Monday, 21 March 2016

The Library Suits are playing their last ever show and I'm not crying honest

This weekend my favourite local band, The Library Suits, are playing their last ever gig at the Bassment in Chelmsford, Saturday 26th March.

I'm massively happy to be supporting them, along with Alex Fox (lad can sing), and it's going to be a cracking night. But it's also very sad to see the end of a era.

Firstly, if you've not heard anything by them, you can hear all 3 of their albums on their Soundcloud profile. But I've embedded some players so you can stay here and carry on reading.

I've played with all 4 of the boys at some point - Paul and Rich in my first band, the amazingly named Liquid Idolator (1999-2002) and Matt and Jon in that band and F451 (2003-2007).

The Library Suits started in the end of F451. We crashed and burned at the end of 2007, feeling burnt out and like we'd failed, despite having achieved a lot.

But another factor was a simple sense of "no", and "can't". The dynamic was very much me telling Matt and Jon what we were going to do; they'd stopped asking if we could do X or play Y, because I'd just say no. Even I could tell they were frustrated, but I was such a dick and so lost, I didn't know how to get out.

So, when The Library Suits burst onto the scene with bright catchy rock songs and epic choruses, it was a breath of fresh air for me, and probably hugely liberating for them. The speed of the project was impressive - rehearsing, writing and recording mini-album "Because It's Somewhere To Be" in a matter of months - and I still remember being blown away at that gig at the Two Brewers in Chelmsford, October 2008.

Since then they recorded 2 more full albums, a Christmas single, several quality videos including the hilarious "You Don't Have To Be A Wizard", played endless gigs, and even appeared on TV (the Hollyoaks Music Show, playing "Jeremy Kyle's Inner Valkyrie").

Sadly I've only seen the full band play a couple of times. After that first gig, I left for New Zealand; by the time I got back for the summer of 2013, The Library Suits had wound down and weren't playing so often. But I remember sitting up with breakfast at home in bed in Wellington, NZ, to watch the album launch for "suffer:recover" on Barhouse venue's live video stream. (Interestingly enough, they were supported that night by Mark Burnside AKA The Lemoncurd Kid; Jon now drums in The Lemoncurd Kids full band, whose album is coming out very soon - check out preview track "Pieces".)

The epic album "Destroy:Discover" is my favourite album by an unsigned band. It's one of my favourite albums full stop. Yes, I'm biased, but I dare you to listen to it and find a fault. As a British indie-rock album, it is loud, melodic and unapologetic, intelligent and playful, furious and wistful, and genuinely, honestly uplifting. The quality of the songwriting and the songs themselves is better than a lot of albums by the big, signed, famous bands they've been influenced by.

Unofficial band members include Neak Menter, an old comrade from the Essex music scene and the producer who brought The Library Suits' recordings to life, and our photographer friend Matt Pawsey who's always been there for the band (even playing Harry Potter in the Wizard video), and who's just always been there for all of us as a friend.

Most bands have a life span. Like any relationship, if you can make something good, and get out alive and still be friends, that's a success in itself. The band has wound down, Matt has now moved up north, and to be honest, 8 years is a good innings.

So there's no grand drama about The Library Suits calling it a day, no gutting sense of loss. What there is, what I feel, is the sadness that a group who have produced excellent work, won't produce excellent work any more. They'll go on to join other groups and make other amazing work (did I mention The Lemoncurd Kids?), but it won't be them.

Even with all the other local bands we've seen and met through 16 years of playing music, it's hard to think who else could write and produce loud, catchy, pop-rock anthems about maths and mathematicians like "Cantor's Infinity" and "Everything For Sale", or emotional pop hits littered with historical references like "Ten Years", or about Russian revolutionary art like "October In The Theatre", or even just the darkly epic "Every Night It's You And I".

Who else will write songs like these?

The other reason I'm sad is for selfish reasons. The roots of The Library Suits were in the dark times of the end of F451; even bearing responsibility for the atmosphere in that band, I was tired and frustrated and burnt out too.

The Library Suits represented to me the optimism of a new project, of breaking out, of making something new and positive and bright and really really good, and just going for it and achieving it.

From that first mini-album, "Long Division" is about insecurity and emotions, yet it sounds bright and upbeat and uplifting. "Modern Life Is A Speeding Bullet" is still as fresh as the day it was made.

I've already made this too much about me. Obviously I can't give any perspective from inside the band. Jon, Paul, Rich or Matt could all write their own account, but it's not their style. I just wanted to write this to tell the internet, "here they were, and they were amazing".

