27/04/2013: Daisy Rogers birthday show

We had a great time at the Daisy Rogers 4th birthday party last night! It was wonderful to see the venue so busy and to receive such a good response. We played a new song When The Summer Came and also, at the request of the audience, played this:

Brilliant fun. We haven’t got any live shows for a while now, but will be back in touch with news soon.

-Michael

18/04/2013: Get Spooked for free: limited time only

We’re very much looking forward to our headline Daisy Rogers show at the Jericho Tavern on Friday 26th April. To celebrate in advance we thought we’d give you a little treat. Until Friday 26th you can download our track Spooked for free here. It was first heard on our 3 Songs EP.

If you like visuals with your music, check out the wonderful video by Adam Pelling-Deeves:

-Michael

08/02/2013: 2013: go

Well, hello all. Singer Michael here wishing you all the best for 2013. We hope it’s going well for you.

November 2012 saw the release of Tiger Mendoza‘s Prometheus Unbound, featuring yours truly on vocals, which was released at a massive show at the O2 Academy in Oxford. I sang the track and a great night was had by all.

We finished up 2012 with a rammed gig at the Oxford Phoenix Picture House. The special gig was to celebrate the release of Phil McMinn‘s new EP. The lovely Jordan O’Shea opened proceedings, and it was a wonderful night all round.

2013′s been going marvellously for us so far. We’ve been working on some great new material, which one of us described as a ‘cross between Tool and That Fucking Tank‘. The comparison is probably a little optimistic/weird, but it sounds like a good idea all the same.

Also, some gigs! We’ve got a headline London show on 26 February, a wonderful art gallery show in March, then gearing up for a big headline show in April. Rumours abound as to who we’re playing with at that one.

We’ve had some requests for radio interviews and the like, so keep an eye out for them. Plus as always you can stalk us on Twitter.

Also, we’re currently putting together our Greatest Hits so far, so let us know what you’d like to be on there and we’ll see what we can do.

Finally, why not participate in some live action behavioural engineering? If you’d like to get the truly authentic experience of reading this blog post, go back and start at the beginning while listening to Malta’s Stolen Creep play Wolves. I saw them play in December and they’re great. It’s also what I’ve got on as I write this.

Meta.

-Michael

12/09/2012: Audioscope album | release gig

We’re back from our summer travels and already have a great announcement. Our friends over at Audioscope have included us on their excellent new compilation Music For a Good Home 2. The album features no less than 38 artists who’ve played at their annual Audioscope gigs, and many of the tracks are exclusive to this release.

The album will be released at September’s Music In Oxford gig this coming Friday at the Wheatsheaf in Oxford. We’re on at around 9pm. Also playing are the beautiful Felix, the unhinged Cellar Family (who played with us at the release of ROTATE in March) and the super Karhide.

We’ve heard from the Audioscope guys that attendees can get a special advance copy of the album, so make sure you pick that up.

Tickets cost a very reasonable £5 from here. Our track Mayday was recorded by Umair from Trojan Horse Recordings at the excellent Silver Street Studios in Reading. Mayday is one of our heaviest songs to date. We debuted it in March. Needless to say, I shout ‘mayday’ a lot in it.

In other news, we’re putting together some gigs for later in the year. Plus new songs, of course. More about that when we have it.

Don’t forget that you can now get our pretty much our entire back catalogue in our shop, including our mini-album Disclaimer which has long sold out in CD format.

See you Friday,

-Michael

15/06/2012: Prometheus Unbound | Punt | Tiger Mendoza

Just as I enjoyed joining the Winchell Riots for Reading and Leeds 2011, I enjoyed joining Tiger Mendoza for a one-off special gig in May. We played the famous Oxford Punt, a special one-off music festival, run by music magazine Nightshift, which annually takes over the city’s music venues for one night only. The venues are then filled with the city’s hottest new bands, with music fans swarming from one venue and band to the next.

