22 June 2016
PIAS, the independent record label and promoter, put on a showcase of some of their artists at the Lexington this week, with Happyness (Moshi Moshi), Warhaus (Play It Again Sam) and L.A Salami (Sunday Best) playing.
L.A Salami – Endearing, urban infused acoustic songwriting
J Churcher had originally been slated to open the show but owing to illness, Lookman Adekunle Salami was added to the bill as a late replacement. The London based singer brought his warm, slightly awkward but effortlessly engaging presence to the stage.
Matching folksy infused acoustic guitar work with urban lyricism, Salami demonstrates a real craft for songwriting. Stripped down, without a backing band, the influences of early inspiration Bob Dylan and also Morrissey are spread across the set. Touching on topics ranging from lost love to mental health (‘Day To Day For 6 Days a Week’), via the struggles of everyday life and religion (‘No Hallelujahs Now’), this is everyman writing rooted in the London metropolis. Set closer, ‘Loosely On My Mind’, was the highlight with its gritty narrative of the perils of knife crime for young people in Britain. Salami sings, “This is for my missing father and this is for my pain, and this is for the life I am living, I feel I am locked in a cage,” and whilst this may only be a story it is incredibly compelling.
Debut album Dancing With Bad Grammar is out on August 26th.
Warhaus –Belgian synthpop finding its feet
Warhaus are the recently unveiled solo act of Maartens Devoldere from Balthazar. Sharing much of the sonic decadence of Balthazar, and in stark contrast with L.A Salami, the set is something of a sonic assault. Full bodied; cowbells, trumpets, and bongo drums contribute to an often experimental performance. Sharp electronics and crisp drums drive throughout with abrasive trumpets and angular guitars layered above. Sound looping was often used to build the tracks up to create musically dense and rich compositions.
Devoldere drawled vocals cut above this with his tales of love and lust. Warhaus sound best when they embrace his lyrics with sultry rhythms, as seen on the lead single from their debut album We Fucked A Flame Into Being, ‘The Good Lie’, and another new track premiered on the night ‘I’m Not Him’. Both provide positive signs ahead of the records release.
The moments of rough and ready experimentation may be expected from a band this early in its formation but the synth pop act showed some positive signs and real ambition in their work. We Fucked A Flame Into Being is due for release on September 2nd.
Happyness – Warm, fuzzy slacker rock drenched in Nineties nostalgia
Happyness closed the night with their mix of slacker rock and surf melodies. Right from the outset, as the band emerge with a can of red stripe in hand and singer and guitarist Jonny Allen wearing star glasses, their image is drenched in Nineties nostalgia.
The image is matched by the music, with Happyness also featuring Ash Cooper on drums, Benji Compston on guitar and vocals and new member Paul on bass. Scuzzy guitars can often betray the rich melodies underneath, with reverb creating a dense musical haze. The mid-section of the set saw Compston move onto the keyboard and the band have often experimented with a range of sounds in their work. These songs sounded like a combination of an off kilter Coldplay and Bowie, the result of which was better than it sounds! There were heavier moments too, with garage rock riffs added to the mix but the lo-fi slacker sound dominates. Compston in particular showed some really impressive guitar work, particularly in the closer ‘Montreal Rock Band Somewhere’, with frenetic fret work picking up the tempo before drowning out into reverb and distortion.
Alongside “Montreal Rock..,’ the set also featured ‘Naked Patients’, ‘It’s On You’ ‘You Come to Kill Me?’ and ‘Anything I Do Is Alright’ from their first album, Weird Little Birthday. ‘Naked Patients’, played live for the first time, was the standout of the night with its combination of slacker rhythms and quirky lyrics.
It’s in Happyness’s lyrics where much of the bands charm lays, capturing the feelings of the disenchanted, with lyrics such as, “Let’s call it a day, if not now when, what do you do when you hate all your friends?” The band also prove themselves capable of something a little deeper, as seen on ‘Anything I Do Is Alright’ with, “Sleeping put into a pill, cheating a head that empties faster than it fills.” Low key but likeable, this set from Happyness left a warm, fuzzy feeling in the ears of the audience, as they headed off into the night.
New single ‘SB’s Truck’ is out now, with a new EP to follow later this summer.
Check out the [PIAS] Nites website for upcoming events.
Words: William Sutton