KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE..

E T EX­PE­RI­ENCE THE SOUND OF BELFAST

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - THE BEAT -

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Satur­day past I was at the Oh Yeah Cen­tre, as the city cen­tre mu­sic hub cel­e­brated a decade of mo­ti­vat­ing tal­ent from North­ern Ire­land. As part of the cel­e­bra­tions, a bunch of acts played short sets – ev­ery­one from Tim Wheeler (per­form­ing ‘Oh Yeah’, of course) to Ther­apy?, Duke Spe­cial and Tony Wright. Hold­ing it all to­gether was Tay­lor John­son, a 22 year old mu­si­cian, scen­ester and so­cial but­ter­fly from Castle­rock. Within about 20 sec­onds of Tay­lor bound­ing on­stage with a fizzy in­tro­duc­tion to the first act, my wife turned to me and said – “that guy is after your job”.

By “job” I guess she meant talk­ing up lo­cal mu­sic, reg­u­larly host­ing these type of events and gen­er­ally be­ing some­one who at­tempts to rep­re­sent lo­cal mu­sic in a good light. While Tay­lor could do any of these things fan­tas­ti­cally well, I re­as­sured her that it wasn’t a con­cern. I wasn’t be­ing cocky. The only rea­son my job is safe is be­cause Tay­lor will be pre­oc­cu­pied with the small matter of…. be­com­ing a rock n’ roll su­per­star. Some­thing that is – I would imag­ine – more of a pri­or­ity.

You see – this week Tay­lor’s band – Brand New Friend – signed a record deal. They joined the likes of Frank Turner and Against Me – both huge acts – at the ex­tremely well re­spected X-tra Mile Record­ings. They’re one of only a hand­ful of lo­cal acts in the last few years who have ac­tu­ally got to this point – and while this has all hap­pened rel­a­tively fast – it’s richly de­served. I’ve writ­ten about Brand New Friend be­fore – they’ve been caus­ing some­thing of a stir for the last year or so. Spo­radic sup­port slots, fes­ti­val ap­pear­ances (no­tably Elec­tric Pic­nic and One Big Week­end) and sin­gle re­leases have grad­u­ally gath­ered a small army of be­sot­ted fans. They make in­stantly catchy, short sharp indie-pop – in­spired by the likes of Mod­ern Base­ball and Blink 182 and on­stage – they’re just about as en­gag­ing as it’s pos­si­ble to be. Tay­lor plays each show like he’s head­lin­ing Glas­ton­bury. Lau­ren – his sis­ter – is ef­fort­lessly cool on keys, vo­cals and quirky dance rou­tines. They’re a for­mi­da­ble duo and half of your new favourite band.

Next up for Brand New Friend will be end­less tour­ing, writ­ing, record­ing and – per­haps in a year or so – a de­but al­bum. At which point they’ll become a new band again – in that they’ll be of­fi­cially un­veiled... to the world. After that, noth­ing would sur­prise me. One way or the other – Tay­lor will be a star. And when he’s done be­ing a rock star? Well – the likes of my­self – will have to make do and re­tire….. Short and sweet – scuzzy and jan­gly – all four tracks on that de­but EP are gold. The ti­tle track from his se­cond record is joy­ous, fun and lyri­cally cu­ri­ous. As I write, the city is a mess of un­miss­able gigs – as Sound of Belfast takes over for its an­nual pro­gramme of show­cases and in­dus­try events. As you read – we’ll be at the tail end of the fes­ti­val – with a cou­ple of key events well worth a nosey. Rock and blues two piece Bon­nevilles are one of the best live acts in the coun­try – and they play Voodoo tonight. Over at The Oh Yeah cen­tre – there’s a show­case fea­tur­ing three hugely promis­ing acts – Roe, The Wood Burn­ing Sav­ages and Sam Wickens. Two of the three have played Glas­ton­bury – which says it all. The ‘big one’ is the NI Mu­sic Prize to­mor­row night – our own ver­sion of the Mer­cury Mu­sic Prize. Twelve acts are nom­i­nated – three of which play on the night (Ar­borist, Joshua Burn­side and Robo­co­bra

Quar­tet). The over­all win­ner is then an­nounced – but the fo­cus al­ways re­mains on the nom­i­nated records, rather than which­ever hap­pens to be voted the ‘best’. And those twelve records re­ally do show­case the colour­ful and im­pos­si­bleto-pi­geon­hole ‘Sound’ of Belfast – and beyond. The vo­cal was recorded on an iphone in Neil’s ho­tel room. How come it ended up so beau­ti­ful?

ELEC­TRIC Brand New Friend CHARIS­MATIC Front­man Tay­lor John­son

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