As part of NME’s new bands for 2014 issue – on sale now – we asked the music industry’s finest what they think the year ahead will hold. Read on for the full opinions on the topics that matter from musicians including Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys, Merchandise, Paul Weller, Daniel Avery, Fat White Family and Black Lips, as well as a host of radio DJs, label heads and talent scouts.
Jack Barnett, These New Puritans
It’s obviously been much discussed how guitars have fallen by the wayside in popular music over the last few years. I don’t really lose sleep over it, but of course I’d like to see them make their way back into things in 2014. It’s an economic thing – that’s my theory. For a musician just starting out, with little money in this recession, what’s cheaper: picking up a guitar and having to spend all that money on strings and rehearsal space and all that, or a crack copy of Ableton downloaded for free off the internet that they can make dance music on? For a label, whose resources have been slashed since record sales started dropping so dramatically, what’s the cheaper option to invest in: a band, with studio costs to pay and all that, or a bedroom DJ with an album ready-made? So I’m not sure guitars will really come back into things properly until things are a bit rosier in the economy.
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, Iceage
When we’re on tour we play with a lot of shitty bands. I’m tired of getting put with all these screamo, mathy groups. I don’t know why any booker would do that. Johan [Surrballe Wieth, guitars] recently played me a record by an electronic group called Raime – their record was really good. There’s a lot going on in Copenhagen, as always. In December the label Posh Isolation put out a compilation in conjunction with the Public Library – it’s a double LP that covers almost every project related to the scene. It’s sort of a manifestation, a document of everything that’s going on in Copenhagen. Right now there’s a really good band called Communions. They’re actually the most indie band on the scene, they’re young boys like 17 to 19 years old, and they’re doing quite romantic music. Music to charm girls – or boys. It sounds like love songs, although I don’t really know what the lyrics are about. The drummer used to play in a project called Jackman, and he’s also doing a project called White Void. Jakob and Dan from Iceage and Joachim who also plays in the band Redflesh have just put out a tape by their band Sejr too. The recordings are pretty old actually, but they still play live occasionally.
Imran Ahmed, A&R director, XL Recordings
A friend of mine said to me recently that truly amazing new artists tend to come in waves. So The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Coral all emerged in the same six month period, just like Wiley, MIA and Dizzee did. In which case, right now I’m excited by people like Sampha, New York’s Wet and Jungle (picture above). From where in the world the next wave of artists will emerge in 2014 is anyone’s guess though. It feels like the internet has broken London and New York’s traditional stranglehold on the most exciting new music – some of my favourite new musicians have come from what previously felt like far flung places like South Africa (John Wizards) and the Philippines (Eyedress).
What pisses me off about music right now is the lack of support for being experimental and brave. People just want to be formulaic and predictable. Record companies and A&R people are just absolutely terrified of taking risks at the moment – and that’s quite frustrating as an artist, when it comes to picking singles, because they only ever want to go for the watered-down stuff. I’m not saying that those songs can’t have a good pop sensibility about them, but personally, I like to think of myself as being something a little bit more than that. It’s sad to watch the tracks that I think are stronger having to sit back on the album while the poppier, more commercial ones are driving it.
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Daniel Glass, founder and president, Glassnote Records
2013 was a massive year for male singer-songwriters such as Sam Smith, Saint Raymond, Bruno Mars and Jake Bugg. We’re excited to introduce Panama Wedding and Jeremy Messersmith to Glassnote, both of whom are amazing songwriters with two very distinct voices. We also have a female singer-songwriter from London in the studio recording her first album due fall of 2014, Flo Morrissey. Speaking more specifically, I think the pace of how music and artists are being digested and spat out has got to be slowed down. I’m not sure whose fault this is, radio or records, but artists need more time to be nurtured. Expectations are too high for add-days and impact days – which fans know nothing about. It’s a media cycle and frenzy that has too many casualties and victims.
Ezra Koenig, Vampire Weekend
I personally think it’s a great time for music. There’s always something kind of wrong in music culture, but I think the best way to judge how it is by asking, ‘Is it getting stronger?’ and ‘Can young people still get excited and bring new and cool ideas?’ When I see people like A$AP Ferg, Earl Sweatshirt, Sky Ferreira (picture above), even Miley Cyrus, I think she’s doing something interesting. It feels like the youth are taking over. These are all the kids who grew up totally in the internet age, they’ve never seen a CD store in their life, and still are passionate about music and pushing things forward. I think New York is having a bit of a rap renaissance. A$AP mob, Flatbush Zombies, Joey Badass, Action Bronson, those people. It’s definitely exciting.
