FORTUNE TELLER – Premonitions EP

In the build up to this debut EP release from Fortune Teller, it already seemed as if Wales had become a relatively fertile place for new and underground rock bands. In the last weeks of 2023, stoner rockers Goat Major released an excellent three track EP and The Black Vultures burst onto the rock scene with a muscular take on a classic rock sound, and in the first weeks of 2024, Sister Envy introduced themselves with a slow burning indie-psych single. In addition, Worldcub were gearing up to release their second album, and Jessica Ball – sometime of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (MWWB) – announced the launch of her new band, Eye. Each of these acts were stylistically different, yet helped to build a feeling that somewhere to the north west of Bristol, there was definitely something in the water that was fuelling a burst of new creativity.

As for Fortune Teller, their brand of pop punk has absolutely nothing in common with any of those bands stylistically, but definitely rides confidently upon on the wave of still-new rock sounds. Their debut single, ‘Jump Ship’ (released in February 2024) gave potential fans an accessible blast of what to expect from the lads in the near future, whilst delivering a massively familiar and almost nostalgic quality.

That wasn’t just the perfect choice for a digital single, either. It sounds superb when heard as part of the full release. By opening with a ringing guitar that evokes blink-182 during their self-titled period and then branching off into a chunky groove where jagged pop punk can be found colliding with slightly dirtier emo tones, the band show a clear affinity with the style. Hammering through several bars of really tight pop punk, the number places guitarist Luke Jones in the spotlight at a very early stage, but his sharp riffs aren’t the only dominant feature. His playing is a perfect compliment to a light-ish vocal from Mason Meacham, whose soaring tones add a little more of an emo quality to the main melody. After dropping into a huge pop punk chorus that would match any of the genre’s best bands from the early 00s, it seems as if the band’s work is more than done, but in the middle of a great track, there’s a small surprise. A slightly moodier breakdown suggests that Fortune Teller might be able to add more of an alternative feel to their melodic pop punk if they so desired, and lead guitarist Aaron Parfitt launches into a huge solo, ending with a couple of trad metal notes. In terms of wedging most of the band’s punky talents into four minutes, this track does a very smart job.

As for the rest of the material, potential fans will find a lot more to enjoy. However, the EP actually begins a little uneasily with ‘Starting Again’. The decision of opening this number – and the release as a whole – with echoing voices and jagged riffs that seem to be at odds with each other is a strange but brave move. With those not entirely melodic elements crashing head first into a heavy-ish riff that doesn’t immediately suggest pop punk, it merely increases a wobbly feel. Nothing seems to make entire sense until about halfway through the first verse, when the riffs subside slightly, unveiling a great bass sound (courtesy of Lee Vaughan), a strong pop punk vocal driven by another emo-ish twang, and – latterly – a more melodic rhythm. Moving into the chorus, the marriage between guitar and vocal, in particular, is excellent with Aaron dropping an almost twin lead sound, and by the time the main hook hits, this actually sounds like really strong melodic punk. The equally cool ‘What A Shame’ overlays a busy lead guitar riff against a dirty rhythm, immediately tapping into more of that blink 182-ish sound colliding with something a little noisier. Although the end sound might seem generic, it’s worth keeping a close ear on the individual elements: those lead guitar noodles never subside; the lead vocal makes weaving in and out of a wall of sound seems almost effortless, and the way drummer Josh Davies shifts between a punky groove and heavy pneumatics throughout is handled especially naturally.

‘Problematic’ injects a tiny bit of skate punk into its intro before scaling everything back to explore some almost perfect emo/pop punk in a hybrid way, showing very clearly the work of a band who understand the importance of mixing things up just a little. With the noisier edge balanced by a broad, pop-ish chorus, it feels like a natural successor to the genre’s forefathers, and rounding out an already strong release, the busier ‘Drop The Act’ shares a tight dual vocal against a rollocking rhythm where standard punky fare is interspersed by more off-kilter melody that allows Aaron to explore more pointed guitar leads. There are moments where this track feels a little rockier in places due to the lead guitar and louder drum sound, but dyed in the wool melodic punkers will still love what’s on offer thanks to a classic sounding vocal in place throughout.

Despite first impressions given by the opening of ‘Starting Again’, the bulk of the material here is very good indeed. This still new band show a great command of pop punk – especially the subgenre that’s unafraid to take a couple of emo and alternative twists. The choruses are huge, and most of the playing is especially tight. Those who enjoy bands like Neck Deep, Ellen May, State Champs, and the lighter end of Four Year Strong will almost certainly find Fortune Teller well worth the listening time.

March 2024