The Girls Aloud Singles box set includes a 64 page booklet with the story behind the music. The sleevenotes were written by Peter Robinson (Popjustice creator, journalist, etc.), who interviewed Brian Higgins for the occasion. The booklet encapsulates the moment of each Girls Aloud single, with relevant and interesting contextual information and trivia. Here's a few Xenomania-related bits:
"Sound of the Underground" was one of 60 songs that Brian Higgins and Miranda Cooper wrote with the aim of launching their own girl-group. Polydor said they didn't have the right band to perform the song - until, a few weeks later, the idea of Popstars: The Rivals came along.
"No Good Advice" was written by Higgins and Cooper when they were known as Moonbaby and were signed to London Records in the late 1990s. The song chorus began rather differently, with the phrase "I don't like fried rice" (!).
Higgins says that despite his confidence in the song "Life Got Cold" he wasn't prepared to take the idea of a Girls Aloud version seriously until the band had sung their own version, because a track working "has always got to be based on an artist's performance, not the music itself. But they sang it, and they really nailed the melancholic aspect of it, and it sounded beautiful".
Love Actually director Richard Curtis phoned Xenomania when they were in a taxi in Berlin, and explained that he thought "Jump" would be a good Girls Aloud single. The aggressive synth sound in the chorus comes from a Jupiter-6 - the idea was that "JUMP!" had to be followed by a sound demanding you to jump.
The synth rhythm for "The Show" was composed by a Xenomania musician called Jon Shave. The lyrics were intended as a sort of anti-promiscuity message.
Some of the "Love Machine" lyrics came about through a process Xenomania employ, which is to sing "nonsense lyrics" over a backing track - eventually the nonsense lyrics evolve into more meaningful songwords. The backing track, semi-inspired by The Smiths, is the work of Xenomania musicians Nick Coler and Tim Powell.
The first version of "I'll Stand By You" was a weird, modernist breakbeat version which sounded like '90s dance act Future Sound of London.
"Long Hot Summer" was written by Xenomania when the team were in LA. Xenomania visited the Disney offices and were asked to write a song that would feature in the Lindsay Lohan Herbie movie. For various reasons, the track never made the movie.
The mention of "wicked games" in the introduction of "Biology" is a reference to Girls Aloud almost releasing a cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" as a single.
To cheer themselves up, Xenomania went off for a songwriting session in Paris and, while they were there, they sketched out the song that would become "Call The Shots". It was almost put forward as one of the singles to promote the greatest hits album, but was held back as it was considered too downbeat. Peter Robinson describes "Call The Shots" as "the greatest pop song of the 21st Century".
Brian Higgins says that "Can't Speak French" is perhaps the easiest Girls Aloud single they made. The b-side, "Hoxton Heroes", came about when members of Girls Aloud were talking about music with Xenomania - before you know it, a song was being crafted.
One day, two young Australian musicians at Xenomania, Jason Resch and Kieran Jones, played a '60s-sounding backing track to Brian Higgins and "The Promise" was born. Higgins and Cooper didn't write anything to the backing track for a few weeks - they waited until the right time so they didn't ruin the moment. They eventually wrote the song in seven minutes.
The emotional twangy guitar noise in "Untouchable" was the result of Xenomania musician Jason Resch responding to a request for something "special". Brian Higgins says he could happily listen to the guitar part for an hour on a loop.
2. Long Hot Summer (alternate version 1) It has the same backing track, but with completely different lyrics on Cheryl's verses and Nadine's verses and bridge (no rapping on this one...). Both the pre-chorus and chorus remain the same. Lyrics about "cruel girls" and "rude girls" and chasing the summer sun, dancing in Paris "until my feet turned blue", and in Miami getting "awful hot with you".
3. Long Hot Summer (alternate version 2) Cheryl's verses have completely different lyrics, Nadine's bridge and the chorus remain the same. Still no rapping. Lyrics about "flirting with your best frie-e-e-e-end".
