‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ and ‘See How I Stun’: what to expect from Interpol’s El Pintor?

I recently got back from Glastonbury festival where my love for Interpol was rekindled. I’d already seen them play live a few times and so was looking forward – rather than being overly excited about seeing them again. I was the only one in our group who was a fan and they clashed with a band that my cohorts were going to see so I went alone.

If there was ever a band that it was OK to go to solo it would be Interpol. Introspective, melancholic and never a showy or chatty band, rather a self-contained one, they don’t demand big crowd interactions so you can quite happily sway along and go mostly unnoticed. Though with tracks such as Evil – ‘Rosemaaaaryyy’ – there is of course an obligatory sing-along!

Pretty much 10 minutes in I felt bad for thinking that they would be anything less than amazing and a pleasure to watch. Maybe it was the beautiful camera shots of Daniel Kessler bent over his guitar in front of the setting sun, Paul Banks’s almost painfully earnest face or their immaculate suits, but they rocked Glastonbury. Everyone in the crowd around me was loving it which made it ten times more enjoyable. I can’t say the same about the crowd at Reading the last time I’d seen them; what a lacklustre bunch. I had the same experience there with Arcade Fire. The crowd that I was surrounded by for their headline slot at Glasonbury was infinitely better than the one during their Reading headline. My God.. I was right at the very front for that as well – literally next to the barrier and hardly anyone was singing along, everyone just stood and watched, they didn’t even clap. At Glastonbury everyone started singing to the tune of their last song, Rebellion (Lies), even after they left the stage whilst we were all walking away from the Pyramid stage. It’s special moments like that that make the festival experience – people you’ve never met before, strangers all around you in their thousands united, singing along together to a song they all know and love. In what other circumstance or occasion would you ever be able to do something like that? There’s a lot to be said for Glastonbury goers. They kick the asses of every other festival frequenter.

Back to Interpol though (I really need to do a separate Glasto blog), they played a few songs that I didn’t recognise and I wondered if I’d bypassed a new album release – it would make sense them being there had they released some new material. As it happens they hadn’t – but I wasn’t far off.

I stumbled across this about half an hour ago – woohoo new Interpol album! El Pinator. I like the sound of it. I also just realised looking at the album cover again that that was the image on their banner on the stage at Glastonbury! Slow on the uptake there..

Sadly I have to wait til September for this one, but hey that’s not too far away. Their sultry tones are perfectly timed for the end of Summer and the inevitable start-of-Winter blues! I just love to wallow.

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Our Big Gig Week 3

Somehow I’ve already reached the end of week three. Not sure how that happened but it happened nonetheless. I feel like commuting up every week has become the norm now and despite getting roped into working an extra shift at my other job and having just one day off again (and getting into bed at 4am on said day off) I feel a lot more relaxed and less tired than last time. I say this now, I’m sure 5am tomorrow morning (9 hours time) I won’t be feeling so groovy! It’s 8pm and I’m still on the train home!

This week I was given the opportunity to improve on the objectives I set out for myself last week which was good; I think I succeeded. I got to do more tweeting and more interactive map work and this time, when creating my tweets, I put in the links and urls first and wrote the content around those, which was definitely a better method and enabled me to produce tweets a lot faster.

The biggest challenge and time-consuming element of the map is definitely the locations. I honestly have no idea what the human race did before Google maps existed – though sometimes it can be more of a hindrance than a help. Only last week I was walking back and forth looking for a shop in Cabot Circus – via Google maps – and it turned out it’s not even there any more. I ended up having to ring them up because I ordered something to collect in store, only to find out they’re in a different bloody location and not only that but they moved 5 years ago. Seriously Google! Sort it out.

Anyway, addresses can be tricky and often locating the exact address of the Our Big Gig events requires a bit of trial and error. Either the address you input into Google isn’t quite right and Google corrects you, which is fine, or the location that Google pinpoints from the address you’ve provided isn’t quite right and needs to be manually altered.

It would help if my geography was better, but it’s terrible.

