The music scene which is rooted deep within the streets of the city of Stoke-on-Trent is a powerful one. With a rising wall of young hopefuls, a gradual blurring of the lines between what’s classed as “old” and “new” music, a bubbling concoction of blogs, festivals and new music platforms, as well as the potential crowning of City Of Culture now within smelling distance, Stoke is undoubtedly a very good place to be.
But much like anything, the music scene is flawed. Whilst local bands thrive at every venue in their path, backs are turned and doors are closed for anyone attempting to break through the barrier that divides “local” and “out-of-town”.
But what if you’re a band of two cities? What happens then? That’s something that Deep City Diver are trying to work out.
Local folk or out-of-town aliens?
With members from both Stoke and London, the three-piece, now based in East London, are looking to break into this scene and all of its sticky-floored, sweaty, live and local glory. Having already performed locally only once before, on a line up with China Tanks and acoustic soloist Chris Reale, the band are keen to be accepted as a “Stoke band”.
For Stoke-born bassist Joe Macmillan, returning to the scene he once performed so regularly in with previous band Aversion, has been wonderful and frustrating in equal amounts. “We went around to venues and asked who’d take us. I think we’d just released our first single and that’s all we had at that point” he tells me, as we stand in the electronics aisle of a well-known supermarket chain. “No one would have us because we were that “out of town band””.
With two Australians in the band and everyone living in London, the trio has struggled to break into the Stoke scene, even with Joe’s local musical past. “London is the adoptive city but I’ve kind of felt so incredibly drawn to Stoke”, vocalist and guitarist Ryan Nicolussi adds. “It has these really incredible parallels with Wollongong which is where my family are. It’s a steel city so it’s quite working class in many ways. I think Joe’s enthusiasm is infectious you know?”
I do know. After spending just half an hour with the pair I can’t help but feel proud of this city and the progress it’s making, especially with regards to the City Of Culture bid, something that Joe believes we’re more than ready for.
“From what I understand there’s a very rich industrial history which creates then a cultural history,” says Ryan. “It is a creative city, I think, throughout the years and historically. I think it makes a lot of sense to carry on that torch.”
Where it began
Deep City Diver began as a concept long before it became a physical entity, with Nicolussi writing many of the songs that appear on their self-titled debut album before he’d even entered the country. But a chance meeting through mutual friends in an East London pub, lead Ryan to Joe – “… you know: “How do you do? Lovely to meet you”. Twenty minutes later: “Do you want to be in a band?” – and Deep City Diver was born.
Drummer Ryan Kalkman joined shortly afterwards and the boys got to work developing Ryan’s songs. “I think the moment that we kind of knew that we could continue with this trio was when Joe heard the demo for ‘Another World’. He was really excited about it and Ryan was too. That was the key moment where I could see how it could work.”
Lines of connection
Before the album release in October this year, the band released two singles to grab the attention of indie pop fans everywhere. The plan was to draw in potential fans with something catchy and simple, before dropping their album later in the year – an album that goes far beyond the realms of “generic indie music”.
A nine-track mother of a record, the album takes you on an 80’s inspired journey filled with youth, energy and emotion. Tracks such as ‘Easy Prey’, ‘Everyone Is Alone’, ‘Another World’ and ‘Down On Wreckyn Street, I’m Ruined’ bounce off the album at full speed, whilst ‘As The Crow Flies’, ‘Honeyeater’ and ‘Living in the Hyphen’ ground you, Nicolussi’s vocals making you feel things deep within your heart.
It’s clear that Ryan too feels a deep attachment with the songs, as he explains his passion for ensuring that they all ended up on the same album together. “There are all of these lines of connection between the nine songs on that record… we’ve got other stuff in the works but there was a real line in the sand that I wanted to draw with this chapter.”
The album came into fruition after an online kickstarter campaign gave the band enough money to create physical copies, although not in the way you might expect. If you want to get your hands on a copy it’s vinyl only or an online digital download, making Deep City Diver just that more interesting. “Is the CD dead?” asks Joe. “Yes probably, because I don’t have a CD player in my bedroom let alone in my house.” It’s true that vinyl is making a comeback in a huge way and with it, the long-lost age of patience as you tentatively remove the album from its sleeve, place it on the turntable and drop the needle. There’s no fast forward or rewind, which makes it easier to appreciate the music in full.
Stoke and beyond
Tonight Deep City Diver will act as main support for Divenire at The Underground in Stoke, where they’ll perform one of the best sets the venue has ever witnessed. But the journey hasn’t been easy. “We struggled to get this gig and we’ve only got it because we’ve curated it and basically hired the venue,” says Joe. “Stoke’s great, but it’s got this lock down and we’re trying to be considered a Stoke band. Can we have dual residency?”.
“We’re more Stoke than we are London”, Ryan adds. “I mean there’s two Australians in the band and a guy from Stoke!”. It’s a frustrating situation for the trio, but one that I’ve heard time and time again. Despite having such a vibrant local scene, it appears that Stoke struggles to accept outsiders – even if they’re formerly of this parish.
But the band have high hopes, with plans to return to the city at least three times next year. Along with gigging and continuing to break down the dividing lines, 2018 should also see the release of new music. “The second album is written. We haven’t recorded it but it’s been written,” Ryan says, as I question him about the next step. ‘Dream Sequence’, a brand new track that they’ll later perform at The Underground, is set to be released in the new year and although the band are unsure of how they’ll present their new material, it’s safe to say that we’ve not heard the last of Deep City Diver.
They’re a rare breed of a band; one you only come across every once in a while and with a debut album that ranks highly within local releases of 2017, as well as the passion and drive to make quality music together, it should be us who’re asking for them to play our best venues.
Can they be considered a “Stoke band”? E Major says hell yes.
From the outside, the Tasker residence is an unassuming one. Situated in a quaint cul-dee-sac somewhere inside Stafford, the house sits comfortably in a row of others like it. Step through the door however and you’ll soon realise that there really isn’t anything quite like this house, as The Tasker residence is the home of Droma Records.
On a typical Droma day like today, the hall is where you want to be. Wires and cables snake along the floor, half a drum kit stands alone in the corner and amps, monitors and microphones have been abandoned in various positions in the room. On the table in front of the mirror, amongst empty beer cans, random scribbles and family ornaments, an Apple Macbook is open and Jack Tasker is concentrating hard.
The King’s Pistol, a three-piece dark folk outfit, are adding the final touches to their ‘Pistol Whipped’ EP (“It’s like The Everly Brothers on acid”), their first non-vinyl release to date. The thirty seconds I hear sounds good. Really good. Like The King’s Pistol we know and love but reimagined in a digital format.
Once happy, the band pack up in a well-rehearsed routine, stopping for a quick selfie with Mr Droma himself in the garden, before disappearing into the August sunshine, leaving me and my dictaphone to get to work. Sophie Bret Tasker, Jack’s sister, Taskrz band mate and fellow Droma creator, joins us for a short while as I try to understand what Droma is to this brother/sister project.
The big D
“Droma is, as a legal entity, a record label that was set up when we [Taskrz] released a double a-side of ‘A Man Possessed’ and ‘Hogs From Hell’,” Jack tells me, as he pours himself a glass of red wine. “We’d just been through a really frustrating period where someone had said, basically, that they would back us with some money and it all went horribly wrong.” The two tracks were awaiting release and without the backing of the small label they thought they’d have, the pair knew that they’d have to release them independently. “I was uploading the songs onto the system so they’d go onto iTunes and stuff and I was at work at the time. It was through Ditto Music. You can set up your own record label relatively easily – they give you a lot of the legal paperwork. I just said like “right, shall we set up our own label?” and we did.” As simple as that.
The name ‘Droma’ was taken from the full length Latin name for the Raptor family of dinosaurs, something that is significant in the history of Taskrz and one that Jack claims is the coolest thing he’s ever named. Droma has since grown into what Jack describes as a “music project”, with numerous releases from other artists under its belt, the first being their friend Matt Toner (Matt Topowski & The Wailing Synagogues).
“I’ll ask you a question”, Jack says, turning to Sophie. “Do you enjoy doing Droma things and do you see its worth and what it’s about? Do you feel proud to do stuff for it?” There’s a slight pause. “I like when we get people in who aren’t us and our mates. I like that. Inviting people in that you probably wouldn’t ever maybe play music with yourself.” Sophie recalls recording an album with Ingrid Schwartz, a record that she says she loves listening to. A quick visit Droma’s bandcamp page unearths the ever-growing roster of musicians that the pair have worked with, including the likes of Chris J Venables, TMC and Don’t Call Me Ishmael.
“I never imagined to have people approach me and want to do stuff and I think that speaks volumes for what we’ve done and what the people we’re associated with have done”, Jack says, shortly after Sophie leaves to catch a train. “I personally enjoy the story behind each record. Running a studio would be great and running a record label would be great, but actually running this thing that is so involved in the process is, I think, far more fun.”
