A Carnival of Sorts: An R.E.M. covers compilation by Various Artists is out today, we are outlining who the artists are behind the covers and why they chose the R.E.M. tracks.
The entire album is now available to purchase for a very reasonable £6 on Bandcamp and all profits will go to Help Musicians (www.helpmusicians.org.uk) who have done great work especially over the last few years funding musicians when they couldn’t tour due to the pandemic.
The eclectic 40 strong tracklist was mostly recorded for this project, featuring artists from across the globe, from Wales, Athens, London, Edinburgh, Sweden, Japan, Australia and beyond – each act taking on R.E.M. in their own distinct styles, affectionately paying tribute to one of the most important alternative rock bands of our era.
11. GodNo! – Moral Kiosk
Pete Darrington, half of Reckless Yes and bassist from Cable – who were signed to Infectious in the ’90s alongside Ash – pulled the band together having seen the amazing artists we work with at the label. The sound returns to his musical roots and will delight anyone who loved
Cable. More broadly GodNo! is for fans of Sonic Youth, Slint, Huggy Bear, and Cardiacs.
Pete Darrington says: “We’d be the first to admit that R.E.M. had never really been in any of our wheel houses, so we all only really knew ‘the hits’. But that’s what made it a more fun challenge for us – we weren’t going to butcher something everyone would know and we wanted to find something that we thought would translate into the GodNo! style. We all agreed to start right at the very beginning of their career and start looking there. What we hadn’t expected was just how punk rock that first album actually is – in its approach to song structure and recording – Murmur is raw, live sounding and full of attitude. We all listened to a band that were discovering how they were going to sound and when you put that in context of their legacy, that felt cool – peering through a window in time at this fledgling band that would become legendary. We got to Moral Kiosk, Shelley wanted to sing it immediately and that slightly dissonant E sus 4 chord repeating at that start just felt like something I’d write, so it just felt like home immediately.”
The band can be found on social media at:
12. Good Grief – Let Me In
Good Grief are a three-piece from Liverpool, playing music you could cheerfully label as indie rock, punk or power pop if you really wanted to. Currently awaiting the release of their debut album, they’re currently at work writing a follow-up and have previously released split 7”s with Eureka California and Future Virgins.
Will and Paul explain: “R.E.M.’s Monster was a really significant formative experience for us both, so it made sense to choose a song from that record. We were in a period of transition during recording, having seen our original drummer leave amicably, so this was an opportunity to focus less on pace and power like we usually do, and more on texture and mood. We spent a lot of time thinking about and layering guitars in ways we’ve not done before, leaning into the song’s melancholic aspects to produce something quite different to our usual noisy pop.
“The song was originally written as a tribute to Kurt Cobain, as Michael Stipe belatedly pleads with his friend not to seal himself off. It’s mournful and beautiful, and pulls you into its own world more than any other song on the album. Mental health is a big topic for Good Grief, so it seemed the perfect song for us to challenge ourselves. Hope we did a good job.”
13. The Crystal Furs – Bang and Blame
The Crystal Furs are a queer indie jangle pop band from Portland, Oregon, writing melodic, retro-flavored pop songs about anxiety, architecture, and lesbians. We’re comprised of lead vocalist & guitar player Steph Buchanan, keyboard player Kara Buchanan, and bass player Rowan Church. Our most recent album, Beautiful and True, is on digital/vinyl/CD from Reckless Yes.
Why we selected ‘Bang and Blame’:
“We wanted to try a Monster song because it’s a little outside of the jangly pop material we typically do. “Bang and Blame” is our collective favorite track off Monster, and as we sat with it to start work on it, we started to hear it with a little more of a torch song influence, especially vocally, so we wanted to bring out that side of the song. We wound up in this sort of torchy indie grunge pop direction, which was so much fun to do.”
14. S. T. Manville – Welcome to the Occupation
S. T. Manville is a singer-songwriter from the Midlands UK. Originally a member of “Death Pop” hooligans Blakfish, Manville went on to release under numerous monikers including FTSE and Get Hot. He has written and produced for huge artists such as Burna Boy, Little Mix, Becky Hill, Biffy Clyro, Mø and Jaykae to name a few. After some time away from the music industry he returned in 2019 with his most personal musical offerings, released under his own name. Since then Manville has clocked up over 3 Million streams, been supported by BBC Radio 1, BBC 6 Music, BBC Introducing, DIY Mag, i-d Magazine and Discovered Magazine, performed at Dot to Dot and Handmade Festival as well as supported Frank Turner. 2020 saw a sold out UK co-headline tour with Katie Malco and bookings for several UK and European festivals. With a new EP scheduled for later in the year, Manville continues to make a name for himself as one of the most promising new acts around.
