(commissioned for Urbanista Magazine – 2017)
After winning the Merseyrail Sound Station prize and stealing the show at LIMF, Astles keeps the hype-train rolling with new EP Live At The Nordic. Recorded in just one afternoon, the debut offers twenty-three minutes of searching vocals, cute guitar riffs and a hell of a lot of potential.
At just eighteen, Southport singer-songwriter Dan already has a wealth of experience. Writing since his early teens and more recently soaking up the creative culture of Liverpool, he is starting to make a name for himself by playing shows, hitting the studio and running his own open mic night in Southport. He’s gone from home-made Youtube videos to recording with the likes of Michael Johnson – think Joy Division, Erasure and Soft Cell. Speaking with Dan, he says he has no plans to slow down and if the EP is anything to go by, he’s definitely one to look out for.
Never planned to be flawless, Live at The Nordic has a vulnerability, an unpolished, scars-on-show kind of attitude. The tracks flit between moments of power and of intimacy. Matched with a light-touch production and the acoustics of the Nordic Church, what is offered up is honest, raw and a perfect introduction to the rising Scouse star. In an interview with Dan – which you can read below – he names Jeff Buckley and Bon Iver as sonic influences and the similarities are clear; strong vocals, sparse production, a tendency towards the emotive.
With tracks titled such as Letters to Your Dad and Time Forgot (Joseph’s song) there is more than an ounce of the personal to Live at The Nordic. Vocals scream teenage-longing in both delivery and content, and even if the lyrics do stray slightly into cliché at times, they still ring true. Mostly written between sixteen and eighteen, the lyrics describe those pained years of first girlfriends, first drinks and first smokes. Make no mistake though, this isn’t a juvenile production. The content may stem from youth but the talent in piecing a song together seems to come from a man of more years than Dan has under his belt. It’s clear that hard graft, and plenty of it, has been put in.
Earlier tracks such as Last Bus and Her can be found dotted around the internet and are equally worth a listen. The studio-productions offer a fresh insight. There are tinges of electronica and the ambient undulating beneath a Buckley-like guitar. With such a strong back catalogue, you can’t help but feel that when an Astles’ album comes, it’s going to be special. If Dan can take the vulnerability of the live-takes into a studio production, there’s no knowing where he’ll stop.
Urbanista catch up with Astles:
Who would you name as influences for the EP / your work?
Sonically I’d say the main influences of the EP would be Elliot Smith, Bon Iver, John Marytn and Jeff Buckley. The idea behind the EP was to have something which was raw and honest and to use the beautiful space of the Nordic Church to incorporate this.
Any up-coming local bands / singers you think we should look out for?
I really feel there is something going on in Liverpool at the moment which is special. There are so many artists who inspire me. Some of the people I love in no particular order are: Thom Morecroft, Silent Cities, Eleanor Nelly, Xam Volo and Johnny Sands – all making beautiful music.
What’s in the pipeline for yourself in terms of new material?
The last EP was sort of an accumulation of the songs written over the last few years. I sort of see it as a soundtrack of me aged 16-18. The newer stuff I’ve been writing is a lot more mature and ambitious. I’m working a lot in the studio at the moment, doing a lot of writing, and I’ll definitely be releasing some studio stuff this year
Where can we come see you over the next few months?
I’m playing lots over Liverpool, including record store day at the Jacaranda, The Sound City Conference and LIMF. As well as a few out of town shows. I’m always playing, if you follow my socials you’ll be able to see where.
Favourite place for a beer in town?
The Jacaranda is where I had my first legal pint!