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Coves

The raw sounds of dreamy shoe-gaze band Coves take over Battersea power station

Battersea’s iconic power station is going through a bit of an identity crisis. Once a coal-powered station sitting comfortably on the south bank of the River Thames, later this year it’s going to be turned into a luxury hotel.

Until then, the huge, four-chimneyed building – pock-marked with shattered window panes, the inside raw and exposed – houses a sleek, shiny glass structure, where tonight Superdry are celebrating their 10th anniversary. Contrast doesn’t even come close.

That contrast resonates with Coves, who perform their dreamy, shoe-gazey indie in lieu of a DJ tonight, as toned catwalk models sweep across the stage. “If I had to describe the night I suppose I’d say… well, Super is a bit obvious,” says singer Beck Wood. “Energetic is good. There’s a lot of energy tonight. We’ve been here for a few hours and I haven’t got bored once. There’s loads going on. “It’s like organized chaos,” says instrumentalist John Ridgard thoughtfully.

Fashion and music aren’t total strangers, nor are Coves to the idea of fashion and style; Beck studied fashion at university, even having her work featured at London Graduate Fashion Week – but grew tired of the industry and dropped out to pursue music photography instead.

“Then me and John were out drinking and we decided to be in a band,” she says. “It was one of the best decisions we made.”

“It’s a continuing theme; we haven’t recorded any of the songs on the album without at least a bottle of wine. We’ve kept the drunk theme going,” John says proudly.

Coves’ signature sound – a kind of lethargic-chic that turns savage and sweet in tight turns – should feel out of place in the glassy castle within Battersea’s ruins, but taking to the stage in the brand’s latest premium collaboration with contemporary British tailor, Timothy Everest’s moddish, tailored jackets and brogue-boots gives the band a kind of sophistication that takes them beyond their two years together.

In much the same vein music and fashion sit comfy, so does music to Battersea; the station has been featured (and popularized) by The Beatles, Pink Floyd and, er, Take That, who rowed past it in their video for The Flood.

“I was reading up on it the other day,” John said. “Battersea Power Station has one of the best Wikipedia pages ever. The first thing I said when we got here was ‘Did you know this is the biggest red brick building in Europe?’ and [Beck] said ‘No, it’s the biggest brick building in Europe. Full. Stop.”

Superdry founder James Holder calls the band ‘raw and exciting’ earlier in the evening. “They’re a rare talent, they’re doing a great job representing British music at the moment and we’re thrilled to have them with us tonight.”

And for Coves, the venue has stood out as one of the most iconic venues they’ve taken their music. But where will they go from here.

“Maybe the top of the shard,” Becky says wistfully.

“Or failing that, we could play some tunes on the District Line,” John says, before the band button up their blazers and take to the stage.

“Everything I do is a contrast,” says Scandi-pop star-in-training MØ. “I like the solitary nature of being on my own but then I really like working in the studio with people too.’

The girl formerly known as Karen Marie Ørsted is Skyping us from her childhood bedroom, where she’s recording the vocals for her debut album.

A soundproof vocal booth has been constructed by taping bedsheets up against the ceiling, teepee-style. It’s a fitting environment for the 25-year-old’s icy tales of adolescence, heartache, love and self-identity to crystallise within.

The fragmented, glitchy audio of her singles “Pilgrim” and “Waste of Time” gives her a fragile and precious songs a defiant toughness.

“With Waste Of Time, I heard the beat and remember thinking it was this combination of aggressive and energetic, then something cold and silent,” she explains. “Like two poles, or two forces, so I wanted the vocals to be the same. Very soft, but very aggressive.”

The song’s video splices a series of images together by an ominous theme: a chainsaw ripping through wood, a chair bursting into flames, a grass snake rearing its head, ready to strike.

The dream world also plays a pivotal role in her song-writing process. “I just wrote a song that’s about a break-up, and there’s a house. Inside the house is all the chaos, and outside, in the garden, lies the calmness.” She pauses, catching her breath. “Then things get mixed up, and the chaos comes inside, infecting the calmness. And that reflects the relationship between the two people inside.”

MØ’s debut album will be released later in the year. She promises it will be a snapshot of love and the journey to become and find oneself.

“As a teenager, you're as close to being a psychopath as you'll ever be. Focused on yourself, on your own emotions. Even when you get older you’re always searching for something more; we’re made that way. Always looking for validation towards what we’re feeling.”