Tiger Mendoza is principally the brainchild of Ian De Quadros supplied with guitars from Daniel O’Driscoll and vocals from Helena Markou. Their most recent coup was a great set supporting DJ Shadow at the O2 Academy in Oxford. Some of you will know Ian for the excellent remixes which he did on our recent remix album, ROTATE. It was Ian’s remix of Gasoline which the BBC chose to air back in March. There’ll be more updates on that album soon.

Much of Tiger Mendoza’s music is instrumental but they asked myself and the famous Asher Dust to contribute vocals to their newest songs. I was presented with a wonderful piece of dystopian electronica which sounded like a combination between the Blade Runner and Dr Who soundtracks.

I used some downtime during the recording of our Machine Triumphant EP in London to work out the melody, vocals, and lyrics on a battered old acoustic guitar while the others recorded their parts for the EP with Pat Collier. Pat actually has five recording studios in one old factory, so this gave me plenty of space to work in. I tentatively named the song Prometheus Unbound, which, given that the song is about liberation and freedom, I thought suited the lyrics very well (see below). The others agreed.

The gig at Punt itself was great fun, and took place in the Oxford Cellar on Wednesday 16 May. There was a really great live sound and a wonderful audience. I thought that Asher gave a great performance too, and it was wonderful getting my first ever experience of singing live without playing any instrument.

We’ve already laid Prometheus Unbound down in the studio, complete with mr g on backing vocals. There are still guitar parts to be added before it’s finished, so it’ll still be some time before you’ll be able to hear it. As a kind of taster, here are the lyrics:

PROMETHEUS UNBOUND

Gazing from my tower

Inside my iron cage

I long for escape some day

Breaking all the railings

And bending all the bars

I hope that special day is ours

When I’m falling. I’m falling down, down, down, down

It’s between gravity and me. And I won

Now I have clarity

You bring me clarity

You bring it to all around you, I know

All around you, I know

You bring me clarity and take me to reality

We see it in all around us, we know

All around us, we know

Flying from the tower, with my angel wings

I soar above the earth and sing

‘I taste the air and I’ve touched the sun. At long last, I’ve won’

Now I’m climbing. I’m climbing up, up, up, up

Now I have clarity

You bring me clarity

You bring it to all around you, I know

All around you, I know

You bring me clarity and take me to reality

We see it in all around us, we know

All around us, we know

It’s between gravity and me

And I won

It’s between gravity and me

And I won

It’s between gravity and me

And I won

It’s between gravity and me

And I won

I won

That’s all for now, but much news coming soon.

Over & out.

-Michael

07/02/2012: 2012: Tour of the Future

If you’re reading this, something’s gone right and we’re pleased to see you on the other side, people of 2012.

Things have moved pretty fast for us since the new year. I spent a day recording vocals for a collaboration track with Tiger Mendoza. Tiger’s been mixing the track over the last few days and it’s sounding great. Looking forward to hearing the finished song. It’s got an awesome title.

We also have our excellent video of Gasoline, which has been drawing a lot of attention. So much so, that some other Oxford bands offered to remix it, then some more, and now we have so many that we’re releasing a whole remix album, for free, on 17 March. That’ll be with the ace Listing Ships and Cellar Family at the Oxford Cellar.

We’ve been asked for some interviews and radio appearances, so listen out for those coming soon. Finally, in two weeks we start recording some new tracks in Reading with Trojan Horse Recordings. Listen out for brand new songs, which we’ve been working on in rehearsals throughout January.

Phew. That’s it – for now.

Back soon,

-Michael

22/12/2011: 2011 roundup

Thanks to everyone for making 2011 an amazing year for us! We released two EPs this year, Optimists and Machine Triumphant. Both were launched at packed gigs at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford. We also had an awesome time at the O2 Academy in Oxford, playing for BBC Introducing as part of their Upstairs Oxford gigs. Thanks also to Oxjam Oxford for getting us in to one of the top slots for their takeover of Oxford in October. We were delighted to be part of the event, which in the end raised nearly £3,000. Here is us being interviewed about it.