But with the label/music project beginning originally as a way for Taskrz to release their music through, are Droma looking to reduce the amount of outside musicians they work with? “No. I’d be really interested to do stuff with other people, it just comes back to being able to do the right thing for each person.” This personal touch, the need to produce something that is entirely individual for that specific musician, is something that is an obvious draw for Droma. Listen to any one of the records that they’ve produced and you can practically hear the passion popping through your speakers, although this isn’t just down to Sophie and Jack. “Pretty much any release that we’ve done, barring the ones where I’ve mixed or mastered it, Tom’s had his hand in and he’s just brilliant,” says Jack as we discuss their relationship with UTC Studio’s Tom Bath, who mixes and masters nearly all of Droma’s releases. “I’ve never wanted to take stuff elsewhere because we just have such a good kind of working relationship. I think Droma is going to continue to do stuff with Tom. He makes the sound.”
Much like the dramatic re-branding of Taskrz, Droma have had a facelift; a changing of the logo from a fossilised Raptor skull to a vintage cassette tape seems like a natural progression. “There wasn’t necessarily some great big philosophy, but I had thought we needed to change things. I think the layout was still a reference to the first Don’t Call Me Ishmael album and I realised actually no, we need to have our style that is referenced in other people’s stuff. I’m literally making this up on the spot, but that does actually make sense! That each time, the colour changes to reflect the artwork that the artist has picked out. I’m a genius.”
Asking Jack to give me a potted history of Taskrz, is like asking for the moon in a jar – pretty much an impossible task. The band have been together for over five years, releasing a sizeable amount of albums, EP’s and singles along the way. “I’d recommend anyone to go and watch Taskersaurus”. A short documentary that gives you everything you need to know about the roots of the band and one that displays the strength of Jack and Sophie’s relationship, ‘Taskersaurus’ is a must-watch for all.
“The joke I often tell on stage is I’d come back from Liverpool, didn’t know what I was doing, but had a support slot for a rock covers band.” Jack had been booked to play the slot as Jack Tasker and The Wild Oats although there was only Jack in the “band”, “…which is a bit shit when you think it about it!”.
After accompanying him on pots and pans as a child, Jack took a chance and asked Sophie to join him on drums. At first refusing on the grounds that Jack’s songs weren’t up to scratch, she eventually agreed and the pair spent two weeks rewriting a set that mainly consisted of covers. From then on, the pair known as “The Taskers” began gigging more and more, often playing up to sixty gigs a year. “Those first two/two and a half years when it was just the two of us was just incredible fun. The stories you have.”
The band have since had a small handful of additional members, including Sarah Pickwell, Jack Rennie and Laura Ellement, three members who are heavily set in Taskrz last album ‘Wolf Party’. But after Rennie and Pickwell left and all members of the band experienced tough times in their personal lives, it was unknown even to Jack whether the band would continue making music. “The band that had been going for nearly five years, that ended. I would definitely say that ended. And whilst it doesn’t look like that to anyone externally, I can categorically say The Taskers who released ‘Wolf Party’ ended. It was done.” As of December 2016, Jack, Sophie and Laura were unsure of whether this path was one that they wanted to continue walking.
“Yeah we play a lot of the same songs, you can say it’s kind of like you press pause, now you press play, but mentally the space we’re all in… it is a different band. The way it wants to make records, the records it wants to make, it is completely different.” It’s odd then that the first release the new Taskrz put out was ‘Five Years Of Fuzz‘, a celebration of the five years that the band had been together. “[The EP] was really helpful in that process of just bringing some of the older songs up to scratch, musically. It was closure.”
Today, the band stands strong. The addition of Rob Haubus on bass and vocals has given Taskrz a new lease of life and it’s evident in their current release. “He just brings a kind of precision to it, but I think that’s because he’s mainly an indie guy, so it’s all about those real tight precise bass things.” Laura Ellement, on vocals and violin, joined the band after performing with them at a gig in Stafford in 2015. “Laura is just the glue. She could be in a band and not play anything and she’d still serve the most vital role. She just kind of humanizes us.”
The future and beyond
Moving forward as a band and a label, there’s a bright future ahead and one that Jack Tasker is happy to embrace. For Taskrz, the second part of their ‘Five Years Of Fuzz’ EP is due before the end of the year, as well as the promise of more records into 2018. As for Droma, the list is endless. The King’s Pistol, Attack Of The Vapours, TMC and Don’t Call Me Ishmael, as well as talks with Merrym’n and Sherry Counsellors, make for a rather exciting 12 months for the pair.
“A transition to doing other things like maybe publishing short stories or pieces of art or things like that,” enthuses Jack. “Maybe that will begin to happen next year. And maybe trying to create some kind of multimedia area, where you have a record label, you have short stories, you have artwork. That’s my dream but that’s probably a long way off.”
Spending an hour with Jack Tasker and his bubbling creativity and passion, is something that is hard not to get swept up in. As we signed off I asked him for one final ending quote that would inspire nations, halt wars and insight world peace. It might not do any of those things, but in his response, he speaks the truth: “I know I see Facebook posts like this every other day, people saying that the local scene is so much more exciting and interesting now, but I think it really is. I think more than ever, now is the time for artists to work together and to do different things and just mess about. We always go back to the music scene of Seattle in the early 90’s – that’s what inspired me and Sophie. The kind of grunge era. They were all so supportive of each other. If they weren’t gigging that night they’d be watching another band, or they’d be listening to their record, or helping do whatever. Everyone has a part to play in making a local area really culturally exciting and interesting, so I hope they keep doing it.”
“I love these unconventional interviews. Nobody wants to know about the boring stuff, it’s all on Facebook” laughed Jacob Leff, calypso-pop beat maker and percussionist extraordinaire. Macclesfield based three-piece Cassia, were halfway through their tour when we sat down to have a chat with them, in a sweaty room above the stage of Gorilla in Manchester, last month. Having climbed into bed at around quarter to six that morning, after a late night/early morning game of beer pong with friends, followed by a six hour drive from Brighton to Manchester, it was safe to say that not even a third of the band were feeling (or looking) fresh-faced. “We had a bit to drink last night as well didn’t we? That wasn’t such a good idea” admitted Rob Ellis, vocalist and guitarist, speaking the words of anyone who’s ever been hung over (which is probably everybody).
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What’s been the most enjoyable show to play so far on the tour?
Lou: Birmingham was good the other night.
Rob: That was good for the reason that we’d never been there and it was just buzzing. I was really surprised. But pretty much all of them have been good.
Leff: Newcastle’s always good too.
Rob: Newcastle’s always the one… they just go crazy! It makes you feel great. Whether there’s a hundred people there or it’s not absolutely packed, they always go mental so it’s nice to see that.
What’s your reception been like?
Lou: That [Newcastle] was the best one.
Rob: Great Escape was cool, I really enjoyed that. We had a few fluff ups like his [Leff’s] kick fell over and my string broke – we were only two or three songs in. But it was good. All of them, we’ve sort have been surprised – surprised probably isn’t the right word actually – by sort of how good the reception is, in comparison to last time– Camden! Actually, that’s probably one of my favourites, so far. Camden. Everyone was just having a good time.
Leff: I thought he was going to stage dive at one point!
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Their current single ‘Weekender’ was released back in March, with a feel-good music video to accompany it. It followed the hugely popular ‘100 Times Over’ which we reviewed when it was released last year. It seems that ‘Weekender’ is proving to be just as popular though, especially in the bands’ live set. “Whether you know the tune or not, it’s just “did you go out at the weekend?” – you know what you’re saying” explained Rob. “It’s a bit more chilled out though that one I think. It’s a bit different”. “More rocky” adds Leff. “He [Rob] programmed my beat for ‘Weekender’. I was there for like 20 years trying to figure out another cool African part or something. I was like “I’ll show him”. And then we listened to the old demo and I was like “f-u-c-k”. I’ve lost my job. We’ll have a drum machine next!”.
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Are these tracks going to come to something? Are you going to put out an EP? Can I even ask that question?
Rob: I don’t know about that!
Leff: Well… I think… yeah… probably… umm…
Rob: I think we’re probably going to release something soon. We don’t know about dates. Summertime maybe…
You’ve got a very summery sound so that makes sense. I can’t imagine you releasing a Christmas song…
Rob: No, not a Christmas song. It’s got to be in summer.
Leff: We’ve actually got a Christmas album in the works.
Album?! Covers or your own?
Leff: Oh yeah, we’re going to go the full Mariah Carey.
Lou: What’s the other guy who does Christmas songs?
Lou: Maybe… maybe…
Rob: If you don’t mind me saying so, our rider is actually really cool.
Leff: It’s very cool. We’ve only had one time where we’ve got it and none of us ate any of it anyway, which is kind of stupid.
Rob: We put peaches on it or something like that and someone said that’s a good idea because then you know who’s read it. They’ll say “you’ve got tinned melon or peaches on there haven’t you?” and we’d be like yes, you’ve read our tech spec!
Leff: That’s actually really smart.
Rob: Yeah I’d never thought about doing that before. We just genuinely wanted some sort of fruit.
Leff: I actually love tinned peaches.
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The band, consisting of Rob, Leff and Lou Cotterill on bass and vocals, formed nearly two years ago and began just like any other aspiring musical group – at the bottom. “We put out the first three tracks and we sort of didn’t know what we were doing, because we were a very small band then. We sort of just released them and then did what any band does and tried to get people to listen to them. And then from there we just gigged a lot didn’t we? Like a lot.” The gigging hasn’t stopped yet, with even more shows added to their current run of tour dates and a rapidly increasing following of dedicated fans. “I like gigs” says Rob. “You start learning your craft as well then”.
