Laura Elizabeth Hughes: “Pen to journal and ramble writing is my first port of call”

Laura Elizabeth’s Hughes’ new EP ‘We, Myself and I’ is perhaps the ultimate lockdown release. Blocked from her social life and her beloved job as a librarian, the Hughes describes the album as “confronting myself,” and “dealing with the choral voice of my own thoughts”.

The focus of the new release, as a result, is keeping things simple, without two many studio-leaning bells and whistles, while Hughes’ navigated the surreal world we all find ourselves in.

I caught up with her ahead of the March 5 release…

First of all congrats on the EP. I’d imagine it comes from a different place to your music before this. Tell me about the background to ‘Days’ in particular…

Thank you! Days was a weird oul look at the restlessness of repetition and limbo that has been lockdown for me, and a lot of people I’ve had conversations with have felt the same.. I was bored, I was wanting some change away from the Groundhog Day feel of everything.

What kind of challenges did you face on the technical side working in isolation?

What kind of challenges didn’t I face on the technical side haha, I had a lot of learning to do. A lot of Youtube troubleshooting, voice notes with pro-friends. I guess the biggest side step of any larger challenges regards recording was to simplify what I was working with, and to play to my strengths which I was failing to see for a good chunk of last year! I was getting caught up in trying to do too much, or create bells and whistles that in the end just didn’t work, and didn’t make sense in the realms of the project.

Long shots: three pictures of the dregs… (week 21)

Of my five teams, four are currently sitting in a positionw here you’re eyeing the relegation spots while looking at how they’re doing. That said, it’s March, and I’m confident two – Metz and Spezia – will survive.

It’s possible all five will, which is quite something. Here’s how this week went down…

Fulham 1-0 v Sheffield United at home.

Sure, this might be on paper the easiest fixture of the season, but Fulham – who yes, I wrote off totally earlier this month – are starting to put the squeeze on the likes of Newcastle and Brighton.

For much of the game Sheffield United didn’t turn up here, though they did create a couple of decent chances after Lookman put Fulham ahead on the hour mark.

The goal had a bit of luck to it, particularly in Lookman breaking the tackle just before he took his shot, but another win is all Fulham will care about, and they’re looking more and more likely to put Newcastle, in particular, under serious pressure. They have a tough run coming up now, but do play Newcastle, now only three points above them, on the last day of the season.

Nealo: “I think it’s unfair, for a lot of people, the way society is set up”

Nealo’s debut album ‘All The Leaves Are Falling’ is a snapshot of a left-behind side of society, a kind of personalised treatise in music that highlights the difficulties of working-class creatives while exploring his own perspective.

The product of years of work, it’s a step aside from the Dubliner’s usual style as he goes for a more expansive, punchy, expressive record, drawing on his own punk-roots and embedding his protest-message in a record that’s heavily hip-hop leaning.

“It felt different making this, I wanted to make it so that people would look at it and think it’s something different. I wanted to give a feeling for what I was trying to do, and tell my story, who I am and what’s unique to me,” he explains, before going into the way the album relates to his own history.

“It’s a little about that adolescent want for leaving somewhere, and then later coming back. About the hardships, and the people who have left, and who haven’t. There’s tragedy and beauty in that. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is I’m trying to say, but there’s a message in there.” 

“So it’s about Clonsilla, essentially, which I love now, but when I was kid I felt like there was something big happening somewhere else, and I wasn’t there. I still get that today, sometimes, but I think I have a bit more perspective on it, too. When you’re young, everything seems like the biggest thing in the world.”

The record features a series of interludes that expand on the music, giving witty context. “I was a little worried the Interludes might be a bit long,” Nealo says, “but I put them in and they’ve been really popular. It gives context, a feeling of who I am I guess, and adds to the narrative.”

Long shots: big wins at the bottom (week 20)

They say it’s the hope that kills you, and there’s starting to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel for some of my weakest teams. Bielefeld and Spezia both got results against really top sides this week, while Fulham closed the gap on safety with an unlikely away win at in-form Everton. There have definitely been worse weeks…

Arminia Bielefeld 3-3 away to Bayern Munich

I loved this game. Played in the snow in a way that would often result in a game being called off, it saw Arminia looks, for a while, like they might overturn the team that win the German league so consistently it’s become boring.

Bayern were just home from winning the club world cup in the Middle East, of course, but it was a lad on loan from Anderlecht who put the visitors into an unlikely lead after nine minutes, which they then doubled.

Bayern looked useless in the snow, and a lot stronger in the opening 30 minutes of the second half once it had been cleared, with the score going to 3-1 in Arminia’s favour before the Bavaraians turned on the style, but not quite enough to win it. A valuable point for Arminia, who are now level with a fading Hertha Berlin with a game in hand. Only their third draw all season, remarkably.

Review: St Pauli: Another Football Is Possible

ACABAB, reads one of the regular banners in St Pauli’s famous Hafenstrasse block. It’s not a typo, but an adaptation: All Cops Are Bastards, Apart from Boll. The banner sums up the ethos of the Hamburg club: firmly anti-authoritarian, but always making room for their own. Fabien Boll, a former St Pauli star, doubled as a police inspector.

