New Music – Los Blancos, Sunflower Thieves, Lazarus Kane

New releases and tour dates: Los Blancos / Sunflower Thieves / Lazarus Kane  

Los Blancos – Sbwriel Gwyn 

Friday saw the release of the new album by Welsh psych-punks Los Blancos, an adrenaline fuelled long-player packed with untamed guitars and beautifully chaotic tunes. Its title track has a feel of early Velvet Underground; the rest of the album a mix of jangly riffs and heavier gnarly tracks. Based on this collection of songs, the future for Los Blancos looks very promising. The band will be promoting Sbwriel Gwyn during their Welsh tour this autumn and will announce wider UK dates for 2020 later this year – keep your fingers crossed that they’ll be playing somewhere near you.

18th October – Cardigan, Bar Seler
1st November – Caernarfon, Clwb Canol Dre
2nd November – Wrexham, Ty Pawb

Video for Sbwriel Gwyn below:

Los Blancos


Sunflower Thieves – Heavy Weight 

Leeds-based pop-folk band Sunflower Thieves are made up of long time friends Amy and Lily. Their new stripped back single Heavy Weight is released into the world today and offers ‘ethereal vocal harmonies and honest lyrics to soothe the mind’. A song to play as you watch the sun go down on the summer for another year, its stripped back melodies are both reflective and relaxing. As yet unsigned, take your chance to catch the band live while they’re still playing intimate venues – they’re out on the road soon, dates below.


1st – Middlesbrough, Secret Show
3rd – Tynemouth, Surf Cafe 
9th – York, FortyFive Vinyl Cafe
10th – Sheffield, Cafe #9
11th – Nottingham, Jamcafe
12th – Leeds, Oporto
14th – London, Sofar Sounds
15th – Coventry, The Big Comfy Bookshop
28th – Liverpool, We Want Women

Listen to Heavy Weight (Stripped) here

Sunflower Thieves


Lazarus Kane – Narcissus 

Well, the Speedy Wunderground team have only gone and done it again with their newest release; if you can trust any label to consistently produce quality goods time after time this is the one. Latest offering, Lazarus Kane’s Narcissus stomps straight into the drumbeat of Talking Heads’ Psychokiller with vocals that will draw in fans of Lux Interior and Kristen Hersch. On the first few listens this is one of my favourite releases this year; look forward to hearing more from both the artist and the label – audio link and pending live dates below. Narcissus was released digitally on Friday and there is a limited run of 7” vinyl (250 copies) out on 1st Nov, pre-orders available here while stocks last.


19th – Oxford, Ritual Union
20th – Cardiff, Swn
24th – London, XOYO (w/ HMLTD)
31st – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club (w/ Warmduscher)


1st – London, Brixton Windmill (single launch)
2nd – Manchester, The White Hotel (w/ Warmduscher)
3rd – Birmingham, Hare & Hounds 2 (w/ Warmduscher)
4th – Bristol, The Fleece (w/ Warmduscher)
5th – Southampton, The Joiners (w/ Warmduscher)
7th – Margate, Elsewhere (w/ Warmduscher)
8th – Brighton, The Haunt (w/ Warmduscher)
13th – London, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen (TGE First Fifty)
23rd – London, The Dome (w/ The Magic Gang)

Audio for Narcissus:

Lazarus Kane


Words by Siobhan

30th September 2019

Live – Frank Turner + ST Manville at The Wedgewood Rooms

Frank Turner / ST Manville, The Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth, 25th September 2019 

On Wednesday night Frank Turner played a very special gig at The Wedgewood Rooms as part of the Get Loud for Nordoff Robins series of intimate shows; support came from ST Manville – gallery below…

ST Manville

Frank Turner

Nordoff Robbins is a charity ‘dedicated to investigating the impact that music therapy can have for those affected by life-limiting illness, isolation or disability’ and providing sessions with trained music therapists to children and adults across the UK. You can find out more about their work here.