“It was kind of like a bit of a, not a piss about, but it was definitely a mess about at one time” adds Leff. “We did a few little gigs every now and again”. But the three piece decided to start taking their music more seriously, after an encounter with a fan left them wonderstruck. “Our tent was near the loos and some guy was queuing up and he was like “are you Cassia?” we were like “yeah…”. We were getting really cocky because we just thought shit, people actually like our stuff!”
“From that point on we were like right we need to gig and rehearse properly. We just used to play gigs and have a laugh and after that we were like we need to sit down and make it all perfect” recalls Rob. “It’s like today. I wouldn’t have imagined a year ago that we’d be playing Gorilla.”
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So what’s the plan after the tour?
Leff: I think what’s going to happen, which is what happened with the last one, is it kind of just merged into this one. We’ve got tonnes of festival stuff. We’re actually going to Holland!
Oh wow! Will this be the first time that Cassia heads overseas?
Rob: Yeah. I can’t wait for that.
Leff: I can’t wait to go to Amsterdam, obviously for the gigging and everything…
Rob: We’re spending two weeks there so you can imagine what states we’re going to be in when we get back.
Because of the constant gigging? That’s what you mean isn’t it?
Rob: Yeah that’s it.
Leff: We’ll be gigging constantly…
Rob: This is why I don’t drink, because of days like this. You get to gigs and you feel like utter shit. I hate it man. I’m gonna get up there tonight and be like “I am NOT hung over. I am NOT hungover”. I’ll have to convince myself.
Leff: It’s funny in the van because it took us like six hours. Four hours in I just turned around and he [Rob] was having a sleep in the back and I just turned around and I was like “Fucking hell! You look like a ghost. Jesus Christ”.
Rob: It’s Lou’s driving! His driving is like [makes car noises] and being in the back, there’s like 5G’s of force coming either side of you. Each time we turn a corner…
Leff: It’s worse in traffic as well because he’s not got his bite point down, so it’s like “uh-uh-uh-uh”, jolting and all that. He’s going to hate us for saying this.
Rob: Saying that though, he’s a good driver when you think about it. He just drives up and down the country and it’s pretty smooth. Touch wood there.
Yeah, you haven’t finished the tour yet…
Leff: I’m surprised we’ve never broken down.
Again, your tour isn’t over yet…
Leff: We will never break down!
Rob: Touch the fucking wood man!
I’ve known bands that have said things like that and then it’s all gone wrong from that point i.e. accidentally leaving the hand brake off and their van rolling down a hill!
Rob: That is horrible!
Leff: I did that outside my house once cause my drive’s on a bit of a slope. I was halfway out of my car and I was like “AGGGHH!!!” scrambling around and it was about this far away from my house. It was so bad.
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That night at Gorilla would surely be a show to remember for the band. Cassia’s chaotic crowd soaked up every drop of their set, setting free their inhibitions, forgetting their worries and losing themselves in the music. Whether its intentional or not, that’s what Cassia do to you. Their tropi-pop uptempo riffs and rhythms help you to escape to somewhere sunnier, where there’s no nine ’til five or boring everyday life. In the land of Cassia, all that exists are good vibes, good music and good company.
Over the course of the fifth annual Lymelight Festival 2017, E Major caught up with a small sample of acts who’d performed across the weekend. Here are those conversations, transcribed and typed for your reading pleasure.
Hello John! How are you today? Feeling good about performing?
Hello! I’m good thank you. Very happy. I’m feeling really good. And the sun’s out this year – it was raining quite a bit last year!
When you performed last year, it chucked down didn’t it?!
It did yeah, absolutely hammered it down. It was an eventful gig actually…
Yeah memorable… everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong! It was still fun though.
What have you been up to recently? Obviously you released your new single ‘Here’ a few weeks ago…
We released the single and I’ve been working with a new band (bass and drums) which is going really well. We’ve been rehearsing and I’m always just gigging as much as I can. We’re in the studio at the minute, looking to release an EP late summer/autumn time, with another music video and that kind of thing. Lots of exciting stuff going on! A lot planned.
Speaking of music videos, you released ‘Only One’ at the beginning of this year which has been hugely popular!
Yeah it’s been awesome! I think because it’s of a really happy nature, it’s just a bit infectious. People have really gotten behind it and are really feeling it, so I’m really happy.
Did you ever imagine that it would be that popular?
To be honest, I hoped it would be. I hoped that a lot of people would see what I intended to be seen, just me being free and happy. So I did hope it would be.
It definitely sums up your music pretty well! Your new single ‘Here’ is completely different to that, it’s a bit darker. Is that the way the EP is going to go or is it going to be a mix of both styles?
Yeah ‘Here’ is much darker. The EP is the direction I want to be heading in as an artist and it’s really soulful actually. There’s a lot of soul influence in there. One of the tracks is of a kind of similar vibe to ‘Only One’ and then another one of the tracks is full of motown sounding. ‘Here’ is quite serious song I suppose and there’s not as much of that in the EP. A lot of it is uplifting.
Did you enjoy your set at Lymelight Festival this year?
SBT: It was sick. It was amazing.
JT: It was good. Rob said it was his favourite of the whole weekend, of all of the gigs we’ve been doing.
RH: It was. It’s really nice to be able to play six songs and not have to worry about the ones I don’t know so well. I’m speaking from my perspective here…
SBT: And to be able to smash out a tight set.
RH: A greatest hits!
SBT: Yeah, it was wicked.
You’ve been pretty busy though, because you’ve performed with Don’t Call Me Ishmael, Attack Of The Vapours for Jack, plus you were gigging last night at The Cellar Bar in Stafford!
SBT: It was about 01:30am when we got off stage, because we didn’t go on until half 12.
RH: And we recorded a single at 9am this morning
SBT: And band practice later!
JT: So yeah we have been busy but it’s been really good. This is the first year we’ve done Lymelight, we’ve never done it before, so it was quite nice to get stuck in and in my case play three sets, two sets for everyone else.
What do you think of Lymelight Festival? Have you ever been before?
SBT: No never been.
JT: No I’ve never been to it before. It’s really good. SBT was saying earlier that she just wants to do it everyday.
SBT: Yeah just like come here, have a whole pizza, have some drinks, chill…
RH: That’s Sophie’s retirement plan!
JT: It’s a good vibe for all of the bands out there as well. Like everyone seems to actually really get stuck in and listen, which is pretty cool.
RH: People have a wander but they come back and they watch, which is good.
SBT: There’s a lot of people just stopping and watching. I love it.
What’s going on with you guys at the moment? What’s in the pipeline?
JT: So the single we recorded this morning is called ‘Heart That Bleeds’ and we’re aiming to put that out on an EP, with a couple of other new things that we’ve recorded. Probably by the end of July, we’re saying. We’re playing at the Middle Of Nowhere Festival in July and it’d be quite nice to tie it in with that. We did our Five Years Of Fuzz EP at the beginning of the year and that was just digital, so I think we’re going to try and do maybe a small run of CD’s for this. The thing is, we feel like we’ve really changed since Wolf Party and that was the last physical thing we did. It’d be nice to put something in people’s hands and say “this is the new us”.
RH: We’ve got new badges as well…
JT: We’re now Taskrz – a ‘z’ as a pose to an ’s’
Why that change?
SBT: We’re a new band
JT: Yeah it’s a new lineup, it’s a new vibe. Obviously it’s all of the same songs but we just wanted to slightly tweak it a bit to make people realise that there has been that slight change. There’s four of us now and it’s just a bit different.
It definitely works. After Jack and Sarah left, I was concerned as to where you were going as a band, but I’d say that your performance here earlier was one of the strongest sets I’ve ever seen you guys play.
SBT: Yeah, there was definitely a time where I was thinking “where could this go now?”. It almost felt like the whole band was falling apart really, for a short period of time. There was such a change. It’s just gone so much better and this is the best it’s ever been. We just sound the best we’ve ever sounded.
JT: You can’t really walk away from what you’ve done for five years and the fact that it’s all pretty much the same people, same songs, it’d be daft to just suddenly change the name to something completely different. In this day and age it’s like you’ve got to start a new Facebook page and get everyone back on board. It’d just be so counterproductive. It’s still the same thing, just slightly different. That’s why we’ve done it.
What gigs have you got coming up?
JT: So Middle Of Nowhere is in July. We’ve got the usual kind of Market Vaults and Glebe gigs throughout the year and a lot of stuff with Don’t Call Me Ishmael which we’re obviously all in. But I think we’re probably going to look at getting a few more gigs in around autumn/winter time maybe. It’s just whatever comes up really and what you’re touring. You can always find the gigs online.
Your other musical project DROMA has been taking off too!
JT: We’ve had lots of different people come to us to do stuff. We’ve been approached by Merrym’n and I think we’re going to do something with him, it’s just finding what format that takes. The King’s Pistol want to do something with us in the summer. That went from one song to now they want to do like a seven track album/EP thing, in-between their second and third albums. We’ll see how it pans out! But that’s quite interesting because they want to do everything live and so that’s going to be an interesting challenge to capture everything; main vocal, guitar, drums, bass – all live, so that’ll be quite cool.
SBT: We’ve got another TMC recording coming up too.
JT: Yeah we’ve got that in summer as well
RH: We’ve got a currently untitled, and we don’t know how long it’s going to be, series of singles. It’s until we blow out I think. The next single is canned and ready to go in June
JT: 8th June, for the election
RH: It’s coming out on the morning of the election
Oh wow! Does this mean that you might actually get a Facebook page for TMC?
