INTERVIEW: Behold! It’s Sugarstone! The ANGEL BOYS!

© Sugarstone, 2021

By Neve Robinson

Sugarstone. The new-wave infused quartet are hot, hot, hot at the moment – and they took a moment out of their busy schedule to chat to little old me! I was fairly chuffed to say the least. Joseph O’Haire, George Miller, Brandon Calvert and Ben Wilson are aiming to change the face of the Manchester music scene one synth at a time, and by God are they going to do it. We chatted about their new single, Angel Boy, as well as the trials and tribulations of infiltrating Year 7 rock bands. Behold, the saccharine sweethearts’ wisdom, imparted…

Hello Sugarstoners, stones of sugar or sugary stones if you will. Thank you ever so much for letting me ask you some daft things. First and foremost, how long have you guys been making tunes and when did you all meet? What made you want to get into music?

(George) Joe and I have been mates for going on 7 years now, we went to school together. So I suppose it all started with that, as cliché as that may be. I actually joined the ‘Year 7 Rock Band’ without Joe’s consent, so things were a little Icey at first. But luckily we cut out the middleman (literally) and are now inseparable hehe.  We started writing properly in college, then sort of hit the ground running once we all moved to Manchester. We met Ben and Brandon at college and by second year had the line-up you now know as ‘Sugarstone’. 

You’re making quite the name for yourself as new-wavey synth revivalists. I feel like I’m listening to an amalgamation of all of my favourite eighties records but also with a modern, catchy indie-pop twist. Was this your intention with Sugarstone’s sound? Angel Boy is a bonafide Duran Duran-esque dream.

(Joe) Honestly it wasn’t! We aren’t all that interested in being pinned as one particular type of band. We just write music that we want to hear at a particular moment in time because we can’t find it anywhere else! With ‘Angel Boy’ I suppose it was written during the height of isolation and I wanted to just dance to some Peter Gabriel-esque pop with elements of EDM as we all love that too! Our next single which was written a month after ‘Angel Boy’ is a departure from a lot of our older stuff, but of course like anything our influences always seep into it.

I always like asking this, because I’m really nosey. Why the name Sugarstone? Where did it come from? Big into the name, I’m picturing a really, really big sugarcube – big enough for a swimming pool-sized brew even…

(George) ‘Sugarstone’ is a song by a band called ‘Peace’. One of my mum’s dearest friends was a good friend of the band and is actually mentioned in the song (or so he told us). He passed away in 2013. So I’d like to think the name is a bit of a tribute to him, he was great. But also, yeah, we thought it sounded cool. A lot cooler than some of the other options we’d come up with…trust me. 

So, as aforementioned. Tell us about Angel Boy. What’s it about? Talk me through the writing process…

(George) ‘Angel Boy’ is about the urge to look after someone, even if they don’t need/want it. Joe sent me over the music, and I wrote the lyrics that evening. We basically had the song you now hear pretty much straight away, with a couple of amendment made in the studio. But yeah, it’s lyrically laced with sarcasm, while at the same time being a very personal account of how I was feeling at the time. We love to ride that satirical wave, if you know what I mean

What would you say your favourite of your releases so far has been? I love Angel Boy but I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for I Wanna Be Famous. I think it’s because I wanna be.

(George) I think it would be rude (and bad marketing) to not say Angel Boy. It’s the start of a very exciting chapter for us as a band and we can’t wait to build on it when we release the next one. Although saying that, I do love ‘Tiger, Reach Out!’, its unapologetically intense and I like that. 

Who are your biggest influences? Not just musically, but in your fashion too please. You guys have got a really distinctive, snazzy look. It’s NEW New Romantic chic. I like it.

(Joe) Aw thank you! In regards to music our influences are vast and ever changing. But of course I would have to mention Duran Duran as I was bombarded with them as a child thanks to Mum. Some more contemporary influences would have to be artists such as Panther Modern from LA, De Staat from Holland, Queens Of The Stone Age and Grimes! But the list goes on and on! I would have to also mention the TV show ‘Twin Peaks’ as that has influenced me in so many ways to delve into sonic soundscapes within the music. To be honest, we don’t think about fashion all too much but we do like to match our aesthetics with the music we are releasing or making at that particular time. For instance with the release of ‘Tiger, Reach Out!’ We styled ourselves as flamboyant New Romantics and with the release of ‘Angel Boy’ we went for a kind of olden days school boy look with a hint of children’s tv presenters like Mr Maker hahah! 

Onto gigging. What have we got planned for the future of Sugarstone? Will we be able to catch you lovely lot on tour any time (fairly) soon?

(George) The future of Sugarstone is extremely bright! We’re rehearsing a lot, back in the studio next week and yeah, got some very exciting live gigs in the pipeline for once the apocalypse is over (or nearly over). 

Where do you rate the best gig you’ve ever played is?

(Ben) There are a fair few that come to mind when you ask a question like that. I think most of our fondest memories belong to The Ferret, because that’s where we really grew into the band we are now. I’ve got to give my number one spot to when we played Band On The Wall, though. We were having a string of really good gigs at the time and it was just the icing on the cake. There’s a huge stand to dance around on, the lightings great, i think they even had a smoke machine. It’s just a great setup. The crowd was what made it though, everyone was singing and dancing, I remember it being fairly full and everyone came down. That’s definitely right up there.