4. Sexy! No, No, No... (development track) A different, funky intro, which then segues into the vocodered intro we know (and love). The track then falls into some sort of digital samba madness and fades out before Nadine's verses. Sounds like old computer/video game music in parts. It is indeed a "development track", with different sounds glued together.
5. On My Way To Satisfaction A song from the soundtrack of the 2007 movie St. Trinian's. A guitar-led, full on attitude song with lead vocals by Sarah Harding.
6. Love Machine (original demo) This was previously released on the Popjustice 2006 compilation album Popjustice: 100% Solid Pop Music. It's an unfinished early recording of "Love Machine" with totally different lyrics.
7. Some Kind Of Miracle (Illicit mix)
8. Something Kinda Ooooh (original demo) Seems to be an edited version of the Tube City Mix. The song is majorly the same, only the music is different.
Mini Viva kicked off their UK tour with The Saturdays last night in Sheffield. The tour continues today in Leicester and will end in Manchester on 7th July. These are the dates:
28 Jun Leicester De Montfort w/The Saturdays 29 Jun Liverpool Empire w/The Saturdays 1 Jul Plymouth Pavillions w/The Saturdays 2 Jul Swindon Oasis Centre w/The Saturdays 3 Jul Cardiff CIA w/The Saturdays 5 Jul Grimsby Auditorium w/The Saturdays 6 Jul Nottingham Royal Concert Hall w/The Saturdays 7 Jul Manchester Apollo w/The Saturdays
Britt Love (Mini) and Frankee Connolly (Viva) are a double act from the Northwest of England, currently sharing a flat in Manchester. They formed in 2008 and started to receive early attention with the Fred Falke remix of "I Left My Heart In Tokyo".
Mini Viva recently shot their first music video in L.A., with the director Ray Kay (known for directing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"), and worked with fashion label Des Moines for a photoshoot. Before the tour, Mini Viva traveled to Holland and Germany for a few showcases at music industry offices. They are getting ready to launch their Xenomania-confectioned debut single "I Left My Heart In Tokyo" on Geffen Records UK.
Vagabond kicked off their summer as special guests to The Script, followed by shows with McFly, James Morrison and The Saturdays. They are playing three major festivals (Glastonbury, T in The Park, V) and have a string of headline shows in August.
Vagabond's debut album, You Don’t Know The Half Of It, out August 17, is to be the first release on the newly launched Geffen Records UK. It will be preceded by the single "Don’t Wanna Run No More", out August 3rd, and already being championed by Radio 1's Jo Whiley [«They sound huge this band. (This) is a massive song»]. The video is currently on rotation on VH1 and the Chart Show, and is also on The Box’s Spotplays list.
Vagabond UK Summer tour dates:
June 2009 Sat 27th KENT, Cricket Club with James Morrison Sun 28th GLASTONBURY, Festival Queens Head Stage
July 2009 Sat 4th LONDON, Kenwood House with James Morrison Tue 7th LIVERPOOL, Arena with James Morrison Fri 10th T IN THE PARK, Festival Sat 11th LIVERPOOL, Arena with Mcfly Sun 12th NEWCASTLE, Mouth Of The Tyne Festival DURHAM, Cricket Club with James Morrison Thur 16th ITUNES FESTIVAL, The Roundhouse Fri 17th ROCHESTER, Castle with Mcfly
August 2009 Thu 6th LONDON, Bush Hall Fri 7th BRISTOL, Bristol Cooler Sat 8th SOUTHAMPTON, Joiners Mon 10th NOTTINGHAM, Bodega Tue 11th MANCHESTER, Moho Wed 12th GLASGOW, King Tuts Fri 14th LEEDS, Cockpit Sat 15th NORWICH, Arts Centre Mon 17th LIVERPOOL, Masque Sat 22nd STAFFORDSHIRE, V Festival Union Stage Sun 23rd CHELMSFORD, V Festival Union Stage
Jason Resch, Florrie Arnold and Kieran Jones are three of the musicians working as Xenomania's in-house band. They usually provide live backing for some of Xenomania's new roster of acts (those that don't actually have/are a "band" - Mini Viva, Jessie Malakouti, Alex Gardner, Eliza Noble).
