As Clean Cut Kid prove they’re worth every bit of hype, Getintothis’ Nathaniel Cummings finds two of Liverpool’s finest new bands setting the standard for Fly On The Wall Records at a packed Leaf.
Leaf Tea Shop on Bold Street has never looked so busy. A venue loved for the intimacy it allows into live performance – and swathes of youngsters huddled close to witness a line-up of bands believed to be among Liverpool’s most promising.
The Vryll Society were given the perfect platform among commercial acts to amplify their individuality and provided a transcendent performance that would be sure to have astonished some, and later, Clean Cut Kid delivered a set of the highest commercial quality with impeccable musicianship providing the catalyst for them to communicate some of the best pop songs to be heard in Liverpool in recent years.
Before and between them Lumen, Polar States and Bad Habits all proved why they’ve earned their reputations on an evening that shared with the audience an insight into a spectrum of some of our finest talents; be it whether they’re just starting to discover their niche, exploring the true extent of their experimental capabilities or teaching us what it takes for a band to make it to the big leagues. Hosted by Fly On The Wall Records and presented by BBC Radio’s Dave Monks and Janice Long.
Lumen began proceedings and despite being the opening act, played to a bustling crowd – speaking for the attention he’s drawn in recent months. Since the release of September’s debut What Will Life Make of You, the 17 year old has been building something of a reputation, and sections of the crowd seemed to know more than a few of the words to his tunes. Quirky vocal melodies and rhythmic, jangly guitar played to a backing track proved his pop capabilities and the growing crowd ate it up – voicing their appreciation. As his writing matures and develops, Lumen will definitely be one to watch out for in coming years.
Following a promising start, The Vryll Society returned to the scene of last month’s epic headline show as Radio Merseyside’s Dave Monks excitedly introduced a band he was sure would deliver the goods – and they immediately raised the performance levels. 2016 is sure to be a year of great promise for these lads, with extensive touring busying their schedule until Summer. A crowd who’d previously witnessed a set of pop songs, were now in for something a little more unexpected, and endlessly more impressive.
An emphatic rhythm section had bobbing heads locked-in across the crowd as the two guitars of The Vryll Society shimmered and swayed across the audience as part of a trademark jam to begin this performance. We heard the best of 2015’s Pangea and its preceding singles, and were even treated to a new number in La Jette. As an audience we were left in awe of a band playing by their own rules (in terms of experimentation), yet still reaping the rewards of their undeniable musicianship as their reputation grows and grows.
Rapturous applause exploded from an unsuspecting audience between each tune to validate further their impressive qualities – they’re at a stage when anyone who sees this band in this kind of form can’t help but be impressed. They’re set for a massive year – be sure to catch them while you can.
Polar States were next and faced the challenge of following such a memorable performance, and the BBC Introducing favourites used all their experience to capture the attention of the audience. Following a year of high profile Introducing performances including slots at Liverpool Loves and the last Radio 6 showcase at Constellations, the lads provided an insight as to what it might take to become part of the Fly On The Wall roster, demonstrating the kind of coherence between songs that record labels expect as standard nowadays – an obvious identity.
Fellow FOTW signees The Bad Habits demonstrated similar strengths and the baby-faced four piece showed maturity in their sound beyond their years. Tight performances from both bands and an identifiable relation between all of the songs in their set will have doubtless pleased the label heads watching from the rafters – as well as the onlooking BBC DJs. Playing to a sell out crowd at an event surrounded in hype and popularity stands both bands in good stead to progress further this year.
What happened next will undoubtedly stay in the mind of all in attendance for weeks to come. So much talk has surrounded Clean Cut Kid since their explosive emergence to the forefront of new British music; they’ve hardly gigged (relatively speaking) for a band of their reputation and their most recent Liverpool shows have garnered growing crowds and glowing reviews, but their biggest shows have all happened outside of Liverpool up to now.
They’ve supported The Courteeners, Shura and Circa Waves to name but a few so make no mistake – Clean Cut Kid are a band making significant waves on a national level, not just on the Liverpool scene. On Friday they made it so apparent to everyone in the audience exactly why. Their songs are delivered with such a high level of musicianship that they’re executed to maximise their full potential and express their dynamic range. For instance, lead singer and guitarist Mike Halls stepped back during one song to deliver a solo of such quality that half of the audience were left open-mouthed, the rest grinning in admiration.
Tasteful keyboard parts drifted in and out where Mike’s melodies left space and thickened the sound when necessary, and the rhythm section was a tight as can be, moving impressively when needed but mostly providing a platform from which their songs could be delivered. Despite their undeniable ability, it’s the tastefulness with which Clean Cut Kid write their tunes that sets them so far apart from many of the other bands around currently; they’re so memorable and pertinent, yet personal to the band and unique to their sound.
It was almost hard to believe the number of people religiously singing along to every word of last year’s favourites Vitamin C and Runaway and it begged the question: when was the last time a new Liverpudlian songwriter evoked that kind of reciprocity with his own tunes? Perhaps it’s the belated start to them gaining the acknowledgment they deserve in Liverpool, it certainly felt that way. New tune Pick Me Up promised that there is more of the same, captivating material to come in a 2016 with limitless potential for this band.
Fly On The Wall Records should be proud of hosting a sold out event showcasing a selection of Liverpool’s finest as well as their own promising signings. This is a monthly residency and the next showcase is on February 26 at the same venue.
Pictures by Getintothis’ John Johnson.