.
“I have an unhealthy love of pull-offs and bends,” Jørn offers, by way of explanation. “A friend said I had a playfulness to my riffs, that it was almost like they were the start of a solo sometimes, so I guess that is a part of my style!”
- For fans of: Cancer Bats
- Gear: Nebelung Riffmeister, Victory Super-Kraken VS100
- Who: Chastity Belt guitarist gone solo
- Sounds like: a sort of jangling, bitter-sweet biography of a breakdown, break-up and break-through
- Gear: Fender Jaguar, Fender Deluxe Reverb
- For fans of: Katie Von Schleicher, Lala Lala
- Hear: Natural
- Who: Mississippi-born songwriter
- Sounds like: great records of the late 70s, without the dust. Craft captures something of Big Star’s crackle and chime and Tom Petty’s brittle hope
- Gear: 1963 Gibson Hummingbird, Fender Blues Deluxe
- For fans of: Orville Peck, Ex Hex
- Hear: Sunday driver
- Who: Seattle guitarist Peter Richards
- Sounds like: indie-pop punk - not the glitzy, overproduced strain, more the sublimely under-produced ‘you-wish-you-were-in-this-band’ kind)
- Gear: Fender Pawnshop ‘51, Mustang GT 500
- For fans of: Dilly Dally, Charley Bliss
- Hear: Falling