Popjustice's Xenofest review tells us that for the time being they're called "JFK" (Jason-Florrie-Kieran). Besides playing live, they've already co-wrote and played as session musicians on several Xenomania records. They could be to Xenomania what the Funk Brothers were to Motown, by contributing with a recognizable sound and providing sonic consistency to Xenomania's output.
Here's a little bit about them. Ladies first:
FLORRIE ARNOLD (drums)
Florrie Arnold is a 20-year-old professional drummer living in London. She used to play with the She Creatures, has worked with Guy Chambers, and is now part of Xenomania's in-house band.
She played the drums on two of Xenomania's biggest hits in recent years: Girls Aloud's "The Promise" (plus a few more songs on Out of Control) and Alesha's "The Boy Does Nothing" (as well as "Don't Ever Let Me Go", also on The Alesha Show).
The Xenofest review from GQ magazine reads: «A bunch of impossibly young looking musicians took to the stage. It turned out they were Xenomania's house band - the grizzled old hands compared to the actual acts. The drummer, female and devastatingly blonde and pretty was 19 years old. Many of the assembled thirty-something music hacks shuffled uncomfortably, and talked about it being time to change career.»
You can watch several videos of Florrie's drumming on YouTube.
JASON RESCH (guitar) and KIERAN JONES (bass)
Jason Resch (20, guitar) and Kieran Jones (19, bass) are two Australian musicians who used to play together in a heavy rock band. They caught the eye of Brian Higgins while playing a gig in Melbourne and then moved to England to work with Xenomania.
Jason and Kieran co-wrote Girls Aloud's #1 hit "The Promise", which won the award for Best British Single at this year's BRIT Awards.
They've also played on most of Xenomania's recent output, including Gabriella Cilmi, Alesha Dixon, Girls Aloud and Pet Shop Boys.
Pet Shop Boys often talk about them in recent interviews - they're usually referred to as the "young Australian guys" who play bass & guitar in Xenomania's attic.
"Beautiful People", a song from Pet Shop Boys' latest album Yes, started out as a folky ballad and was later completely transformed by Kieran and Jason. Neil Tennant said in an interview: «The guys from Xenomania put a 60s beat on it and that made it much more powerful than it was - very catchy.»
Pet Shop Boys launched their Pandemonium tour in Britain last week, playing sold out dates in Manchester and London. The tour was conceived by Es Devlin, with musical arrangements by Stuart Price and Pet Shop Boys, and Pete Gleadall as the musical director.
The show includes Pet Shop Boys' greatest hits as well as six songs from their latest album Yes, which was produced by Xenomania. Watch Pet Shop Boys performing the songs from Yes:
Reviews of the tour confirm that the Xenomania-produced material sits "more than comfortably" with the old classics. The Independent even notes that, ironically, «it took a load of outsiders to make Tennant and Lowe sound like themselves». Dave Simpson from The Guardian also writes:
«[Pet Shop Boys'] formula - and formidable quality control - has barely wavered: hearing tracks such as 1984 debut West End Girls alongside the likes of Love etc from recent album Yes, it's impossible to tell which are the old songs and which are new. This is disposable pop and yet, stripped down, the melodies of the likes of Being Boring are worthy of comparison with Porter or Gershwin.»
Pet Shop Boys will continue to tour around Europe and North America until the end of the year. Check their website for full dates.
Kylie Minogue is set to work with Xenomania on her 11th studio album.
A "source" told The Sun: «Kylie has been a huge fan of Xenomania for ages. With the girls [Girls Aloud] off pursuing solo plans before their next album, she feels the time is right to work with the team who provided them with such staggering success.» They added: «Kylie wants to come back with a bang. Her last album, X, sold quite well but it wasn't the triumphant return to form many people hoped for. By working with Xenomania she hopes she can create a really coherent album which will connect her right back to the pop market.»
