My previous, and highly unsuccessful venture came to an end in 2015, after 5 years. Three albums and one EP, all enjoyable and fulfilling to make. I felt I had exhausted the possibilities of the particular sound I had been working on and wanted to do something different, hence Military Grade Peace. I’m proud of what I achieved though so here is a bio of the albeit brief and failing days of that project to celebrate the final release.
You can get the FREE download here:-
SOUND/S/LAB were an Alternative/Electronic act formed in 2010 as a studio based project for Calgary musician Barry James McCarthy. Originally from London, England, McCarthy emigrated to Canada at the turn of the millennium and after a few dead ends musically, decided to go it alone. The debut album was released in 2011 along with 2 singles, You are electric and In the dying of the light. The 2nd album was released in May 2013, preceded by the single, She sadly survived the bomb, and the third and final album was released in September 2015, preceded by the single Everything Under the Sun.
After a break and working on some side projects McCarthy began writing and demoing songs for the third (and final) SOUND/S/LAB album, he said “this one will be a nice mixture of electronic heavy songs and guitar based stuff, some of the new songs are so exciting that it’s painful how far away a release is, but I’m recording whenever I get the chance, I see this as a punk album, in the sense of the true spirit of punk, independent, passionate and uncompromising”. For now, by circumstance more than choice, McCarthy is the sole member of Sound/s/lab, playing Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Synths, Piano, Bass Guitar and drum Programming as well as all vocals. Sound/s/lab have been seen to be influenced by early New Order, Bowie, Joy Division, OMD, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Kraftwerk amongst others.
In London McCarthy played guitar and sang in a couple of alternative/noise bands. An activist on the left in the UK, politicized young, and witness to some of the tumultuous events and protests on the streets of London, this provided an education in itself and tied in with the ideals and integrity of the alternative/punk music scene. SOUND/S/LAB was to be a new sound though, at least with reference to McCarthy’s previous bands. A longtime fan of the punk and the new wave movement, particularly Factory Records, a couple of synthesizers were acquired and throughout 2010 songs were written and recorded for the 2011 debut Empirical State.
The debut album was built from experiment and tenacity, with little or no money, the album was recorded in a home studio (a very basic one at that). The hardest part was self production and mixing, it felt like the spirit of ’76/77 somehow, when you could do this and it was accepted. As the idea came from scratch, so did the album, writing and recording when time permitted.
Empirical State 2011
Recorded over 2010 in Calgary, in bits and pieces, and when time and money permitted, the debut album was released on May 31st 2011 on The House Ablaze Records. Empirical State contained 11 songs, including the single You Are Electric, released digitally and later on CD, the album drew inspiration from OMD, Depeche Mode, Bowie, Joy Division, Editors and New Order and Giorgio Moroder. Thanks to Kat Dornian of CJSW, the album garnered airplay across Canada on Campus radio, reaching the top ten in several playlists across the country. The album had international airplay on Jango Internet radio, gaining some welcome and postive reactions from fans in Europe and North America. Praise for Empirical State: “he has strung together eleven great tracks, throbbing with well crafted melodies, moody and reflective”, “His lyrics are smart, thoughtful and passionate that delve below the surface into heartfelt realities” – Beat Route Magazine, “impressive” – Exclaim, “a very British sounding pop/electronic album”, ”everything has a sort of atmospheric tinge to it” – Music Emissions Editorial review. “You can hear his English influence in the music, Bowie influence for sure” – CJLY 93.5FM BC. It also made the end of year polls in Beat Route magazine, named by the editor in his local albums of 2011.
Fugitive Colours 2013
A plan was hatched to have a follow up released in 2012, however 2 broken bones, (hand and foot) on separate occassions and other less interesting woes delayed the recording schedule. The album was recorded during the latter half of 2012 and so mixing of the album and subsequent mastering was not completed until March 2013.