The best thing about this job is getting to see all the different events that are happening around the country and what people have planned. Our Big Gig in Bedford is having a self-professed mini Glasto including cocktails, ….. . It looks fab! It makes me think that it’s a shame there isn’t something similar happening near me. We have the perfect environment and surroundings for something like that. There is a Big Gig happening in St Ives though. ‘Ansome me lovers! Pasties on tap I’ll bet.

This week I also touched lots of pink plastic. Plastic parcel bags that is! Katharine and I were in the basement (spooky) packing up ‘Big Gig’ banners to send out to event organisers all around the country. There’s something about packing things up that feels very satisfying – it’s like wrapping presents for people but without the ribbons and bows. Though having to pack up 150 of them did mean being less particular than usual about presentation. In fact slap dash comes to mind. I had to ditch my usual perfectionist packing ways for this task. The sheet of address stickers I picked up included many of the events I’d uploaded onto the map which was cool and somehow made me feel emotionally involved. You know.. because I’d been on their Facebook pages and everything.

REFLECTION SECTION: Week Three

The skills I gained:

I CAN survive in a basement
I CAN tweet like a boss (too far?)

I know these blogs are supposed to be work-related, which is why I’ve stuck this at the bottom, but I can’t finish this blog without adding that I had a bubble tea today; IN THE UK! I also educated Katherine and Nick on what bubble tea is because they’d never heard of it before. Woohoo spreading the word! It’s like Crabbies all over again (honestly I should have been a Crabbies rep). Bubble tea is something I was introduced to in Australia and was invented in China (I think) but really caught on in Taiwan. When described to you it sounds horrible, but it’s really delicious. It’s cold and you can get either fruit or milk tea. As soon as I got home I Googled the nearest bubble tea shop (sad I know) and guess what cropped up? A place called CUPP in Bristol Cabot Circus! This is what I love about Bristol; it has just as much to offer as London but without the tube and crazy commuting lifestyle (says me during my 3-hour train commute.)

I also made a friend in the bagel shop today over the road called Ti and met his wife Claire and their son who is super cute! They were soo friendly and lovely and were giving me tips on work opportunities in Bristol. This is why independent cafes and eateries are sometimes so much better than chain stores.

It is great being in Bristol 🙂

OBG Week Two!

Our Big Gig Week 2! (and 1.. a little bit… a lot)

 

Right, I’m going to cheat a bit now because I only managed to do one blog last week about my first week at Our Big Gig and it was completely non-work related and solely concerned my train journey to Bristol. What on earth could you have to say about a 3-hour train journey you ask? Well, you’ll have to read it and see!

So.. week one. I don’t want to say it was a disaster because it wasn’t – but it felt like that at the time. By this I mean to say that I was the disaster. I was surprisingly nervous and in an ideal world* I would have been eased into the job but it was incredibly busy week last week; lots going on, lots to get done and incidentally I walked into a full office and felt incredibly intimidated and inadequate. It had been over a year since I’d been in an office environment and had had to answer the phone and be professional and I absolutely failed.

It felt like judgement day being in this tiny room where everyone could hear everything I was saying on the phone, stumbling over my words. I took several phone calls and forgot to take down the people’s names so that when Katharine asked me who it was I couldn’t tell her – that was the most embarrassing thing ever:

 

‘Who is it?’

‘…I don’t… know?’

 

I kid you not; I actually said that. I didn’t mute the call either (really need to find out how to do that.) It didn’t really help that my brain wasn’t at its best. Yep, I’m rolling out the excuses. I’d worked the previous day which was a bank holiday – my darling 6-2 shift – and I’d worked the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before that. Bearing in mind I’d only applied for the job on on the Wednesday, had the phone interview after work on the Thursday and then found out a couple of hours later that I’d got it. What a crazy week! I got home Monday after work and had to pack and prepare everything for the next two days.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining. I love being busy and I was ecstatic I’d got the job but looking back now, a week later, I do think my brain was a bit addled by it all. To think that I’ve only been back from Australia for six weeks! Incredible when you consider how many failed applications I’d sent off before that and how many times I’d been disappointed in the past; then an opportunity comes out of the blue, I apply for it, get it and this all happens after being back home not even 5 weeks. Life likes to challenge you doesn’t it?