The BBC filmed this cool video for our song Gasoline, and the track featured on Keep Pop Loud Records’ first new band compilation. Check here for their interview with us. Thanks also to KPL and Nightshift for voting material from Optimists as among their top tracks of the year. We finished off the year with a lovely intimate gig at the Phoenix Picturehouse in Jericho.

As many of you will know, I also joined the Winchell Riots for the summer to play at Reading and Leeds festivals, so check that out on the BBC.

So, what’s up in 2012? Well, first up, we now have a youtube channel which gathers together our official videos with live footage and interviews. Also, only yesterday I was in the studio of Gert Lassitude recording vocals for our collaboration track with DJ Shadow favourites Tiger Mendoza. We’re also planning a new release for around March, with a release gig for that.

It’s all go here. But, more about that in due course. Like you, we’ll be on holiday until 2012, so we’ll see you on the other side.

-Michael

09/12/2011: Phoenix Picturehouse show

We had an awesome time playing at the Phoenix Picturehouse in Jericho on Saturday. We played an acoustic set with Chris, Alice and me, and it went very well indeed. The set consisted of acoustic versions of tracks from our album and recent EPs, plus a rare feature of our track Birthday Song. The audience was really warm and there was a great intimate atmosphere throughout.

Also playing were Gert Lassitude and Phil McMinn. Thanks to mr g for supplying the PA, lights and all his engineering skills. Phil was of course the singer in the Winchell Riots until they recently parted ways, but we were pleased to hear that he’s got a whole clutch of new material already and it sounded great. The venue was really nice and had a great sound, which was a bonus. Thanks also to Chinita of Sweet ‘n’ Sour Swing for having us and for all the free stuff!

The free night was such a success that we’ll almost certainly do another there, although we’re not sure when that’ll be yet. There’ll be plenty of pictures and other stuff to follow.

We’ve also got several bits of exciting news coming up soon, so look out for that.

-Michael

19/11/2011: Viva Oxford music

I must admit, last night was even more of a success than we were hoping for. Still buzzing from the euphoria but having been swimming in the river to shake off the hangover, it seems like the ideal time to write about it.

We’d heard that a lot of advance tickets had been sold, but couldn’t have hoped for a better (or bigger) audience. Deer Chicago and the Graceful Slicks were really great, and it was a pleasure to hang out with them all before the show.

Judging by what was said by the people I spoke to after the show, everyone had a wonderful time. Thanks to Daisy Rodgers for arranging such a wonderful evening, and to Andy Nichol for making us sound amazing as always. Thanks also to Nightshift, Music in Oxford and BBC Introducing for promoting the gig.

We gave away a free, numbered, handmade CD to everyone who bought an advance ticket. It took us ages to make them with crayons and scissors, but it was certainly worth the effort. The CD features the following tracks:

1. Gasoline (from the Optimists EP)
2. When The Rain Stops (original acoustic version; free download of the Tiger Mendoza orchestral remix here)
3. Stay Under The Radar (live at the BBC; listen here)
4. We’ll Sleep Again (from Spires compilation, free here)

Stay Under The Radar features a rare performance of me playing the lap steel slide guitar.

People I spoke to were filled with questions about the new EP and the new video. We’ll be promoting the Machine Triumphant EP over the coming weeks, so look out for that. As for the video, that deserves a blog post of its own, so that’ll be with you soon.

We ended up in Freud drinking vodka martinis until they closed, then stumbled off to Cowley Road’s famous HiLo for late night Red Stripes. An awesome night.

Our new record. So proud. Listen and download here. Designed by Nineteenpoint.

-Michael

11/11/2011: Video: this weekend

Having spent last weekend in the studio with the wonderful Pat Collier recording our new EP, we’re off early tomorrow with Sam King and Tim Bearder of the BBC to film a video for our track Gasoline.