Fugitive Colours was released on May 28th 2013 on The House Ablaze Records, 10 songs new songs, with a more Guitars this time, a slightly different sound than the debut but not entirely escaping the electronic fundamentals. The album had some stand out moments, A Drop in the Ocean, All Alone, and Glass Knives, to name just a few. The first single from the album, She sadly survived the bomb, was released on April 8th, the video is available on YouTube, along with 2 videos for tracks from the debut album. The album was conceived in the same spirit of independence as the debut with the hope to reach as many ears as possible. A host of influences over the year effected the sound on the new album, from Scott Walker, early Simple Minds and at one point, bizarrely, Duran Duran to the beloved Bowie, Joy Division and so many more. Music Emissions compared it favourably to Eno era Bowie and said of it “this is an album Hot Chip or Cut Copy would give their eye teeth to release”, CKUA described it as “colourful and cinematic.” The album garnered across Canada airplay, including CBC Radio 3, the single All Alone ended up in the Top 30 songs of the year on The Johnny Normal Radio Show, and the song A drop in the ocean was favourited and made track of the month on RevivalSynth.net.
The Hotel Demos 2014
Whilst recording the 2nd album, McCarthy recorded 7 songs onto an old battered laptop in The Matrix hotel in Edmonton. In the midst of Winter December 2012, using a small USB Keyboard, a drum machine, loops and an acoustic guitar, these new songs were written and recorded in a few nights. McCarthy said of the songs, “The joy of these songs to me is that they were so instantaneous, that spontaneity made it sound fresh and exciting” The limited resources kept everything refreshingly simple, two of the tracks would get exposure at Revival-Synth.net upon release.
The demos were forgotten about as finishing the album took priority. In November 2013 the demos surfaced, new vocals were added and on February 18th 2014, 4 songs were selected and released on Twitter via Soundcloud, all Free to download.
These tracks are still available to download on the Sound/s/lab Soundcloud page.
The Future of Extinctions 2015
Album Three, The Future of Extinctions, was recorded between October 2014 and May 2015, in between these dates was yet another broken leg and six weeks on a sofa. The album has 10 new songs and a very different final track listing than it might have had a year ago, as many songs were shelved for the album to have it’s particular sound. It was mixed in July and mastered in August and released on September 22nd 2015. The first full song to be previewed was Everything Under the Sun, uploaded on August 24th to Soundcloud. Another track Always Stepping into the Fray was released September 4th and became the featured track on the much loved website Revival-Synth.com The track Everything Under the Sun got the first airplay when it was featured on The Johnny Normal Show on Radio Warwickshire in the UK on September 9th, Music Emissions said of the album “the band creates atmospheric music with these instruments and vocal styling” and “The lyrics are interesting with excellent variety in subject matter and lots of room for interpretation” and “The techno beats and electronic sound of Sound/S/Lab remind us of the technologically driven age we inhabit, the vocals are a throwback to Bowie” and “All in all, a tailored and well constructed album.” Music Street Journal said “It’s energized and rather catchy.”, “a lot of energy and some poignant lyrics”, “There is some real charm and magic on hand here.”
Sadly, the album disappeared almost immediately with no support and little interest in it, it was the final disappointing blow and would lead to the demise of the musical project.
McCarthy has said that this is going to be the last album by SOUND/S/LAB, he said “I’m really sick of Americana loving hipsters just immediately saying “retro” because of there being synthesizers on the album, yet they listen to limpid, lugubrious, tepid folk music that lacks any passion any soul, it’s so narrow minded and petty. There are some really great artists making music out there with synths but they have scorn thrust upon them, one reviewer just immediately said “80’s and retro” as a criticism whilst not seeing the hypocrisy of then likening another album which they gave a good review as sounding like Simon and Garfunkel. So that’s OK?. I for one have had enough.”
After 5 years, 3 albums and one EP, Sound/S/Lab are calling it quits, “I’d like to thank anyone who supported me, especially Andy Jay at Revival Synth and Johnny Normal at Radio Warwickshire, also Kat Dornian at CJSW.”
“I’m very proud of having released music and had it played across Canada and in the UK. Very proud to have put so much effort into recording, and seeing the results in releasing 3 albums. But, it’s just not a fun time to be an independent musician, too may cliques and inner circles, too many people who I just don’t want to try and impress, too much bullshit that I simply can’t take anymore, and just too many barriers. Bottom line, it’s too much of a struggle to really take and I’m certainly on the wrong side of the Atlantic to be making this kind of music, I was naive to even think you can be different. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but there will be no more albums.”
In March 2017, a retrospective was released for free download entitled Recycle – The Best of Sound/s/lab to close the door on this unsuccessful but enjoyable band.
Tom Mygun – 2017.