Artist websites:    Frank Turner    ST Manville

Photos by Hannah Mesquitta

27th September 2019

Live + Interview – Mermaidens at The Hug and Pint

Mermaidens / Velveteen Riot / Bug, The Hug and Pint Glasgow, 23rd September 2019

Ahead of their show in Glasgow, Alan caught up with Mermaidens for a chat about their new album, influences and life on the road…

Your new album, Look Me In The Eye came out a few weeks ago on 6th September, how does it feel now that the album has been released and what’s the feedback and reception been like so far?

Gussie: It feels good! We’ve been so busy that it feels a little surreal.

The album artwork is really impressive, engaging and eye-catching.  What kind of ideas did you have in terms of creating that?

Lily: I made the image for the album artwork. I really wanted it to be this kind of genderless human, that was kind of half formed and you might look at it at different times and see different faces.  It was shot on film with multiple images of our friends’ faces overlaid.

How did James Goldsmith (audio engineer/producer) utilise your sound in the studio? Did he bring out more of your sounds and experimentation?

Abe: Yeah, he’s a really helpful collaborator of ours. We’ve worked with him for around 5 years. It’s been really good to build our relationship with him. He understands what we’re trying to do.
Gussie: This is our third album with him and we made an active decision that he would be producing it.
Lily: We wanted to challenge ourselves as a group, so we wanted to push ourselves and we also wanted him to push himself. We all agreed that would be the direction.
Gussie: It was lucky that we were able to have a lot more time and we could afford to be more experimental.

I noticed you released a special guitar pedal called the ‘Moon Cycle’. Can you tell us a bit more about the creation of the pedal?

Lily: We were recording and throwing some ideas around about some fun things we could do, as we wanted to do something special for the release of the album, so we thought we’d build a guitar pedal. In the recording of the album we were playing heaps of modulation pedals, especially with the guitar tone, so we were like, let’s make a pedal that does that.
Gussie: When we were talking about this idea, I did a quick Google looking for female pedal makers, just out of curiosity, and there’s not very many. That was an interest of ours to work with our friend who makes amps and pedals and is sort of just starting out and we wanted to give her a bit of a platform

(Further details regarding the ‘Moon Cycle’ pedal can be found here)

You’ve been touring Europe for most of the past month and you also visited earlier this year.  Are there any places or venues you’ve really enjoyed visiting on the tour so far?

Abe: Glasgow has been really cool.  We’ve also noticed there’s really good vegan food here!
Gussie: People are really friendly here as well.
Abe: We’ve also really enjoyed being in Europe as well. It feels like we get pampered here, which is quite enjoyable.
Gussie: They really like to show you their local food and local alcohol and they really want to make it a more memorable time, which is special.

When you were starting a band, did you have any particular influences?

Gussie: Lots. We have some crossovers but we have some different music tastes though, which makes for a really unique sound. I think our influences show through in our individual playing style. We definitely had a few particular artists and songs that we used as like a recording inspiration.
Lily: I guess our crossovers, especially between us, are like PJ Harvey, these like strong song writing characters, who maybe stylistically we don’t emulate, but their power really inspires us.
Abe: We like Warpaint a lot, but I think back to the point of us having different music tastes, I think when people ask us what’s our influences, I don’t think we intend to make any type of music, obviously everyone is absorbing music all the time and you’re regurgitating it in some way, we’re not trying to sound like anyone, we’re just making each react to each other.
Gussie: We got introduced to The Slits during this album. That was a really inspiring guitar and listening experience for me.

Have you got any plans for the rest of this year and on to next year?

Gussie: Yep, after the tour we’re going back to New Zealand and we’ll do a small tour to release the album. Then we’re chilling out for a bit – Christmas and stuff.
Lily: Summer holidays, we deserve a little rest and then it’s on to the festival season.
Abe: We’re playing a festival called Laneway.

