SEAT AT THE BACK - SCRIBBLES! ~ It's that time of year again: THE RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL in London! On now.. See you there!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Chlöe Howl - LIVE AT THE SCALA, LONDON (SEPTEMBER 2014) // 'Stoked with teenage passion, frustration and a twisted lust for life - it's a heady mix . .'

NAME: Chlöe Howl


Chlöe Howl (the parenthesis in her name was supposedly a mistake on her birth certificate!) was born in 1995 and raised in Holyport near Maidenhead, of which she says: “There's just nothing. Nothing really happens. Me and my friends don't really go anywhere. Well, now that we've all turned 18 we can go to Reading, which is half an hour away. There was nothing really – there's quite a few fields. We used to just hang out in fields.”

At the age of 10 she recorded and sold a CD of Christmas songs at school. At 11 she was filming a pilot episode of an environmentally-friendly (but not sure if the latex ears were) TV show called Trollmates. This all-singing extravaganza led Chlöe and her fellow Trollmates to tour America. She left school at 16 after signing a record deal with Columbia: "I always said I'd stay in school until something happened, so the whole time at school for me was basically a big social event!"

Three years later, a few magnificent single releases in the can (which didn't chart high - but generated an ear-splintering buzz for the upcoming first album release through Sony/ Columbia, expected to make a huge splash in the public consciousness later this year) and the stage is all set for world domination by a red-haired, freckle-dusted, 19 year old indie pop star.

Chlöe Howl is about to go massive. Our verdict: No Rumour!



Paper Heart
Director: James Copeman, Choreographer: Del Mak
The music video for this track starts off quietly, with a young couple (the 'girlfriend' played by Chloe herself - of course) walking in the park before being joined by: a strutting gang of girls waving the slogan 'It's Not Me - It's You' on flags; a bunch of teenage zombies; fake donkey poo - and lots of umbrellas all round.

Featuring a POV boyfriend shot of Chloe stalking her man around a boating lake in Victoria Park, it's a vicious Dear John up close and - shot in long continuous takes - is full of surreal things happening or jumping out of the bushes at the singer on her all-singing power stroll. A few surprises go wrong - there's a tap head sliding around on an actor's face and the moment where Chlöe (and the girl in the beanie hat next to her, who reacts with a glimpse of genuine shock) can't help but nearly burst into laughter when an exploding cigarette effect of smoke and confetti works a little too well (maybe it's the director's 'Keith Moon exploding drum kit for The Who' moment!).

With stinging lyrics about quitting a dominant, one-sided relationship, this is a pulse-racing slice of dark dance electronica with a rousing, flyaway chorus.

Howl herself: “I went to Manchester to write with Joe Cross and I was in the worst mood I think I've ever been in. I feel so bad when I think about it now. I was in such a bad mood and then this really thrashy, electronic song came out of me.”


Director: Emil Nava

In which, in the video, Chlöe Howl referees a roller derby and gets revenge on a rugged cheating coach/ boyfriend (who the singer spots getting close in the dressing room with one of the young, stripy-socked team members) by picking on her rival in training sessions and persuading the rest of the team to roller derby him - up close and deadly!

A stacotto, chugging beat with a deliciously vengeful chorus about being 'mad as hell' about a boyfriend who has started being less of the loser she liked before and trying instead to be more 'like his dad', for some reason and doing stuff Chlöe 'doesn't like'. Be afraid of the roller derby, boys - it's a hotbed of seething passions and purple hot pants.

Howl herself: "I used to go into writing sessions looking at [Amy Winehouse] lyrics beforehand, so she's definitely influenced me lyrically. Me And Mr Jones, that one especially. When I realised there was a type of attitude I wanted to get across in a song, I used to listen to that song and be like 'Boom, this is how you get some balls!'"

Director: De La Muerte
This time, Howl appears in a dystopian futuristic nightmare where fate and lives are decided upon through chess games (those playing/ losing sitting at tables with black-crossed white handkerchiefs tied across their mouths). Our plucky singer, parading through a grey room full of stuffy older men dressed in: high-waisted red shorts, white socks with black books and red laces, blue teddy boy jacket, bow tie and bowler hat (this film site is now officially a fashion magazine) sets the supremely filmic scene for a final confrontation with a bearded old man who reacts angrily when Chlöe check-mates him. Others should be so lucky! If one video screams: future film star, this could be it.

The track is packed with a haunting melody and rousing chorus as Howl sings twisted lines about being kept prisoner growing up and being the subject of all kinds of perfectly rhymed naughty rumours: 'When she turned eighteen she went astray, with her brother's dealer so they say' / 'They kept her prisoner growing up, told her Jesus was enough, she's really into dirty stuff, perhaps it's just a rumour'. A song about being yourself and breaking away from provincial town pettiness - Maidenhead memories perhaps? If the futuristic sci-fi of the main video isn't your thing there's an alternative video with Chlöe popping brightly-coloured balloons. Don't be stupid - stick to the crazy weird instead!