The Sun reports that Kylie has already laid down a few tracks - one of them, "Better Than Today", is described as an «awesome, Scissor Sisters-style tune». Xenomania have reportedly been asked to come up with another six songs, which she will start recording soon.
The remainder of the album will be penned by songwriter Nerina Pallot. Other artists rumoured to be linked to Kylie's 11th studio album include Paula Abdul, Kara DioGuardi and Frankmusik.
The video for Vagabond's new single "Don't Wanna Run No More" was directed by Paul Minor (who also shot "Sweat (Until The Morning"). The single will be out on August 3rd.
Meanwhile, Vagabond are launching a "Vagabond Unplugged" season, where the band will be recording a series of acoustic covers voted by the fans. First up, they've recorded a version of "Beggin'", the Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons' 1967 classic (recently remixed by Pilooski and then covered by Madcon). Watch it here.
These are the choices for their next cover version:
The Killers - When You Were Young Jackson 5- Who’s Loving You U2- Still Haven't Found What I’m Looking For Kings of Leon - Fans White Lies - Unfinished Business
-- The "Sweat (Until The Morning)" digital EP is now available on iTunes. You can buy it for £1.99. This is the tracklisting:
1. Sweat (Until The Morning) 2. Sweat (Until The Morning) (Filthy Dukes remix) 3. Sweat (Until The Morning) (Quiet Village remix) 4. Sweat (Until The Morning) (Toddla T remix) 5. Sweat (Until The Morning) (video)
Vagabond's next single "Don't Wanna Run No More" has been remixed by Bimbo Jones and is already receiving radio airplay on Jo Whiley's show. The single will be released on 3rd August.
-- Vagabond have a guest blog post on sharemyplaylists.com. They talk about Motown and say that while they were finishing their record they were re-visiting the Motown hits of the '60s. They point out that one of the main attractions to Motown is «the combination of great pop music with a highly recognizable sound»: «You can easily recognise a motown track when it comes on, often because it begins with one of the classic Motown drum fills i.e ‘Aint Too Proud to Beg’ This is something we wanted to employ in our music. We wanted people to hear a track on the radio and instantly know it’s a Vagabond track! not only that but we wanted to have great pop songs for people to sing along to, hopefully for as long as people have been singing along to this Motown classics.»
-- Vagabond are supporting The Script live tonight. They also have a few dates with McFly and James Morrison, their own headline shows and they're playing the summer festivals. Check their MySpace for details.
-- Read a few recent Vagabond reviews from the press:
«Vagabond have their own distinctive sound which is funk filtered through soul with a shot of morning after Jack Daniel’s gruff thrown into the blend. Their performance encompasses funk, soul, pop, blues, and some guitar riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on a White Stripes record. These guys certainly are eclectic.» 247 Magazine
«The single, and generally most of the songs on the set list, seemed to have quite a powerful rhythmic American 70s pop rock tempo which frequently reminded me of Suzi Quatro’s ‘Can the Can’ and at times (this isn’t a critism) of Gary Glitter’s ‘Hello, Hello’. However, when this is washed with Alex’s large smooth vocal, Vagabond are transformed into a more digestible band for those that like traditional Rn’B and soul.» For The Record
«If there is a band this year that should be given the title of most instantly addictive then it should be Vagabond without a doubt. (...) The energy and charisma [Alex Vargas] expels live on stage is admirable. He owns the crowd, with vocals that are spot on, a raw talent that would breathe a breath of fresh air into our sometimes monotone charts. (...) The climax of the set arrives in the form of crowd pleaser ‘I’ve Been Wanting You’, with its “Wooooooooahh” choruses that ooze energy and feel good vibes. We just cannot get enough of this track and by the crowd reaction tonight neither can they. The crowd is well and truly under the spell of Vargas and he is thriving from the attention, giving one of his best performances to date. The song progresses, continuing to build and there is not one person in the room tonight who isn’t dancing.» Muso's Guide
This is the second in a series of posts where we'll take a closer look at the musicians/songwriters that have worked with Xenomania, focusing on what they do outside the team.