We’ve been told to turn up to an abandoned airstrip with ‘an old suit, a petrol can, and a cheap car’. Sounds fun! What sounds less fun is the 5am start on Sunday, especially as it’s the legendary Audioscope the night before  :-/

Rock & roll. Watch this space for what happened,

-Michael

04/11/2011: Recording

I’m just about to head off for rehearsal tonight, before we pack into the van and head off to south east London. We’re recording around three tracks with Pat Collier, including live favourites Aviator and Burn. If the last recording with did with Pat is anything to go by, we’ll all be delighted with the results. Follow our adventures on Twitter.

Don’t forget to pick up advance tickets to our EP release headline show at the Jericho Tavern on Friday 18 November.  It promises to be an awesome night.

Speak soon,

-Michael

24/10/2011: Oxjam success | interview | new EP | BBC video

On Saturday, Chris and I had the pleasure of playing at the Oxjam Oxford Takeover. We played an acoustic set at the Turl St. Kitchen, and had a wonderful time. The audience was in a great mood and we hear that the events across the city raised at least £2,000! So that’s excellent news. No doubt there’ll be pictures and videos to come.

We were recently interviewed by Sheffield’s excellent Keep Pop Loud. The (true) title of the interview – They Were Seriously Planning On Setting Three Of The Band On Fire – gives you some idea about what we were being asked about. Read that here.

They asked us about all our plans for the rest of the year, including recording our new EP with Pat Collier in two weeks, a headline gig at the Jericho Tavern on 18 November (tix and details here), and a special winter show at the start of December.

We’ve been approached by great band, who have asked to remix us. That brings the total to three, plus of course the video we’re filming with the BBC in a couple of weeks.

We’re looking forward to hearing them.

-Michael

16/10/2011: Oxjam 2011

BIG NEWS

We’re co-headlining this year’s Oxjam event, along with the Scholars, taking place on Saturday 22 October. That’s this coming Saturday. Chris and I will be playing an acoustic set at the Turl St. Kitchen from around 9:45pm, so make sure you get yourself along to that.

Check out our video interview with Oxfam and the exclusive live track (Gasoline) right here. Oxjam Oxford Takeover spans five venues in one day, and loads of ace bands, so get your tickets to all the venues right here.

We’ve also been interviewed by the excellent Sheffield blog and record label Keep Pop Loud. We’ll let you know when it’s up. Incidentally, we were very pleased to see that the famous magazine Artrocker gave their recent compilation, on which our track Gasoline features, an awesome 5 out of 5. That’s 100%. If you don’t believe me, read it here.

In other news, we’ve got a new video, and two remixes on the way, plus even a page on the Guardian right here. We’ve also updated our discography with three more releases. We must be due a deluxe box set soon.

We’ve got loads lined up for November, so check back for that soon. It’ll be really cool.

-Michael

22/08/2011: Upstairs Oxford: BOOOOM

Wow, what a night on Saturday! Packed audience, great bands, and a wonderful night overall. Thanks to everyone who organised it and for the guys at the O2 Academy and BBC Introducing for all their hard work – and to the audience for giving the night such a wonderful atmosphere.

It was great to meet this year’s Oxjam organisers in one of the labyrinthine backstage rooms. We’re looking forward to playing at their event in October as it sounds like it’ll be really special.

We often think that home town shows are the best and Saturday night’s gig only confirmed this. We ended up drinking whiskey in an all night Irish bar and it was a great end to such a successful gig.

Dave from BBC Introducing interviewed me and Alice from the band, and that’ll be aired here next weekend. No doubt loads of pictures and so on will crop up too.

There is also the accompanying video, which was shot on the roof of the O2. You can watch Chris and I playing an acoustic version of Aviator for the shoot here.

We’re now looking into what we’re doing next, and have updated some details of this on our gigs page here. We are also entering the studio this coming autumn to release another EP this year.

No time like the present, eh?

Speak soon,

-Michael

02/08/2011: BBC Introducing live session

Chris and I spent a wonderful sunny afternoon last Saturday on the roof of the O2 Academy in Oxford. We were being recorded for the BBC Introducing show that we’re playing at on Saturday 20 August. Chris and I performed a stripped down of our track Aviator, and we think we gave it a different feel from its usual pounding mayhem. Advance tickets for the gig cost a very reasonable £5 and are here.