 

ESQUIRE

Here are a few of the TV/Culture pieces I’ve written for Esquire:

Seven Acts You Need To Check Out At Glastonbury
Whether you’re new to Glasto or just want to avoid Mumford & Sons, we look at the best acts you’re less likely to have heard of

Breaking Bad: The Greatest Moments So Far
The most dramatic, suspenseful, heart-stopping moments so far in Breaking Bad; includes spoilers [obviously]

The Best On-Screen Orgasms
(Or, why Hollywood has a problem faking it)

Frank Ocean’s Most Stylish Moments
As the grammy-winner prepares to play in the UK this week, Esquire rounds up Frank Ocean’s most stylish moments

Empire State Of Mind: A Look At Jay-Z’s More Unusual Business Ventures
From his own brand of cognac to his own official colour, we look at Jay-Z’s more unusual investments

How To Wear A Harrington Jacket (Without Looking Like Chris Huhne)
Chris Huhne may have damaged the rep of this season’s essential jacket, but hope is not lost

What To Pack In Your Holiday Washbag
Light, multi-purpose items that are ideal for tidying up on vacation this summer

Esquire’s Summer Footwear Guide
Without A Flip Flop In Sight


© Makoto Yamawaki

First published in Scout London in May 2012.

At times, art can feel a little intimidating – especially for those without formal art education. The prospect of doing one’s homework before attending the latest must-see exhibition can be somewhat off-putting.

But the new exhibition at the Barbican, Bauhaus: Art As Life, will look at the history and innovation behind one of modern art’s biggest cultural movements in a way which goes beyond displaying the work.

The exhibition – the largest of its kind for 40 years – is a celebration of the diversity behind the 14-year life span of Bauhaus, with photography, sculptures, theatre and installations. Curator, Catherine Ince says that this multi-disciplinary aspect was what made Bauhaus so popular.

“What we tried to do with this exhibition was rather than paint a picture of the Bauhaus, we looked at the art school, what they made; what they worked on, the parties they had, the lifestyle, the relationships forged,” she tells Scout London.

“We weaved all the different things such as ceramics, furniture, photography and stagework together, because at the time, Bauhaus was a lifestyle.”

Staatliches Bauhaus was an art school in Germany, known for its marriage of fine art- and craft-work. After the German monarchy collapsed following the First World War, a new wave of expressionism grew from that which had formerly been suppressed. Young creatives, embracing radical aesthetics and new, exciting designs, rose to the forefront of architecture and art.

“People returned to appreciating art as a craft,” Ince explains. “And they appreciated the skill in the art.”

The exhibition will offer a unique insight into the Bauhaus lifestyle. Kite flying, for example, was incredibly popular and will be offered to Barbican visitors. There will also be costume parties, in recognition of the movement’s renown for flair and decadence.

“They were incredibly flamboyant,” says Ince. “But also thrifty; people would make a costume entirely out of plates and frying pans.

“We’re holding a costume workshop as part of the exhibit and Fred Butler, one of Lady Gaga’s designers, will be attending. It’s going to be really exciting.”

Bauhaus: Art As Life looks set to be an incredibly multi-dimensional exhibition; if you’re interested in discussions and talks, there are plenty on offer, with Peter Fischli offering an exciting insight into  his childhood with his father, Hans – a trained Bauhaus artist.

The movement’s cultural impact on London can be seen in a number of spots around London.. Notably, the Isokon Building on Lawn Road, Hampstead, which was built between 1933 and 1943 and is now considered one of the most architecturally significant buildings in the UK thanks to its Grade I Listed status. Premier crime novelist, Agatha Christie lived there during the 40s, apparently.

If you’d rather get out and see examples of the movement for yourself, the Social Housing and Bauhaus walk lets you see buildings inspired by Bauhaus throughout the city, specifically Golden Lane, Spa Green and the Finsbury Estates.

“I suppose it was the first modern artform,” says Ince. “They tried to unleash the individual’s creativity, and as constructivism gained ground, that started becoming more influential, too. Art aligned with industry, and in terms of creative education, Bauhaus was fundamental. People would go on to specialise their craft after learning about it.

“You could see it around you, you realise it’s influenced things around us like schools, buildings and furniture. It’s going to be a really exciting exhibit.”