Sacha Collisson is a British producer/ keyboardist/ guitarist who is working with Xenomania and is known for being a member of electronic music group Aurora. He gained early production experience working with Phil Manzanera and touring with the Roxy Music band. His new Unclubbed album project, featuring various artists performing acoustic club classics, is released in August.
Collisson was originally signed to EMI in the mid 1990s and went on to produce and remix records under various guises, most notably Aurora (along with fellow keyboardist Simon Greenaway). Before adopting the Aurora moniker, the pair had worked together as Think Twice, remixing tracks and collaborating with David Arnold on the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.
Aurora had their mainstream breakthrough in 2000, with the release of a dance-oriented version of Duran Duran's "Ordinary World", which reached the top 5 in the UK. Their self-titled album was released in 2002, mixing adult contemporary sounds inside dance music.
Sacha Collisson produced records for Hoxton Whores, Stereo Scum, Disco Darlings and X1, participated in several projects (including Dive, Armin van Buuren, Kush and The Click), and has done session guitar work for Siobhan Donaghy and Daniel Bedingfield. He is now working on various projects with Xenomania - he recently appeared playing guitar and keyboards/programming in several Girls Aloud songs, as well as a few Pet Shop Boys and Alesha Dixon ones.
His new Unclubbed album project is out in August. Unclubbed is a collection of stripped back, acoustic covers of classic house tracks. The songs were deconstructed and then rebuilt, bringing out their timeless qualities hiding beneath the club beats.
The concept was born from a session with Sacha Collisson and John Fitz. The album features covers of hits like Moloko's "Sing It Back", Deee-Lite’s "Groove Is In The Heart", "Missing" by Everything But The Girl, "You Don't Know Me" by Armand Van Helden, iiO's "Rapture", "Touch Me" by Rui Da Silva, and many more. The songs are re-sung, rearranged and reinvented, performed by vocalists such as Katherine Ellis, Abigail Bailey, Rosie Gaines, Roachford, Sam Obernik, Sweet Female Attitude and more.
Unclubbed includes 14 covers, a few original interludes and a version of Sacha Collisson's own track "Mezmerized". You can stream the album here.
Alesha Dixon's official website announces that she is currently working on her new album along with pop production house Xenomania.
Alesha has previously worked with Xenomania. Their first collaboration was the 2006 single "Knockdown". Last year, Xenomania also contributed with eight songs for her second album The Alesha Show.
The official first single from the album, the Xenomania-produced "The Boy Does Nothing", became her first solo top ten hit on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number 5 and spending over three months in the UK Top 40.
"The Boy Does Nothing" has also charted in other countries, reaching number 1 in Spain, number 2 in France, Finland, Hungary and Luxembourg; number 3 in Norway and Turkey and number 4 in the Czech Republic.
Jessie Malakouti's new single, "Standing Up For The Lonely", is the "Song Of The Day" on Popjustice.
Popjustice describes the song as «a defiant modern disco record with a slightly mournful, triumph-over-adversity element»:
«Xenomania-backed solo popstrel - and former member of defunct LA trio Shut Up Stella - Jessie Malakouti is currently on tour with The Saturdays ahead of a big bells and whistles-type launch in the coming months.
Depending on which Jessie song you're listening to her voice is a bit like late-80s Madonna, a bit like early-90s Kylie and/or a bit like mid-2000s Gwen and the singer 'has what it takes' to be a popstar in a way most buffoons thrown out onto a stage kind of don't. They used to call it 'x-factor' but now we are not allowed to mention that phrase because it makes people think of Louis Walsh's stupid face.
'Standing Up For The Lonely' is a defiant modern disco record with a slightly mournful, triumph-over-adversity element that's filtered its way through everything from 'I Will Survive' to, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, Cher's 'Believe'. It's the lead track on a megamix sampler thing you can download from Jessie's website - it also features a bit of 'Crash Bang Baby' and various other hits-to-be.»