Would you be quite keen to come back to the UK for festivals?

Definitely. There’s some amazing festivals over here. That’s the hope for next year…

Onto the gig…

Monday at The Hug and Pint – the title of Arab Strap’s fifth album and also the inspiration behind the name of tonight’s venue – The Hug and Pint. Coincidentally, tonight’s gig is also on a Monday.

When entering the venue, you can easily see why it’s spoken of fondly – there’s a welcoming atmosphere and the upstairs area includes a highly rated, award winning kitchen and bar, which has an exclusively vegan menu and plenty of tasty options to feast on. Heading down into the basement where the music venue is located, you’re immediately greeted with lots of posters adorning the walls of upcoming gigs around the Glasgow area, showing the vibrancy of a diverse music scene in the city.

The music begins with a recently formed band called Bug, who set the tone for a great night ahead with their songs about Goblins and other songs so fresh that the titles are still to be decided.

Next up are Velveteen Riot, who blend soft vocals with a crescendo of guitars and drums.  Highlights include a recently released single called Peaches and their fierce set closer Model Girl. They even manage to squeeze in a superb cover of Be My Baby, originally released by The Ronettes.

Mermaidens close the night with a setlist containing songs from all three of their albums. The venue may be small and intimate, but the sound is near perfect and really showcases the in-depth power of Mermaidens’ music. With Gussie Larkin on guitar/vocals, Lily West on bass/vocals, complimented by Abe Hollingsworth on drums, the songs sound excellent in a live setting and tracks from their new album, Look Me In The Eye are particular standouts such as I Might Disappear, Bastards and Millennia.

Concluding their tour with a selection of gigs around the UK and Europe for the remaining dates in September, Mermaidens will then head back to New Zealand to play Laneway Festival in Auckland on 27 January 2020. Judging from tonight’s stellar performance and their catalogue of songs released so far, it won’t be long until Mermaidens are a regular name included on major festival line-ups throughout the world.

For further details regarding Mermaidens’ music and their upcoming gigs, please visit their Bandcamp page. Their record label, Flying Nun Records, are also worth checking out for more great recommendations of music coming out from New Zealand.

Words, interview and photos by Alan Campbell

27th September 2019

Live – Gary Numan + KANGA at Worthing Assembly Hall

Gary Numan / KANGA, Worthing Assembly Hall, 24th September 2019 

40 years on since he hit the album number 1 slot with The Pleasure Principle, Gary Numan is still selling out venues with his (R)evolution tour. With an army of loyal fans returning night after night, there is rapport and respect between artist and audience, creating a warm atmosphere on a cold, wet evening.

Kicking off with the dystopian My Name is Ruin, the set comprises songs spanning Numan’s various decades in the music industry; something for everyone without being reliant on the bigger hits, though those are smattered throughout the evening and inevitably draw a huge response. Despite the obvious showmanship from the frontman, this is very much an interactive performance from the whole band and classic tracks Down in the Park and Cars receive a robust guitar update to compliment  the well loved electronica base.

Proving that technology can beat us all, there are a couple of song alterations and delays accompanied by a knowing cheer of understanding as Numan berates having to rely on Apple products. He must be aware though that the crowd are on his side whatever course things take and that many have followed his journey through the rich and lean years. Closing the pre-encore set with the track that started it all, the instantly recognisable bars of Are ‘Friends’ Electric? are a stark reminder of just how important its release was back in 1979; it really did break boundaries and opened mainstream doors for a whole array of artists to follow, the influences of which are still apparent today.

A special mention goes to opening act KANGA, an LA based composer, artist, and music programmer. It’s unsurprising to find that she has also worked on films as the sparse lighting and frenetic performance scream futuristic cinematography. KANGA’s self-released EP Eternal Daughter is out now. Her supporting role on this tour will undoubtedly attract a new audience; a smart choice.