The live performance will be put up on Youtube in the week before the gig. We’ll definitely let you know when that’s up.

In other news, Keep Pop Loud Records have been kind enough to feature a track of ours, Gasoline, on their first ever compilation. Thanks guys! More information on that, including how to get hold of the limited edition collection, is here.

Finally, there’s some other Half Rabbits related news, in that it relates to me playing guitar in an Oxford band. After we’ve played the O2, I’ll be joining our friends the Winchell Riots on lead guitar for three shows only. Two of them will be the mighty festivals at Reading and Leeds, so I can’t wait for that. The other is a warm up show at the Cellar in Oxford on Thursday 25 August. Advance tickets aren’t quite available yet, but there’s more information right here, including information about the excellent support act Gunning for Tamar.

The Half Rabbits and the Winchell Riots have teamed up many times in the past. You probably know that we collaborated on a double A-side single which included our Man Down and their Art School. Plus of course, we’ve played with a number of the band at the legendary Your Song night at the Oxford O2 on New Year’s Eve to play Take That and Killers covers. For one song I was Dizzee Rascal. Great fun.

And it looks like this summer will be great fun too.

-Michael

27/07/2011: Gigs, live shows, Oxjam

We’ve been up to a great deal since I last posted on here. We’ve now got gigs booked up to the end of the year, and a whole bunch of recordings, interviews, and the like.

But let’s talk about now. We’re delighted to be playing BBC Introducing Upstairs at the Oxford O2 Academy on Saturday 20 August. It’s where we launched our album last year, and the place is definitely special to us.

Also playing are the wonderful Alphabet Backwards, Anchor and the Wolf, The Cooling Pearls, and Nairobi. Tickets are available for a tiny £5 from here.

It should be a good ‘un!

Chris and I will be filming a live acoustic session for the show this coming Saturday afternoon on top of the famous venue. I believe our photographer friend All That Improbable Blue will be filming the session, so all will be in good hands there.

Hopefully it’ll turn out as well as these ones by such excellent bands as Spring Offensive, Gunning for Tamar, Phantom Theory, and Ute. And of course, also that the weather will be lovely and sunny. Or at least not a thunder and lighting storm, as an acoustic session could become an electric one very quickly.

We’ve also got some more shows later in the year, one of which will be a show for the excellent Oxjam 2011, who have always been nice enough to put us on. We particularly enjoyed last year’s event in the O3 Gallery in the Oxford Castle, which raised over £400. There’s a wonderful pic of me playing that show here (in my opinion at least).

But more about that nearer the time.

Bye for now,

-Michael

22/06/2011: Welcome to the blog

We’ll be updating our new blog from time to time with our thoughts on music, both our own and of others.

Burn by The Cure is on in the background. If you want to get in the spirit of things, go and listen to it yourself. I’m now remembering watching The Crow for the first time of many – what an amazing movie. Such a foreboding atmosphere throughout, and a wonderful soundtrack. Shame about the sequels, although it’s probably a good thing that Jon Bon Jovi didn’t get the part for Crow 2.

For those who are interested in such matters as ‘what are our musical influences?’, I got the idea for the tremolo guitar part in Poor Me/Poor You from Burn by The Cure. It all has to come from somewhere.

-Michael

07/06/2011: Gigs / new tracks / compilations / interviews

I haven’t written for a while, but we’ve been very busy writing, rehearsing, and working out what we’re doing next. And, I’m happy to report back.

I’m currently in a 6th floor flat in Camden, north London. Spanish Bombs by The Clash is on in the background as I type. What a song – and album. In fact, I suggest that you go and listen to it here as you read this blog.

We’re booked for some gigs in June and August, as well as booking some more for the autumn. The soonest will be on Thursday 23 June when we play at Fat Lil’s in Witney. We’re playing with Oxford favourites Black Hats and Alphabet Backwards. We can’t wait. Details of the gig are here and the details of the venue are here.

