MIXTAPE: Michael McKnight, Pop Recs Ltd. | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Frankie & The Heartstrings

Words: Michael McKnight

I run a Community Interest Company in Sunderland called Pop Recs Ltd. Me and my sidekick Dave Harper have run Pop Recs for five years as well as playing in Frankie & The Heartstrings. We’re currently in the process of relocating for the third time to what will hopefully be our final home. We’ve taken over three Grade II listed buildings on High Street West where we plan to give Sunderland a cultural home it can be proud of.

Running Pop Recs and touring has given me an amazing few years working in music, which I’m grateful of every day. I love hearing new music but still find it hard not to just listen to the Velvet Underground every day. With my Mixtape I’m gonna go a bit ‘jobs for the boys and girls’ and highlight a few local artists I really love.

Roxy Girls – Dangerous Driving
Any fans of Parquet Courts, Minutemen or The Yummy Fur really need to see this band before they’re huge. They’re the most exciting thing to come out of Sunderland for years. Their debut EP instantly pricked up the ears of journos and big smoke record labels. Spiky, intelligent, idiosyncratic and still only bairns.

Rhys Patterson – A Little Lost
I’ve been sneaky and combined two things I really love: Rhys and Arthur Russell. Rhys’ version of A Little Lost showcases the song at its barest. It’s got touching lyrics and a beautiful melody, Rhys is a remarkable musician and really makes this his own. I really love his song Dogs too. It kinda reminds me of Thirteen by Big Star.

Frankie & The Heartstrings – Decency
Feels a bit weird choosing a song by my own band but Dave wrote this one so it’s more of a pat on the back for him than me. He only brought the odd song to the table when we were working on records but they were always really ace. It’s been such a pleasure working on music with him over the last 15 years; he’s an incredible lyricist and this one show him at him most scathing.

Laura Poxton – It Feels Like Home
Laura has just started recording her own music after a few years playing bass for bands in Sunderland. This track has all the melodic beauty of the Beach Boys and drifts into Crosby, Stills and Nash. Watch out world.

Lucas Renney – She Gives Me The Chills
The wild man of Ryhope’s finest song to date. This bad boy should have been a top 40 banger. It’s totally up there with Bright Eyes and all that lot. He’s a proper mean painter and decorator too. Amazing lyrics, beautiful melody, class finger-picking guitar, top bloke. Oh, and Midlake are on the record.

The Cornshed Sisters – Dresden
Another two for the price of one. The absolutely ace vocal harmony group The Cornshed Sisters covering my favourite Les Cox Sportifs song. Les Cox were one of the reasons I started my own band. Chris [Rollen] just makes songwriting look effortless, there’s an amazing wit and wisdom in everything they do. The Cornsheds really show off the song’s genius.

Field Music – It’s Not The Only Way To Feel Happy
I’ve been going to see Field Music in one form or another for over 15 years. This is a proper old one that they use to do under the name Electronic Eye Machine. Every time I hear it memories of being at Sunderland Art College come flooding back.

This Ain’t Vegas – We Lost It (Won The Race)
Being at Sunderland Art College around 2001 was an amazing time. The music scene in the City kinda centred around TAV’s Richard Amundsen who ran a night called Beats Happening. It was based in a cricket club in Ashbrooke which seems weird but it felt totally normal at the time. It was always the highlight of the month and whenever This Ain’t Vegas played the place would be buzzing.

The Futureheads – Back To The Sea
I use to really look up to The Futureheads when I started going to gigs. They were a year or two older than me, which is a lot when you’re 16. I was lucky enough to be at their first ever show, I’ve probably seen them over 100 times. It was ace getting to go on tour with them then, and even better when Ross Millard joined Frankie & The Heartstrings. This song is the big man at his best.


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