A survey has named Bristol the UK’s most musical city – NME’s not about to take sides, but here Kasabian, Biffy Clyro, Kate Nash and more defend their hometown scenes. Let battle commence…
Ryan Jarman, The Cribs
Ryan, what do you think about Bristol being the UK’s most musical city?
“I didn’t find that study meant a great deal. I’ve always been a quality-over-quantity kind of guy. But smaller cities stand a much better chance of being good music scenes – a lot of the places they mention are provincial towns. It’s good for those places.”
Wakefield came third. Did that make you proud?
“It’s good to show that the smaller places are competing and that there’s as much culture around as anywhere else. I’ve always thought that anyway – the most interesting people I’ve ever met have been from the smaller towns. It’s surprising Wakefield is on there though, because when we were growing up there really wasn’t much going on whatsoever. I’m glad to see it’s changed.”
Wakefield has a healthy rivalry with Leeds, doesn’t it?
“I never felt much of an affinity with Leeds – it always felt very much like a corporate kind of place. You’d have to sell tickets to play. I never felt like we were adopted by that town at all, until maybe after we got a record deal, and people lumped us in with all these bands coming out of Leeds. We didn’t give a fuck about playing in Leeds, we weren’t bothered. We’ve always felt quite dogmatic about being from Wakefield and not from down the road.”
BANGOR, COUNTY DOWN
Kevin Baird, Two Door Cinema Club
How do you think Bangor measures up against Bristol in terms of musicality?
“Bangor’s a bit of a weird one. There’s not so much of a music scene here. There are Bangor bands, but you have to go up to Belfast to play. So in that sense, Bristol is a lot better!”
Was it a benefit to you, being a young band in a very isolated place?
“Yes, 100 per cent. There was so much solidarity between all the bands – everyone knew and helped each other. That was key. There was no competition. Hardly any industry types came over, so the scene was based around what the core of live music should be – playing for fans and writing music.”
Which other local bands would you recommend to us?
“And So I Watch You From Afar are phenomenal. They’re one of the best bands from Belfast. Kowalski are also incredible. We had them on tour with us in Ireland, which is weird because we started off supporting them in Belfast and my brother’s in the band! There’s a really great folk scene – The Lonely Nights and Maguire & I. Local music is very important to the Belfast people.”
Does the troubled political history of the area where you grew up have an impact on local music?
“No, not really. It’s something that is close in our memories, but it affected our parents’ generation more than ours. I don’t know any bands that write songs about the struggles in Northern Ireland. It’s still something that affects you personally, but it’s in the subconscious. It sounds bad, but you get used to things being the way they are, and things have changed since the days when U2 wrote ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’.”
Is Bristol really the most musical town in the UK, Kate?
“I did think that list was kind of weird. Last time I went to Bristol I got chewing gum thrown in my hair, so I don’t like it. I can make a pretty good case for London.”
Do you think London being so big is an advantage or does it make it harder to prove yourself?
“There is definitely something to prove but why shouldn’t there be? There should be something to prove no matter where you’re from. Even in small towns it’s not like people are going to be into shitty bands. You have to work a little bit harder, but you know that if you’ve cracked the London audience then you’ve really done something because they can be so hard to impress.
It’s so diverse because it’s split into areas and scenes. Nights get a reputation, venues get a reputation and that helps the artists. There’s always a pit of people at the bottom who grow up together. At the moment there’s a really interesting underground scene.”
Who would you recommend?
“Brett Alaimo is a solo artist who does a mix of spoken word and punk – he’s in-your-face and a total genius. Pens are really good, and they’ve been doing gigs around Dalston with Male Bonding, who I like. There’s Peggy Sue, who have just signed to Wichita. And then there’s lot of spoken word and performance art and poetry including Dockers MC. She’s a writer and does spoken word at places such as White Heat and the 100 Club.”
Frankie & The Heartstrings
Why is Sunderland better than Bristol?
Frankie Francis: “Well, having only been to Bristol once I’m not sure I can answer this question fairly. On the occasion I was in Bristol we played a pretty gnarly show and it was well attended. The venue was cool and the crowd were reasonably respectful in terms of attention, so yeah, it’s a cool place. I’ve experienced both the highs and lows that Sunderland can offer.”
Sunderland has had a notable scene in recent years – what would you say makes the area so fertile for bands?
Pete Gofton: “Mainly, it’s the classic things that make all art – boredom and hardship. The only interesting art comes from places where people aren’t looking; and nobody ever thinks of looking here. There’s always been a fertile ‘scene’ in Sunderland. It has strength of identity.”
What is the area’s musical legacy?
“In the Sunderland Rock’n’roll Hall Of Fame we have Eurythmic Dave Stewart, punk legends The Toy Dolls and in recent years Golden Virgins, Field Music and, of course, The Futureheads. Oh, and some band called Kenickie popped up for a while in the ’90s.”
Where are the best places to hang out to catch the best new music?
Dave Harper: “Base HQ for bands is, and probably always will be, The Ivy House. The mixture of alcoholics, bands, students and local men who will flay your earlobes off for looking at them the wrong way makes it a sterling watering hole. The landlady, Sara, could kick your head in but usually she doesn’t. On any given night there will be Baz and Jaff from The Futureheads, The Heartstrings, Pete from Field Music, Lucas Renney, Leatherface...
Hugo White, The Maccabees
What has Brighton got going for it compared to Bristol, Hugo?
“Brighton is a great place for new bands. It’s a reallysmall, compact place with loads of venues and people, who mostly aren’t from Brighton, making things happen. It’s a place where people seem to end up – particularly bands. That creates something that’s pretty cool. “
What were Brighton’s benefits for you?