You’re another cracking Manchester band. We love to uplift talent based in, FACTUALLY speaking of course, the greatest city in the world. Favourite local artists?

(George) I tell you what we’ll give you one band each, so no-one feels left out. I’m going to go with SLAPRASH. Two of our closest mates, and they make great music too.  Joe’s going for Kashmere. Great lads and we’ve played some great gigs along side them. Ben’s pick is The Blinders. Not technically a ‘Manchester Band’, but too good not to mention. And finally Brandon’s pick is Working Men’s Club.  

And finally, because I am the height of professional interviewer, I’m going to end with a Snog, Marry, Avoid – this time with New Romantic legends because I can somehow see you all having a bev with the likes of Visage’s Steve Strange. SNOG, MARRY, AVOID – Boy George, Simon Le Bon, the one really fit Kemp brother from Spandau Ballet. Think it’s Martin.

(Joe) Hahahah not had to answer one of these since those early school days where you had to choose this very carefully and seriously. 

SNOG – Boy George 

MARRY – Simon Le Bon

AVOID – Martin Kemp

‘Angel Boy’ by Sugarstone is available on all good streaming platforms. Listen here:

RORY WYNNE SINGLE REVIEW: ‘Make You Mine’ Melts Even The Hardest of Hearts

© Rory Wynne, 2021

By Neve Robinson

Stockport’s self-proclaimed resident rockstar (or rather, Stockstar…no? I thought that was quite good) is back with a bang! Make You Mine has been on the airwaves for quite some time now – if you don’t know it, get to know it. This seasoned and slightly overloaded reviewer may or may not have had this on the ‘to review’ pile for a while (I sincerely hope Rory doesn’t mind about this gross negligence of mine), but it’s hopefully worth the wait. Why? Well, there isn’t much more for me to say in regards to this record other than positive poring over it – it’s a seductive, synthy sizzler of a single that dreamily oozes from one catchy hook to another. I caught myself humming the chorus as I typed out this review; while I’m sure it’s not a comparison he’s never had before, this indie-pop enigma of a single echoes the likes of Blossoms, which by many a Mancunian’s standards is quite the fabulous feat.

The blanket of lockdown bleakness has been perfectly punctured through with Make You Mine, an irresistible song that tugs at the sides of your mouth until you’re doing one of those things – what do you call them? Oh yes, smiles. Most of us have been strangers to this seldom-experienced sensation for some time given the gloom of recent months. And yet Rory raises spirits effortlessly in just over three minutes. It’s a real talent to have, that, to transform the whole fabric of one’s mornings. That’s just what this song did for me when I played it for the first time. Having been moodily cocooned in duvet domains for a large part of my morning, a decided lazy day, a quick blast of Wynne’s new winner of a track had me up, showered and ready for the day. It seems that Wynne has truly achieved his goal with the song – “The perfect tune to mark a new chapter.” It inspires a real sense of new beginnings. In a year (hopefully) not totally fraught with captivity and miserable masses. But rather, a celebration of Spring, an advent for adventures to come. The track is pure joy, plain and simple.

Is it a love song? Is it a lust song? A mixture of both, I feel. Wynne himself describes it as a “coming-of-age movie lyrically”, and indeed, this would seem an accurate assertion. It’s a bonafide Bildungsroman (look it up, it’s a mint word), a narrative journey of sorts, and I found myself feeling strangely connected to the subject matter despite having little knowledge on the trials and tribulations of love myself. Considering indie lyrics can, sometimes, fall foul to cop-out-cliches and fairly paint-by-numbers production, to have such an intriguing tale behind the words really does amplify its specialness as a track. It’s unique to many records I’ve heard of its genre – and in fairness, I think by now living in South Manchester for the past few years, I’ve heard a lot.

I think what struck me most when listening to it, was how much I longed for live gigs again. I’ve stated this on previous reviews, I’m sure, and I’m equally sure that you are bored of reading this sentiment of mine – but when one hears a song like this, the thought of being crammed in a sweaty swarm of strangers bouncing to the beat is a thought most tempting. Wynne has wowed before with his live performances on his own tour, a triumphant headline show at Liverpool’s brand new Jimmy’s, and a rowdy successful residency of heralded headline shows here in Manchester. The thought of hearing his chocolately, smooth vocals slipping their way into a crowd makes me absolutely itching to return to normality and gigs in the greatest city in the world (no bias, honest..)

I’m hoping, in excuse for my inexcusable tardiness with said review, that this will re-remind people of what a talent Rory truly is. Wynne is one to watch, there’s no doubt about that, and he only grows bigger and bigger in his creative exploits as he experiments with different instruments, genres and vocal styles. I expect furthermore releases in this enjoyable vein – I particularly enjoyed his previous single, Roses (slightly different to the Outkast one, but still properly good, promise). I can’t help but feel Tom Ogden and the gang should probably watch out. Stockport’s new indie titan looks well on his way to rethroning them as Stocky’s finest export…

‘Make You Mine’ is available on all good streaming sites. You can follow Rory on Instagram here, and Twitter here. Listen to this new single below: