It’s Friday, which means it’s time for Spark’s music expert and iconic L.A. radio DJ Nic Harcourt to weigh in on what new music he’s got on repeat at the moment.
Mark Stoney: Swarm ft. Franz Von
Back in the ’00s I had the best radio gig ever, for a passionate music lover like me. I hosted a daily free-form radio show in Los Angeles called “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” I got to play whatever I wanted, and I mixed a lot of different styles of music from deep catalogs together with a lot of new and unsigned artists. The show was very successful and as a result, I got tons of music submissions from managers, agents, record labels and artists looking for airplay. Back then, pretty much everything came in on CD. At the peak we’d get 500-600 a week, and I’d listen to at least part of a song on every one. I was always more excited to get demos or self-released albums directly from artists; and back in 2006 is when I first heard the music of Mark Stoney, he had sent me a copy of his debut album “The Scene & the Unseen” released under the name Stoney. Hailing from Croydon, just outside of London, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Stoney’s first release was an eclectic collection of indie rock/pop songs that ranged from swaggering, layered rockers to delicate, acoustic laments; Drowned In Sound described it as “Like Beck and Super Furry Animals.” I liked it, played it and when I took the radio show to Austin for South by Southwest the next year, Stoney was living in town and had a band; we did a live session from the fabulous Tequilla Mocking Bird studio, which is archived here if you’d like to listen. . The man was busy while he was in Texas, he also co-founded a band named Bobby Jealousy who built a reputation in Austin as a great live band and put out two albums.
We’ve kept in touch over these past 14 years, Stoney has released two other albums; 2011’s The Soar Before and More Than Animals in 2014. Two years ago we got together in LA and he played me some new songs that he was working on and last week he sent me his new single “Swarm” which I added to this week’s playlist. Stoney describes the gestation of the song, “It was initially kinda about unity of movement, inspired by murmurations and bee swarms, how all individual denizens of the Swarm have a part to play in the bigger dance, choreographed by a higher power. A few months later, I was in LA, the week Trump got elected. I was working on the track from this high rise apartment in downtown, as swarms of protestors gathered on the streets below, and so I worked that in.”
The track sat around unfinished for a while until one day Stoney, now living back in the UK in Sheffield, played it to Franz Von (frontman/MC of UK festival favorites K.O.G & The Zongo Brigade) who came back a few hours later with a spoken word piece that took it in a new direction. The track then ended up in Austin, with producer Danny Reisch, who helped pull it all together.
And so begins a new chapter in Stoney’s career, who in fact, got sober six years ago. He freely admits to having to workshop his way back to his recording career by spending a few years writing with and producing other artists. As he says “I think I’m at the place where I’m trying to not hold expectations, but commit to creating and getting it out there & learning to show up for the work.” With “Swarm” and two more singles lined up, he’s releasing his new music under his own name: Mark Stoney. Time to stand out from a whole pack of Stoneys, as he told me “when Post Malone released an album called Stoney, it pretty much wiped my work out. My Nan kept getting notifications about my gangsta rap exploits.”
For fans of: Elbow, Travis, Beck.
Mehro: Not Alone
Mehro is at the tip of the spear of a whole slew of talented Gen Z songwriters beginning to make their mark. “Not Alone” kicks of with a bright and breezy ba, ba, ba, bouncy pop samba, which along with some pretty guitar and mandolin strumming, allowing the lyric’s to be clearly heard with Mehro’s breezy vocals. “Is this you trying to get back at me, thought I’d be consumed by jealousy, the poison you take isn’t killing me, only yourself. You can fuck my friends every day of the week, it’s not gonna help, not at all.” That’s how the song opens, fucking hell.
Drawing influences from artists such as Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, Los Angeles resident Mehro came out of the gate in 2020 with his first two singles “Perfume” and “Lightning” and caught the attention of some of the cooler indie blogs catering to the fast coming of age Gen Z, all of whom proclaimed him as an exciting artist to look out for.
As the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be meandering towards the end game, Mehro is ramping up for the next stage of his career with songs written during lockdown. A third single “Chance With You” dropped in February and now comes his Sky on Fire EP which includes the first three singles and four new tracks including “Not Alone” which is new on my playlist this week. Mehro’s a true storyteller, and he’s looking for connection as the chorus of the track shouts “This is for my humans laying in their beds alone tonight, this is for my people tortured by their thoughts until daylight, You’re not alone, You’re not alone”.
For fans of: Claud, John-Robert, Gracie Abrams, Rex Orange County