‘The Shrives‘ celebrated the release of their brand new record ‘Back in the Morrow’ with an album-launch party held at ‘Rough Trade Nottingham’. They’d managed to drum up some serious interest in the event, as the place was full and the crowd were loving it. The evening could be summed up by the tag-line: “Crushed Cans and Crowd Surfs, Skinheads and Ska-Punk”.
Starting the night off though was ‘Holly Taylor-Gamble’, a local singer-songwriter with a backing band consisting of: drummer Tyler, bassist Luke and Greg on guitar. They opened their set with a cover of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’. Although it was a good version and employed a new rhythmic approach to the pop classic, it wasn’t as well received as the later sets which I put down to the crowd’s unfamiliarity with her music. Rocked-up covers of popular songs seems to be a fad amongst upcoming artists these days and is, in my opinion, becoming a little overused. Saying that however, they picked things up with their original material which had more of a punch than the cover and featured Holly’s soaring vocals throughout. ‘I Killed a Man’ was the show-stopper for me, with its ¾ timing showcasing the bands musicianship and the ‘Anna Calvi’ influence that she had mentioned when interviewed. The ragged sound and loose feel suited the subject matter and stood out in her set. The song came across as far older than the bands age (they’re all 19/20 years old) and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Nick Cave’s ‘Murder Ballads’ from 1996.
Holly named her lyrical influences as being quite literary-based, adapting lines from poems and putting a modern day twist on them. It seemed to work well in her songs, especially on the aforementioned waltz number. One criticism I would have of the band is the lack of lead guitar in the songs as the usage of two rhythm guitars often drowned out the bass-lines. The addition of more lead guitar fills would’ve filled the sound a bit more and would’ve complimented Holly’s songs really well. This was heard on set-closer ‘Repair’, in which the bass was given a bit more room to be breathe and have some interplay with the guitar, Chili Peppers style. The use of the soft/loud dynamic and a change in time signature worked well, making it the perfect song to end their set. Overall, they fit the bill and could be one to watch in the future.
Second to play on the night were Grantham-based trio, ‘The Varletts’ The band, whose name comes from an archaic term for a dishonest man, played a mixture of originals which jumped between alternative rock, punk and indie rock. Consisting of Laurie on bass/vocals, Matt on guitar/backing vocals, all being backed up by drummer George, ‘The Varletts’ name their influences as ‘The Cribs’, ‘Led Zeppelin’ and ‘Green Day’ which all shone through in their set. They jam out their songs, as opposed to one member bringing in a fully-realised piece, which is quite evident on stage when the three musicians find a common groove and run with it. The fact that there is just one guitar actually works to their advantage as the bass is given a place of its own in the songs, in which bass-lines fill the role that a rhythm guitarist normally would. ‘Mint and Marigold’, an Oscar Wilde inspired piece, is a perfect example of this. The punchy bass line opens up the song which allows Matt’s guitar lines to weave in and out, creating a great space for both instruments to be heard. It also gives way for George to showcase his frenetic drum style, which is somewhere between ‘John Bonham’ and ‘Neil Peart’ on account of his poly-rhythmic style.
Their single ‘City of Sin’ had a Zeppelin-vibe with it’s slow, plodding verses before exploding into the full-on dynamic choruses whilst its B-side ‘Accused of Effeminacy’ is more an exercise in British indie rock. Both went down really well live, with the former’s drone-like guitar and impassioned vocals displaying a maturity beyond the band’s years. They employed ska vibes throughout their set whilst mixing their classic rock influences, in a fusion I could only describe as ‘If Madness were into Sabbath’. They have a supportive fan-base, who had travelled down from Grantham to see both them and ‘The Shrives’, who they’ve supported many times. They had a good interaction with their fans, emphasising the importance of the support at their gigs, and have clearly established themselves as a good live act since the crowd joined in on the catchy choruses. They were a perfect opener for ‘The Shrives’ and are definitely a band to look out for in the future.
It was the time for main event next: ‘The Shrives’ warmed up the crowd with the famous ‘We Will Rock You’ drumbeat, a classic choice for any mass sing-along. A squall of feedback was heard and for 45 minutes the little cavern-esque venue was taken back to 1977 with the raw, visceral energy of punk rock. Before the main set, I sat down with the band to discuss their creativity, song writing and upcoming plans. One song mentioned was ‘When I Come Around’ by ‘Green Day’, which seemed fitting as their album had been produced by none other than Billie Joe Armstrong. His influence can be heard in their songs, which feature punchy power chords and clean vocal harmonies. ‘When Did You Get Home?’ is a perfect example of this. The choppy rhythm guitar and angst-ridden vocals, courtesy of Matt Grocott, evoke a time when ‘Green Day’ weren’t penning Broadway rock-operas or releasing a trio of albums but were instead writing about the pains of youthful boredom. It would be too easy to categorise ‘The Shrives’ as just Pop-Punk though, as Josh Horsfall adds bluesy guitar fills in-between the vocals, thus setting them apart from their contemporaries. He named ‘The Beatles’ as one of his influences and it shows, not only in his guitar work but in the harmony vocals that he provides, adding a melodic dimension to these raucous numbers.
The rockabilly stylings of ‘Crook’ is also evidence that they have a diverse set of influences too. Beginning with a low-key strum of an acoustic guitar and pained vocals, seemingly made for an upcoming Tarantino film, it soon changes course with a shuffle beat and western-tinged bass-line from Joe Michelson and Tom Shelton respectively – a highlight of the evening for me. Songs like ‘Kick It’ and ‘Turn Me On’ feature sing-along choruses that are catchy and were well received by the crowd, who seemed to know every word – a sign of a great band with an established fan base. A cover of ‘Brand New Cadillac’ done in the style of ‘The Clash’ (itself a cover) was thrown in for good measure and seemed to fit well in the set. I would even go as far to say that a non-punk fan may mistake it for an original of theirs, giving how well it was integrated into the set. The gig drew to a close with a medley of ska covers including ‘The Tide is High’ and ‘A Message to You, Rudy’, which ended with half of the crowd up on stage and Matt Grocott crowd surfing. A testament to their reputation and respect amongst music fans as well as a great way to end the evening.
What’s Next? According to Matt Grocott the plans are to record an E.P of freshly written songs and tour, so this is good news for any fans out there. And if you’d like to delve into his personal psyche, then you can read a full interview with him on our website.
By Oliver Cobbin