Fat White Family
NME: What’s going to happen in music in 2014?
Lias: I imagine there will be a continued steady decline into total drudgery, followed by some sadistically boring, inept songwriting. Trumpets being blown, the usual array of crap. And a new Fat Whites album.
NME: Guitar music isn’t selling records at the moment. Is it going to come back into vogue?
Saul: Nothing sells any records.
Lias: It’s the end of the road.
Saul: Really soft cover versions, that’s what next year will be about. Lily Allen doing Keane. I’ve been reading a lot about Keane. They’ve got a Greatest Hits album. How did that happen man?
Lias: People say that we’re repulsive, but if you really want to repulse people, just make soft indie rock. Soft indie rock with pianos.
Matt Helders, Arctic Monkeys
It’s hard to say what will happen in 2014, because things are moving quicker than you could ever predict. Nowadays you don’t walk into a gig and see a band and think, ‘That’s the next scene.’ Music is instantly available, and by the time you discover it, someone else will have already listened to it and moved on. Maybe guitar bands will come back around again and reclaim the charts, but it’s all very well me saying that – it all comes down to them: they’ve got to have songs that are good enough to play on the radio. But if guitars are a dirty word at the moment, then I like that, I think that’s a good thing. When it’s popular, it feels like there’s something weird going on – like you’ve hijacked the charts. That’s how we felt when it happened to us, even though there were still a lot of guitar bands around at the time. We didn’t even expect our first single to get into the top twenty, so we definitely felt like we shouldn’t have been there. In terms of popularity, it comes and goes, but it never seems to go away properly – it just has a rest for a while, then it’s back again. Maybe that’s what’s happening now.
Martin Doherty, Chvrches
I’m expecting big things from Lucky Me this year, the Glasgow label that has been involved in so much great electronic music over the last couple of years: Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, Baauer (picture above), Jacques Greene and all that… they seem to grow every year in terms of the reach their acts are having, the nights they’re putting on and the community around them. So I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in 2014 for sure.
NME: Who are you tipping in 2014?
Collectively: Joanna Gruesome. Virginia Wing, on Faux Discx who helped to put out our album. We played with a really good band in New York called Ex-Cult. I really want them to come over. The new Shopping album’s really good. Tense Men, which is Richard from Sauna Youth and Ollie from Cold Pumas. A band called Housewives. Occult Hands from Brighton.
NME: What failed in music in 2013?
MB: Arcade Fire. When I saw that description, “Talking Heads produced by LCD Soundsystem” or something… and then I listened to it and it’s absolute garbage.
NME: What’s Leeds like musically right now?
MJ: It’s not as good as it used to be. It used to have an amazing DIY scene, which was one of the reasons I moved here ten years ago, but a lot of those people have got older and lost interest. Of the younger people, they’re maybe not as interested in forming local communities, which I think the internet factors into. It’s become more disparate and if people do make music it’s rock music… like mosh fingers.
Does ‘guitar’ seem like a dirty word in music at the moment?
MJ: I don’t know… well, if it sounds like The 1975 it is. I was watching their video [‘Girls’] the other day and it’s just loads of women with their tops off. I couldn’t get my head around it.
Sam Gilbert, Hate Hate Hate Records
There’s some cool scenes popping up over the UK, Brighton and South London especially is producing loads of great new artists. There’s a healthy variety in new music too, from garage and psych bands to producers, and singer songwriters. I do think that America is producing better guitar bands with more longevity than we do, but then that has always been the case in my opinion. Autobahn are a great post-punk five piece from Leeds. Claw Marks are another awesome UK punk band. I’m also really looking forward to hearing more from Theo Verney and The Magic Gang. Panes are a new producer / singer two piece from London, their track ‘Choice Errors’ sounds really promising too. There’s this great new band from San Francisco called Happy Diving, they’ve got a 7-inch coming out on Father Daughter Records. It’s got this 90’s Weezer/Milk Music vibe going on. I really loved Perfect Pussy’s ‘I Have Lost All Desire & Feeling” EP from earlier this year, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next, as well as Solids, a Canadian noise two piece, who just signed with Fat Possum. And finally, Axxa Abraxas, whose album comes out on Captured Tracks.