RH: Naah! I’ll find a way to put it out there. There’ll be a hotline for you to contact me.
Yes I’m very good thank you! You’ve just played your set at Lymelight Festival 2017. How did it go?
It was brilliant. It was really good. We’ve been lucky because the weather’s been dry unlike last year, when it was a bit wet. I’ve been doing a lot of solo gigs so it was really really nice to have the band back! It felt like there was a lot of energy on stage and I think we had a nice crowd actually. Some people were dancing at the front as well which is cool, because no-one ever dances to my songs! I was like “if you want to dance, then this is the one song you can dance to!”
The festival is slightly different this year, as they’ve moved the stage. What did you think about that?
Yeah they have moved it. There seems to be more room doesn’t there? It seems to have worked really well. People were stood in the actual bit where the stage is and at the sides as well, which was nice. When people were walking past, it was like the perfect place to stop and catch their attention.
Was that the first gig you’ve done with the band for a while?
It’s the first time this year! Can you believe that?! I’ve done quite a bit in Stoke but on my own. I think the last time I played in Stoke with the band was at The Exchange, for the Musician’s Against Homelessness gig. I think that was back in October. We’ve done bits and bobs in Manchester and London but this is the first one this year with the band. I was really excited, I love having them there!
Where are the band from? Are you all local?
They mostly live in Manchester which isn’t too far because I’m in Congleton and I still go to and from Manchester, so at the minute it’s the perfect set up. Two of them are finishing off at uni anyway but they’ll still be sticking around, so we’ve got the best of both worlds at the minute.
You’ve finished uni yourself now haven’t you?
I’ve finished yes… nearly a year ago! I was writing my dissertation this time last year! I can’t believe it. Where’s the time gone?! It’s mad.
Have you just been focussing on your music since leaving?
Pretty much. I’ve got a part time job but other than that, everything is music music music. I really want to be recording some stuff this summer. The next step, hopefully, will be to record an EP. Possibly a couple of new ones and some of the stuff we’ve played today, that isn’t recorded anywhere other than on live video. That’s the plan for this summer. We’ve got festivals and bits and pieces lined up, but the EP is the next big step – the next big project.
‘Abigail’ is one of my favourites at the moment, along with ‘With Time’ which you know gives me chills every time you perform it! Are we going to have any cheery songs on your next EP?
No! That’s why I said to dance to ‘A Year From Now’ because that’s the only fun one we have! I’d quite like to write a happy song but I don’t know if it’s in me. I don’t know. I might find the chords!
It’s easier to write when we’re sad or angry. I think it’s harder to write when we’re happy!
Exactly! Even when I do covers, I automatically go straight to something sad. When you play major snappy chords, it sounds too cheesy on the piano. It’s not quite right! The EP is going to stay mournful for the most part. That’s kind of our thing. I’d like to put something a little bit more upbeat out though.
When do you think the EP will be released?
I’m not sure when the release will be. I think it will be this year but probably towards the end, so we can get it all sorted this summer with the artwork and everything!
Of course! I’ve seen the photos of you in different fields and things…
That’s my sister! She’s my personal photographer! She’s studying art. If I hadn’t have done music, I think I’d have done art – something creative. I can’t not be creative. I really enjoy that side, not more than the music, but as much as the music.
What gigs have you got coming up?
We’re playing Rock And Bowl at the end of the month, which I’m really excited for as I’ve not played their before. We’re playing at Audlem Festival and we’re headlining down in London at a place called The Half Moon in Putney, so that’ll be really good. Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival, we’re doing a set there on the main stage. That was really good last year. It tipped down for the whole day but everyone stuck around and it was great. We’re on in the evening. I hope the weather will be like today and it’ll be dry.
Are you going to carry on doing solo stuff as well or is the majority of what’s coming up with the band?
It’ll all be band stuff. Everything I write, I try to write so I can do both. Some venues aren’t suited to a whole band and if they’re busy and stuff, I’d still like to play to an audience so I’d perform on my own. Depending on where the venue is really. Something like today, it wouldn’t suit me playing on my own. I supported Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker at Biddulph and I played on my own there. That was the perfect setting because everyone just listened.
You have to hear the lyrics to fully appreciate your music – you can’t be background music!
You definitely have to give it a few listens because I don’t think there’s any proper hooks. I try, but it doesn’t quite work! With the band though, they certainly want to be on board and I want them on board so we’ll go as far as we can with it.
The acoustic set was very slapdash because I had made a list of songs I was going to play and I think I played most of the ones on that list, but as I got to the stage, I couldn’t remember anything. I hadn’t written it down, I hadn’t put them in any order, so it was internally, for me, chaotic. I started playing a song that I only played a fortnight ago and got two chords into, couldn’t remember the third one so just segwayed into a Crowded House cover instead.
Oh no! I’m sure no-one noticed… what about your performance on the main stage with the band? You seem to have interchangeable members…
It was banging. That’s what I kind of wanted Attack Of The Vapours to be. It’s a conglomeration of people who, if they’re free to join for any particular event, whether it’s recording or a gig, then that’s what Attack Of The Vapours is for that particular thing. It’s nice to have a core group of people who are like the mainstay of AOTV. Jack Tasker (The Taskers/Don’t Call Me Ishmael/DROMA) seems to be a constant – not necessarily gig wise, but he’s a member of the outfit. Considering it’s supposed to be mainly a recording project, Jack’s pretty solid in there. Duncan Wilcox (The Jake Leg Jug Band) has said that he’s up for recording the EP with us, so that’s good. And Craig Flackett is so eager to record. Some of the songs we played yesterday will be on that EP.
Is that what the next step is for AOTV, to record another EP?
Yeah. My plan is to record ‘Sierra Bravo’ and release that on its own as a single, whilst we put the finishing touches to the EP. I’ve started to think about an album too. I was going to call it ‘The Ghost Of Hope’ but a band called The Residence have just released an album called ‘The Ghost Of Hope’. I’d gone for a walk one evening and thought of the phrase ‘find a penny, pick it up’ and instead of it carrying on to its optimistic anticlimax, I decided to end it with something a bit bleaker. I just thought of ‘find a penny, pick it up and day long you’ll be haunted by the ghost of hope’, which was kind of how I was feeling when I went for the walk. So I wandered off, came home and started writing a song and I finished it in about two or three days. The bones of the song actually came into my head when I was sitting at work, which is really frustrating because you can’t do anything with it. You’ve just got to keep humming and humming and humming until you can get home and actually get down to the hard work of it.
Sounds exciting! Your set yesterday was pretty loud, which seems to be the case for anything that Jack Tasker (of DROMA Records) touches.
Yeah. There was a nice crowd too. Lots of good people in that crowd! It was a very cheerful set and it’s really nice to have all four of us on stage. When Gary Abbott was playing with us, we did a gig in Leek and there was three of us. ATOV works with three of us and it’s fun, but it’s just nice to have that extra bit of chemistry. It’s nice because every now and again, Jack and I were just sharing a look and there’s that bit of eye contact where we were getting up to certain bits. He’s a great guy and he’s added so much to the music already. It’s an honour to be sharing the stage with him.
You’ve been here for three of the four days of Lymelight Festival, so you’ve seen a lot of different acts. What have been your Lymelight highlights?
Hmm… *lots of debating* …highlights of Lymelight so far… well Don’t Call Me Ishmael, they were superb. Their timing of who was around to kind of gather around and watch, their timing was spot on. King Kula blew my tiny mind. King Kula and Thieves Asylum were two bands that really took me by surprise. This is the first time that I’ve actually been free for the whole of Lymelight, to watch the whole thing. When King Kula and Thieves Asylum were playing, they were both doing these really good fake endings to songs and some really bonkers instrumental parts, where they were really hammering some great repetitive riffs. The more they did it, the more they changed things and stopped and started again. I was just giggling! You forget that people around this area can be that good at what they do, which in some respects, sounds terrible. The Taskers, Umbrellabird, Megan Dion-Hood. This scene is a lot more diverse than I think most people might give it credit for. Every now and again, it’s going to things like Lymelight or finding yourself at the music awards, or Your City Festival two weeks ago, that make you think that actually, this is a pretty decent scene to be in the middle of. I’m really glad that I’ve been able to be a lot more involved this year, than I have in recent years. It’s absolutely mind blowing.
The main stage looks very full tomorrow (Monday), with Kez Liddle opening at 11am. Are you going to be sticking around for the final day?
As much as I can. It’d be unfortunate if I didn’t see the whole thing. In some years where I haven’t been playing all that much, Lymelight was something that I caught blasts of whilst I was running errands or passing through the town. In the last few months I’ve actually found myself involved in a lot more things that are going on, than I have been and that’s been really energising. It’s probably been one of the things that’s helped keep me a bit more focused with AOTV. There is something out there for me to actually give AOTV to, as a pose to me doing it at home and hoping somebody listens. There are things going on around the town and around the district, that I can give AOTV recordings to or turn up to play things for. It just helps to give it a little more purpose. It’s great fun.
You’ve just performed at Lymelight. Did you enjoy your set?
JN: Yeah it was great. Good reception.
I’ve heard that organiser Richard Buxton has been trying to get you guys on for years now and he finally managed it!