An evening full of energy and entertainment, Numan looks content and confident in his newer music; the tour has debuted a new track Intruder and another album is planned for 2020. Doubtless the Numan army will follow where he leads.

Check Gary Numan’s official website for more details on the album campaign and tour dates through to the end of October

Updates and links to KANGA’s EP can be found here

Words and photos by Siobhan

26th September 2019

Live – Mallory Knox + Led by Lanterns at The Wedgewood Rooms

Mallory Knox / Led by Lanterns, The Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth, 16th September 2019

Having just announced that this will be their final tour, Mallory Knox are out on the road giving fans one last chance to catch their mighty live shows. On Monday they filled The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth with support from Birmingham’s Led by Lanterns – gallery below.

Led by Lanterns

Statement from the band:

‘After 10 years, 4 albums and countless tours it’s time to announce that Mallory Knox has come to the end of the road. Unfortunately we’ve reached a point where we feel we’ve taken Mallory as far as we can both professionally and personally.
This isn’t an easy decision for us to make, ending something that we started when we were teenagers, but we’re grateful to all of you that have granted us the opportunity of a lifetime.
We’ve decided that this tour is not only the perfect opportunity to promote what is our final record but also celebrate what has been an incredible decade with you all.
We never thought we would achieve what we have and we couldn’t be prouder of the music that we’re leaving behind.
Let’s go out with a bang, see you on the road.’

Mallory Knox

Photos by Hannah Mesquitta

18th September 2019

In Focus with Robert H King

Having worked with some of the most important musicians of the 80s, it’s perhaps not surprising that Robert H King takes inspiration from the world of music and record sleeve art. Viewing his beautifully intricate photos what may surprise you more is how they were created and that Robert is partially sighted. Here, he tells us about his fascinating back story and striking collection of images…

‘I’m a Photographer, Digital Artist and Mobile Photography Workshop Tutor working exclusively with an iPhone X as my camera of choice and an iPad Pro (with an Apple Pencil) as my digital darkroom, mobile office and social media hub.

In the 1980s I ran the Pleasantly Surprised cassette label followed by the Cathexis Recordings label in the latter half of the decade. Through these I released material by Cocteau Twins, Primal Scream, The Birthday Party, Sonic Youth, Mark Stewart and The Maffia, Fini Tribe, Pink Industry, Artery, Nico, Shock Headed Peters, Bauhaus and many, many others. At the end of the 80s Rough Trade and the distribution network that was The Cartel collapsed virtually overnight, bringing about the end of a substantial amount of record labels across the country including mine. Around this time I had issues with my sight and was blind for a number of years, essentially putting everything on hold. Following surgery I decided to go to college and study multimedia development. This led into taking up graphic design which was always a big interest for me, my reference library being the artwork that was my record collection. Inspiration came from many sources: Vaughan Oliver / 23 Envelope, Chris Bigg and Nigel Grierson, Malcolm Garrett, Peter Saville, Neville Brody, Barney Bubbles, Brian Griffin, Anton Corbijn, too many to list… For over 16 years I was a freelance Graphic Designer working with arts organisations, record labels, education trusts, galleries, magazines and artists.

Photography, or rather, making photographs, was a source of frustration for me. I worked in a photography gallery for over 15 years and was continually inspired by many photographers and artists coming through the gallery doors. A lot of people were, and still are, fixated with gear and this was off-putting as I want to know about the images and the stories behind them and less about what settings and lenses were used. Having sight issues meant that it was difficult to operate a traditional camera so I tried a bridge camera that had less functions and that I hoped would allow me to get to grips with the thing. After a few months of not having any real amount of success I was about to give up when I was given an iPhone 4S for a significant birthday, followed closely by an iPad. This changed everything.