Jessie Malakouti is currently on a UK tour supporting The Saturdays. These are the remaining dates of the tour:
June 16 The Hexagon, Reading. June 17 Cliff Pavillions, Southend. June 20 Civic Hall, Wolverhampton. June 25 Brighton Dome, Brighton.
Mini Viva will be doing a few dates as a support act on The Saturdays Work Tour. Jessie Malakouti, Vagabond and Pixie Lott are currently the opening acts.
These are Mini Viva's upcoming shows with The Saturdays:
27 Jun Sheffield City Hall 28 Jun Leicester De Montfort 29 Jun Liverpool Empire 1 Jul Plymouth Pavillions 2 Jul Swindon Oasis Centre 3 Jul Cardiff CIA 5 Jul Grimsby Auditorium 6 Jul Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Mini Viva recently shot their first video for the single "I Left My Heart In Tokyo". The video was directed by Ray Kay, who also did Lady Gaga's "Poker Face", Jamelia's "Beware Of The Dog", "Soldier" by Destiny's Child, among many others.
The Guardian published an article about new girl acts. Mini Viva were included:
Looked after by the UK's premier hit machine Xenomania (Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys) and billing themselves as "neat beats and musical treats". Older readers will think teenagers Frankee Connolly and Britt Love, launched with some low-key gigs earlier this year, remind them of 80s protogirl power types Mel & Kim. They wouldn't be wrong. Recently signed to Universal via Geffen Records, with debut single due later this year.
NME blogger/journalist Jaimie Hodgson has written a glowing review of Xenofest 2009, naming it «the bestestest festival in the history of everything» and saying that it «pretty much trouble-shot everything wrong with festivals»:
«Way too many people? Sorted, just invite about 40. Horrendously over-priced rat liver burgers? No fanks, what about free-for-all gastro-pub style BBQ? Yes please. Similarly priced piss-warm Carling? How about an endless stream of Moet and an eternal Pimms O’Clock? That’d do nicely. Shit-spurting WC fountains, nah, more like the kind of portaloos that with a welcome mat plonked outside you’d happily settle down in for a few months in between houses. Brain-burningly dreary bill-filling warm-up bands? Gimme a round of purest distilled chart-bound fist-pumping pop glory any day.»
Jaimie Hodgson picks Mini Viva as his favourite Xeno Fest performance:
«My favourite were Mini Viva, who’re kind of like a two-piece gym-treadmill adrenalized Sugarbabes, riding that unmistakable trademark Xeno splurge of pretty much every twist and turn music has taken in the whole history of everything ever crammed into each and every note. Very soon you’re not going to be able to step out your front door without being mule-kicked by their sparkly high-top Nike blazers. Their debut single is called ‘Left My Heart In Tokyo’ and if it doesn’t go top five then I’ll staple foreskin to the office copy of the N-Dubz album. The fact that they’re supporting the Saturdays on tour is pretty comedy, invoking thunder-stealing memories of Klaxons supporting Shitdisco, Fratellis with the Horrors on first, and so on. It’s a shame they don’t have the proper single version up on the Myspace yet, but worry not you’ll hear it soon. It’s gonna be bigger than air and, erm, love.»
He's also posted a few pictures of Xenomania's back garden. Stop, look and admire:
And of course that there's never too many pictures of the Xenomania ducks:
Earlier this year, Bob Stanley from Saint Etienne said that he would offer a unique Saint Etienne CD to everyone who would help him fill the holes in his "Now That's What I Call Music!" CD collection.
The collection is now complete, and Bob has sent a special Saint Etienne EP called "Now 4" to everyone who's tracked down the missing NOW CDs.
The EP is signed and limited to 72 copies and includes 4 tracks: "Gotta Jump" (an unreleased mix of the Xenomania-produced "Got A Job"), "Back To 95", "Like A Motorway" and the Matt Dixon/Simon Li mix of "Soft Like Me".