Back to my inefficiencies though.. it was a bit crazy my first day. I had to help out with another project funded through Superact (the company that I work for) called ICMusic. They had a showcasing at Great Escape Festival in Brighton and I needed to call people up and invite them along. This event had nothing to do with Our Big Gig and I was only briefed about it on the day. Essentially I had to promote something I knew nothing about. It’s the kind of task that requires confidence and the ability to sell not only the product but yourself and what you’re representing. It was a tad daunting as a first task on my first day. At the time all I could think of was this one person I used to know who would have taken it completely in their stride, winged it, and delivered it to infuriating perfection; this being the complete opposite of what I did. All I could think was how rubbish I was and how much better this person would be than me and how they should be doing my job instead. How it plagues me! That’s what know-it-alls do to you – you know the ones? People that are brilliant at everything but you can’t hate them for it because they work really hard, but you do hate them for it because they still unintentionally manage to insult you and rub in your face by subjectively but impartially talking about it all the time. Damn those unintentional braggarts.

I felt like I’d done so badly that first day, I was convinced they were going to fire me. I was sure of it; but I couldn’t regret any of it and do you know why? Because it was best learning experience I could have had and completely set me up for the remainder of the internship (assuming I wasn’t getting fired). It’s not pleasant getting thrown in the deep end, truly it’s not, but it’s the best way to learn.

Today, my fourth day, I answered the phone and instinctively caught the name of the lady who was speaking – despite how quickly she said it – and had it written down before she’d repeated it half a minute later. Hell I could have got away with not even writing it down at all! Small feat to some maybe, but compared to my first day when my treatment of the phone was similar to that of a hot iron, it was a vast improvement!

Not that I want you to think I’m completely useless. As always I keep my blogs as candid, humorous and melodramatic as possible, and therefore would hate for you to confuse self-deprecation with futility. They wouldn’t have employed me if that was the case. Put under pressure on my first day I definitely didn’t rise to the challenge as well as I would have liked, however there’s a light at the end of the phone-phobic tunnel. When I got to the hostel Tuesday evening and had time to reflect on the day, I knew with absolute certainty that I would never forget to take down someone’s name ever again….

Learning the hard way is sometimes the best way.

The second day was a lot less hectic. I had my OBG training with a lovely lady called Lorato who instilled me with confidence. She understood the difficulty of my situation and the commitment involved – commuting in from Cornwall to Bristol every week, juggling two jobs – and was very sympathetic and simultaneously encouraging. She told me the same thing everyone tells you. Don’t give up, keep going, you’re on the right track. For once though, I finally feel like I am.

It’s sooo cliché I know, but I really have learnt so much already. Skills which will prove to be invaluable later on, I’m certain of it; and so we move onto the reflection section.

REFLECTION SECTION Part 1 (<—- there it is)

 

Firstly, the skills I gained and why they’re positive:

 

  • I CAN answer professional phone calls and take messages on behalf of other team/staff members
  • I CAN promote events (at a moment’s notice!)
  • I CAN work from Google spreadsheets, input new information and process existing information
  • I CAN work under pressure
  • I CAN liaise with clients and organisers

 

I’m only contracted to work 10 hours a week but offered to assist my co-worker Lucy on the morning of my second day because she needed a helping hand with some jobs in the office and everyone else was away on business. After a good night’s rest I already felt a lot better about things and was significantly uplifted having chatting to Lucy as well, who was really supportive and sympathetic towards my message-taking failure. Thank goodness for the nice people in this world. The whole point of this internship is to learn new things and to build on my existing skills – something that I keep forgetting.

I need to get things done but I’m not expected to be a whizz at everything – otherwise it wouldn’t be an internship. I always put so much pressure on myself that I forget this. It’s a good thing, but sometimes you just need to relax and remember that it’s OK to make mistakes. Just don’t make any big ones.. !