We’ve got a whole load of new songs ready, including Aviator, and two others which we haven’t really named yet. One is in a major key, which is a first for us. It may be called Uplift, but I’m not sure the lyrics are quite finished yet. The other song sounds like a heavy Mogwai mixed with the Doors, along with a little bit of Tool and Oceansize. Crazy.

This news links to…

We were so pleased with the way that Optimists EP turned out that we’re going to be recording another EP, for release later in the year. There’ll be more news on all that when we have it.

Speaking of Optimists EP, we’ve been up to a few things with that. Radio favourite Gasoline is going to appear on a few compilations, in particular one from the lovely people at Keep Pop Loud. We’ll keep you posted with news of how to get hold of that.

We’ve just started making a video for Poor Me/Poor You. We actually turned up to film it on Saturday but there was a hitch. Having made the trip all the way from Oxford to rural Buckinghamshire (rock), we discovered that the studio had been taken over by a company for advertising a new granola oat bar. They had even installed the props, such as wicker hampers, bales of hay (!), watering cans, and strategically placed pairs of rustic wellingtons.

Still, no problem – we’ll be filming it elsewhere soon, and it’s always nice to have a drive through the countryside listening to Scandinavian trip hop.

And, we’re lined up for some interviews over the coming weeks, so we’ll let you know when and where you can listen to us.

As always, make your way over to our Bandcamp site, where you can get hold of Optimists EP for tiny cost; and it’ll help us be able to pay for more exciting music.

We’ll be back in touch with more news when we have it.

-Michael

26/04/2011: Best easter holiday ever?

Before talking about now and the future, let’s talk about the recent past. Playing at Record Store Day at the Truck Store in Oxford was a wonderful experience, so thanks to Truck Records for having us. We really enjoyed playing, and watching the Young Knives and Spring Offensive. We played a set of six songs, consisting of material we’ve released in the last year.

It was a little peculiar at first, playing to so many people from a shop window in broad daylight, but we’re really pleased with how it all went. We’re delighted that the day was such a success for the Truck Store, and hope that all the similar events over the country went equally well. We’re also pleased to say that the Truck Store now stocks our album, From The Horizon To The Map, so make sure you pick up a copy when you’re in.

BBC Introducing continue to support our OPTIMISTS EP, this time by debuting our track Extremadura to close their show last weekend. Listen to that here.

Now, over to today. Wow. What a beautiful time to be on holiday in England. Like most of the country, we’ve been celebrating the weather by doing very little indeed, except sitting by the river with something cold to drink and an acoustic guitar in hand. I visited my favourite seaside city, Brighton, for a few days, and each dawn gazed in wonderment as the sun soared over the glinting sapphire ocean. I paid my first ever trip to hyper-cool venue Audio, and watched the excellent NYC shoegaze band Asobi Seksu, who I recommend.

I was supposed to be finishing a few new songs, but I have something to confess. Instead of doing this, I spontaneously learned the entire first album from Brighton’s British Sea Power, The Decline of British Sea Power, on my trusty Simon & Patrick acoustic guitar. Sorry, but these things happen. If you want to get in the spirit of this, simply go and listen to the marvellous single Carrion from the record, and join me in enjoying its strange yet captivating lyrics.

I’ll write soon with what we’ll be getting up to over the next few months. You’re still encouraged to listen to (and hopefully buy) our music, which you can download from Bandcamp. We’ve got some gigs lined up, as well as new tracks, radio stuff, a video, and other such exciting things.

But I’ll leave that for another time – for now, there’s almost too much sun to enjoy.

-Michael

04/04/2011: What OPTIMISTS is about

I’ve been promising this for a while, so I hope it’s worth the wait. At its simplest, our Optimists EP is about being optimistic in the face of great adversity. Each of the songs on the EP reflects this feeling in a different way. We’ve actually written individual songs about this in the past, such as Positive Mental Attitude and Stay Positive, but this is the first time we’ve written a whole EP based on this theme. We hope you enjoy them, and also reading this post on what they’re about.