I could now capture photographs much more easily and create anywhere at anytime. No longer confined to the desktop and expensive software. Pinch to zoom is a wondrous thing! With just a few low cost Apps the ability to retouch an image moments after it was taken and to then create artwork and share it globally was a game changer. It still feels limitless. I had found a way to focus my need for self expression and with it the need to convey the ideas and imagery that fill my mind on a daily basis. The need to be doing something creative is a constant in my life, it can bring meaning and direction.

In 2014/15 my exhibition Seeing The Unseen was the first of its kind in Scotland to consist of work created entirely on mobile devices.

I currently have two main bodies of work that I am adding to on a regular basis. Invisible Soundtracks is a series of works that are inspired by, and a reaction to, song titles, lyrics and references. Equal parts visual soundtrack and imagined fiction. All artwork is presented in the square format in recognition and homage to the artwork, graphic design and photography of the 7” and 12” vinyl records that inspired me and were a major part of my visual education as I was growing up and that still influence my practice.

The second project is Shadowplay. With my background in music, cut-up and remix culture has always fascinated me with the skill of adding samples, layers and disparate elements to create completely new works. I have taken this method into my own visual style by curating imagery from the scenes and passing moments that I capture and combine these with processed sections from found photographs that have resonated with me on a graphic level. The end result is equal parts chance and intention where the story that is emerging suggests new threads as I add the disparate elements together.

Drawing inspiration from the photography of Richard Koci Hernandez, Giacomo Brunelli and Anton Corbijn, I have chosen to present the work in black and white, bringing attention to the textures, moods and tones and indeed the timelessness that monochrome work brings to it.’

All photos are taken and copyrighted by Robert. You can find more images, contact details and information about his exhibitions and workshops on his website. Robert is also on Instagram and Twitter.

16th September 2019

Live + Interview – Olympia at Patterns

Olympia / Ciaran Lavery, Patterns Brighton, 11th September 2019

Fast making a name for herself as a respected songwriter and performer, Olympia – aka Olivia Bartley – is back on the road touring worldwide with her new album Flamingo. I caught up with her before her show at Patterns in Brighton and, as well as chatting about the London congestion charge and the lure of the fairground rides on the pier, we talked about her love of music, playing live and creating something new…

How did it all start for you and what keeps you going in the music business?

I loved playing music, I used to download Joni Mitchell tabs off the internet and I would just play. I didn’t know guitar, I’m self-taught and I would just experiment. It was like an itch trying to play what I thought I could hear and that led me here. Now I know a little bit more and it’s like the more you know the less discovery there is so I think what drives me is I’m curious about everything, I still have that sense of discovery, like what if I try this and this and this…

So what happened was I was playing in Melbourne and a musician found one of my songs, she was quite popular and she just went on social media and said ‘what do you all think?’ and it sort of started an avalanche and here I am. What keeps me going is that I can only do it when I’m excited. I’m not in it for the money or the women!

Is social media generally a good or bad thing for you, it sounds like it helped you get started?

I do have periods when I’ll just turn all the apps off my phone. It can be great or a necessary evil but I think that you’ve got to look after your mental health so if you’re not feeling great you shouldn’t feel you have to look at it.

You’ve been out a lot already on tour this year and you’ve got more dates coming up. How do you deal with that, what are the highs and lows?

The good thing is you work so hard every day towards making it happen and those hours on stage are the most important and the most joyful, you do all of it just for that – to be playing every day, because in Australia the population’s smaller so you don’t get to play every night like you would here. It’s so great to be playing every day and I feel my fingers getting harder and my skills getting better. I do feel tired but I feel that it’s a privilege.

When you toured with Julia Jacklin you definitely picked up lots of new fans in the UK. How did that come about, did you know each other already?

I hadn’t met her before, we have mutual friends and they kept saying ‘you’ll love each other’ and she’s great. It felt like Julia was really generous in spirit and it was so wonderful of her to take me on tour with her.

You’ve been to Brighton before – do you get to see much of the places you play while you’re there?