Onto Reflection Section Part 2 which takes note of..

Things to improve on:

 

  • confidence in the workplace; be assertive in your work and have belief in yourself
  • absorbing and processing information quickly

 

And fiiiiiiiiinally we move onto WEEK TWO!!

I’m feeling good this week. The sun has been shining all day, I got some free vinyl and I feel like I’ve learned a lot the past couple of days which makes my brain both hurt and feel happy at the same time.

Day One consisted of a lot of tweeting. Now.. tweeting is something I’m not apt to do. The problem is this: the word count is too small. I am not a woman of few words, as you can tell by my blog posts, texts and daily dialogue … Twitter wasn’t built for ramblers and so I struggle with it. Problem number two: hashtags, trending and #blah. I only now, after yesterday, completely understand the difference between a hashtag (#) and the at symbol (@). I know that sounds stupid and it makes me sound like a technophobic old woman but Twitter confuses me. It’s not that I can’t use it; I’ve been using it more often than late due to a disengagement with Facebook, but it’s never been my preferred social network of choice because it’s too much effort doing the hashtag thing and 40-whatever characters isn’t enough!

I was presented with exactly this problem today and yesterday whilst I was tweeting for Spacehive on behalf of Our Big Gig. I needed to come up with fun, inventive tweets promoting different community’s and their individual Big Gig events via Spacehive – love it, a chance to be creative – however it was harder and more complicated than I anticipated. Within a 40 character limit I had to think of an interesting tweet whilst compensating for the fact that I’d lose 20 characters on the link to their url, whilst also making sure I got in the location of each event i.e @OurBigGig Wyre Forest, which is fine if it’s in Totnes (six characters FTW) but not if it’s in said Wyre Forest. I also needed to try and include local businesses or media into the tweet and if at all possible, other relating trending topics.

Let’s just say it took a lot longer than I expected.

I also got to use an internet program called hootsuite for the first time. It allows you to schedule your tweets so that you publish them at intervals over a specific time period; for example I was scheduling three tweets a day over the next 7 days. One in the morning, afternoon and evening. This allows you to promote an event without having to log onto Twitter and write a post two or three times a day. Hootsuite also allows you to shrink urls so that they don’t take up so many characters, which was very much needed in my case!

Day Two I had to edit my tweets because in my haste to be creative I’d spent too much time thinking of what to write for each tweet and hadn’t put enough links to other people in there – or the places themselves. If you don’t tag the people you’re talking about then they won’t see the tweet unless they actually go onto the page where you’ve published them. My oh my this tweeting business is complicated. In retrospect what I should have done was put in and shrink the url to their page, tagged in the Big Gig event/location that the tweet was about, added in any other links and then used whatever characters I had left to come up with an interesting tweet. The powers of deduction.. sort of.

Because I didn’t do this I had to go back to the Tweets I’d written and attempt to shorten them so I could fit the links in, which was very hard, mostly because I liked what I’d come up with for each event too much to want to shorten it.

My second task that day was updating the Big Gig map on the website! This task makes your eyes hurt. The interactive OBG map enables you to wave your mouse over a map of the UK and see each OBG event appear in its set location in each region. You can then click on the event and an information page comes up detailing what the event is, where it is and who’s playing/what you can expect to see if you attend. We take for granted, as internet users, how much time and energy goes into producing web pages like this. I say this because my job that day was to update it. It was quite simple really; I took information out of a Google doc spreadsheet and used it to fill in the required boxes. This included the name of the event, where it was being held, the duration and the exact location ect. All of this had to be put into separate boxes however, it wasn’t a copy and paste job, and some of the information from the Google spreadsheet was sparse or incorrect. It was quite a fiddly task and surprisingly time-consuming; partly due to the fact that a lot of the information was missing. At one point I timed myself thinking each event would take me a max of five minutes to fill in but it was more like fifteen! I do think I worried too much about the content of the event descriptions though – and consequently spent too much time correcting and editing this information. Each event organiser had to write a bit about what kind of music will be played at their event and/or what activities will be going on for the website. Let’s just say the English student in me couldn’t help but correct and alter the grammar and sentence structure of some of what was written.

