For the sixth consecutive year, we closed 2020 celebrating musical creativity and innovation: And tenacity too was a key word for a year that brought unprecedented suffering and loss during Covid – and threatened the very existence of the grassroots music scene.
The majority of work in 2020 was based in the ‘rock caravan’ – itself a ramshackle response to the first lockdown in March. Despite the huge external challenges – or perhaps in defiance to the crisis – we had our most productive and creative year for us: The most features recorded, the most new music played, the most singles premiered, two lunchtime series to help people through the long daytime hours of lockdown, a mental health series, working musician series and two three-day radio festivals involving original sets from 175 bands. As we hit November, we brought our annual awards bash forward by a few weeks – partly to give us a positive focus during the second national lockdown, and also to give us time to celebrate the winners before the year ended.
Overall more than 24,600 people had a say in our Band of the Year vote, based fully on the preferences of listeners and website followers. 188 bands that gave us time for interviews and original sessions were all in the shortlist.
A band that is the epitome of forward-looking modernity in a rock genre that too often gets consumed with nostalgia. As Sirens Fall bagged Single of the Year last year as ‘She Runs With The Wolves’ chalked up a 52-week consecutive run, smashing the record previously held by Wagons’ ‘Ratio’ which had an 18-consecutive week run back in 2016. The relentless run for ‘Wolves’ was driven by week-on-week requests from local and offline listeners as well as the social media rockers. And looking back, this was perhaps a sign of things to come.
In 2020 As Sirens Fall continued from where they left off in 2019. A run of new singles was released, each very much an event in terms of artistry and innovative visual accompaniment. A band that believes in freedom from genre labels, their music draws on an eclectic mix of influences and yet their sound, personality and direction is uniquely and emphatically their own. One has a sense there is a creative restlessness and perfectionism behind the music, but in artistic terms this is precisely what gives the band’s output a real creative edge.
During the course of 2020, As Sirens Fall won three Band of the Month votes, came second five times. And in this lies a defining point about the band’s evolution during the year – one of consistency.
In our work, we have focused a lot on the term ‘modern rock’ – as it’s time for a forward-looking agenda for the genre in the new digitised age; a time for guitar music to hold a mirror up to today’s world and for music to break new ground, appeal to a younger audience and challenge comfort areas. Given this was our discussion during the year 2020, there can be no more fitting a Band of the Year than As Sirens Fall – the people’s choice.
January – Dead Shed Jokers
February – Tarot Rats
March – Thirteen Stars
April – As Sirens Fall
May – Scarlet Rebels
June – Hells Addiction
July – The Black Lakes
August – Jack J Hutchinson
September – Twisted Illusion
October – As Sirens Fall
November – Amongst Liars
As Sirens Fall
White Raven Down
Sons of Liberty
Jack J Hutchinson
Those Damn Crows
Little Red Kings
The Big Dirty
A song that takes you back to what it felt like to live through the first national lockdown in Spring 2020. This song was a triumph in its haunting darkness and naked truth. A song that captures the anxiety, the despair, the uncertainty of one of the darkest times in living memory.
In the early months of lockdown, there was a lot of discussion about gigs being off. Copperworm and the artists that joined this project rolled their sleeves up and created music. The band worked within huge logistical limitations and none of them had even met before. Connecting online, creatives from different counties came together, shared files and created the song Desolate Days, released to support frontline workers.
The polar opposite to formulaic radio friendly rockers, Desolate Days was a song created during – and a song about – a moment in history. The song was conceived on a simple idea, but the result stands tall, presenting music as art. A song with legacy and lasting historical merit.
Desolate Days is a collaboration between Copperworm’s Peter Wolfe, Joe (Minus Cube), Nate Ratto (aka NATRAT) drums, bass and production, OP Neptune Spear, Alyasa-GK, Rap vocals, I Am Warface and Wyatt Pauley – with mixing by Sean Walker and mastering by Rachel Field.
A band that was a feature of everything we did throughout 2020 and amassed hundreds of requests. The Band featured as a Band of the Month and their 2020 album was Album of the Month.
‘Finest Ramshackle Jam’ is the equivalent of Thirteen Stars’ ‘Night at the Opera.’ It’s far more eclectic than any of the band’s previous output – and has far greater light and shade. A wide range of influences and heavy immersive rock is counterpointed by moments of tenderness and emotion.
What stood this album out from other fine shortlisted albums was the sheer number of songs that had scale impact. ‘Only a Soldier’ we played 18-months early and it’s now closed every Friday show for nearly two years. ‘Keep Calm’ was our Brexit song and then returned as one of our Covid ‘coping’ songs. Beyond that, ‘Running So Long’ became the feel-good summer song that ran and ran for months. Most good albums have one song that can have a lengthy run. ‘Finest Ramshackle’ had a whole series of them – and the length of the run was quite extraordinary. This made it a clear choice because its key songs had been on every week for the whole year.
2020 was the year with no gigs – or gigs as we had known them. During the spring and summer months, many artists innovated and found ways to perform. What often started out as Facebook kitchen gigs evolved into streamed shows, online festivals and even live session albums. It’s noteworthy that half a dozen acts that did sets for our summer radio festivals went on to release the material. It was a time for invention.
All the acts on our shortlist for this category demonstrated real passion at adapting to a global crisis. The spirit of rock n roll to endure was strong.
Jack J we chose because of his sheer work rate since the spring 2020. Beyond the social media chats and jams, he recorded an album during the first lockdown at a time when the band members couldn’t even meet up. The album was in essence a one-take recording of the planned live set for his spring tour. Jack followed this with a series of live CD recordings, live session sets, a streamed album launch concert and further work during the autumn. He also did a March session for our new station and did live sets for both our summer radio festivals.
During the year Jack was voted artist of the month and also picked as album of the month – clear signs of growing momentum.
Jack took things one step at a time and focused simply at what was possible at any given time. But looking back on the year, his work-rate and output was quite outstanding. Jack created music and shared the sound of live music at a time when people needed it most. An emphatic achievement.
Every year we take time to celebrate the local grass roots scene – the bands, the venues the retail outlets. Amongst Liars were our local champs of 2020 and, looking back, it’s hard to imagine they were only formed in 2020.
The band has released a string of benchmark singles that have each been big hits with listeners. The band has also engaged on some hugely engaging interviews building up their story. They also take time to engage with listeners and really become part of the Friday show. A band whose music is the epitome of modern rock – fresh, vital, socially relevant and forward looking.
Amongst Liars also bagged a Band of the Month during the year and in the enormous Band of the Year vote they broke into the final Top 10.
Ticks in all the boxes for a band that has a bright 2021 ahead, and hopefully this award can be a launchpad to greater things.
Heidi is a doer. No fuss, no angle – she builds bridges, enables connections and gets things done. As part of the RPM team, she had played a big part in our long-standing relationship with modern rockers Empyre as well as helping to develop other bands.
Heidi is always pleasant to deal with and she makes it easy, the way it should be.
At a time when the grassroots scene has been through a crisis, we need a lot more Heidi’s in the music scene. The problem is there is only one Heidi! She never wants the spotlight or any fuss – which is exactly why she is overdue a big thank you from everyone. A quiet hero that makes a big difference to other people’s lives.