How 80s and 90s Manchester Music Changed Male Fashion

Music and fashion is a stormy marriage. For one artist it’s a supportive crux that keeps them in the limelight (Madonna’s cones and anything Gaga), for others it’s the first sign that things are on the slide (Sinitta’s X-Factor palmleaf dress).

But the clothing choices we make owes a lot to bands and singers, and few areas can boast a heavyweight title in this area than the Manchester music scene.

This vibrant north-west England metropolis — the first city outside of London to open an Armani shop — is divided between delirious Madchester, rhythmic Northern Soul, and ballsy Britpop. A city that fuses ‘Manc Swag’ and all-night clubbing with high-end designer shops and ultra-chic hangouts; we’re looking at how Manchester music launched male fashion into unchartered territory.

Manchster music

Happy Mondays

If you hear Madchester, one of the first bands you see is Happy Mondays. The term Madchester became part of British vocabulary in the 1990s. It was created to sum up a revolution in Manchester’s music scene, as well as the surging popularity of psychedelic rock and electronic dance music. Madchester’s quirky/bohemian clothes and fresh sound worked together to create a cultural phenomenon in the city, which centred around the explosion in the availability of ecstasy that changed a ‘night out’ into an entirely new experience.

Before anyone knew it, ‘baggy music’ — a genre of funk, house, guitar rock, and psychedelic sounds — was born and Happy Mondays fandom soared.

Even excluding the band’s hallucinatory sound, mad performances and off-stage behaviour, Happy Mondays is one of the most entertaining bands ever to hit music fashion.

Think flared jeans, buttoned up shirts and hippie-like tops (or just Shaggy from Scooby Doo) topped off with a fishing or bucket hat and you’ve got a visual style that is Madchester through and through. Happy Mondays fans quickly followed suit and even today, we can buy the smiling ‘acid face’ logo emblazoned on t-shirts and hoodies, which shows how the band’s fashion legacy has kept strong.

Stone Roses

A lot like Happy Mondays, Stone Roses helped to marry music and fashion, and were massive players on the Manchester music scene. Founding member, Ian Brown, led the band to international stardom in the 1980s, and they soon become famous for their distinctive style and resurrection of flared trousers.

From the fisherman bucket hat to the Adidas jacket, Stone Roses fashion was all about loose clothes and a casual dress sense. You catch Stone Roses fans sporting tracksuit tops, floral or checked shirts, too-big Stone Island sweatshirts, and maybe even the iconic ‘mod cut’ hairdo made famous by Brown himself. This messy haircut is a mix of classic rock and ‘baggy style’, influencing stars and fans alike over many years — including Liam Gallagher and The Enemy.

Stone Roses helped to create a fashion spin-off of the ‘baggy music’ genre that fans loved, and this Manchester band became synonymous with the term, scally — a word first used to simply describe a working class person with a casual/sportswear dress sense that is now, unfortunately, almost always used as an insult for yobbish behaviour.

Oasis

Another of Manchester music’s most famous bands, Oasis, formed in 1991 and won countless MTV, NME and Brit awards before splitting in 2009.

Immediately when you think of how Oasis dressed, you probably imagine khaki parkas, baggy shirts and Lennon-esque glasses. A big part of music and fashion in Manchester around Oasis’ heyday was the revival of the 1960s’ Mod, which Oasis spearheaded amazingly.

Original mod fashion brought together tailored suits and military-style trench coats with buttoned-down collars and fitted trousers. Bands like Oasis took hold of this idea and spun it into something that fitted perfectly into the world of Manchester music. Keeping the streamlined look, Oasis gave mod fashion a rockier edge with Paisley-print shirts, tracksuit jackets, messy haircuts, khaki coats zipped up to the chin, and straight/slim fit jeans (never skinny).

Brands like Levi, Fred Perry and Tommy Hilfiger were often found draped on The Gallaghers, who also loved the lightweight, waist-length look of the Harrington jacket. This garment was actually first made in Manchester, which probably made it a source of pride for the Mancunians, and it was the perfect mix of smart/casual for the quintessential 90s’ mod look.