I’m lucky because I’ve been to Brighton a few times, it started with The Great Escape. Brighton’s very like Melbourne and I always feel instantly at ease here. Tomorrow we head to Paris then Amsterdam, Berlin, then Reeperbahn Festival before we do an Australian tour.

How different are the crowds at festivals from gigs?

It’s so different. It’s great to have an audience who probably would never have heard you before, it’s so varied, what I love about festivals is summer and the openness, especially where there’s one stage where people come and sit and they’re often just music lovers open to new things.

When you’re writing is it always from experience or drawn from things you see?

There’s a great quote ‘Writing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the only reason I do it is because I’ve done it before and I know that I’ve done it’. My writing is things I’ve collected from the world, usually a metaphor or visual metaphor… I saw this picture of red honey from Utah, so what had happened was this beekeeper thought ‘I’ll just save money and feed my bees sugar’ and he got candy canes because bees love sugar and it ruined the honey and every bee in Utah. We have such an effect on each other as people that you sort of shape each other, if you’re with someone long enough you can become a bit of each other and I thought about that and it became the song Honey but it’s more about humans than bees.

Lastly, you recently did an industry workshop giving advice to new and emerging artists – is there a definitive piece of advice?

I loved doing it, I have a lot of young artists contact me and my main thing is ‘Get ready to work’. We’re all different but I can just say for me I need to write 9-5, don’t wait for inspiration, it’s not a burden, if you feel good or feel bad just write through it because it’s not just your craft, it’s also getting better at the skills of writing… read books that no-one’s reading, listen to bands no-one’s talking about…

Great advice and if you haven’t heard Olympia yet, definitely take on board the bit about listening to new things. The gig later that night was one of the most enjoyable I’ve been to in a while…

Opening up the evening, newly local Ciaran Lavery proved that one man and his guitar is all that’s needed to hold the attention of the crowd. With a cluster of beautifully written songs and chats about his childhood, the set felt like an intimate gathering of friends, and kudos must go to the listeners for just listening and not providing the usual humdrum of background conversation that infects so many gigs, particularly support slots. With a feel of Leonard Cohen in a seaside town, Ciaran will be one to look out for on the Brighton circuit.

Heading straight into a set filled with hypnotic psych pop tunes, Olympia drew the audience deeper into an already happy and relaxed atmosphere. Mixing tracks old and new, her hints to the nostalgia of music past are clear to hear but take on a new twist that brings things bang up to date. With inter-song tales of sharks in the bath and intriguing all hours visits received by a neighbour, the ambient mood continued as the band worked their way between two different setlists for added surprise (to them as much as us), an end of set cover of Rock n Roll Suicide an added bonus.

The songs on Flamingo get better with each listen. From the New York new wave feel of Star City to the quieter tones of Nervous Riders and a personal favourite in Shoot to Forget (think Yeah Yeah Yeahs fused with Alvvays), the album is a grower and a welcome addition to any record collection. The Australian scene has thrown out some really cool and competent musicians over the past few years with the aforementioned Julia Jacklin, Nice Biscuit and King Gizzard (not forgetting their Lizard Wizard) to name but a few – undoubtedly Olympia has joined the list of artists ensuring that it remains very firmly highlighted on the map of new music you should ignore at your peril.  

For more from Olympia and Ciaran Lavery just follow the links here

Words, interview and photos by Siobhan

13th September 2019


Live – Lucia at Bridge of Allan Library

Lucia, Bridge Of Allan Library Stirling, 8th September 2019

Far from the days of being hushed by the librarian, the brilliant Get it Loud in Libraries project brings live music to regional libraries, particularly in areas away from the usual big venues, allowing people of all ages to access some great music in a very different environment to the norm. The scheme also provides opportunities for young people to gain practical experience in the music sector by getting involved with the event management and marketing of the gigs.

With a keen eye for new talent, the project has put on an impressive roster of artists including BC Camplight, Fontaines DC and The Orielles. Yesterday the fabulous Lucia paid a visit to Bridge of Allan Library in Stirling. Alan Campbell was there to capture their performance amongst the paperbacks for us; gallery below.