Here's the tracklist with liner notes written by Bob Stanley:
1) Gotta Jump (Xenomania/Cracknell/Stanley/Wiggs) 2005 / 3.02 "This ended up as the b side of Side Streets - except it was the wrong mix (a demo) and had the wrong title (bad phone line). So here is the finished Xenomania recording for the first time. An attempt to get inside the mind of a snotty teenager, dozens of whom lurked in the Xenomania foyer, sniggering when we walked in"
Listen to "Gotta Jump":
2) Back to '95 (Quinones/Stanley/Wiggs) 1995 / 6.46 "The start of 1995 was soundtracked by Baby D's Let Me Be Your Fantasy and N Trance's Set You Free, which promised a year of top atmos-breakbeat pop. It didn't quite materialise, but we were so enthused that we recorded this tribute to the modern world with Vanessa from Espiritu. It's hard to imagine the tempo changes working, in retrospect, but I wish we'd pressed a few white labels. Within five years, there was a club in London called Back to '95. So it wasn't just us, then. Sadly - or wisely - we didn't have a crack at UK Garage in 2000, much as we loved Re Rewind, Sweet Like Chocolate, Flowers etc."
3) Like a Motorway [Japanese Version] (Stanley/Wiggs) 1994 / 5.47 "It seemed like a good idea, for our Japanese tour of December '94, to press a one track CD to give away at the shows. What better than to sing in Japanese? France Gall did it, after all. It was pointed out to us, by the means of blanket silence, that our hosts might think we were poking fun. So it was shelved, sweet but entirely useless."
4) Soft Like Me [Li Dixon Red Corner Remix] (Cracknell/Stanley/Wiggs/George) 2002 / 7.52 "When Soft Like Me was given an appropriately soft release by Mantra, the 12" was scrapped. Which meant no home for this mix of our potentially advert-soundtracking, Home Counties G-Funk classic. Matt Dixon has since become a major cog in Xenomania's smooth machinery. His ambition is to produce a duet between Kimberley Walsh and Fernando Torres."
The inaugural Xenofest - a mini festival/garden party to showcase six of the acts signed to Xenomania Records - was held last Friday. The Xenomania mansion was open to receive journalists, PRs and record company people.
GQ describes the Xenofest as a "hit", adding that "pop music 2009/2010 is safe" in Brian Higgins' hands. Journalist Johnny Davis writes: «Xenomania's A&R girl had spent the last 18 months globe-trotting for talent - and their roster now included a throaty funk band, two Eighties-indebted indie-pop boys and a LA singer who'll give Pink a run for her money in the hair 'em, scare 'em stakes. Higgins himself stalked the garden in a zipped-up leather jacket, looking like a cross between Mark Fowler down the EastEnders market and an over-enthusiastic teenager.» Read the complete article ("Inside the hit factory") here.
Performing at the Xenofest were Mini Viva, Nightvisions, Pageboy, Vagabond, Alex Gardner and Jessie Malakouti. Read a few reviews:
-- MINI VIVA GQ: «two girls who share a Manchester flat together, whose future disco single "Left My Heart In Tokyo" sounded irresistible» This Must Be Pop: «I'd only heard the remixes that are on their MySpace before this, so I was hugely impressed with the proper songs. (...) Everyone was singing along when they played the studio version just after the performance, and most of us had only heard it once before.»
-- NITEVISIONS (aka The Electric City part 2) GQ: «euphoric electro-pop was so perfectly reminiscent of the Eighties someone joked they could have been Duran Duran's children - which, indeed, it turned out they were (the sons of Taylors John and Andy; Simon Le Bon's nephew was briefly on drums but was dismissed after being found to be "crap")» This Must Be Pop: «A male electro-pop band who were compared by audience members to Veto Silver and Phixx, but everyone agreed that Night Vision weren't as good as either of those bands. They easily got the least positive reaction of the night.»