Throughout their time at the top, the Oasis boys loved the odd Kangol-branded bucket hat like the rest of Madchester, and made sure to sling on plenty of Adidas tracky jackets (fully-zipped) for the ultimate lad-look that you see everywhere today.

Oasis continues to influence the world of fashion. Ex-member, Liam Gallagher, started fashion label, Pretty Green, in 2009 which has had great success in bringing Oasis’ mod/Britpop/90s’ lad fashion into 2017.

Joy Division

A Manchester music scene titan, Joy Division was originally called Warsaw and formed in 1976. It had great commercial success before the death of lead singer, Ian Curtis; but was also a leader in alternative fashion that still influences fans today.

The band had a very simplistic attitude to clothing. Tucked-in dress shirts, plain suit trousers, brogues, and large overcoats with upturned collars was the style of Joy Division. Similar to The Smiths, Joy Division opted for monochrome shades that didn’t attract attention and helped encapsulate the dark, emotional, disenchanted sound that was Joy Division’s post punk/gothic rock legacy.

The Smiths

Eighties’ rock band, The Smiths, had huge influence over the independent music scene and inspired a wave of alternative rock/indie pop groups. But when questioned about fashion, Morrissey was brutally dismissive of clothing trends and claimed that The Smiths were pretty much the worst dressed band ever.

Many fans clearly disagreed and Morrissey is still known for his quiffed hairstyle and wire-rimmed glasses (which possibly inspired Liam Gallagher’s spectacles affinity). The Smiths’ uniform consisted of baggy shirts, over-sized cardis and large jumpers, but they also had a grungier side that was made up of acid-washed/ripped jeans, leather jackets and sunglasses. These styles worked to cement the band’s unique and unforgettable sound that blended poignant, multi-layered songs with an undertone of youth angst and discontent.

The Smiths came about at a time when the flamboyant costumes of Duran Duran, Adam Ant and Culture Club sashayed around the opposite side of the Eighties’ music stage. However hard Morrissey fought on the side of art against fashion pageantry, The Smiths still inspired generations of dressers who go for the thoughtless, laid-back, ‘thrown-on’ look every morning.

Manchester music and fashion has revolutionised British style for decades. Check out our range of retro men’s and women’s plimsolls for your own alternative look.

Gola Interviews… Circa Waves

Since launching debut album ‘Young Chasers’ in 2015, Liverpudlian-born band, Circa Waves, has made an incredible impact on the music scene. From sell-out tours to performances at Glastonbury, the band has grown both lyrically and musically to become one of the most respected bands on the circuit.

Currently on a UK tour and enjoying massive success with newly-released second album ‘Different Creatures’, we caught up with Circa Waves’ guitarist, songwriter and lead singer, Kieran Shundall, to find out more about the roots, present and future of Circa Waves.

Circa Waves

There’s a significant change in sound between ‘Different Creatures’ and your first record ‘Young Chasers’. It’s a bit grittier and your lyrics are about darker themes, like alcoholism and depression. Was this shift a conscious decision with this record or was it something that came naturally from growing as part of Circa Waves?

KS: It was just what came out naturally when I started writing in early 2016. Our first record was more about looking back, but the lyrics in ‘Different Creatures’ are very present. It all came out of its own accord, really.



You worked with Alan Moulder on this album, who is the producer that worked with The Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine. These bands have quite a distinctively raw, distorted sound. Did you seek him out because you wanted that sound, was it something he just created organically, or was it a bit of both?

KS: A bit of both, really. Alan has made every legendary rock record and the great thing is that he has all the knowledge. If you want that specific sound, he’s usually got the pedal that did that sound.

I think we asked one time: “How do you get the snare sound from that record?” and he just texted Butch Vig and got whatever snare it was, whatever mic was used, and within two hours had them both there ready to go. He’s got such a wealth of knowledge and information to get what you need. He’s also really patient and able to reach inside an artist’s brain and pull out the best, which is great for us because we don’t speak fluent musical language.

It seems like you knew exactly how you wanted each instrument to sound in every song. When you were writing, did you have a clear idea of how you wanted the album to turn out?