I managed to get ten events done by the time I left the office but I felt like I should have completed a lot more. Our Big Gig is happening in just over 5 weeks and so the website needs to be updated and quickly as possible.

REFLECTION SECTION: Week Two

 

The skills I gained:

 

  • I CAN use hootsuite to schedule Tweets for designated sites
  • I CAN use social media effectively to promote and publicise events
  • I CAN create and update interactive online content for websites using

 

What I can improve on:

 

  • when writing promotional Tweets always put the links and tags in first and use whatever characters you have left to be creative; this saves time and energy
  • fill in the information you have available to you first and worry about the details later – no matter how grammatically incorrect they are. There’s a time and a place to be a perfectionist.

 

And so ends Week Two, which I thoroughly enjoyed and overall didn’t suck too much at. Week Three won’t be as long. I promise..

Days and Nights

I first heard of Daley when he performed on Alan Carr with Jessie J for his single Remember Me. His soulful voice and amazing ginger hair immediately caught my attention. It’s still one of my favourite songs and going to listen to it again I discovered that he’s only gone and brought a new album out!

It’s really quite good – to the point that I’ve had it on repeat all day yesterday and today.

It’s definitely an improvement on his debut which was good, but nowhere near as addictive or containing as many stand out songs as this one, which isn’t surprising considering that collaborations include the infallible Pharrell Williams among others.

I also realised that track 9, Broken, either has a very familiar sound to it or I’ve heard it before somewhere – most likely on an advert. It has the right chorus for it; very catchy and anthemic. The combination of the crescendo building drum beat, violins and backing chorus bring the song to a perfect climax and warrant its status as a single release. You’ll find yourself unwittingly humming it for hours afterwards.

The more I listen to it in fact the more I think there’s something very Emile Sandé about this track. Both artists combine a perfect infusion of RnB with soul empowered vocals and the drum beat featured on this is the same one that opens up Sande’s track Heaven (great song as well). If you’re a Sandé fan I think you’d like this.

Other stand out tracks include Love and Affection, Look Up, Alone Together and She Fades.

Mr Daley is definitely someone I’d love to see live. Such a wonderful vocalist and the new material is great. I say new.. can you call 6 months old new?! I’m still playing catch-up from my year away from the UK. What a shame he’s not playing Glasto.

Here’s just one of his many sensational acoustic renditions of Broken (this guy is incapable of giving a bad performance).

I told you the hair was amazing.

Our Big Gig and my Big Internship: Day One!

Part 1:

It’s 09.43 am and so far I have spent the first hour of my train journey trying to dry out my plastic bag from where my water bottle leaked, tethered my phone to my laptop to use the internet only to find out that if you’re with Giffgaff apparently you’re not allowed to do this (resulting in my being blocked from using the internet for half an hour) and also randomly, but productively, sewed up the button that popped off on my top when I took it off before I left the house this morning. Yes I do just happen to have a miniature sewing kit to hand.

CYMERA_20140506_092444

You could never accuse my train journeys of being boring.

Three hours on a train for some people might be tiresome, frustrating and certainly uneventful but for me it’s just another three hours to attempt to doing multiple things at once, failing miserably and consequently stressing myself out for no apparent reason.

A very large part of me would like to spend the three hours reading and doing absolutely nothing else, but that would make me feel guilty. I mean, I could be updating my LinkedIn page or I could be writing. I could be devising a strategy on how to create an actual real-life Ever Lasting Gobstopper.

Sometimes you wish you could just tell your brain to shut up don’t you??

One thing I would like to do though is upload a post, or a couple of posts each week documenting my Big Gig internship and the things I’m learning throughout the course of its duration. I start today and this the reason why I’m currently on the train from Cornwall to Bristol.