Leah Wilson, senior press officer, In House
2013 feels like a bit of a let down. No one quite lived up to their hype. I agreed with Zachary Cole Smith (DIIV) when he said that no one was taking risks any more. So I guess what excites me for 2014 is the amount of artists who are genre crossing and doing it well. TDE just signed their first female artist, SZA, who mixes slow jams with 80’s pop. There’s London’s Black Gold Buffalo, who do R&B with west African rhythms and some pretty impressive Johnny Marr-esque guitar. Then there’s CYMBALS (pictured above), whose art-pop is more dancefloor friendly than a student on pills. The last year in music was defined by the Spotify debate, which is going to carry on in to 2014. It could be because we had BBC Newsnight in our office, but I’ve spoken to musicians, those in the industry and those out of it, and only a handful of them actually buy music. I can’t see this being solved next year but I’m interested to see if anything changes. Trends for 2014? Hopefully the end of the pun band name… I’d also like to see the end of Manchester bands being compared to ‘baggy’. In 2014 Shinies and Spring King should both put this firmly to rest.
Steve Lamacq, BBC Radio 6Music
It’s going to be a fascinating year, because you can already see one or two trends emerging, I think it’ll be a year of surprises. There were some good records out in 2013 – especially by some of the more established bands – but it felt like a year without a genuine killer punch. And that’s what I’m looking for. I think there’ll be a lot of interesting soulful voices, and singer-producer team-ups, who’ll be helped along by a renewed interest in the old Trip Hop sound. And, I wouldn’t mind betting on the arrival of a new wave of guitar bands, this time as a reaction to the paler end of EDM – and also prompted by the inevitable hoo-ha around the 20th anniversary of Britpop. Our main problem – as ever – is the sheer volume of releases and the pace at which the music scene is moving. It’s incredible. The amount of bands being eaten up every day is like watching a whale feeding on krill.
Carson Cox, Merchandise
I’m really curious to see what’s going to happen with our friends in Destruction Unit (pictured below). They’re a total holocaust of noise. They have three guitars – they worship it – but they’re not concerned about being too rock’n’roll, or too psychedelic. They’re not at all self-aware. They’re all totally interested in exploring the boundaries of what they’re doing, I feel like they have all these options to do whatever. No-one’s ever going to push that band in a corner – I don’t think they can be contained. Shaun Reed who does Wet Hair – he runs the label Night People, and I’m always excited to hear what they’re putting out. A lot of my friends, they’re so far away from the national mainstream – like Ryan Martin, who does the project Secret Boyfriend, he’s one of the main players in the Chapel Hill music scene, which is pretty insane – all these weird industrial bands. We’ve all come up in a pretty grassroots way, but it seems like more and more of our friends are doing much more public record releases – it’s not only in this tiny secret scene. Also, R Kelly, ‘Black Panties’ – I’m kind of curious how that record will pan out. It blew my mind – we saw him play this year, and it was the most crazy, extravagant rock’n’roll thing I’ve ever seen. Is guitar a dirty word in music now? Yes, and it’s supposed to be. I think the version we all knew is disappearing, but I think it’s turning into a new one. There’s a ton of bands around and I don’t think it’ll ever totally fall out of favour.
Felix White, The Maccabees
It’s tougher for new bands these days. I don’t think many young people get into bands under the impression it will make them rich any more. Your favourite bands are asking for money upfront through campaigns like Kickstarter, and the constant pressure to update and keep interacting with people following you on the internet, record labels coming to see you after your third gig etc have all made for the myth and romanticism of being in a band to take a bit of a blow over recent years. When me and my friends were first getting into music it never occurred that being in a band could be hard work or a struggle. It was just presented like this door to another world where everything was less boring! I think the attitude projected onto being a musician these days isn’t always a helpful one, or necessarily even true. Being in a band is a beautiful thing. Touring the world with your friends, contributing even a small part to people’s record collections and creating something yourselves that becomes important to other people too is as powerful a thing as it always was. It may seem like a risk and not such a safe bet to do it, but wasn’t that always the point?
Cole Alexander: I hear a lot of people these days talking about government funding for the arts. Let me tell you something – funding for the arts did not create rock’n’roll. It did not create jazz music. People fucking in the gutters created that music. Do you think Robert Johnson had a government grant? We don’t want any money from the government.
Jared Swilley: We’re pretty conservative about this sort of stuff. The worst art shit you’ll ever see comes from Holland, or Canada, because the government cherry-pick the worst stuff and blast it onto the people. In the United States, the people get to decide what becomes popular, for better or worse. And you know what creates cool art? Having fucking nothing. Having to do everything yourself. So that’s why I’m against the idea of government-funded art. If you’re in a rock ‘n’ roll band, you’re supposed to be against the government. It’s like having your parents give you an allowance so you can go and have band practice.