JN: Yeah, he tried to get in touch with us a few years ago but we’ve been that busy. Finally, we’ve gotten to come here!
Have you guys ever been to Lymelight before?
JN: I’ve attended on a Friday night a few years back, but this is the first time I’ve been here properly.
CJ: There’s a good turn out for it!
There really is! What have you guys been up to recently?
CJ: We’ve been really busy gigging
JN: Yeah we’re really busy with gigs. We play pretty much every weekend, sometimes up to three times a weekend.
CJ: Four times this weekend!
JN: Yeah four times! We got back from Germany two weeks ago, we did a gig over there at a rockabilly festival.
Wow! Is that the first time you’ve been abroad?
JN: No, the first gig we did abroad was in Finland in November.
SF: It was brilliant.
What’s the rockabilly scene like out of the UK?
SF: It’s quite strong still. We had a good crowd.
JN: Yeah, a mixed age group; from our age, early to mid-teens, up to all ages really.
What’s the scene like over here in the UK and locally?
JN: It’s not so much in Stoke, but when you travel out to Birmingham and down south, it’s really really strong.
SF: A lot of people tend to travel together and meet up at different gigs or weekenders and all sorts. Obviously now with Facebook and stuff there’s quite a good community.
How did The Runawayz form? Were you friends before?
JN: We’ve always been into the scene. We met up at the same gigs as each other, got talking and became friends.
SF: We met through Facebook really didn’t we?
JN: Yeah we met Sam properly at The Shakedown and then we spoke to him on social media and he joined up with us. We had a bass player before but, due to work commitments, he had to stop and slow down a bit. So Sam joined us and then the rest is history.
So are you happy with how everything’s going?
JN: Yeah really happy.
CJ: Yeah we are.
SF: Yeah. We were a bit worried at first with the distance, because we live so far away from each other, but it seems to be working.
JN: Yeah it’s working well.
You guys went down really well today because you’re so different to everyone else, locally. It seems like there could be a revival on the horizon…
CJ: Yeah that’s what we want to do.
JN: Yeah that would be perfect for us that would, a revival!
What about putting a record out – are you looking at recording anything soon?
JN: Yeah we’ve been planning to record for a while, but we’ve finally got round to it and planned a date. Hopefully, within the next two or three months, we’ll have an album out. Our first CD.
Is it going to be originals or a mix of covers as well?
JN: Yeah a good mix. We’ve got enough originals, but we are going to throw one or two covers in on the album as well, just as a crowd pleaser really.
What have you got coming up for the rest of the year gig-wise?
SF: We’ve got Ireland in August.
JN: Yeah we’re playing a big festival in Ireland in August. basically we’ve got lots of sub-culture weekends and that sort of thing.
CJ: We’ve got some rockabilly gigs that are quite big on the scene.
SF: I think in the next year or so, we definitely want to play some more mainstream venues. We played at The Underground once and that was really good.
JN: We’re actually talking to the guy at The Underground about going back on within the next month or two, so that’d be great. We really want to attract a different audience like the indie scene, to see if we can get on that sort of bandwagon. If they appreciate us then that’s even better.
And finally, what’s the plan for the band going forward?
SF: Stick to our style I think.
JN: Stick to the style but we’d like to drive it up a lot more. Make it more attractive to the younger audiences.
SF: Be a bit more energetic than the classic fifties stuff.
JN: Yeah not the lightweight sound. We like to drive it up a bit.
In conversation with… Nixon Tate (without his Honey Club)
Are you alright Nick? Did you enjoy your set at Lymelight?
Yeah I’m fine, I’m good. It was good, really good.
I know you’re not a massive fan of headlining but I thought that was a really good slot for you guys.
Well no, but this is a bit different because it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Normally when you’re headlining you’re on at 11pm and it’s hard to keep people that late, so yeah it was good.
Have you caught much of Lymelight over the weekend?
Yeah I came up and saw The Taskers yesterday and heard a little bit of Umbrellabird. They were very good. The Taskers were great as well.
I noticed that The Taskers edited their set list just for you…
Yeah I got a mention! It’s always really embarrassing when that happens. I thought what Jack was going to say was, because I’ve sung ‘All Along The Watchtower’ with them before, I thought he was just going to drop it on me. I was like “do not say that” and he didn’t luckily. Otherwise I’d have been like “I’m off, see ya!”
Haha! I was slightly concerned for you too! What do you think of Lymelight this year?
Yeah it’s great. This is probably the most well attended year but I think it’s always dependent on weather, as menial as that is. This is the third year, third or fourth year we’ve played. This is the best slot we’ve had. We’ve played before where it’s kind of a bit drab and it’s raining and you get a few people, but it’s hard to keep people out if it’s cold. But when the sun shines and it’s not raining, it’s much easier to keep people involved and about. So yeah it’s been really good. It’s really well organised. The sound on stage for us was great.
It was a great conclusion to the weekend. What have you been up to as a band recently?
Not much really. Obviously the EP came out in January and then we were due to record this month, but with the drummer’s other half expecting, that’s on hold for probably another month. And then we’re going to try and do either a double a-side or two singles. Get them out quick with a quicker turn over. We took way too long with the EP, so we want to do it quicker this time.
Do you think there’ll ever be a Nixon Tate & The Honey Club album?
I think so. It’s just the way we work, we’re not one of those bands who practice twice a week or write twice a week. It’s kind of like we book gigs in and we’ll do two or three practices in advance of that. I just keep coming a long with songs and if it works and we can knock it out quite quickly then we’ll keep it. If it’s rubbish and it’s not working then we’ll drop it. I’ve never sat down and thought about writing a full body of work, but we will do eventually I think. It might be next year. It’s just trying to get the name out a bit. People want a quick turn over of new stuff to hear, so it’s better to do it that way in my opinion.
Am I right in thinking that you were playing some new stuff in today’s set?
Yeah, ‘The Wait’ is the most recent song we’ve written. We’re still piecing it together to be honest. We spent one practice on it, worked it out and then we’ve gigged it. We like to do that. Once it’s kind of standard where you can play it live, we just get it out there and then work on it as we play it live really. It’s good to do that.
You had Peter Richards standing in on drums today too!
He’s depped for us before, last year. He’s great, he’s really good. He’s just a pro basically. We’ve had one practice with him, gave him a CD, he watched the footage at the FatPigeon Live set that we did the week before, then he turns up on the day and just smashes it out. He’s good to have around as well and he sings. It’s kind of a seamless fit.
Have you threatened current drummer Bash with Pete then?
No we couldn’t ever get rid of Bash. I’ve got to get that in there. If you ever get the chance to play with him… all three of them really. Tom on bass and Joe on guitar, they play every gig like it’s their last. I really like that about them, because it keeps you on your toes and keeps you enthused about it. I’ve never turned up to a gig and thought “pfft, we’ll go through the motions”. Everyone’s always excited to play and that’s really good.
I know Joe’s mentioned that playing in NTHC is the most fun he’s ever had in a band…
There’s no fractions at all. We’re all just really good mates. We talked recently about possibly getting some additions, maybe keys or brass or something, but we’re quite conscious of upsetting the dynamic, so I don’t know if we’re going to do that. We might just mess with the idea a little bit. I guess whoever we had, we could always fall back as a four piece because that’s where it started.
What gigs have you got coming up for the rest of the year?
22nd May we’re playing at Eleven Club in Tunstall, Sandyford supporting Honey Ryder. That’ll be a nice gig. We all know Honey Ryder. It’s Bash’s brother who plays guitar for them so we’re keeping it in the family. Then we’ve got a gig in Austria I think in July.
Really? Is that the first time that NTHC will be performing overseas?
Yeah but it’s for a wedding! We’ve just been asked to do it. Playing our original stuff too, we don’t play covers so we wouldn’t do that. We’re just trying to organise that at the moment which’ll be a good few days away. And then there’s Rock And Bowl that we’re really looking forward to. We’re playing on the 28th May, which is the Sunday. We’re playing there at 6pm and then we’ll jump in the van and go to Audlem Festival and play at 9pm on the same night, which is good. We like a couple of gigs in the day. It keeps us on our toes! We’re playing in Stone in July and in August we’re playing in Newport, Shropshire. We’ve got gigs coming in all of the time which is good. We aren’t having to ask people for gigs which I always like.
Aren’t you playing Alsager Music Festival as well?
Oh yeah, Alsager on the 16th July as well. We’ve got two gigs that weekend; we’re playing in Stone on the Saturday and Alsager on the Sunday. So that’ll be good.
So a busy few months gigging, recording and releasing new music then?
Yeah hopefully. People were asking me that question all the time when we were doing the EP and I was like “yeah, it’ll be released in July” and then August comes and then we’ll say September and then January comes… hopefully in the next month or so, we’ll get in the studio and at least make a start on it.
When you think of buskers, the first image that probably pops into your mind is the solo acoustic musician standing outside in the pouring rain, or maybe even the lone clarinettist with the dancing puppets. But for Yorkshire four-piece Glass Caves, busking means something entirely different.
