Noise Annoys: Brand New Friend, Sister Ghost, GRSNI Presents and Sunflowerfest 2020
Words on new music from Sister Ghost and Brand New Friend, plus the latest line-up info from Sunflowerfest
WHAT do you get when you combine reviews of two new local releases with news of the latest line-up announcement for a popular Irish music festival? That's right – it's this week's Noise Annoys.
:: Sister Ghost – Bruised Fruit (self-released)
BELFAST'S Sister Ghost are back with a new single which finds the Shannon O'Neill-fronted group returning to the catchy alt-rock-inspired crunch of earlier material like Backwards and Emily in the wake of the politicised pop punk ramalama of their previous offering, Fake Friends Run This Country.
Propelled into battle on a machinegun drum roll from trapsman Rory Dee, Bruised Fruit's defiant anthemics combine poppy hooks and grungy bottom-heavy churn – dig that half-time doom rocking musical break at the 3/4 mark – to fine effect on a tune apparently fuelled by the anger of the recently wronged, with Shannon spitting "you'll never use me again" to the unnamed waste of time/space. I, for one, believe her.
The band will launch the new single with a special in-store show at Strange Victory Records in Belfast on Friday March 13 – which is when you'll also be able to hear/buy it via Sisterghost.bandcamp.com – with support from indie popsters Heart Shaped.
Before that, however, you can also catch the Ghost (and, indeed, the Shaped) in DJ set form at the climax of Girls Rock School NI's (GRSNI) first ever GRSNI Presents show which is taking place on March 7 at Oh Yeah in Belfast to coincide with International Women's Day.
As you probably already knew, Sister Ghost leader Shannon is the director of the Belfast-based GRSNI initiative which exists to help make live music more accessible to women.
Appropriately, its latest project features a bill consisting entirely of acts which include GRSNI alumnae among their ranks – notably Alumna the band, who are all – you guessed it – GRSNI graduates.
Shannon says: "We are delighted that our first gig of 2020 and the first of this new series of gigs will celebrate International Women's Day. Everyone involved with GRSNI is passionate about securing better gender equality and diversity in the music industry – and in all areas of life.
"The main work of GRSNI involves organising week long camps and short workshops to encourage more girls, women, those who self-identify as women and non-binary people to learn or improve electric guitar, bass, drums or vocals skills – and basically to riff, rock and roll.
"From starting up in March 2016, it's great now to see new bands emerging, such as Alumna, that have formed as a result of meeting at a Rock Camp. It seemed obvious that we should take the next step and begin to organise our own GRSNI Presents gigs to showcase the wealth of talent that GRSNI has links with."
Any money made on the evening after costs are covered will go towards supporting future GRSNI camps and classes.
:: Brand New Friend – A Cure For Living (Xtra Mile)
Castlerock's finest return with a brand new EP (though at seven tracks long, technically it's a mini-LP) which marks their first concentrated collection of new tunes since 2018's well received debut album, Seatbelts for Aeroplanes, which was recorded in Belfast by rocky O'Reilly at Start Together Studio.
Where the album positively fizzed with the raw 'just get in the room and play' energy of early demos – mainly because that's exactly how it was recorded – A Cure For Living finds Brand New Friend and Smalltown America Studios producer Caolan Austin adding a little extra sonic refinement to their infectiously enthusiastic indie pop attack.
Opener She Always Comes Up Smiling serves up an instant reminder of what the band do best, which is peppering your ears with short sharp bursts of melodic heartache/big love-fuelled guitar pop reinforced by the brother/sister vocal harmonies of frontman Taylor and keysmistress Lauren Johnson.
Next up is stand-out moment The Letter A, which pumps out of your speakers like the cross between The Strokes and Jimmy Eat World you never knew you'd enjoy. This was released as a single late last year (We're releasing singles off EPs now? Guess it's not the 90s anymore) along with a great stripped down 'piano version' with Lauren making the lead vocal her own in a country pop style.
In fact, three of the EP's songs have previously snuck out into the world unaccompanied; you can practically smell the sea air on the surfy summer love song Stop The Days before the urgent indie rocker Nothing Stays The Same details the messy end of the affair in the big city.
Melancholy moment Plastic Flowers has been around in acoustic demo for for a good long while now and finally gets a 'proper' recording here: the band milk its catchy double chorus construction for maximum ear worminess – though sadly, as is often the way with such transformations, they sacrifice some of the original version's appealing moodiness in the process.
The pop punky Karma Party harks back to the sugar rush sound of their debut album, contrasting nicely with tender acoustic interlude You Can't Know Everything, I Don't Know Anything, which suffers slightly from 'great title, song needs a bit more work' syndrome – a snapshot of a work in progress, perhaps?
You can decide for yourselves by grabbing A Cure For Living off Brandnewfriendz.bandcamp.com right now, where it's on sale for the paltry sum of just £3.99.
Brand New Friend also have some live shows coming up, the first of which is an all-ages 'tour warm-up' affair at HMV in Belfast tomorrow afternoon. Next up is Fibber Magee's in Dublin on March 5, followed by gigs at Kelly's in Portrush (March 7) and Voodoo in Belfast (March 14).
You can get the skinny on supports, tickets and other essential details via FB.com/brandnewfriendz
:: Sunflowerfest 2020 acts announced
HILLSBOROUGH'S finest/only annual local music-centric festival Sunflowerfest will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer. To help get you excited, the organisers of the Tubby's Farm-based three day long event have just announced some of this year's line-up.
Among the acts playing at Sunflowerfest 2020 between July 27 and 29 will be Peter Hook & The Light, The Bonnevilles, Dea Matrona, No Oil Paintings, Swall Monkey, Amy Montgomery, Amanda St John, Caoimhe, The Skallions, Vale and Hackney Colliery Band – with many more still to be announced.
Tickets and full line-up details available at Sunflowerfest.co.uk.