-- VAGABOND GQ: «throaty funk band» This Must Be Pop: «I was surprised that they didn't do their current single, which is doing quite well and has grown on me quite a lot. They made up for it with good hair, and I can see them being one of the more successful of the Xenomania acts, but I could also see them being a big flop. Only time will tell!»
-- PAGEBOY GQ: «singer Brooke Gengras was discovered fronting all-female Led Zeppelin tribute act Lez Zeppelin in a New York bar and was just as brilliant a performer as that description would lead you to believe.» This Must Be Pop: «She's different to the other artists Xenomania has worked with, more of a singer-songwriter who might appeal to fans of Feist or Regina Spektor, but of course she's adding a Xenomania twist which will give her an edge over other similar acts.»
-- ALEX GARDNER This Must Be Pop: «A very young Scottish singer who seems like he could make a good popstar and is apparently high priority at the record label, but I didn't think any of his songs were especially good. I hope they'll find him something better to release, or he'll just be another in the track record of Scottish male popstars with disasterous careers. »
-- JESSIE MALAKOUTI GQ: «a LA singer who'll give Pink a run for her money in the hair 'em, scare 'em stakes». This Must Be Pop: «(...) the new stuff is excellent and apparently she's releasing a song through the Ministry of Sound label, which may be a good approach to take. She's gone from a Britney sound to a one-girl Girls Aloud, and I'm fine with that.» Popjustice: «Jessie is destined for quite big things - her tunes are pretty incredible and she's currently on tour with The Saturdays.» Jessie Malakouti is supporting The Saturdays on tour. Tonight is her first night.
GQ magazine writes that Brian Higgins is «notoriously exacting»: «you either work his way, or you're packed off on the train back to Victoria. Franz Ferdinand failed to see things his way for their recent album and went home with their tails between their legs (and a resulting album that dropped off the edge of the Top 40 pronto), and he'll neither confirm nor deny the rumours he once reduced Victoria Beckham to tears.»
«He expects his charges to put in long hours; something that doesn't always work with pop stars' schedules/egos and is the antithesis of producers like Pharrell Williams, who pride themselves in being able to knock out a Beenie Man b-side in an afternoon. "I can give Kylie a Top Five record in an afternoon," he once told me. "But what's the point in that?"»
«(...) Higgins' home is practically a stately home. It's certainly a house, a very big house, in the country. There's a swimming pool, ducks wandering past in the garden, rolling acres of greenery. Alice Liddell, on whom Lewis Carroll based Alice from Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, used to live there. (Higgins recently sold the Bentley, but that just left more room for the fleet of private reg cars on the gravel drive.)»
"Pop's coolest record label ever" (GQ) "With an overload of hooks and enough background detail to keep geeks Enthralled, Xenomania's work is the pure, uncut Pop rush" (New York Magazine) "... the future of British pop is being shaped by Brian Higgins - a Phil Spector for the 21st Century" (The Sunday Observer) "One of the countries biggest hit factories" (BBC News)
Vagabond's debut single "Sweat (Until The Morning)" will be available to download for free from 11th June. Click here to register and you will be sent a link to download the song from iTunes.
"Sweat (Until The Morning)" will also be available to buy in a digital bundle with remixes by Filthy Dukes, Toddla T, Quiet Village and the official video for the song.
Fan-favourite "Don't Wanna Run No More" will be the second single, out on 3rd August. Vagabond are in San Francisco right now shooting the video. Their debut album, You Don't Know The Half Of It, will be released on 17th August. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.
Vagabond will be performing at both legs of this year's V Festival, playing the Staffordshire site on August 22nd and then heading down to Chelmsford, Essex, on the 23rd. They are also confirmed to play at Glastonbury and T in the Park. Click here for a full list of upcoming gigs.
Xenomania is a songwriting and production house based in Kent, England. It was founded by songwriter and producer Brian Higgins.
Since 1996, Xenomania have written, produced and remixed tracks for a string of successful artists including Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys, Sugababes, Dannii and Kylie Minogue, Saint Etienne, Cher, Gabriella Cilmi and many others.