Consisting of Matt on vocals, Elliott on drums, Connor on guitar and Will on bass, Glass Caves formed from the shell of another band, as Matt tells me. “Elliott and Connor, the founding members, were in a band called The Cellars, who toured our local town of Pontefract. The band eventually decided to get someone who could sing and that’s where they found me.” Matt and Elliott studied biology together at college, where word spread that Matt had uploaded some covers online – “…which have since been destroyed for good reason” he quickly adds. The pair decided to form a two piece covers band and played a few sold out shows, before Elliott asked Matt to join The Cellars as their lead vocalist. “I agreed and then entered an ‘interview’, which basically just involved me singing and the others staring at me, whilst playing instruments thinking – can he actually sing? With a sigh of relief I was in the band. We wrote some original tunes, changed the band name and that’s how Glass Caves came to be.” As simple as that hey?
Since forming the line up we know today, with bassist Will joining after they toured America, the band have gone from strength to strength. Bagging a support slot for Augustines, headlining a sold out show at London’s Koko and playing festivals such as Isle Of White and Reading /Leeds, to name but a few. The band have also made a name for themselves on the busking circuit and continue to take to the streets today. “Busking was initially a way of making some poor students in a band, some cash,” says Matt. “Then we realised we’d found a hidden gem! Free – in fact – paid advertisement for the band. So, that’s how we started to grow a fanbase in the beautiful city of York.” A fanbase that is just as loyal to this day. But what about if the band hits the big time? Will we still see Glass Caves making music on the streets? “It would be daft not to busk every now and then even if we were huge. It’s what made us who we are.”
Having played both sold out shows and to passers by on the streets, Glass Caves have no doubt experienced all kinds of audiences and personalities. Although busking is fun, quite obviously, their enjoyment comes from playing the big shows. “People come to see you rather than seeing you whilst shopping. People sing along at shows. When busking you get told to shut up by the older generations or moved on by the police. You also have to wake up early on a weekend and stand in the wind and rain. When playing shows you wake up late, set up, go for something to eat at a restaurant and then hit the stage. Well, we do anyway.” But at least busking has left them with some stories to tell. “We have a homeless friend in York who uses us as a ‘bank’ (I use the term “bank” loosely). Anyway, whenever Desmond passes, he throws us a pound and if he doesn’t have a pound, he asks for a pound back because he had put a pound in at a previous time.” Not forgetting their brief performance for royalty. “We also played for the queen one time when she was visiting York. Wasn’t as great as it sounds, she didn’t give us a penny!” I’m sure when you’re selling out Wembley, she’ll regret that moment!
Glass Caves continue to grow, even more so with the release of their brand new single ‘Do You Have A Name’. It’s jam packed with infectious indie rock rhythms and riffs, with an equally creative video to accompany it. “We’ve had over 52k views of the video on Facebook with 1k likes. It’s not bad for a DIY unsigned band from Pontefract. Let’s just hope it sends us on to bigger things.” I can’t see why it wouldn’t. ‘Do You Have A Name’ is a professionally recorded and well produced track from start to finish, making it perfect for mainstream radio and even more perfect for your playlist. Fresh off the back of touring the single, it’s safe to assume that Glass Caves are feeling good. “The tour was spot on,” Matt tells me. “It’s such a cliché but it seems that every tour gets better and better. As more people find out about us, they tell their friends and in turn, more people turn up to the shows. Even cities like Bristol and Cardiff were busy and we’d never stepped foot in the cities before. We loved it.”
So with an excellent single release, a successful tour and a steady bit of extra pocket money from busking, Glass Caves seem to have it sorted. But what can we expect from the guys next year? “2017 currently stands as the year Glass Caves hit the big time… or so we tell ourselves. You have to dream, right? 2017 is gonna mean a lot of new tunes, new shows and (fingers crossed) big things!”
You heard it here first. Glass Caves are going to have their name in lights and you’re going to want to know their name.
As the end of the year draws ever closer and the Christmas stress hangs heavy over everyone, most musicians see this time as a chance to step away from their instruments and have a well deserved rest. For Winsford grunge band PLASTIC however, this appears to be the last thing on their minds.
They’re still a relatively fresh band on the scene, which means that their future is bright and their music is extremely exciting. So how and when did they form?
“It was December 2015 just before Christmas,” vocalist and guitarist Matty Awbery tells me. “I had been in a band before that, to put it politely, didn’t work out. I knew of Matt (drummer) and Dom (bass) but I didn’t know them properly, so I literally just asked Matt, who I’d seen had been doing some session work, if he wanted to work with me. Elliot (guitar) joined a few months later, just before we recorded our first ex. Drop.”
‘Drop’ was released earlier in the year, featuring three tracks of sure fire grunge. The four piece have since released a brand new single titled ‘Drowned In You’, which was mixed and mastered at Lower Lane Studios, by the talented Sam Bloor, go-to producer for many local bands wishing to get the highest quality recording. ‘Drowned In You’ builds on the sound that the band put out with ‘Drop’, but adds a little bit of extra grunge as well as a secret ingredient, that instantly makes it your new favourite song.
Despite being one of the very few grunge bands of the popular local music scene, their sound comes close to a variety of mainstream bands. Although naturally carrying their own sound and style, who are they actually influenced by?
“Failure are always my first answer. They should have been bigger than Nirvana! We went for that whole thing for a while but couldn’t get it – we just ended up sounding like all these Basement cover bands. Once I stopped thinking about what we were as much, our stuff ended up actually relating to Failure, but then the weird bit is some of our stuff sounds like Weezer & Green Day, so my platform of inspiration is just 90s music.”
Whatever their influences, PLASTIC’s sound has gained them a spot next to BRINE on a split record, due for release in December through Backpack Records. “They’re putting it out an tape and we’re putting it out ourselves digitally” says Awbery. How very grunge indeed.
BRINE isn’t the first band you’d think of sticking on a record with PLASTIC, but it seems that Awbery is pretty confident.
“We’ve been friends for a while. We are writing an album and don’t want to go too quiet to everyone else. BRINE had member issues that made them go quiet for a while, so it just worked out. Oddly, our sounds are so different which I think gives people that prefer them or us, a bit more of an opportunity to see a blatant difference”
The difference isn’t strikingly obvious, but it’s enough to distinguish the two when put side by side. It’s an exciting venture and one that is sure to round this year off nicely, for both bands. What about next year?
“Well we record a full length album in January, and are yet to announce a tour that will come very close to that time. We hope to tour the UK a handful of times next year and maybe even hit up Europe. As for when the album will come out, I have no idea. We want to do everything properly with it, so it will take some mega preparation and hard work to both write and release!”
And finally, for all of those wondering, why the name?
“There’s no reason for the name really, I wanted to make something that sounded dark, and I was just jotting names down and PLASTIC was the first one that came to my mind.”
With exciting plans ahead and new music on the horizon, 2017 is set to be a memorable year for PLASTIC and an even stronger one for the local music scene. If you haven’t already, you really should get some PLASTIC into your life. You might not realise it, but they’re exactly what you need right now.
Traipsing across a field in the pouring rain was what I found myself doing at mid-afternoon at Ashcombury Music Festival, with Release front man Caleb Allport. Having not long stepped off stage after performing their set of high energy originals, Allport looked drained. After finding a tree at the back of the festival site to shelter under, I wiped the rain from my dictaphone and got to work interviewing the young vocalist.
How are you doing? Are you okay?
I’m… wet. I don’t know about okay.
Did you enjoy your set?
I did yeah. It was really good and I’m really surprised that so many people came out for it, considering the weather. Bit grim innit.
It’s not the best. The last time I saw Release was at Alsager Music Festival back in July. What have you been up to since then?
We’ve played a few gigs outside of Stoke. We played the Night & Day Cafe in Manchester which was f*cking mint actually. Probably the best gig we’ve done outside of Stoke. We’ve played Leicester although that might have been before Alsager. Obviously we’ve got the tour coming up including a headline at The Underground.
It’s been a while since you’ve headlined Stoke hasn’t it?
It has been a while yeah. We’ve done one headliner this year, locally, at The Underground for Riff Factory Presents. That was a nearly sold out gig so we hope to keep it up. And we’ve released a new single…
That was my next question! Your sound has changed with every single you’ve released – is that something you wanted to do?
Yeah totally. That’s what I like to hear to be honest. I’m all for people going for one sound and obviously you do what you do best, but I just prefer it sound wise and also for entertainment. We just do what we feel like, rather than saying “Oh this isn’t our sound so therefore we can’t play that in this band”. If it sounds good to us and it works then we’ll do it.
And the single (The Inevitable) has gone done well?
Best thing we’ve released in terms of getting media attention and even just general people messaging us. I planned on emailing a load of different radio stations just to give it some airplay, because I think it’s quite radio friendly, and I haven’t done that yet but I will. But already we’ve been played on four different stations, just by people messaging us. Thanks to Moorlands Radio too!
We love the track! Now you’ve got a violinist as well, it’s a whole different sound. In all honesty, I never thought it would work like it does.
It’s a new dimension isn’t it. I don’t blame you for thinking it wouldn’t work.
When you think of a violin you think of a folk band and you’re not folk..
Yeah definitely. We’re not folk or classical or anything like that. It’s just kind of our USP I suppose.
Are you planning on doing an album or an EP, or is it just singles?
We’ve got material we want to record and new material we want to release, but whether that’s gonna be an EP or a single I don’t know. We don’t feel ready for an album just yet. We want to try and get more attention nationally – a fan base. Albums are hard work. Not even just recording it but it’s hard work to plug it, to get people’s attention, all stuff like that. It will happen. I’m sure it will. Whatever happens, we want to record an album. It’s any bands dream to record an album but for now, probably just singles and maybe an EP coming up probably before the end of the year. Something like that.