You can find out more about Get it Loud in Libraries here

Connect with Lucia and watch their recent performance of Flames at Kendal Calling below

Photos by Alan Campbell

9th September 2019

Preview – Dials Festival

Dials Festival, Portsmouth, 5th October 2019

The summer festivals may be safely tucked away but there’s no shortage of indoor events to look forward to, with the added bonus of not having to worry about getting sunstroke or washed away in the rain. Starting the winter season off in style, Dials Festival is back with another fine line-up, all hand picked from a huge pool of new and emerging talent to make up a really well thought out mix of artists and genres. Held at The Wedgewood Rooms and surrounding venues on Southsea’s Albert Road, this year’s headline slot is filled by The Blinders, bringing a phenomenal live reputation and plenty of searing post modern anthems, their set will undoubtedly be a highlight of the day.

Returning from hugely popular sets in 2018, it’s great to see LibraLibra and Fake Empire back on the bill. Both bands took early slots last year but pulled in the crowds and made big impressions – both well worth checking out.

The rest of the line-up looks equally appealing, some acts I know, some I don’t… yet. Having attended all the Dials events so far I can honestly say I’ve found new favourite bands every time and am looking forward to history repeating itself once again. Three of the best come highly recommended in the shape of menacing melodies from the mighty Madonnatron, pure disco-infused indie from Walt Disco and an intense hit of raw punk from Luxury Apartments.

Aside from the artists, Dials is once again supporting and raising funds for Solent Mind, a much needed and utilised local charity. There is no doubting that music can give a massive release from mental health issues and the pairing of Dials and Mind is one that makes perfect sense. If you haven’t got a ticket yet there are limited numbers still available at the incredibly cheap price of just £20. There’s just a month to go so make plans, get along, support a great cause, come and say hello then find some favourite new bands of your own.

More info from Dials Festival here

Words and photos by Siobhan

5th September 2019


Local Heroes – The Cribs

Still rings in my ears – The Cribs through Wakefield eyes

As a young lad from Wakefield, yearning for a musical identity of my own, I felt forced to look away to the neighbouring sounds of Sheffield and Leeds, over the Pennines to Manchester and Liverpool and, more often than not, across the pond to the USA; for the Merrie City (Wakefield’s somewhat ironic moniker) seemingly had little to offer me besides Black Lace…. Agadoo… yikes.

This changed when I discovered The Cribs, a scrappy garage/punk rock band fronted by twins Ryan and Gary with their younger brother Ross on drums, hailing from my hometown.

This was during the mid-noughties ‘indie’ revival, where the initial shockwave of The Strokes and The Libertines had resulted in a toxic fallout spawning countless prodigies all clad in skinny jeans and knackered converse, staggering around Camden (wherever that was) with eyes, hungover, peeking out from beneath a tousled fringe. I pawed at the NME weekly, though too young to be out in the Skins style discos splashed on the pages, I felt a connection to something, and whilst the majority of those bands had vanished almost entirely by the end of the decade (probably for the best), there were some, such as The Cribs, that never left me.

The appeal of The Cribs initially for me revolved around the fact that they were from where I was from; seeing them in a CD inlay lounging about the Wakefield Trinity Stadiumstreets away from my house, was akin to seeing The Ramones on the bus home from school.

Yes, they wrote magnificently catchy and noisy punk bangers (more on that shortly), but hearing your town’s name in a song can be an electrifying experience when you’re 12. The geography seemed to always to be a contentious issue within The Cribs, on the one hand the band rallied against the “clued up arseholes” whose regionalism tried to put them at war with their hometown (see The Wrong Way To Be) and crowds early on would chant the city’s name in unison, whether it be in Leeds, London or Tokyo. However, it’s evident that it was their striving aim to break out of what seemed like a nowhere-town that led them to great success, that led them to be called the UK’s biggest cult bandby Q Magazine in 2008, to receive the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award from the NME in 2013 or, in their own words, be the first band to headline Leeds Arena, in 2017, that turned up in a van.