KS: Yeah. A lot of the demos did sound quite similar to the end result you heard. I’ve got a meticulous ‘demo-ing’ obsession. I think it’s a good foundation to have for an artist to go into the studio and say: “Let’s just make this but do it better”. Obviously, Alan is very gifted at doing that.

As much as you seem to have a specific idea in mind with ‘Different Creatures’, it sounds completely natural and doesn’t come across as over-polished. For example, I noticed you chose to keep in a comment you make about someone texting you at the end of one of the songs on the album…

KS: That was actually all orchestrated! We did loads of fake overdubs.

Really?! So did Alan try to get the right mics for how you wanted that to come across?

KS: Nah, in all seriousness, it’s something that we’ve all always loved. Like when you listen to old Beatles records and you can hear them all talking to each other. As a listener, it sucks you in straight away, which is what you want. For me, I always remember being able to hear when the Arctic Monkeys click the distortion pedal off at the end of their first record.

It’s immersive, isn’t it? It takes you right into the studio.

KS: Yeah, you’re in the studio with them. I’ve always wanted that. No matter how big the production — and it’s big on some of these songs — I still want it to feel personal to everyone listening to us.

Circa Waves

The album has been very successful so far. Do you feel you’ve now reached a place as a band, commercially or artistically, where you’re happy with where you are?

KS: No, I don’t think we’re content at all, really. We are really proud of what we have achieved and what we’ve done, but I don’t think we will ever think we have made it. Even when we’re headlining festivals, we’ll want to headline two festivals.

Any musician who is content should probably give up. You’ll stop making music that means something to you. We’ve got that drive and just want to keep moving up and up. We’re really happy with the album, but we want to keep pushing it as far as we can take it.

I think that takes a lot of confidence as a band. Is that how you feel?

KS: Yeah. I think when we first started we were just happy to actually be in a band. You get a record deal and take everything with a pinch of salt. You go: “Well, we’re just glad we’re here!”.

But over the last few years, we’ve seen the reactions that we’ve had and we’ve watched ourselves getting bigger and better. That alone makes you more confident. It’s hard not to be when you see 10,000 people singing your songs back to you! It’s such a massive boost. We want more of that.

It seems like Circa Waves is a band that has worked from the ground up. Do you think it’s harder, particularly as quite a working-class group, to take that path?

KS: I think we pride ourselves on being a live band that have toured continuously. Since we were all about 14 years old, we’ve been playing live and honing our craft, and we’re definitely happy to have made our name that way and not through some awful TV show.

We’ve played the toilet circuit (a network of small music venues that hosts rising rock, indie and metal bands) many times over to get to this point. Hopefully, people will see how we did it and it’ll inspire them to grow their own band that way and not look for the easy way into it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who think you just have to go on ‘The Voice’, or whatever, to make it.

But, is it hard to support yourself when you’re starting out and not seeing that kind of success?

KS: When we were first in bands, we all had jobs and would practice at night. With Circa Waves, we got signed really early which gives you a foundation of cash to live on. Not much, but enough to get by and just concentrate on being a band and making music. So, I don’t know, sometimes you’ve just got to put yourself out there and do it.

Circa Waves

You said you pride yourself on being a live band, as it’s where you built character and honed your craft. Is there any particular way you approach performing live? Is it an entirely different performance or do you go out and play with the same energy and enthusiasm that you did in the studio?

KS: I suppose it is a bit of a performance. I don’t walk around the way I do on stage in real life. You have to have a bit of swagger when you’re in front of people.

Yeah, I’m sure Nick Cave doesn’t walk around on stage the way he does in real life, either. You are playing a bit of a role, aren’t you?

KS: It is a bit of a role. I think we are very aware of our fans and they’ve all paid £15 to come and see us, so we owe them that amount of entertainment. We do put everything into it and at the end of each gig, we’re sweating and our hands are bleeding. I don’t know any other bands at the moment who are as active as us in our genre. We do absolutely give it everything.

Are there any other bands right now that inspire you?

