Singing Siblings Join Forces With Brand New Friends To Scoop Prestigious Music Award

Castlerock’s fabulously quirky Taylor Johnson and his sister Lauren joined forces with Belfast’s Fionn Crossan and Darren Hill in the line-up at Chordblossom’s Kickstart Final as their Indie-pop band Brand New Friend were crowned winners of the competition.

Taylor and Lauren - Brand New Friend

Taylor and Lauren – Brand New Friend

Now in its fourth year, Chordblossom’s Kickstart competition has featured the cream of Northern Ireland’s music scene, with SOAK being a previous winner, and this year was no exception.

Chosen from over 90 applicants, the final four acts put on a blistering performance, showcasing their talents and demonstrating why they had made it to the final stage.

Chordblossom’s editor Robert Brown said: “Anyone who was lucky enough to attend the showcase gig on Thursday in the Eglantine will know just how talented the four finalists of our Kickstart competition were. Despite treading quite different genres, each band won over an appreciative crowd. Our panel of judges had real difficulty selecting just one band to claim all the prizes but after some heated discussions, it seemed appropriate that Brand New Friend were victorious.”

Saturn Sundown

Saturn Sundown

Saturn Sundown opened with a huge synth-pop-rock vibe, delivering a bouncing set of original tracks, some taken from their forth coming EP “One Fight at a Time”, with their lead vocalist chatting up the eager crowd.

The mesmerizing vocals of Mary Anne Farenden led Dandelion Tea’s gentler performance, although she was almost out-shone by the lead guitarist’s glitter-spangled jacket. Almost.

Death Pop foursome Ink Spelt Death delivered a high impact atmospheric instrumental set which earned the appreciation of the crowd, but it was Brand New Friend’s polished performance, original music and humorous banter that stole the show and the impressive list of prizes.

Lead guitarist and vocalist Taylor Johnson said: “Playing Chordblossom’s Kickstart showcase final has been our favourite gig by far. It meant the world to us. The history of the competition is really special and the standards are always incredibly high, so to even be considered – never mind chosen for the final – was a big compliment.”

Dandelion Tea

Dandelion Tea

Named by their father, Brand New Friend originally consisted of Taylor and Lauren. “My dad bought me my first guitar, got me in to music and has never missed a gig, so the second he said ‘Brand New Friend’ we knew it was right. We’re glad it came from him.”

They met Fionn, an acoustic singer-songwriter, and Darren, the frontman of his own band ‘Fox Colony’ at a gig in Belfast, organised by their good friend Sean. “As it turned out, we were supporting them and we immediately loved their music.” Taylor said.

“We kept in touch, and everything fell into place naturally. The band only started playing properly when Fionn and Darren joined, and since then it’s been much better and far more fun.”

When they’re not juggling studying and work, their song writing usually starts with Taylor’s acoustic guitar and Lauren writing a synth line.

Ink Spelt Death

Ink Spelt Death

“We tweak the lyrics together to make sure it’s not too depressing and Darren and Fionn bring it all to life in practice. Darren’s band have a new song out called ‘The Weekend’ and it’s deadly! Fionn has just released his own debut EP called ‘I Guess It’s Time’ and it’s equally ace.” Taylor said.

Still on a high from their win, Taylor was grateful for the support from their family and friends, and for all Chordblossom do for the local music scene.

“It was brilliant, we loved getting the chance to play alongside the other finalists and dance about to their sets. It was one of the first times we’d seen people singing back some of our lyrics, which was a tad mental, but utterly class. It’s a surreal feeling. What’s even better though, was seeing such a great turn out for a local gig. Everything Chordblossom and their team does for local music is so important, and when you experience a night as successful and well received as that you know that it was all worth it. It’s such a boost for Belfast.”

Brand New Friend will be back at The Eglantine supporting Hot Cops on the 12 May, and as part of the Kickstart prize they have just been announced for Stendhal Festival in August. “That will be a dream come true for me personally, as my whole family went there to watch last year.” Taylor said, “It will also coincide with the launch of our debut EP.”

Lauren - Brand New Friend

Lauren – Brand New Friend

You can download Brand New Friend’s debut single ‘I Was an Astronaut’ from Soundcloud.com/brandnewfriend now.