There are several things to be noted as I embark on this journey. Firstly, I like travelling on trains, especially in the quiet carriage. It’s been an awfully long time since I train traveled due to my being in Australia the last year (they don’t really do trains out there) and I have missed it. I can read in peace without interruption. I can stare out of the window daydreaming for hours and no-one even questions it. If I need a five-minute break from my book I can go to the buffet cart and get a drink, sighing wistfully whilst I contemplate how grown-up and important I feel, sipping on my coffee in my smart all-buttons-intact blouse. I have a plug socket next to my foot which is just marvelous – honestly after backpacking plug sockets are like some kind of sacred deity – enabling me to charge every device on my person and watch as many films as I want without the dreaded ‘battery low’ sign popping up and threatening to ruin the ending by preventing me from actually seeing it. And the one big benefit about travelling all the way in from Cornwall is that when I get on the train it is practically empty. I have lots of choice in seating and I can eat, do my make-up and snore if I want to without feeling awkward because there are people sat around me who are definitely watching my every move and listening to every mastication sound I make.

When I was told I’d got the internship I knew I was going to have to be very organised. Some might laugh at me saying that but honestly, when the time comes I don’t muck about, I go all out. In fact I’m so organised I pack everything thrice. I have 3 pairs of pajama bottoms in my bag right now… I was paranoid I hadn’t packed a pair and I couldn’t find the ones I’d set aside (logic should have told me that’s because they were already in my bag). I didn’t want to root through everything so I just packed another pair. I took all of my clothes out just now and found three in there. I hate not having my home comforts with me you see, or the things that I deem to be important (such as my eyebrow pencil). It worries me so much, the thought of not having something I might need, that I pack duplicate items. The fact is I could have just slept in my tights, or without anything at all, but I’m very overzealous when it comes to being prepared.

Despite this I still manage to forget vital things. My importance ratings of personal objects don’t really correlate with most normal human beings, to my detriment. I had everything from tissues to a miniature bottle of dry shampoo packed for today, all of which was done the night before, and yet I almost left the house without taking a spare pair of pants with me. My defence of this could only be that people can’t see dirty pants. God forbid I should be seen with dirty hair!!

Seeing as I’m in Bristol overnight as well, and I’m on a bit of a budget, I have also segregated and prepared the best part of 3 meals to take with me. The stack of tupperware you see before you isn’t even the whole deal. There’s also a packet of Cheddar biscuits in my bag, a satsuma and some crisps. Oh and a banana. I think..?

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Inside those containers from top to bottom are grapes, raspberries and blueberries. A rocket and spinach salad with cheese, ham, croutons and a miniature bottle of balsamic. A ham sandwich made with Tiger bread, peppers, cucumber and more spinach, a Twirl bar, yoghurt coated strawberries, a pear and a sachet of cuppa soup. I must have spent an hour preparing it all last night.

Now that is something Jamie Oliver would be proud of. Perhaps if anything should be made note of at all its the fact that the lids are purple. You could stick anything in there and no-body could argue with it. Despite all these gourmet plastic encased dinners though, honestly all I want right now is a huge vanilla latte. At the end of the day I would still fail you Jamie. When I’m tired all I ever want is caffeine and sugar. Food doesn’t really appeal to me all that much.

And would you look at that. Two hours gone and I’ve successfully read nothing. I also appear to have mislaid my Vaseline hand cream which I desperately need because I have super glue stuck to my fingers and they feel all dry and horrible (operation ‘fix necklace’ didn’t quite go to plan this morning. I told you my priorities were awry). Time to head off.