KS: The Vryll Society. They’re really cool, sort of like early The Verve. I’ve always loved the singer, Mike Ellis. He’s such a confident guy and actually reminds me of a young Mick Jagger. He’s a brilliant songwriter, too, so I’m really intrigued to see what he does next. I also heard Zuzu on Huw Stephens recently, who’s really cool, and Clean Cut Kid are doing well at the moment, I think.

Do you put much thought into your fashion when you’re on stage? Is there an image you aspire to when you’re performing?

KS: Elvis. We all try to be Elvis… As a band, we try to put a bit of effort into our look but we don’t wear guy-liner. Yet.

So, when you talked about ambition, you meant glam rock?

KS: Yeah. Flares and guy-liner.

That could be the next stage for Circa Waves.

KS: That’s the next level.

Circa Waves are made up of bandmates Kieran Shudall, Sam Rourke, Colin Jones, and Joe Falconer. The boys are currently touring across the UK, supported by INHEAVEN and The Magic Gang, and their latest album is available to buy now.

DJ Sharp

Young DJs seem to be all the range; take Bondax, Karma Kid and XXYYXX, who are proof that you don’t need to be legal to take a club by storm. 16 year old Brisbane-based DJ Sharp is our newest catch.

At the age of 10, most boys are content with video games and football. By this age, Daniel Sharp was already starting to DJ professionally. Initially a ‘bedroom DJ’, Sharp taught himself to mix in his room for two years, just as some of the most prolific DJs have done. As his equipment grew –a DJ’s addiction – he began to play out for his job: driving the dancefloor and yet too young to buy a beer at the bar.

DJ Sharp’s sound is all about fat basslines and hard grooving dance music. Influenced by key players Skrillex, Deadmau5, Steve Aoki and Knife Party, Sharp mixes the punch of trance with the swag of trap in his sailing style of electronic dance music.

‘Jump!’ epitomises the bassy tang with its cavernous drops and sky high builds. The beating kicks and euphoric keyboard are made to unite a dancefloor: “One, two, three: Jump!” ‘Club Life Version 2’ takes this recipe further with its frantic rising melody, digital splurts and sturdy house beat. Ibiza calls.

For those who like more downtempo electronica, an interesting experiment is Sharp’s ‘Chillstep idea’, a piece he has previewed on his Soundcloud. Using the deep weight of dubstep, Sharp trickles on a delicate piano riff, showing us he is not a one-trick pony of a producer. If he’s achieved this by age 16, we can only but guess where he’ll be in ten years time.

 

Kagoule

I’ve had a definite soft spot for Kagoule’s swirly churning since seeing them a few times a couple of years ago in Nottingham and more recently in London with Drenge. These guys are seriously exciting, sickeningly young and overwhelmingly talented.

Cai’s gloomy-cool and Lucy’s urgent throbbing on bass makes me want to wear my clumpiest school shoes again. Sometimes calm… often brooding…and all round achingly nostalgic, I can’t do them justice by cobbling adjectives together.

Maybe a mood-board demonstration, consisting of tattered velcro-fastened coin purses, after-rain walks home, braces and biro battered lined papers would be more apt but it would only go some of the way. Listen, Kagoule are anything but clumsy!

Kagoule just released a single called ‘Adjust the Way’ on Hate Hate Hate Records along with their first (suitably dark and fuzzing) video. Watch it online here, maybe make an afternoon of it.

Of course you can find Kagoule on Facebook and they are setting out on their first tour in December, playing all over the UK with Cold Crows Dead so you must keep a look (or ear) out!

Suitably dreamy photos by  Angela Chan.

Bipolar Sunshine

Manchester born Bipolar Sunshine is having a good year. He has been steadily gaining recognition for the past few months, ever since he released his debut EP Aesthetics back in June 2013. His new EP ‘Drowning Butterflies’ came out in November and he has already toured with Bastille, Haim, and performed at Lovebox, Reading and Leeds Festival. It’s safe to say he is one artist to watch over the next year.

