On a wet and windy night in Hoxton, OHO bounce onto the stage full of the joys of spring.
Fronted by naturally beautiful Parisian hippy chick Aurore, they appear to be infected by clinical happiness and exude the joy of being in a band with people you actually like. It seems fitting that their EP is called, Land of the Happy and that they first met whilst on their travels in India. One can imagine them going to gigs in a van with flowers painted on the sides, driving all night then watching the sun rise while listening to Saint Etienne, remarking on the tastiness of their service station pasties and still enjoying one anothers’ company.
It’s not natural and one day they will wake up and realise that the world is a cold and heartless place. In the meantime, they play perky twee ditties.
Their set is varied – some numbers are a bit funky, some have a reggae lilt, some are classic electronic indie, but all are united by their sense of joie de vivre. Eventually Aurore introduces a song written in anger after a falling out with a friend. Maybe she has a less sunny side to her character after all. But no, this number is also cheerful.
It’s enough to drive you to drink.
Fortunately they are followed by tortured singer songwriter, Jacko Hooper who demonstrates a clear awareness that life really is dark and painful. Unfortunately he seems to have that currently popular but slightly contrived way of singing, beloved by the Brit award-winning Ben Howards of this world. But although the vocal style grates after a while, he plays with genuine passion and there is a real cathartic and gutsy aspect to his performance which could well set him apart from similar acts.
He certainly has a following in the crowd and at the start of a couple of his songs, some of them actually tell other, more inebriated members of the audience to “shhhh”. Bravely he attempts a cover of Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and while it’s not to everyone’s taste, it does kind of work on a level and isn’t the complete travesty that one might have feared.
It seems that all those hours spent alone playing guitar in his bedroom have not been wasted. He has the potential to be very marketable and before too long a record company executive may well purchase and package his angst.
and they could
be opening for
framed by a velvet
curtain while the
audience drink pink
blow smoke rings.
There is no shortage of fashionable bands peddling vintage sounding gypsy tunes around the streets of London these days but tonight’s headliners Brighton band, Apples and Eve are a horse and painted cart in front of the rest. Their finely crafted songs have a timeless quality – close your eyes and they could be opening for Edith Piaf framed by a velvet curtain while the audience drink pink champagne and blow smoke rings. Or they could just as easily be playing on a makeshift stage under the stars at a spontaneous campfire party.
Perhaps fittingly for a band hailing from the seaside, they capture an essence of the natural world – you can almost hear the tides rising and a storm brewing over the ocean within the screeching violins, deep bass and booming drums. Singer Eva Rose loses herself in the waves of music, with effortlessly emotional vocals and a natural musicality, losing none of her passion during the songs where she also plays accordion or guitar.
Although she is undoubtedly the focal point, this is by no means a one person vehicle. Indeed the power underpinning the songs and driving them forward is unleashed through the strength of the rhythm section – drummer, Francine Perry who also contributes some harmonious backing vocals and double bassist, Lindsey Oliver who has the versatility to switch between soulful bowing and sharp plucked notes. As the violin, played by Tim Cottrel, alternates from swirling high pitched squeals to extended saddened tones, it seems to be as if a second vocal engaging in conversation with Eva, sometimes agreeing, sometimes vehemently disagreeing.
The wonderfully named Gar Rock gives his electric guitar a voice of its own, with Eva’s acoustic guitar swinging between punctuating the beats and picking out delicate melodies over the top. When she switches to the accordion, the instrument sings out tales of underworld bygone eras. Despite this complexity of instruments, the arrangements never sound cluttered, perhaps due to the aforementioned steady percussion holding it all together and the interaction between band members.
This is not merely a collection of musicians with a “sound”; this is a well-oiled carousel of distinct and memorable songs. Such a combination of song writing, technical ability and emotional connection is a rare pearl in the murky sea of gigging bands. Apples and Eve have the stardust and charisma to make their presence felt on a larger stage.
New single, “L’Homme” is one of their softer tracks. Drive into the countryside and listen to it while the wind whistles round the trees and the rain patters onto the roof of your car then feel the goosebumps.
Apples & Eve played the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen on March 13th
All photos: Carl Byron Batson