Pennies, pints and poetry

Pennies, pints and poetry

When Rukhsana Merrise’s dad passed away from lung cancer, it gave her the push to resign from her day job as a cashier at a bank and pursue music. Although she loved singing and had crafted her own songs from an early age, she never had the confidence to drop everything and wander into the misty unknown of her childhood dream. “Watching my dad come to his own end, you start thinking that you should take the chance and do things, because life’s too short,” she says, her cat-like eyes fixed on mine. “Of course my dad dying wasn’t a good thing, but...” “Something good came out of it?” “That’s it,” she nods.

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A comfortable arrangement

A comfortable arrangement

The Portuguese word saudade is a profound form of longing for something absent. Rachel Zeffira, one half of the duo Cat’s Eyes (the other being Faris Badwan of The Horrors), describes it as a two-directional pull that keeps her home country Canada vibrantly alive in her mind. Saudade transforms British clouds into snowcapped mountains and strangers on the street into long lost friends. “It’s like being haunted,” she says when we meet to talk about their new album Treasure House. “It’s a reminder... a ghost in my mind.”

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Let it flow

Let it flow

Despite having played bass with LA band Warpaint for over a decade and co-created and toured acclaimed records like The Fool, Jenny Lee Lindberg - also known as jennylee - approached the idea of fronting her own project with wariness. She didn’t like her voice. When I meet her a year or so later in London, glassy eyed from jetlag and sipping a large takeaway coffee, her solo debut right on! is on the cusp of being released. So what changed?

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Little Simz behind the wheel

Little Simz behind the wheel

Only a week has passed since the UK rapper Little Simz released her debut album A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons on her independent label Age 101. It's an achievement music industry officials had always told her was impossible--despite her 50,000 Soundcloud followers and praise from hip hop giants like Mos Def, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar. During a drive through London, Simz tells me about her independent strive for success.

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Vulnerable doesn't hurt

Vulnerable doesn't hurt

When Rosie Lowe was studying music in London, she felt like she was the only student on the course who lacked a distinct sound. Nearing the end of her last year, she decided to step away from her specialisms--piano and guitar--learnt production instead, and began using her low yet light vocals as an instrument. Fast forward a few years and it's Rosie's sound of soul and stripped-back electronica that shines through. When we meet at the start of summer, the musician is polishing off her awaited debut album, the first big release since her breakthrough EP Right Thing in 2013. 

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Carried by the melody

Carried by the melody

Often simplistically described as thoroughly bleak and troubled, the force of Marika Hackman's songwriting instead lies in its ability to sustain the tension between light and dark elements by altering the meaning of a song through its melody. Her debut album We Slept At Last, released earlier in the year, was written intensively over a two-month period, in the aftermath of an emotionally challenging year. I spoke to the experimental folk musician about growth and the challenge of conjuring up songs out of nowhere.

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Focus, Faith, Belief

“When I was sixteen, I got The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill as a present. It was life-changing for me. I had never heard anything like it. It pulled me into this place of optimism and that someone understands.” Sitting by the kitchen table in the warehouse flat she shares with her boyfriend, soul singer Andreya Triana speaks calmly and coherently, laying out this moment as if it’s one she often returns to. 

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Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance

“I hadn’t played for ages. It was only when I met Stuart that I said, ‘I got a violin, you know. I could dig that out.‘” This was 1996 and the Stuart in question is Stuart Murdoch, frontman of Scottish six-piece Belle and Sebastian. Sarah Martin had, rather casually, joined one of the most prolific indie bands of the era. I spoke to her about their new album Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance.

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This is Nao

For Nao, the transition from backing singer to frontwoman has been both sudden and a long time coming. Nao—pronounced ‘Nayo’, no surname—first published her own music on Soundcloud last summer. Five months later, she finds herself in the middle of a European tour with Swedish electro outfit Little Dragon, playing stages like Brixton Academy. I spoke to her about fronting her own project and growing up around music.

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There's a Gig In My Living Room

Sofar Sounds is a project that brings gigs alive in people‘s homes. Since the first performance in a cramped North London living room in 2009, the event has spread all over the UK to places like Hamburg, Costa Rica, Miami. Tonight‘s gig is in Sandra Ciampone‘s flatshare in the east wing of a disused factory. The organisers have turned off the fish tank to avoid any wayward noise. There‘s just a faint murmur from the storm outside, and a trickle in the pipes. The room is dead silent, expectant.

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Welcome to the Wilderness

Taiga, the Russian name for the snowforest, is the title of Zola Jesus’ ambitious new album, where humanity’s relationship with the natural world is carefully and cleverly translated into her most accessible compilation of dark pop to date. I spoke to Nika Roza Danilova, the woman behind the epic name, about the power of nature and liberating her voice from the abstracting confines of reverb.

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Music's Turbulent Priest

Crowned indie star by the music press after his second album, 2, and a string of exuberant live shows, Mac DeMarco has been proclaimed both brilliant and out of his mind. Whether his songs are about cheap cigarettes (Ode To Viceroy) or getting up to no good (Freaking Out the Neighbourhood), there’s always a slow guitar melody swaying comfortably in the background. In issue 21 of Oh Comely, I spoke to him about the importance of having fun whilst adjusting to fame.

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A Hundred Years By The Sea

Many bands seek to break the mould. British Sea Power refuse to even settle in with their own name. ”On the last album I wanted to become Galactic Sea Power or Universal Sea Power to stop being so British. I got fed up because everyone would always go on about how quirky and English we are,” says frontman Jan Scott Wilkinson. Then why compose the soundtrack to From the Sea to the Land Beyond, a documentary about the British seaside? I sat down with Scott to hear what swayed the band to create an entire album inspired by images of rocky coast line.

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