Bipolar Sunshine, aka Adio Marchant has grown since the break-up of his former band, Kid British. As proven by his second EP, his sound is more mature, having lost the indie-ska undertones, leaving Marchant with a grown voice à la King Krule, singing over some indie-rock-gospel-soul and pop tunes…all the while with some reggae flavour. Talk about eclectic. The song ‘Love More, Worry Less’ is definitively the standout track of the album ‘Drowning Butterflies’, which is a tune that soothes you, electrifies you and leaves you wanting for more. Almost like a spoken word performance, the song is executed with beauty, finesse, sobriety and elegance. The video accompanying it is creative on all points, with slow motion shots of yellow-saturated vast landscapes, making the dreamy and hopeful atmosphere especially acute.

I have to admit that I don’t often go to gigs, and when I do, it is usually because someone is dragging me there to see their favourite band; so when my friend invited me to see MØ (whom I had never heard of) perform at XOYO in London, I was quite skeptical, although excited – there is something deeply satisfying about someone wanting to show you something.

(Karen Marie Ørsted), a Danish singer whose tracks are synth-heavy electro-pop pieces of heaven, made a dynamic and energetic entrance that was hard to disregard, especially given the loud ovation she received from her fans. I have to admit I was extremely baffled at the maturity and texture of MØ’s tracks, which work on a staggeringly deep effect within you. Reminiscent of Grimes and Portishead, her songs have a kind of sonic texture that blend in perfectly with the sultry Lana del Rey-like vocals, only more seductive and vibrant.

The songs that stood out the most for me were ‘Pilgrim’, where the melody and pace was slower and reminiscient of mid-80s pop disco, as well as ‘Glass’ and ‘Waste of Time’, where MØ successfully shows us that the Scandinavians do, in fact, do it better than us in terms of new synth electro-pop. The videoclips for the aforementioned songs are artfully produced and made especially acute by the unflinching sharpness of MØ’s vocals.

On another note, someone has to give the Danish girl a few extra points for her stirring performance at the gig, where she went from jumping to dancing to walking into the crowd, all while delivering her tracks with her bandmates. I, for one, also give her extra points because she was cute, polite and genuinely seemed to enjoy what she was doing.

https://www.facebook.com/MOMOMOYOUTH

https://soundcloud.com/momomoyouth

British Sea Power

“ALERT! ALERT! ACTUALLY DECENT BAND PLAYING IN YORK ALERT!”

Now, upon reading the above on my Facebook news feed, my naturally inquisitive mind wants instantly to investigate. And, the (slightly over-egged) announcement is quite right, these guys are a decent band!

British Sea Power are a six-piece band variously originating from Cumbria, Yorkshire, Ealing and Shropshire who are currently based in East Sussex and on the Isle of Skye. Their multi-instrumental style (guitars, bass, keys, drums, a viola and a cornet) gives them a wonderfully rich and unique sound that seems to have thrilled their fans and reviewers alike. The Sunday Times have called them “the best band in Britain” while a Rolling Stone review dismissed the entire line up of the Reading Festival as “puerile drivel” and adding “we’re off to see British Sea Power”.

Far from starting out, British Sea Power are ten years more mature than their debut album (released 2003), but their new album Machineries of Joy sees them really hitting their stride. Their hard work and perseverance really shows: a recent poll of BBC 6 Music listeners on the most important tracks of the stations lifetime but British Sea Power’s track, ‘Remember Me’ at number 9. Putting this into context, that’s just above Radiohead and just behind Johnny Cash.

If you want to check out this band properly, visit their website – http://www.britishseapower.co.uk/ – where you can find links to all of their social media, videos of their performances as well as tour dates, so you can appreciate them live.

Gabby Colledge

Who said acoustic music was dead? The era may be over, but its echo continues to reverberate and inspire the young, up and coming musicians of today. Despite the vast advances of music technology, most aspiring singers still cling to the jazzy sounds of an acoustic guitar and the steel strings beneath their callused fingers. It’s what we grew up with, what we all instinctively know. And it’s this sense of deeply rooted nostalgia that London-based, singer-songwriter Gabby Colledge teases out from between the eaves of your ears.

Colledge’s soulful voice rises and sinks like a wave, like satin with grain. It could have traveled here from another time, an eclectic, golden period of folk and jazz. Of her inspirations, Gabby muses:

“I generally love all acoustic music, especially stripped down versions of dance songs, and the YouTube channel Watch Listen Tell. I grew up loving classic soul singers such as Etta James and also more folk-based music like Laura Marling.