Of course not everyone is from Wakefield, so the longevity of The Cribs has to be down to something else, and that is the aforementioned magnificently catchy and noisy punk bangers. As a literal band of brothers they were always a tight unit, built on singalong choruses, snarky lyrics and sharp guitar leads so infectious that they tended to be sung back by crowdas loudly as the words. Though they were unforgivably lumped alongside many of the dour ‘landfill indie’ bands of the mid-late 2000s, The Cribs opposed this newfound appropriation of ’indie’ by taking aim at the scene on Hey Scenesters!, Our Bovine Public and Don’t You Wanna Be Relevant and by joking that the attitude of some bands is a bigger threat than global warming at Glastonbury. This did, however, lead to remarks that the band were somewhat contradictory for criticising bands for acting like cliché rockstars one minute and, in the next, diving onto glass tables at the NME awards and announcing that they invented Live 8 on Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Even with this in mind, The Cribs were a group I always felt proud of, their desire for authenticity and reluctance to do anything much other than their own thing has led them to often lurk below the radar, even with indie dancefloor classics Men’s Needs and Hey Scenesters! in their arsenal. Though existing on the fringes has allowed them to sidestep the pitfalls of fads, trends and cliques that have befallen many an indie band, their determination to stick to their guns has resulted in them making records with Steve Albini, Edwyn Collins and Ric Ocasek, and it would be absurd to write about The Cribs without mentioning the period when legendary guitarist Johnny Marr joined the band, something that the massive Smiths fan I have grown to become now regrets not understanding how big a deal it was back in 2009.

My hope to see the band live in my hometown came true in 2014, which was also my first time seeing The Cribs, at the then recently refurbished and now frustratingly repurposed Unity Hall. A gig I had imagined so vividly for so long, I can now only recall it in quick flashes; Ryan Jarman’s slavering mouth agape as he thrashed his guitar, Ross Jarman standing high up on his stool belting the kit below, and my arm crashing down in pain as I leapt too high at the cathartic first blast of the chorus of Be Safe. That feeling was matched last year when, feeling quite lost in myself, I attended an anniversary gig of a local record label to pass the time. I was heading for the exit when all three Jarman brothers wandered up to the bar and unknowingly almost caused me to suffer a small aneurysm. The opportunity wasn’t missed, and I got to embarrassingly gush to my heroes in person for a few minutes, thanking them for their music, for making the 12 year old me believe in the potential of my town, and then I left, feeling a little less lost.

I feel Wakefield is likely a much better place now than it was when The Cribs first dreamt of escaping it; it’s got a nationally renowned art gallery, a really good record store (read all about it!) and an infamous pie-shop, though best of all, it will always have The Cribs.

Essential listening 

Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever – 2007, Wichita

It might be the band’s most commercially successful work, but that doesn’t mean their formula of shouty, singalong punk infused power-pop crafted on their first two LPs is missing, if anything it is perfected. Beginning with the jolting Our Bovine Public (watch your headphone volume) and concluding with the acoustic ballad Shoot the Poets, it’s one of the few records that properly deserved its ‘10 year anniversary’ tour, the likes of which have become commonplace over the last couple of years. The indie disco classic Men’s Needs, the feverish My Life Flashed Before My Eyes and the conflicted ode to Wakefield I’ve Tried Everything all feature, but the monolithic Be Safe is the albums cornerstone; a six minute epic featuring a sprawling and emotive spoken word piece from Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo.

Other recommended listening 

Year of Hate
We Share the Same Skies
Hey Scenesters!
Back to the Bolthole
Another Number
Pink Snow

For more music and news from The Cribs click here

Words and photos by Ryan Bell

2nd September 2019