There’s a lot of good stuff around, the last two years have been especially good. And for such a long time bands were out in the wilderness really. I think the revival is underway. I never think of music in terms of ‘guitar music’ or whatever, although I know what the term means. I just think there are some really good bands around. There’s a band called Syd Arthur I like, they’re releasing their second album in the spring. They’re great.
Rhys Webb, The Horrors
It’s always too easy for the bands who are playing around London to get lumped in with the same scene – bands like TOY (pictured above), Telegram, Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs – but the important thing for me is that they’re all very different groups. That’s what’s really interesting about it at the moment. Probably one of the great strengths of the scene, or the community, is that there’s a real will to experiment. Nothing is as it quite should be: there’s the introduction of electronics and synthesizers, mixing up sounds and genres… it’s not conventional rock ‘n’ roll. There seems to be this great spirit of experimenting with sound at the moment, and those groups I mentioned seem to be pushing boundaries in different ways. It’s not a load of guitar groups, or even electronic groups, or whatever it might be. There’s a great mish-mash of sounds, influences and ways of communicating that’s happening in London, which I think makes it quite an exciting place to be at the moment.
Leah Ellis, head of UK PR, Warp Records
I think 2014 is going to be a great year for music from Africa breaking through into the more indie ether. There are so many different and exciting genres that have started to emerge such as Shangaan Electro, a futuristic African dance/ electronic movement from the Soweto region headed by ‘Nozinja’. I’ve seen them twice in 2013, at an East London family festival and a Bristol student night- both times everyone was dancing, moving and really enjoying themselves.
Daniel Kessler, Interpol
My finger isn’t as on the pulse as it was 10 or 15 years ago, but New York is still New York – it’s a Mecca. There’s always something really interesting happening in the city, you just have to know where to look for it and not always go for the obvious things. It’s a place where people want to come, and so there’s always a lot of really cool stuff happening – maybe more so than ever at the moment, because it’s not quite so Manhattan-centric. Everybody knows Brooklyn has really expanded in terms of music venues, neighbourhood scenes and interesting cultural revivals, and it feels like the playground is really much wider than it was before. It’s become less about playing in a select few clubs: there are venues all over the place, and people are going to a lot of non-traditional spots. That makes it more exciting and it also makes it easier for bands who are fucking great but maybe haven’t had an opportunity to play. They’re not competing every single night of the week now to play some club in Manhattan.
Dan Market, A&R Manager, Distiller Music
My crystal ball is telling me I should exclusively like and champion music that might allow me the brief chance to frottage lasses in dingy discotheques. I fear there won’t be much room for bands referencing Shed Seven in such a nightclub, as the dive bar dance-floors will be filled with the sounds of incredible labels like Pictures Music, Getme! and No Self. There are also wonder bands, artists and producers smashing out future Number 1s. JUCE are making some of the most exciting music coming from the capital this millennium. Childhood’s (pictured above) debut is going to be an absolute classic – with Only Real, JLYY and San Zhi all also shaping up to release great records. Eaves and Sivu continue the fine form of British guitar toting troubadours, while American’s The Districts songs go on forever… but if that’s what eternity is, it’s being supped from the Holy Grail.
Ghost Culture is this super young kid making the most beautiful electro – no one’s exactly sure how old or who he is, but what we do know is his music is incredible. It’s sort of like Arthur Russell meets Depeche Mode. Eat Lights Become Lights I’m really excited for too. They’re a London four piece whose sound is kind of like if New Order made Krautrock.
I thought electronic music really stepped outside of its box in 2013, so the trend I hope to see in 2014 is that continue and develop. You look at the success of Jon Hopkins, James Blake and Atoms For Peace… As a genre it’s seeping out into all different sorts of places now. At festivals, the same people going to see My Bloody Valentine are going to see Factory Floor. What musical trend would I like to see go away in 2014? Well it’s unlikely, but something I’d like to see die is comments on YouTube music videos. We’ve got this loudmouth culture now where all these weird people lurk behind their computer screens on the internet saying everything is shit all the time. It makes it really hard for young artists, who aren’t given time and space to develop, to put music out there in their early stages, without being shot down.
East India Youth
Nothing really pisses me off about the industry, but there’s too much music at the moment – or too much coverage. Everyone’s after ‘content’, and that really annoys me. You’re made to do things that look or sound crap so someone’s got something extra to put on their blog that nobody reads. There needs to be less content, not less music. Less content-driven music.
Interviews by: Matt Wilkinson, Louis Pattison, Mark Beaumont, Barry Nicolson, Laura Snapes, Andy Welch, Tom Howard, Jenny Stevens