“R.E.M. are one of the two bands that first made me want to play guitar. I don’t even know if it was play guitar per se, probably more likely just be in a band but I remember listening to them aged 9/10 and thinking “This is what I want to do”. My Dad had ‘Document’ and ‘Out Of Time’ and I used to sit in the lounge just listening to them on the stereo for hours. When I started playing guitar ‘The One I Love’ was one of the first things I learnt to play, albeit badly, but still. They’re a band that have grown with me throughout my life, and now that I can retrospectively contextualise them they seem even more important than ever. The effect they had on shaping so many other artists that I love is just immense. ‘Welcome To The Occupation’ was always one of my favourite tracks on ‘Document’, I love the americana / gothic undertone to the song and I’ve always been a sucker for a great vocal harmony. I hope I haven’t ruined it…”
15. Rob Britton – I Wanted to be Wrong
Rob is best known as one-fifth of London Pop Noir wonders Luxembourg, although he does a nice sideline in solo stuff too. His principal interests are jumping around on stage and watching all of the Ghostbusters films, and he has been lucky enough to make most of his adult life about both.
“R.E.M. are my absolute favourites.
I can hear my life in any number of city bands, but R.E.M. are the only ones who can speak to both that and my countryside upbringing. While I hesitate to draw too many parallels between Athens GA and Frisby-on-the-Wreake, I can hear the crop fields and big skies of the latter in great swathes of the R.E.M. back catalogue, and it always hits me like a welcome hug from the past when I hear it. So much of my visual memory is tied to Green, Automatic and Monster: Hours watching the yellow light of a gritting lorry vanish across the valley into the night, cars passing on a sunset road seen from the back seat, a six-mile walk home across the fields starting at midnight. All magical.
I was honoured to be asked to contribute to this compilation and then daunted by having to choose a song! In the end I went for I Wanted to be Wrong from Around the Sun, the album widely considered to be the band’s nadir. As the kind of fan who can find something to love in any era of R.E.M., I always wondered if the perceived failure of Around the Sun had more to do with the production, and the since-admitted confusion of the band with regards to finishing the album, than the songs themselves. With that in mind, this is my attempt to do I Wanted to be Wrong as if it was written and released by the R.E.M. of 1989. The R.E.M. of Green and Tourfilm.
It’s a noble enough ambition, anyway. I hope you like it.”
MIRI is an artist, musician, songwriter, and community activist. Recognised for her distinctive soulful vocal tone and classic British songwriting, her distinctive brand of soulful pop has been heard on various BBC radio shows along with countless independent and community stations.
While MIRI’s music weaves stories, it’s her day-to-day life that she uses for inspiration. With songs discussing political injustices and the challenges we face internally and externally, MIRI is not afraid to tackle tough subjects and shares her experiences candidly. MIRI recently spoke to John Kennedy on his X-Posure Radio X show about being one of 64 voices on LOUD WOMEN’s single ‘Reclaim These Streets’ raising money for Women’s Aid UK.
MIRI has curated, hosted and performed at a host of venues and events across the UK & Europe including Southbank Centre, 100 Club, Art Lover Ground & Sofa Sounds London, Amsterdam & Rotterdam, whilst also supporting music and mental health awareness charities and community projects.
Behind the scenes MIRI is on the BEAT Board for The Featured Artist Coalition, and is a Social Media Ambassador for The F-List, a UK directory of female and gender minority musicians.
“I chose ‘Everybody Hurts’ because I remember buying the single as a teenager. The song resonated strongly with me and provided comfort. I loved the video too. The words are timeless and universal.”
17. Man’s Body – Driver 8
With their roots deep in the Chicago and Los Angeles music scenes, Man’s Body once again bring their post-punk grit of rhythmic, grinding, yet melodic guitar rock, sprinkled and finessed with the multilayered sounds of the sweet and thought-provoking mandolin and violin. The music itself is a self-described canvas, that naturally paves the way for the seemingly effortless lyrics, which provide the rich texture of each songs journey.
Band member J. Niimi explains why they chose, ‘Driver 8’:
“Greg and I were hugely into R.E.M. as teens and college age guys. R.E.M. were amazing in and of themselves – their mysterious lyrics and moody, jangly tunage resonated with us – but they also turned us on to other bands we wouldn’t have heard otherwise, bands that opened for R.E.M. like Camper Van Beethoven, Minutemen, the dB’s, Hüsker Dü, etc. In fact, Murmur inspired me so deeply, I eventually wrote a book about it (in Bloomsbury’s acclaimed 33 1/3 series).