When does the tour start?
Next Thursday. We start in Cardiff and then it’s Bristol, which is quite a drive so that should be fun. And then Cheltenham and then… I think… I think it’s Stoke then. Yeah, Stoke which is on the Sunday.
It’s a weird day for a gig!
It is a very weird day for a gig. It’s been hard plugging it so we’ve had to go that extra mile to get people to come down. After that it’s Manchester then London. A London finish. We’ve got a couple of gigs outside of Stoke already planned for after the tour and then a few really good local shows, which will see us out of this year. Looking forward to it.
So you’ll keep gigging after the tour?
Yeah we will. One local show we can announce is that we’re headlining The Exchange– there’s bands on upstairs and downstairs and then Bez from The Happy Monday’s is doing a DJ set after. Pretty buzzing for meeting one of my heroes, even though he’s quite talentless. He’s just funny to look at!
With the singles, do you think your next one will be a further development again or do you think you’ll develop into a sound that you’ll stick with?
You tell me! The world’s our oyster I suppose. We’ve pretty much confirmed what we’re going to release as our next single. I’d say it’s got a totally different sound to the ones we’ve done before. Maybe most compared to ‘Neat Seat’ but maybe a bit heavier, a bit more epic. It’s definitely going to be a further development of the band.
And keeping the violin as well?
Keeping the violin of course. As I said, it’s probably our USP at the moment.
Having seen you several times over the last couple of years, it’s been great to watch your following grow. The tent was rammed for your slot at Alsager Music Festival!
I know yeah. Alsager is where I went to school and I live there most of the time, so we get a good following there no matter what. Even if they don’t really like us, they’re still my mates so they’re obliged to come!
At the back of the Fears Chella van, all four members of the band huddled together in an attempt to shelter from the rain. It wasn’t the kind of weather anyone wishes for when they organise an outdoor festival, but this is what the organisers of Ashcombury Music Festival were faced with.
Having only played three gigs as Fears Chella, Andy, Chris, Ben and Tom have received the kind of reception many new bands could only dream of. Their debut single ‘Cool’ has made them one of the most exciting up and coming bands on the local scene, and it appears they’re just getting started.
How are you all?
T: Yeah all good.
Even though it’s pouring down right now!
A: Well fortunately we’re all under the tailgate right now so…
B: We’ve got beer and burgers so I’m happy.
T: We’ve got a voucher each for free food.
A: That’s our pay for the day!
Did you enjoy your set even though it was really soggy?
A: Yeah it was really good. I think it’s always going to be hard when it’s smashing it down with rain at an outdoor festival. I think it went as well it could! Everyone’s happy to be here despite the weather.
C: I wouldn’t like to be on later! Thunder and lightning!
Hopefully it will be dry later! Fears Chella are still a new band. You haven’t been a thing for that long have you?
B: Pretty new.
A: We only released our single around three months ago now. Before that we’d been together and jamming since maybe the start of the year. But basically, when we released the single, that was when we put out the social media pages. We’ve only been ticking for a few months but we’ve had a really good response to the single. Stacked up loads of plays on the song between Spotify and Soundcloud and stuff like that. It’s going really well.
It does seem like you’ve gone down pretty well, from what I’ve seen.
A: Yeah. It’s cool. We’re constantly being asked for interviews from blogs and radio stations. I feel obliged to share the blogs that reblog us, but then our Facebook feed is just filled with like 25 blogs that have done a piece about ‘Cool’. It’s all good though. You can’t knock it at all.
Are you going to release more music?
A: Yeah. I think lots of bands just spew out material, just because they feel that people won’t like them if they don’t release more stuff. But we’d rather sit on it and make sure it’s right. We just want to write and release the best songs we can. We don’t want to just release stuff just for the sake of it or go and record it in some half arsed way. So yeah we are tentative. We’ve just played an eight song set so we’ve got that and we’ve got another five or six songs on top of that. We’ve got loads of demos that we haven’t even started yet but we have rough ideas for. So there’s loads of material there, it’s just about being careful about what we release. You want people to like what you do ultimately, so there’s no point in releasing something just to get it out.
Personally, I don’t think there’s many local bands that carry the same sound as you guys. Would you agree?
A: I think we’ve definitely got our own thing going on. The way our songwriting process works is I usually bring a demo and it’s just the really basic bare bones of a song. Then we’ll work on it as a band and sort of get everyone’s personality and everyone’s style into it. I think that’s the best way to write because then you get a true representation of the members of the band and everyone’s vibes, rather than just trying to be something else and all of your songs sounding the same. Sometimes people come up to us and they’re like “Your third song sounded loads different to your sixth song”. I think people like that. Everyone likes a different song from out set. That’s the band we want to be. We don’t want to try and be something we’re not.
Release have a similar ethos. Every single they’ve released is completely different to the previous. Is that something you’d like to do?
A: The way we look at it is our instruments always generally sound the same, so it’s all down to the songs that we write and the way the that we play them. You keep that character of your sound just through the sound of your instrument. We really get on with the Release lads. They’re good mates of ours and they practice at the same place so we see them all the time. They’re writing great songs so I just wouldn’t knock it all. That’s the way some people write and all that shows to me is that they’re just writing the songs that they want to write. They’re not saying “We wanna be like our first single” and try and re-write that over and over, they’re just writing what they love and coming and playing it. I think there’s a lot to be said for that.
Their set sounded amazing earlier!
A: We pulled up as they came on–
C: We thought “That sounds like Release!”
A: We were like “Yep, that definitely sounds like Release!”
So what shows have you got coming up? What gigs have you played?
A: We played the Night & Day in Manchester and we played a show at The Sugarmill with Broken Flags and both of those went down really well. We’ve played today and then the next show we’ve got lined up is supporting All Twins at The Sugarmill in October.
T: October 14th
A: After that we’re just looking at booking up tours and stuff like that. We’re in talks with loads of different bands and it’s just about picking the right one really. We don’t want to go off and spend loads of time touring with people we don’t like. We try and approach bands that we’re good mates with and we think are cool and have got a sound that compliments ours. We’re just talking that out at the moment. We’re got a lot of management and booking agent interest, so we’re just sort of playing it cool and just trying to pick the right thing.
It’s great that you’ve got interest. Am I right in thinking you’re also based in Manchester?
A: We’re sort of based between Stoke and Manchester yeah. I used to live in Manchester and we’ve all spent a lot of time there. It’s so close to Stoke. Our first show was at Night & Day in Manchester. I think it’s good for us because we get a really good response from the Manchester scene. We played Night & Day and we didn’t take that many people with us, but loads of people were messaging us leading up to it. We played to like a hundred people that we’d never met before. They’d just found us on social media or on Spotify or something. We were like woah this is crazy. People were coming up to us after the show asking us for photos and stuff like that. That was our first show and we’ve found that at every show we’ve played since. At The Sugarmill we saw loads of people that we’d never met, who just showed up on the door. Afterwards they were like “Can we have a picture?”. They were blogging about it and putting it on social media. It was really cool.
B: It says a lot when a young lad came up to me and bought 16 tickets, straight off. That’s something you don’t usually get when you’re a band and you’re just starting off.
Wow. It must help to give you a boost?
A: Oh yeah. You’ve got to love what you’re doing and we do. It’s absolutely pissing it down like today and it would be really easy for everyone to go inside, but we got up on stage and we enjoyed playing our set. We love what we do. We’re just four mates who go out and play music and I think if you’ve got a band like that, then you’ll never really have a bad gig. You just show up and you do it and you love doing it. It doesn’t matter who you play to or where you play, you’ll just do it and love it.
I was talking to James from Delamere and we were saying that Facebook has become a massive promoter in itself. You don’t even need a promoter sometimes because social media does it all for you.
A: Yeah definitely. You can make something massive just through Facebook alone.
B: We’ve found that with Instagram. We’ve found that Instagram has been the one that’s taken off for us.
A: Yeah. We put the single out and quite early on a lot of people reposted it. A few music blogs wrote pieces about it and they had loads of followers on Instagram, so over the course of like two weeks we went from having 70 followers and a brand new Instagram page, to 2000 followers literally over night.
B: We’re just short of five and a half now.
A: It just shows you the power of social media. All of these people that come and see us at shows and buy tickets, I guess that’s where they find us. It’s just such a powerful tool.
That’s pretty impressive! So what’s next for Fears Chella?
A: We’re trying to line some tours up. We’re talking about studio time as well, but we’re just trying to find the right producer.We’ve had a lot of producers approach us so again, it’s just about going through the right people. Picking someone who really digs what we’re doing and is really going to benefit our sound and help us move forward. So yeah I guess touring is our next thing. And the All Tvvins show in August–
A:…October.*laughs* Not August.
Haha! Are you going to go back in time and play the 14th August?
A: Yeah I’m gonna get my time machine, go back and play the gig. No it’s October the 14th. I like how no one else picked up on it though. Everyone else was like “Yeah, I’ll just leave him to it”.
“Is this alright?” asked James Fitchford, as he ushered me into a changing room that was littered with guitars, amps and cymbal stands.”Sorry, it’s quite smelly”. He wasn’t wrong. Smelling of old socks, the changing room come backstage area come instrument store room was a strange place to have an interview, but it was dry and relatively warm so I wasn’t going to complain.