One of the most notable things about backpacking is how little time you dedicate to things you’d normally spend hours doing each week at home. For me these things included baking, running/exercising, internet shopping and browsing any medium necessary for new music. Before I left for Australia I would spend hours on my laptop poring over various webpages, reading about music, listening to music and ever-increasing the diversity and volume of songs in my iTunes catalogue. You could find me on my days off poorly attempting to tidy my tiny walk-in-cupboard (bedroom), speakers blasting, continually clicking the ‘related artists’ link on Spotify whilst sipping a nice hot brew. Or, in the kitchen staring lovingly into a framed picture of Mary Berry whilst baking up a storm and rockin’ out to Pirate fm and Radio 1 in the form of rhythmic whisking. Normally I’m all over YouTube and Spotify like a rash, and don’t even get me started on what happens during and after Later Jools comes on; outright demands for absolute silence in the house followed by the immediate ‘Googling’ of favourable new artists, or more often than not a quick trip to the BBC Jools site to find out what the actual names are because that little overlay at the bottom of the page isn’t on anywhere near long enough!

(Talking of #Later it just so happens that the latest series -no 44! – has just started. Bang tidy!)

When you have no laptop, no television and no way of easily streaming or purchasing da tunes however, music is suddenly much less accessible. You go back to the pre-technology days where radio is your only friend. I vividly remember sitting in my Australian friend’s car – not long before I was due to fly home – hearing them announce the new Coldplay song. I wasn’t massively keen on their previous stuff (though I’m starting to rethink that having listened to Mylo Xyloto in full since – how did I not grasp how brilliance of Every Teardrop before?!) so I didn’t pay too much attention, but then this song came on and I thought, hold up.. this is something special; dare I say it, magical?? (…sorry) After my friend parked up I made him wait in his car so I could listen to the whole thing!

Six weeks later and they popped into Radio 1 for a surprise Live Lounge performance which you can listen to here 🙂

Having the radio was a life-saver in Oz. When I got back home and looked up the current Top 40 there wasn’t much in there I didn’t recognise. I say that – I still didn’t recognise a lot of the artists but as soon as I saw some of the song titles I immediately heard the melody/chorus in my head and realised I did know them. A lot of the music I listen to doesn’t get much, if any, radio play though. Think Warpaint, think dead and gone bands like GoodBooks, The Hours (oh how I love The Hours). I can stream or purchase their stuff any time I like – I can even get 7″ vinyl off eBay or Amazon (most of which I’d never find in a record store). It was the lesser known bands and my indie Kings and Queens that I was deprived of; this is where the purpose of my blog post comes in. I must have seen Franz Ferdinand advertised on Vevo at some point whilst enjoying a rare YouTube moment in Australia, or maybe their song played on Triple J (Australia’s equivalent to Radio 1) because somehow I found out about their new single – or new at the time – Right Action. I am a bit of a Franz fan; they’re one of the bands that hasn’t been ticked off my bucket list yet. I watched the vid for their new single on YouTube and got excited because it meant a new album was on the way, however not for a while and consequently I forgot all about it.  They somehow cropped up again today though and I’ve since been listening to their new old stuff and am loving it! I found Tonight to be a little disappointing, especially after You Could Have It So Much Better which sounds as fabulous to my ears now as it did almost a decade ago when it was first released. That was back in the heydays of my Sony Walkman. My prized possession.

After remembering Franz and revelling in Right Action I noticed they’d released other songs off the album and as most of you well know, once you start watching one video on YouTube you have to watch another.In fact you can pretty much write off the next two hours. Amongst the ‘Official Videos’ – by the way how cool and non-parent-friendly is the Evil Eye video? – were some live performance videos.

And that’s how I found this little gem.

I’m sorry but if you don’t think this is absolutely fabulous then there is something undeniably wrong with you.

urge you to listen to it through a good pair of headphones or speakers, otherwise those spectacular drums will be lost on you and you’ll have no idea what I’m raving on about.

Despite loathing being back in chilly England, I have missed the enjoyment one gets from listening to a new album or great song for the first time and then whacking it on repeat until you’ve overplayed it so much you’ve almost ruined it for yourself.

It’s great being able to get excited about music again and it’s great to be back in my homeland, surrounded by the best music!

British is Best!

student loans = moans

It’s that time again, rant o’clock.