This video is directed by self-described 'film-making trouble-makers': De La Muerte (Debbie Scanlan + Elizabeth Adams) who have also worked on freakishly dark, dangerous, dystopian music videos for artists such as Childcare and Kyla La Grange (who has a gothic-edged dinner date with a Husky for the track 'Been Better' while Childcare's video for 'Hanging on the Telephone' opens with a slow-motion close-up of male buttocks, mid-walk). One of the best De La Muerte-directed music videos is for Kyla La Grange's 'Cut Your Teeth'; a Night of the Dead-style trippy horror experience of elongated claws, sinister ceremonies and psychedelic glow-in-the-dark body paint.

Howl herself:  "[My songs] are sort of a guide book for myself. That's how Rumour came about – they were all actual rumours that were going around. I like hearing them and working out why they've happened and what's going on in the heads of all the people involved.”


No Strings
Director: Dawn Shadforth

A collaboration with Eg White, this song features some of Howl's most growling, inflected, sexed-up vocals yet. The No Strings video take the sexually-direct lyrics to their most unexpected conclusions; breaking the fourth wall we start with a casting session where young actors parade in front of Howl with name cards in a minimalist setting of a white room, follow through to a sleazily-lit club scene where everyone starts coming on to everyone else (except the one you want to be with) and ends with the cast jumping in and out of a double bed on the set - the casting mattress! Same sex, different sex, twos, threes and more combos than a branch of Subway. The lyrics talk of meeting and not having to speak: 'Don't need to talk to each other, we got codes . . but fuck your "no strings", and your "hey, I'll ring . ."'.
Either a celebration of one night stands or a warning against, there's certainly an awareness of what else you might bring home: 'With all this love you're unprotecting, I'd hate to think of what you're collecting'. No Strings is a masterpiece of bored teenage indie pop subterfuge and satire with at least some of the best superbly snide and perfectly sinful song lyrics this side of New Order: 'Don't even know if I'm the right sex - you don't even know if I'm the right sex, do ya?' and  'No strings, kinda hope I have twins', being especially memorable.

There's an alternative video for No Strings as part of a trilogy of promos (including the track Rumour) directed by De La Muerte for the Rumour EP. This has Chloe wielding a baseball bat and a big red telephone. It's that or a big double bed and frisky casting calls - you decide!

Howl herself: "I could see how sleazy this party was and everyone was just sort of hooking up in the corner. I started thinking, what is the actual thought process behind this? Why are people measuring their night out by how many people they get off with? In all the scenarios that I saw, the guy was the one in control and he was the one fucking around the girl. I just wanted to take the piss out of that culture.”

Girls and Boys

With a slow, punchy start complete with menacing Grace Jones-like vocals, this lifts into one the catchiest in Howl's catalogue. There's quite a darkness to the youth-celebrating antics and a contrast between the partying hard: 'Sun's gone down, but I'll be here until it finds me, smiles all around, everybody's hazy' to a more sinister comedown and sense of danger or risk rising up - a rave in an abandoned building perhaps that went wrong and spiralled out of control: 'Broken teeth, dancing in the shattered glass/ Tiptoe over, all the bodies that have hit the ground, there's a siren coming, around the bend'. It's either a celebration of the night and of enjoyment the chaos - or a reason to get out of there, quick.

How Proud

The strongest track in the Howl arsenal. A slow-building note of defiance to an errant lover, presumably cheating with another girl and thinking this one doesn't know: 'You make me smile when you said you're over here, you make me good when you're into her'. The chorus is the catchiest so far, lyrics melting away and becoming unrecognisable; a low howl (the only word to describe the effect) takes over as Chlöe sings: 'How proud, are you of yourself?'.

(Chloe Howl at the King's Cross Scala/ September 2014)

A blistering set from indie rockers Lisbon, starts the night off with a power chord jolt - a string of melodic guitar-led anthems to get the crowd waiting for Chlöe Howl to take to the stage in the right mood with some feverish early jostling at the front and just a little bit of swaying at the back!

LISBON - in action!

Chlöe Howl runs on stage so fast and with such pent-up energy being released (like a chunk of potassium in water at a school chemistry lab - fizzing in a beaker with nowhere to go) that even the audience are taken by surprise. There's no time for too many welcoming cheers as it's straight into a run-through of familiar tracks including Girls and Boys, No Strings and Rumour.