St Pauli have never been the greatest football team. While their history is spattered with short-term appearances in the Bundesliga, the German top tier, and impassioned wins against fierce local rivals HSV, it’s what goes on off the pitch that truly makes the ‘braun-weiss’ an interesting phenomenon, one that’s right at the very heart of the ‘Against Modern Football’ movement. 

In ‘St Pauli: Another Football Is Possible’, Naxto Parra and Carles Vinas explore the journey that’s brought the Pirates of the Elbe to the point where victory on the pitch is simply not a core priority.

That sense of simply being and representing rather than chasing victory seems to stand out at every game. I visited the club five years ago, and saw them play Union Berlin, their stands draped in slogans slamming Sky Sports for moving the game to a Monday night. The space outside the stadium was crammed with ghetto blasters and punk tunes and fans supping beer, and once you got inside, the fans joined in, at times, with similarly left-leaning Union fans to chant together. The ample standing terraces had a distinct smell of cannabis, and afterwards, there was a rave under one of the stands.

It hasn’t always been this way, of course, and much of this book documents how St Pauli became a bastion of anti-corporate rebellion. The club were initially a fairly conventional side, albeit based on the fringes of Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn, a party-hub meets red light district of some repute. Along the way, we learn that the club even had some light, though disputed, links to Nazi party members in the 30s and 40s.

We Cut Corners: “it’s about the protagonist’s psychological unravelling”

After a break of over a year following the release of latest record IMPOSTERS, We Cut Corners returned to music determined – as they have been in the past – to convert their experiences gathered away from music into art.

New EP ‘Muscle Memory’ is, perhaps, a nod to the way the duo – teachers in their day jobs – continue to function in musical ‘shifts’, returning in productive periods to bounce onto the Choice Music Prize shortlist, or deliver the most vocally beautiful, rapidly-morphing songs that bounce from White Stripes-like rock to delicate, emotional ballads.

‘Muscle memory’, string-man with the Dublin-based band John Duignan explains, is focused very much on the idea of domesticity, psychology, and absence. 

“After the release of IMPOSTORS in 2018, we took about a year away from formal band duties to dwell in the domestic for a bit,” Duignan explains. “As is so often the case, those down-times are the most fertile in terms of writing and it wasn’t long before we were back sharing ideas over email and piecing together the current EP..”

“The title track is a pretty emblematic of the collection,” he continues, “detailing the protagonist’s psychological unravelling in the face of the physical absence of a loved one. Thematically, the songs on the EP are pretty disparate but there was definitely a sense of heightened neurosis that fed into their composition. Too much domestic time perhaps!”

The four-track contains a colourful variety of styles. On the title track, ‘Muscle Memory’, Duignan describes “taking a look at the country’s institutional past and the legacy that is still culturally palpable here. It’s a rally-cry against repression really,” while ‘Mystery Illness’ another stand-out, is “an absolutely full-on, unabashed, bare-faced love song. Having resisted the urge to even use the word love for the first four albums, it seemed reasonable to pen a tune where every line begins with ‘I love you…’.”

Long shots: points, yes, but prizes? (week 19)

A good set of results this week for my sides, though they broadly remain in trouble, with exciting survival battles (except for the fans) on the horizon. With the top five European divisions well past half way now, three of my five sides look in imminent danger of the drop.

Of the four sides that played this week, though, it was the three in trouble that got results…

Elche CF 2-2 v Villareal at home, 19th place

A sign of fight for Elche? The Catalan club went 0-2 down to Villareal at the weekend, before battling back to grab a point that isn’t quite enough right now, but certainly beats the alternative.

This had the odd sensation of being played mostly at one end, with Villareal dominating the first half, in which their key man Gerard Moreno could have had four (and did score two), as they outpassed Elche.

Both of Elche’s goals had more of a ‘scrappy’ feel to them than holding marks of pure quality. It’s now been 15 league games dating back to October since they won, a really worrying stat, and one that’ll have to end in the coming weeks of they’re to survive.

August Wells: An Irishman in New York

It’s been half a lifetime since August Wells vocalist Ken Griffin left Ireland behind for a new life in the big apple, yet in many senses his music’s themes still reflect an immigrant tale: songs of hope and loss, false dawns and changing faces.

New record ‘No More Operators’ sees Griffin and musical partner John Rauchenberger, a pianist, build on their emotion-laden earlier records with stark, dark, fragile tones.

“All my songs are derived directly from my life, so maybe the theme [of the record] is simply me and my perspective,” Griffin says. “I am always simply trying to refine my ability as a songwriter. We are always working on a number of songs at the same time, I prefer to have a lot of ideas going, so I don’t get stuck on one idea.” 

“When we have 10 or 12 complete we just record an album. Because we are independent and have our own studio we can do that at any time. For a record, we just pick the songs we feel work cohesively together, and the ones that feel complete.”

“Although all the songs were written before the pandemic,” he continues, “it is strange how applicable a lot of the lyrics are to this moment. I have always used, or at least tried to use humour in my songs, even at the centre of what might be a tragic subject.” 

“We all live with senses of dread, and fear and worry. We all live with dreams and hopes and wonder, but sometimes I feel being overtly positive can actually be very sinister and lead us to naivety and delusion.”