Among the pile of letters and packages I returned home to after being away for 12 months in Australia was one from the Student Loans Company checking up on me because I’ve been unemployed (or so they believe) for the last year. Aside from various death threats and warnings about tax avoidance they included a statement of how much I owe. I thought it had to be wrong when I first looked at it – the amount of interest was so high – but after a quick look on the internet I discovered with horror that I am indeed being charged a whopping 1.5% APR; a LOT for someone who owes as much as I do. 1.5% doesn’t sound so bad, but every year I will be charged more and more interest as my debt builds, until I start earning just under 17,000 when I’ll start paying off enough to keep the debt the same, but no less because the interest will always offset any amount I pay off. This is happening to thousands of graduates all over the country and the government is making a mint out of it.

It sparked a major discussion in my household and instigated some less than benevolent feelings on my part.

I realise that politics is a cruel sport and the economy is in a mess and we need money coming in from somewhere – but from the poor and unemployed? Really? All the way through college young people are pressured into going to university because they are told, and I don’t mean given the impression, I mean explicitly told that it will better their life, career, future and well-being. You leave school at 16 and are expected to make all your future life choices after just one year and decide what you want to do, where you want to do it and who you want to be. For the majority this is impossible because we lack the knowledge and experience.. and maturity. So we make wild guesses, hope for the best and see where it leads. Currently it leads into mass unemployment or menial jobs and debt.

English Literature, that’s academic, that’ll benefit me in some way.

The way this country goes about educating young people on their futures is all wrong. Having a degree isn’t everything – I learnt that the hard way. You don’t need a degree to do every single job in the world. I can tell you that you don’t need a degree to go into television for example, or to go into radio. All you need is passion, drive and determination. I’m not saying I regret doing my degree or Masters because it helped shape who I am and although I jumped on the bandwagon like everyone else, at least I decided to study something that I enjoy and am reasonably good at. Hopefully it might even benefit me one day. But how many people did I meet on my English course who didn’t enjoy English? Who didn’t even like reading? And the university still let them in..? Far too many. At the time I thought these people must be pretty stupid, and as far as life choices go I suppose they were in that regard, but if they didn’t enjoy the subject why were they there? What possessed them to think it was a good idea? Well it’s obvious isn’t it. Because that’s what everyone else is doing and that’s what their lecturers and college or sixth form told them to do, so you better pick something, fast. You forget how much pressure is put on people at that age; how little time you have to make a decision. English Literature, that’s academic, that’ll benefit me in some way. In fact drop the ‘Literature’ just English will suffice. That word alone ticks some imaginary boxes somewhere.

One of my best, best friends at uni, bless her heart, shocked me in the second term of our third and last year when she told me she didn’t know how to use the self-scan machine in the library to take out books. I mean… just incredible. What can I say about that really?

What would I have done if university wasn’t the only option given to me though? What would I be doing now? No wonder the government is so supportive of higher education – because after all the jager bombs and lengthy library sessions are over they start making a shit ton of money out of you. You’re a major source of income. So is the insurance on your mortgage as my dad pointed out, but at least that’s a debt worth paying. That debt helps you buy a house. It’s not really the same as an A4 certificate with your name on it is it?

You owe us another 300 quid interest. Oh and make sure you buy a stamp for that envelope eh love?

To top it all off were the forms they sent me to fill out. The forms that, if they are neglected to be sent back within 28 days result in me being issued a penalty and included a self-addressed envelope which I have to go out and buy a bloody stamp for.

I don’t care how the system works, I am outraged. And to think, they don’t have to deal with any of this crap in Scotland, which leads nicely onto my next point;  just to add insult to injury guess where the Student Loans office is based? (check out the lovely letter head below.) Bet you just love that don’t you Scotland? Reminding us English folk how much we owe the government when you all pay diddly squat.

Not even back a fortnight in the UK and already I’m loving it.

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If you want to find out more information about your student loan check out the Income Contingent Loans page and if you’re feeling a bit rough about it perhaps take a little look at the url and smile at the accidental significance of one of the surprise words you’ll see in there. If anyone is going to pay off their children’s debts, it’ll be them!

Take care comrades, until the next rant o’clock..