Anyone who’s familiar with our songs will know that most of them are an attempt to describe the world around us. Bearing in mind that I wrote these songs in 2010 – and they were pretty relevant then – it is now uncanny how relevant they are to the world of April 2011. I think you’ll see what I mean:

1. Gasoline. Given that the chorus refrain is ‘Can you remember why all we wanted was gasoline?’, it’s pretty obvious what this song’s about. There’s an overdubbed drum machine in the mix, which we thought gave it a wonderful clattering disco feel. Written at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it got me wondering how we’d all ended up in this mess in the first place. Then I remembered the (true) story of how an Australian gold prospector, Knox D’Arcy, had become the world’s first Big Oil man, and I wondered how he’d feel about the world’s dependency on oil now. There’s even a town in Wales named after him: Llandarcy. As I write, the news in the background is telling me that Gadaffi’s troops have recaptured the country’s all-important oil towns, and this simply brings back home to me how important all this is.

2. Poor Me/Poor You. The lyrics to this song are pretty sarcastic – showering homecoming soldiers with sunshine and medals for their heroism, when at home we really have no idea what’s going on thousands of miles away. Some of you will have noticed that the second line ‘Put out more flags’ is the title of a wartime novel of the same name by Evelyn Waugh. Nothing like the jaunty Brideshead Revisited at all, Put Out More Flags is a wry take on patriotism and jingoism. And I think we need more of that. We overdubbed some extra-big clanky cymbals in the chorus to this song, and I reckon it sounds marvellous. It’s probably my favourite song to play live at the moment.

Incidentally, the title of our debut album, From The Horizon To The Map, was also taken from a novel set in wartime Britain, in that case Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat Of The Day, in which it was remarked that after the fall of France, ‘war had moved from the horizon to the map’. I think it’s a very evocative phrase.

3. How The West Was Won. This song couldn’t be more relevant now. As I write this the BBC News is telling me me about NATO bombs raining down on Colonel Gadaffi’s loyalist forces in Libya, and for the first time in a while the West is one again. Originally entitled How The West Was One, the band overruled me because they said that title was too pretentious. Still, we are a democratic organisation, so I stand with their decision. It doesn’t matter anyway, as the meaning’s still fully intact. I’ve been noticing the kind of Cold War propaganda which has made a comeback since 9/11, now that again there are Bad Guys Over There Somewhere. If you want a video to this song as you listen to it, just put the news on and mute the sound. I promise it’ll work. Before you ask, I still haven’t got round to watching the 1962 cowboy movie of the same name. Speaking of movies …

4. Extremadura. I think everyone will agree that this is the weirdest song on the EP. Some love it and some hate it but very few people have no opinion at all. Opinions in the band are split too. The last time I heard, someone wanted to make a video of it, so I reckon that particular director falls into the former category. The title Extremadura is a rural region of Spain. As you’ll probably have guessed, this song is directly inspired by the Ernest Hemingway novel For Whom The Bell Tolls, written about anti-fascist troops in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. The speech at the end is from the closing scene of the 1943 American movie. The story opens with an American, Robert Jordan (‘Roberto’), leaving behind his wounded Russian comrade (Kashkin) in Extremadura as they flee Franco’s forces. The story ends with a wounded Jordan being left behind in a similar fashion, ready to fire at the pursuing troops until the last bullet. It’s a wonderful story of self-sacrifice in pursuit of bigger goals, and I figured I’d write a song about it. For those who’ve been keeping a close eye on our releases in the past, you may notice that How Right You Are from our debut album From The Horizon To The Map has a strong Spanish theme too. As I’ve been saying to many people over the last few weeks, the parallels between that Spanish war and the current Libyan conflict are uncanny. Let’s just hope no one starts to give Gadaffi more guns.

So, in short, the Optimists EP is about strength in the face of adversity, courage instead of fear, and hope for the future.