At the moment I’m listening to more chilled out, almost electronic music, such as London Grammar.”

Forever in a dream / about the texture of your skin / safety in your arms / I’m free from harm.

Thus far, Colledge has composed three songs on her soundcloud, Waiting for me, Anybody could be fooled and Done with you. There’s something particularly enchanting about the second song, with a lilting melody and lyrics that make you sigh with the beauty of it all – a feeling or memory you’ve forgotten in the corner of your mind — in the haze of your eyes / anyone could be fooled — and leaves you wanting more as the last notes linger and melt away.

To listen to Gabby Colledge’s music, visit her soundcloud, and let us know your thoughts below.

High Cross Society

High Cross Society is something of a super group ahead of its time. In a cocktail of some of the UK’s greatest upcoming live musicians, the band shakes together a slice of soul, a pinch of classical, a dash of hip hop and a stella serving of talent. The result? An eclectic liquorice allsorts band whose live shows promise to be as zesty as their studio production.

Despite the time tested musical accomplishment of its members, High Cross Society is a relatively new project; the band’s debut single, ‘Every Time I Look’, was only released on 16 November 2013. As a rare luxury, this gives us the pleasure to follow a new band whose workings are already very finely tuned.

High Cross Society’s potential for a seamlessly creative sound was put to the test with the release of their debut single. ‘Every Time I Look’ sees the cheeky ‘get up’ vibes of Gentleman’s Dub Club collide cleverly with the slinky band-style hip hop of The Mouse Outfit and the urban grit of The Four Owls (these two bands also deserve to be on any hip hop fan’s radar).

Over five minutes ‘Every Time I Look’ grows into a body of trudging hip hop drumbeats, rapid rhymes, intelligent lyrics and potent metaphors. Wholesome trombone bumps, ragtime piano plonks and a jazzy, improvisational trumpet run like the veins of the track, pulsing golden brass through every nook and cranny. The magic: we have a tune that is as funky as it is gritty. In a unique touch and something very unusual for hip hop, a gossamer violin swells midway as if borrowed from a classical symphony; this is infinitesimally more three-dimensional than your typical DJ/MC hip hop setup.

To get the full effect, though, you have to watch the music video. A rather dark opening –  a pseudo news alert about gang crime – is softened down as we follow a masked-hero on his comic venturing around London in a Batman meets The Incredibles wannabe mission. Hilariously he dons his spandex, DIY cardboard superhero belt and mask. He smiles a grin that treads somewhere between loveable and baneful, taking the music through a story that overflows with character.

The Society’s ‘members’ are the ones to thank for this bands praiseworthy musicianship and slick, yet wacky persona. Sewing the High Cross seed were Lazy Habits – the 21st century’s answer to ’50s New Orleans Jazz – and Joshua Whitehouse (More Like Trees) who met at an improvisational night inaugurated by Joe Driscoll. One tune turned into two, which snowballed to eight before Fjokra injected his one-man-band genius and took the driving seat on production. The band swelled to include world-class classical double bassist Lachlan Radford (More Like Trees), drummer James Breen (the Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate band) and percussionist Steve Abunab (Lazy Habits). In the studio master of the mouth organ and 2009 and 2010 beatbox champion Reeps One span in his bocal genius joined by Fjokra’s electric bassist S.E.B, vocalist Josh Bevan and producer John Hendicott. If our comic superhero from the music video fell short, this team certainly won’t.

Double bassist Lachlan said, “There’s a musical genius in every corner and the focus is on jamming and having a good time with the music, what more could you ask for!?” The debut album hit the shelves in December 2013 with artwork from Reeps One’s alias, Yeff.

Yoshika Colwell

Known to everyone as Yoshi, Yoshika Colwell is an undergraduate at the University of York and everyone who knows her know about her voice.