If you can make it to Chelmsford this Saturday 26th March 2016 to watch an amazing band bow out in style, come to the Bassment and sing your heart out.

Optional fancy dress suggestions:
  • Time vampire
  • Philosopher
  • Wizard
  • Jeremy Kyle
  • Jeremy Kyle's inner valkyrie
  • Any character from Hollyoaks circa 2009
  • Russian artist (early 20th century)
  • Noel Fielding/Julian Barratt/both
  • Imelda Marcos
  • Baseball cap & stilettos
  • Hunter S Thompson
  • Reginald Perrin/Jasper Carrott/Julian Barratt (again)
All photos by Matt Pawsey, I think.
Go see a lot more here


...and 2016:

"Ten years from now, will you remember me?"
Yes, and a lot longer.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Trangender, non-binary, pansexual, and more: Quick explanations for people who want to know more

There's an explosion of expression around gender and sexuality, and there's a lot of new or newish words being used to describe things we didn't have words for before.

So, here's some quick definitions and explanations if you need helping out.

I'd call it a "cheat sheet", but cheating implies there's some kind of "test".
The only test is, are you willing to treat people like people? If yes, you've already passed.

Cisgender (cis): You're born in a male/female body, and you're brought up male/female, and you're totally happy being male/female. Generally, most people are cis.
It's not "normal", it's just more common.

Transgender: Generally, one or more things different to the above.

  • Maybe you were born with a female body but feel very sincerely, deep down, that you're a man, or vice versa.
  • Maybe you were born with a male or female body but don't feel 100% male OR female - your gender identity is somewhere inbetween, or neither.
Being transgender doesn't just mean binary, ie. male to female (MtF) or female to male (FtM).

You don't need surgery to be transgender. Gender is different to biological/physical sex. E.g. some trans women born with a penis might be happy having a penis. They are still a woman, because genitals do not define our gender.

Non-binary: Your gender identity is not truly male or female.
Most non-binary people are transgender, because most people are brought up male or female.

Agender: You feel like you have no gender. 

Androgynous: To express (e.g. dress or act) like you have gender. Not the same as agender, asexual or non-binary.
  • Not all agender, asexual or non-binary people dress or act androgynous
  • Not all androgynous people are non-binary, asexual or agender
Genderfluid: You have different genders for different times or situations.
So, maybe you are usually a cis male, but once a month you go out to a bar as a woman - not just dressed as a woman, but actually behaving & feeling you are a woman.

Or, maybe you are usually a woman, but sometimes go out as a non-binary person.

Being genderfluid just means having more than one gender identity. It's totally okay, and it's definitely not just "dressing up".

Genderqueer: Someone who simply identifies differently to the standard binary definition of gender. Often used to specify about gender identity, and not "queer" as a sexual word meaning gay/non-straight.

Bisexual: Being attracted to men and women.

Pansexual: Being attracted to all genders.

What's the difference between bisexual and pansexual?
Bisexual means just being attracted to 2 genders, usually male and female. People can be attracted to men in one way and women in a different way.
Pansexual means being attracted to someone of any gender, including non-binary people.

Asexual: Not feeling sexual attraction at all.

Greysexual: Someone who feels sexual attraction/desire sometimes, but often doesn't. It's a pun on "asexual" but it's still a real thing.

Aromantic: Not feeling romantic attraction/love at all.

Greyromantic: Yep you guessed it, sometimes feeling romantic attraction/love, but often not.

Demiromantic: Someone who rarely feels romantic love or attraction, unless they've built an emotional connection first. It sounds very specific but it's actually very common.

Demisexual: As above, but with sexual attraction/desire.

Intersex: You're born with a body that's not 100% male or female.
This is actually much more common than people think. Parents' first question is often "is it a boy or girl?" and the answer given is usually based on whether then baby has male or female features. So, there's huge pressure on doctors and parents to have a child which is 100% one or the other - often resulting in unnecessary surgery to babies to make them physically "fully" male or female.

Femme: Someone who acts or dresses femininely. This is often used by non-binary people to describe that they lean towards femininity, but can apply to anyone who presents themselves in a feminine way, even men.

Masc: As above but acting or dressing in a masculine way.

Really, the key thing to remember is this: that there aren't just 2 giant boxes marked "male" and "female", and everyone who says something different is just being pretentious and attention-seeking.

Sex and gender are separate things, and can be as varied as human beings are.

Also remember that people experiment and change their gender - maybe it takes some time to work it out, or maybe it changes gradually through their life.

All this is off the top of my head, so if I've got anything wrong or missed anything out, let me know nicely please!