In a few hours, Delamere would headline the first Ashcombury Music Festival, a sold out event organised by guitarist Ashley Egerton as well as Mark Jones and Rich Goodwin, both members of the cricket club. But before that, I’d managed to get Fitchford talking about his greatest loves – his music and his band.
Have you done anything since launching your album last weekend?
We played in Hull on Tuesday and Banbury last night and then we’re in Birmingham tomorrow. It’s going really well. We’re shifting albums when we go which is always a good sign. Hull was a mad one at a place called called The Polar Bear. The thought of driving to hull on a Tuesday night made me think it was going to be rubbish, but for some reason Tuesday’s in Hull are like Friday’s. There was probably about 300 people there ready for a night out! I couldn’t get my head around it.
Banbury last night was probably the oddest but coolest venue we’ve ever played. It had all odd furniture that they’d made themselves, cut out of old baths and boats. There was a pommel horse out of gym that they’d turned into an arm chair! We’d just loaded in and they said “Your green room’s through there” and there was like a little 70’s wardrobe. I was like “Through where?” he said “There”. We opened the door and it was a big green room with sofas all the way around, a big TV, fridge and bottles of Vedette with our picture on the back. It said ‘Thanks for playing Also Known As’. So we took one of them home!
That’s pretty cool. Were you pleased with the launch last week?
Very pleased yeah. When you go to these big old buildings they have the bass bins on the floor and the tops hanging high, so the sound carries. I think next time, we’ve learnt from that, because unless you were right at the front, the sound didn’t particularly carry.
Yeah, it sort of hung in the front bit.
Yeah that was it. It basically hit the people which soaked it all up. Once it went through a wall of 400 people, it sort of just turned into this mush of nothing. But for everyone stood at the front having it, it was alright.
There was a lot of people there that night. A lot of friends and family?
Yeah there was a lot of friends and family but there was a lot of people there that I’d not seen before. Leek’s funny. A lot of the time when we’ve gone out or we’ve seen people, they’ve said “We’ve seen you’re doing really well. We’ll come and watch you”. On the last tour when we were in Stoke, we said “Come and see us in Stoke” and some people were sort of like “Ohhh”. There’s an old joke; a lot of people from Stoke say that people from Leek need a passport to leave, because they like staying very central, so there was a lot of people that hadn’t seen us before purely because that gig was on their doorstep. It was a really good night. I really enjoyed it. I thought it looked amazing with all the lights and the high alter.
The lights did a lot for the show.
Yeah it looked ace. We were only talking last night actually when we were in Banbury, that we’re going to do – exclusively – a Christmas party. A Delamere Christmas party at All Saints Church with a bigger PA and more booze *laughs*.
It was weird seeing drunk people in a church!
Yeah! We’ve done it with our label before, with Scruff (Of The Neck Records). They do a lot of gigs in churches and we’ve done some in Manchester and it’s always been a thing. They’ve put the bars in and they’ll do the drinks. I’ve never really thought about it but everyone said you know, we had messages on the Facebook page from people saying “What’s the deal with bevy’s? What do we do? What’s going on?”.
It definitely felt weird ordering a rum and coke in a church!
I know! The vicar was sound as well. At the end of the night, all we had left was three crates of IPA, so we gave him about 8 tins of IPA and he was buzzing off that. And an album and a t-shirt. He was chuffed with it! They were really good at the church so we’d definitely do that again.
It was a really nice venue. It must have been nice doing something different than playing at a normal venue?
That was the thing. We wanted to do something that was different. Because it was our album launch and it was our hometown, we didn’t want to do it at say – probably the only place in Leek where you could go is The Foxlowe or one of the pubs, but they always see bands and acts. We wanted somewhere on a larger scale where nothing like that had happened before. When we announced it, the reaction from everyone was what we wanted. Like “In a church? How? Why? What?” That was good. That was what we wanted to achieve and it was a good night. Memorable.
Have you sold a lot of albums since it’s release?
Yeah, we’ve sold quite a few on iTunes actually. In the grand scheme of things, for other bands it’s not massive, but for us – from Friday to Sunday – we sold 120 albums on iTunes. So that was cool. It was unexpected because it’s sort of in the back of your mind as you’re not shifting physical copies. We shifted a load of albums and t-shirts on the night. We’ve got a little merch table by the bar today actually. I’m really happy with it.
How many shows are there left on the tour now?
We’ve got.. oh.. let me count. *pauses* So Birmingham tomorrow, Leeds, London, Bournemouth, Dundee, Edinburgh, Manchester, Ramsbottom Festival and then another one in Leeds. The Leeds one we’re doing this week is a Sofar Sounds session so it doesn’t really count as a full gig. And then we’ll go back up – we’re playing with Glass Caves on the 17th September back up there… I think. We’re quite busy!
And then what’s the plan afterwards?
Writing. We’ve been told we can officially take a little break and write by our manager. We brought the album release forward, because we were going to release it in October, but we decided to bring it forward because we felt that it was a bit summery. The vibe of everything, it just wouldn’t have suited to have brought it out in October. We made a conscious decision to bring everything forward, so that made him work a hell of a lot harder! We had to get the dates in around that to promote it. Just pushing everything out. Once we’d got everything mastered and ready to go, we turned everything around in the space of a couple of weeks. It was frantic but definitely needed. It hasn’t really been that long ago since we toured ‘Kill It’, the last single we did and now we’re on this tour. Obviously to keep the dream alive, we all work full-time as well.
Ah yes. It’s a pain isn’t it?
Oh massively. You know, you drive back from London and get in at four in the morning and then go to work and then that night you go and do another gig somewhere. So that’s why we need a short break. Then I think, instead of having a really busy schedule, we’ll play big good gigs but predominately we’ll be writing to release an EP next year. I think we’ll release another single off the album and there’ll probably be just a few dates around that – nothing as big as this – and then an EP next year.
You definitely need the time to write and to gain experiences to write about!
Yeah that’s the thing. We’re not a band that sort of organically writes in a room together. It’s mainly myself and Will the drummer. He’s got a little studio set up, as have I. He’ll come up with something and then I’ll put something to it and I’ll send it back and we’ll send it back and forth. Sometimes we’ll have the bones of a song and we’ll take it to a practice room and do it that way. That’s pretty much how it will go for us. I’m looking forward to having the time to do that, because with the album and singles and everything we’ve done, it’s come from jamming ideas in a soundcheck. It always turns out that if we’re practicing, we’re running through the set a couple of times because we’ve got a couple of big shows coming up. So I’m really looking forward to that. Seeing what new noises we can make. Ash has got a mad crazy delay pedal – a Dr. No pedal. He’s dying to get that into a song so watch this space! It’s mental!
Would it sound good in the church?
He wasn’t allowed to use it! Literally, it sounds like a beast. As soon as you touch it, it’s unpredictable! He got it when we went to London last. We went down Denmark Street where all of the guitar shops are. There’s only like 200 of them made and he managed to find one of these. He had a play and he had to buy it. He’s dying to put it in a song! It’s wild. He’s got to find a place to put it in. No doubt, the next song will have this delay pedal in – MotherBrain by Dr. No.
I can’t wait to hear that!
So Delamere are doing really well. You’re probably one of the biggest local bands going at the moment.
Thank you. A lot of work has gone into it. People say that, but we don’t take anything for granted. We keep trying to push. The main ethos in the band is that as long as it keeps going up– I mean all of us will still make music but it’s dependant on how far we can push it or see what we can do with it. This year has been mad for us with playing Ibiza and getting booked for Great Escape, Dot to Dot and Live At Leeds and things like that. Obviously the album coming out as well and good reviews keep coming in so that makes it all worth while. Once it starts to plateau or starts to go the opposite way, then we wouldn’t put so much time into it.
We love playing your stuff on Moorlands Radio. We’d love to get you back in for a session, if you’re not too big for it!
Thanks! No definitely not too big! We’ll do anything. We’re easy going. I don’t know if people have different views of us, but we’re not arrogant or anything like that.
That’s something I’ve noticed. Not that I expected you to be massively bigheaded, but what struck me last weekend was how modest you are.
Thank you. We’ve had it all the way down. You’ll get bands where you see it all the time and it’s just embarrassing. We cringe ourselves when we see it. You’re all there to do the same thing and play. When you see something like an attitude or a comment like “We’re not doing this” or “We’re better than them” it’s counter productive. They dig their own grave so to speak. Leave them to it!
I’m glad everything is going well for you. Delamere are definitely going to keep going for now?
Definitely. Oh yeah. Definitely. As I said, even if things start going down, we’ll still write music because we enjoy it. It’s just whether we’re prepared to give up seven nights a week for something that’s going downhill. We’d still release stuff. We enjoy it and that’s why we do it. If we were doing it for money or for fame I’d have quit a long time ago! When we tour, everything is added up. So if we go on this tour we’ll get paid x-amount. Some bands don’t do that. They’ll just go per gig. But literally, we’ve gone as far as Brighton for £50 and beers and it’s like your van hire alone is £100. It’s stuff like that. We put into it. We’ll do whatever we can for it because we enjoy it. We love what we do and we’ll keep doing it.
Check out E Major’s review of Delamere’s debut album here. You can also see what E Major thought of the launch gig by clicking here.