Singing live gigs across the city at various cabaret and jazz nights, Yoshi wows audiences wherever she sings with her beautiful smooth tone and alternative covers. She has a range of covers on Youtube under the title ‘Live in the Living Room’ where she re-discovers well known songs in a simple, yet beautiful style. Listening to them, you wouldn’t know she hadn’t written them herself. My personal favourite is her cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Soul Rebel’ – believe me, it’s nothing like you’ve heard that song before!

As well as her beautiful covers, Yoshi also provides the vocal track for the radio drama Trimble, produced by URY (University Radio York) and written by Edward Greenwood. The show is currently nominated in the Best Online or Non-Broadcast Audio drama catagory in the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2014.

I thoroughly recommend listening to Yoshi and checking out her music. Not just because she’s a lovely person, but also because she’s an incredibly talented musician. Her soundcloud has a lot of good examples of her music – https://soundcloud.com/yoshikacolwell – but check out that aforementioned Bob Marley cover – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqzxYuV_Pwc

George Ezra

Hailing from Bristol, this singer-songwriter has just hit number 5 on the BBCs ‘Sound of 2014’ list. And he’s only 19.

According to his page on the BBC, he was first spotted in 2012 by BBC Bristol who were “championing his bluesy, acoustic ballads”. Since then, he’s had a slot on the Glastonbury Introducing Stage as well as recording sessions at Maida Vale (the BBC recording studios in London for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term).

Zane Lowe recently described him as “One of the most compelling and powerful new vocalists around”, and I would have to agree. George’s vocals are far beyond his years, and his bluesy style is reminiscent of the greats like Bob Dylan and his hero Woody Guthrie. He fits very nicely into the emerging style in the industry, creating a beautiful vintage sound and merging it beautifully with modern accoustic tracks.

In spite of his recognition from London, George stays true to his roots, playing a lot of gigs in Bristol and sticking around his hometown. According to him, the town is exciting and “things are happening”.

To hear more of George’s songs or to see where you can see him live, visit his website: www.georgeezra.com

Mata Macdonald

Johnny Cash claimed a musician cannot write real country music unless they have lived and worked in the heart of the countryside. Far from America’s deep south, but not so far in natural splendour, Mata Macdonald was raised in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. As for his music, it is just as staggeringly organic as the countryside that inspired it.

Mata Macdonald said himself that his music upholds “the local music scene within our islands….Support your local music!”  Styling his sound from Scotland, Mata makes ‘Hebricana’ music (a mixture between Americana – American country blues music – and Scottish and celtic folk tradition). Mata is like a reincarnation of Johnny Cash who, rather than dressing in black, wears a lighter shade of country; his lyrics focus delightfully on his Scottish roots and love songs.

What is so appealing is the easygoing, intimate and tender nature of Mata’s music. Indeed, he only played to close family and friends until sharing his sound publicly in 2010. Months later his debut EP ‘Hebricana’ reached number six on Amazon’s charts for ‘best new country daily releases.’ Anyone who enjoys folk music should take a listen to the EP. It is a sequence of exquisite secrets and stories told across five tracks, where vocals fit over guitar like glove to hand, not dissimilarly to Ben Howard and Newton Faulkner.

The EP’s most heart rendering track, ‘Break Your Fall’, is nothing short of beautiful and showcases Mata’s from-the-heart song writing at its best. Magic: “You are a dreamer who sleeps beneath the stars,” he sings above the gentle guitar taps. Stepping up the energy ‘Lila’ has a rocky sway, coloured by a shining harmonica and raw vocal. Another gem, ‘The Periphery’, is a folky ballard that grows from a guitar to full orchestral strings like an ear of wheat blossoming into a golden field.

For anyone who enjoys the more traditional shade of country, ‘For Days Gone By’ and ‘Ruby’s Daughter’ return to celtic roots with their folkey banjo strumming, storyteller style and harmonica – attached to Mata’s neck and played as he strums like a pro multi-tasker. On a similar tip, ‘I Can See Your Eyes’ is as husky as it is delicate, its highlight being the blend of guitar massaging the piano as it trickles out its chords. The sounds of Nashville and Tennessee rise to a head in the Scottish take on a country anthem ‘Blacklands’, and a man strumming a guitar has never seemed so loyal to his roots and so picturesque.