New songs are coming thick and fast, so it shouldn’t be too long before you hear the next batch. I’ve written one about a river, one about being a 1930s test pilot, and an instrumental acoustic one which currently promises to be our loudest song so far. And what influences that song will depend on what’s happening at the time. After all, all music is a product of its surroundings in the end, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading.

-Michael

21/03/2011: EP launch gig. Wow.

There’s nothing better than launching a new blog and a new record at the same time. We were delighted that Gasoline (and indeed the whole EP) was debuted by BBC Oxford Introducing, who have always been very supportive of us.

Thank you so much to all the people who packed into the Jericho Tavern on Saturday night. It was a wonderful experience and we hope you enjoyed all the bands. Thanks also to The Scholars and Fuzzy Logic for being a) so friendly and helpful and b) so good! It was a big success and we were delighted to see so many representatives from numerous Oxford bands in the audience.

Excellent photographer All That Improbable Blue also videoed an entire song (Gasoline) – of stunning picture quality – and has uploaded it to Youtube for your viewing pleasure right here.

We’re delighted Saturday (19 March) also saw the release of our brand new EP, which is entitled Optimists EP. It is available as a download only EP, and you will even be able to buy individual tracks should you so wish. If you buy the whole thing, you get free extras, such as artwork and liner notes.

You can currently listen to all four tracks for nothing. They’ll be there for the next few days, and after that you’ll have to buy them for a minimal cost. So, get them while they’re hot at our Bandcamp page.

The track listing is as follows:

1. Gasoline

2. Poor Me/Poor You

3. How The West Was Won

4. Extremadura

I’ll write a separate blog post about the music and the ideas behind the EP, as we’re very pleased with the way it’s all come together. I’ve never really described much about my songs to people, which I think has perhaps been a mistake, as people have certainly been really interested in asking me about them. So watch this space for that.

Expect revolutions, Big Oil, and movie stars. As always.

-Michael

21/03/2011: Spires compilation

I’m taking this opportunity to plug the Spires compilation, which was released this January. It was organised in its totality by the lovely guys from Phantom Theory, who we’ve been honoured to share the stage with when they supported us at the launch gig of the very song which is on the compilation, We’ll Sleep Again. Video of that track from the excellent Adam Pelling-Deeves here.

A true testament to collective endeavour, the free album contains no less than 15 bands, all of whom have donated a song to the compilation. If you’ve been following the Oxford music scene for any time at all, you’ll be aware of the sheer breadth and depth of talent, across a huge array of genres. Also demonstrating the helpful and collaborative nature of the scene are the guys in the Blessing Force – whose media coverage so far has been impressive to say the least – and the recent movie on the Oxford music scene  Anyone Can Play Guitar.

It’s a wonderful collection of a superb variety of bands.  So, simply go and download it completely for free here.

-Michael

16/03/2011: Recording the Optimists EP

We recorded the Optimists EP with the legendary Pat Collier in the twilight days of 2010. As you will remember, it was absolutely freezing. Nevertheless, we all packed into our van and headed on down to south east London. We had never met Pat before but he’s a wonderful guy and it was a pleasure recording with him. You will probably know him as the guy who recorded Katrina and the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine, but he’s got a whole host of serious bands to his name, including Primal Scream, and Jesus & Mary Chain. In addition to recording, we were delighted that Pat contributed ideas to the production of the EP, and the inclusion of some of the less usual instruments on the EP are down to him.

Pat’s studio is based in Perryvale and is a converted factory. As such, it’s enormous, containing at least five live rooms, three smaller studios, a kitchen and sitting area bigger than my house, and a whole labyrinth of other spaces that we didn’t get the chance to explore.

When taking a break, we’d go over to the local café and buy baked potatoes to keep out the cold. At night, we stayed over in Southfields where the girl members had constructed an impromptu barrack in the living room. I, on the other hand, got a double bed and a room to myself. I’ve always said it’s best to be the singer, and I was right.

-Michael