“Driver 8” is quintessential R.E.M.: Rickenbacker jangle, driving drums, and a wonderfully pastoral tale told from the point of view of a train conductor. Some vivid visuals – “powerlines have floaters so the airplanes won’t get snagged”. I guess this is classic rock for a certain generation. Which is to say it’s become timeles.”
18. DG Solaris – Sweetness Follows
DG Solaris is the project of musician Danny Green. Between 2010-2018, Danny released music under the name Laish, delivering four cult albums of wry, extravagantly-orchestrated chamber pop. He drummed for the hydra-headed folk behemoth, Sons of Noel & Adrian, and supported influential artists including Laura Marling, Grizzly Bear and Neil Young.
Lacing earworm hooks with affectionate lyrics, Laish songs were hallmarked with a matter-of-fact cynicism and unashamed good humour. As a performer, Danny is a rakish front man who makes the audience laugh in one song and reduces them to bittersweet tears the next.
In 2019, he made the change to DG Solaris and after a songwriting adventure across South America with his wife, Leana, came back with the psychedelic pop album, ‘Spirit Glow’ – the first as DG Solaris. The songs are explorations of kindness, freedom, medicinal psychedelia and personal grief.
Following the birth of Leana and Danny’s son, Danny has embarked on a new project, launching an intimate series of live recordings – ‘Songs from the Blue Room’ – filmed at home in his peaceful studio in South London and available on YouTube.
“Automatic for the People is my favourite R.E.M. album. The meditative acoustic tone is masterfully maintained throughout, and it is their album I am most likely to return to. Sweetness Follows, a tender and subtle song, approaching the subject of mortality and familial love, is one I felt I could do justice with the simplicity of a sparse arrangement.”
My cover of Sweetness Follows was recorded live, with a couple of small touches added.
I also filmed my recording session and I will release a ‘Songs from the Blue Room’ video of it, some time after you have released the compilation.”
19. Aderyn – Its The End Of The World as we know it(And I feel fine)
Aderyn showed she was a star with a cracking set at Wales Goes Pop this year. And her releases so far show this South Wales artist knows her way around a tune and has a voice that can cut out hooky, melodies ladled with the ups and downs of life and love.
The giddy strums and effervescent melodies of her debut single ‘Lucozade’ balanced chirpiness with a bittersweet quality of frustration with a partner. While her glistening guitars and tumbling percussion, her second single ‘Silver Screen’ was crafty, catchy, and filled to the brim with heart. A sketch of growth and relationship melodrama, young South Walian Aderyn possesses an elastic voice that teeters between hopeful and heartbroken, sailing between bittersweet and kickass.
She says “It was so fun putting together this cover of ‘Its the End of the World as we Know it’ with my band. We’ve been super focused on recording and mixing new music lately so this was a fun distraction! When it came to choosing an R.E.M track to cover this was the song that jumped out to me. After the year we’ve had of pandemic and this government, some days have felt quite apocalyptic. This song tackles those kinds of themes of feeling like the world is ending with so much energy and wit. I also love the way the lyrics are used in this song, some of them rush past you so quickly they’re almost just streams of nonsensical sound, but in a way that totally works for the subject matter of the song. I hope you enjoy my cover!”
20. Idiac – Drive feat Sarah Quirke
Idiac is Paul Banks, a graphic designer and electronic musician from Leicester. He wrote his debut album ‘Part Idiot’ during lockdown and released it in May 2021. It is currently in the top 10 albums of the year so far on ‘The World’s Greatest Ever Electronic Music Albums’ (TWGEEMA) website, and has been shortlisted for The Neutron Prize, which is God Is In The TV Zine’s answer to the annual Mercury Prize.
‘Part Idiot’ is released through Pingdiscs, and can be found at https://idiac.bandcamp.com
Paul says “Drive was the first R.E.M. single I ever bought, and I felt it lent itself well to my particular brand of melodic, alt-rock/IDM-influenced electronic music. Not being much of a singer, I enlisted the help of Sarah Quirke, formerly of acoustic duo ‘Sarah & The Ex’, whose breathy tones really brought the track to life. It was a lot of fun to cover a track by a band I’ve loved for decades, although I did experience something of a ‘systems meltdown’ whilst working on the track, so for me it’s a small miracle that it even exists!”
21. Mark Morriss – Good Advices
Lifted from Mark Morriss’ 2015 covers album, A Taste of Mark Morriss, his third solo album, released through Acid Jazz Records.
“The Taste of Mark Morriss” is a covers album which delivers an intimate insight into the Bluetones singers’ eclectic musical tastes, giving listeners an insight into the mind of one of Britain’s finest songwriters.”
Featuring covers from R.E.M. The Sisters of Mercy to Madonna, each of these 12 tracks have been picked apart and put back together again with a touch of Mark Morriss flair!