Earlier, fans had been promised pizza if they arrived early and the chance - at the Scala bar - to pose with a lifesize cut-out of the singer. Many were - devotedly loyal to the last - having their picture taken alongside the cardboard replica to post, as Howl asks them to do, on her Facebook page.

The labyrinth-like historic Scala felt claustrophobic; wired - and the air heavy with anticipation/ expectation. There's a lot of pressure riding on Howl's bare, muscular shoulders on a night like this: up close and personal with a fairly small crowd of the most devoted fans. She's expected to be - and on tonight's exhausting performance will be - a huge future pop star. Having grown up on a mix of her mother's Destiny's Child, her dad's The Smiths and New Order and her older sister's hip-hop records playing in the home, there's a perfect blend to Howl's best songs between electronica-soaked dance and the more spiteful side of indie rock.

This perfect (often dark) onslaught of melody is a movement that New Order perfected as ultimate fusion when they released their Technique album in 1989 (and which members of New Order have since admitted pulled the band, and record, in conflicting  directions: rock guitars and synths locked in stylish combat).

Howl's lyrics are stoked with teenage passion, frustration and a twisted lust for life, while there's a cynicism of everything and anyone matched to an unrelenting thirst for revenge (ex-boyfriends, mostly) - it's a heady mix.

All the songs played tonight have infectious melody and sharply observed lyrics; they are often direct and downbeat ('When she was eighteen she went astray, with her brother's dealer, so they say'), flirtatious or sexually - even precociously, preoccupied. Chorus's invariably soar and catch melodies that stamp an impression to the head; you could be singing these lyrics in your sleep for many nights after hearing - waking up with the words still in your head.

There's a backing band on stage that adds a raw and potent edge to the usual recorded sheen and vocals are sung live with swagger and spit. Howl interacts rarely with the audience and only really to occasionally demand energy: "Come on!" - she'll bark at the back, but lengthier talk is rare and the gig is quite short. Of course, Howl hasn't even released an album yet (her debut arrives later this year) but in a smart move, her record company have released a number of quality, heart-racing tracks full of high energy, fast hypnotic beats and spunky, off-kilter lyrics that admittedly haven't charted highly yet - but have spread significant word of mouth.

Singing in a low growl or attitude-soaked trill; there's no voice quite as distinctive or effortlessly modern as Chlöe Howl's - in the same way you know when Morrissey or Robert Smith (and Howl is equally at home being spotted raving about The Cure as she is, say, Miley Cyrus) are singing, without being told.


One of Chlöe's best tracks, a stripped-down, plaintive, deliriously seductive ballad - How Proud, doesn't get an airing, and the only really slowdown of pace (that to be honest, doesn't work that well at a showcasing gig like this one) is a Justin Timberlake cover ('Senorita' - a track she has already covered in a recording session) and that Chloe tells us is the song she likes to dance to the most at clubs. You feel - with the tough, gritty, urban swagger she's cultivated, a Justin Timberlake cover will never get the biggest cheer of the night, but at least it proves she's doing these tracks live and it's note perfect and suitably sultry if - tellingly - a little less interesting than her own stuff.


There's also a delicious version of slow burner Tomorrow's Far Away that broods with lovesick youthful urgency. It's a highlight, but clearly the lyrics - of holding hands on the way to school and boys and girls hanging out in the playground, may have felt important to the singer once, but (as Howl freely admits, introducing this one) it's all about the kind of things you feel when you're 16 (she's only a few years older now, but with all that's been happening to her since, it probably feels more like a lifetime).

Aside from this brief pause for breath, the gig sticks to the same winning formula: a whirlwind of red-headed Howl pacing up and down stage like an angry tiger ready for the kill. Dressed in a low-cut black top that expands her muscular frame she clearly has a right hook attitude and the right amount of kick-ass cool to attract those with similar swagger - but her songs are good enough to be remembered by all, whether she's ever out of fashion or always in (already No Strings has been used on the soundtrack of Kick Ass 2).

While the set is a little rushed and 'blink or you'll miss her', you get the feeling Howl won't be playing stages as small as the Scala again for long (there's an ambitious zoned-in look to her eyes already, clearly focused on world domination within, well - give it a year at most).


It'll be a shame if success stifles that early passion, unstylised cockiness, preening or earthy rebellion (Howl has said that, after growing her hair long,  her now trademark cropped cut was a reaction against the fact that other girls at school were growing their hair long too).

So I saw Chlöe Howl the week after a Kate Bush comeback gig at the Hammersmith Apollo. The excitement was kind of matched. The same expectant vibe in the air. The similar kind of magic. For a girl of nineteen without a single album to her name just yet - that's some point of impact she's making.




Chloe Howl © Big Life Management.

No comments:

Post a Comment