“We’d been playing in London for about two years. We moved to university, and because it was quite a small place, it was nice for us to be able to play without traipsing halfway across London to a place where your friends can’t see you because it’s too far away. The rest of the band moved back to London a few years ago but I stayed. I love it here. It’s only 40 minutes from London on the train, and then you can get back and chill out.”
Brighton’s art credentials must mean that there are a lot of home-grown labels, ’zines and the like?
“Yeah, I was speaking to So Darn So yesterday – they’re promoters who’ve just started a label. They’re releasing La Shark’s first single, which is a great record. They’re probably one of my favourite bands at the moment.”
Liam Fray, The Courteeners
Liam! Manchester’s legacy is under attack from Bristol! Defend it!
“The Smiths, New Order, Joy Division, Oasis, Happy Mondays, Elbow, The Stone Roses, Doves, The Courteeners. These aren’t bands people just like; these are bands that literally change your life. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say Portishead changed their life.”
Do you think Manchester’s musical legacy overshadows new artists?
“Without a doubt. In Manchester you get it in the neck because there’s been so many great bands. People judge bands against something that’s already happened. That’s unfair on new bands. If you come from Bristol people aren’t necessarily going, ‘Oh, you sound like Massive Attack.’ You’re obviously not going to be as good as The fucking Smiths. It’s like saying you’re as good as The Beatles. Let’s be fucking realistic.”
Have you got any up-and-coming Manchester band tips?
“I really like Wu Lyf. They’re different. It makes a change for a new band coming out trying to do their own thing, as opposed to trying to copy New Order.”
Has anything changed in Manchester since The Courteeners found fame?
“There’s one too many posh kids in purple Converse with a keyboard strapped to their hip. Manchester needs a couple of lads with good haircuts and good shoes to come through, as opposed to wearing fluorescent tracksuit tops. But I think the scene is in a pretty good state to be fair.”
Emma Richardson, Band Of Skulls
How does Southampton compare with Bristol?
“Bristol’s a bigger city, obviously, and I think there are a few more bands there. Southampton’s competing though, definitely. It’s got a good scene – people give it a bad rep, but there’s a lot going on. There are a lot of venues putting bands on every night.”
Do you feel a part of it now, given your success in America?
“We used to put on club nights every month for a couple of years. We started out not really mingling with bands because we didn’t know anyone, so we holed up in our studio and made records. But after that we decided to get out a bit, so we started putting on these club nights, making new friends in bands through that.”
The rivalry between Portsmouth and Southampton in football is infamous – is it similar with music?
“Not really – they have a music festival in Portsmouth called the Southsea Fest, which takes over a whole street. It has bands from both towns playing there, so I don’t think the rivalry has translated to the music. People are much more likely to get along in the music scene, more than you might have thought.”
Yannis Philippakis, Foals
Yannis, is Bristol more ‘musical’ than Oxford?
“Considering how small Oxford is there’s quite a lot going on – it’s all separate from the university, though. When we were growing up there was a pretty small scene of bands that were all quite industrious. At a specific time there wasn’t really any careerist ambition in music here, so you’ve got a lot of bands that were experimental, like Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies. They had a massive impact on Oxford that’s still being felt now.”
Is there a sense of pride in coming from The Home Of Radiohead?
“Some people are proud, definitely, the older people who would’ve been here at the time and seen it. There’s a magazine that, for better or worse, has a lot of sway in Oxford called Nightshift. It’s run by this one guy. It’s black and white and he tries to instil some pride in the Oxford music scene. When I was growing up here it didn’t feel like a backwater.”
Why are the music scene and student scene so dislocated?
“There are obviously a lot of musicians at the university but the two don’t seem to mingle, largely because there’s an inherent fear within the university of leaving the colleges or the town centre and most of the musical or art stuff in Oxford goes on in Cowley, which is slightly out of the centre.”
Go on then, tell us some new Oxford bands you do like...
“Jonquil definitely. Pet Moon, which is Andrew Mears’ side-project. It sounds like really pop Phil Collins r’n’b but through his brain which makes everything warped. Trophy Wives, one of them lives here. A girl called Rose who I think performs under the name Wap Wap Wow – she’s a cellist and she’s got an amazing, lovely voice.”
Neil Campesinos, Los Campesinos!
Neil, you live quite close to Bristol – do you agree with the PRS poll?
“I do go to Bristol for gigs because it’s only 45 minutes away on the train from Cardiff. The thing I find difficult with the gigs in Bristol is there’s a really early last train back to Cardiff, so you always have to miss the last few minutes of a gig. I’m happy to live in Cardiff – I’m not moving anytime soon!”
Can you put the case forward for Cardiff, then?
“I can give it a bloody good go. I’ve lived in Cardiff since 2004 and for the first year of university we didn’t really know what to do or where to go – we were stuck in our tiny little student digs. But in the second year we met a whole new group of people. We started going to the Twisted By Design disco and met loads of people who became friends, and they were in bands and we got to thinking about starting a band.”
Where’s good to see music in Cardiff?
“Clwb Ifor Bach is just an incredible live venue – the room upstairs has got great sound. I saw an amazing Future Of The Left gig there. They recorded it for a live album. Then there’s The Point – it was a converted church, but they had to close it down because they got loads of complaints from people in newly constructed flats. It’s horrific, really – that they can construct flats knowing that there’s a venue there. We played our first big show there and it’ll always have a big place in my heart – just because it’s where I saw Yo La Tengo!”
What new Cardiff bands are you into?
“Islet were on tour with us for a month – they’re incredible. They’re a four-piece. They were the first band on each night and they blew everyone away. They’re kind of noisy, kind of poppy – they’re really great at getting the crowd going.”
Simon Neil, Biffy Clyro
Simon, why is Glasgow a more musical city than Bristol?
“Well, Glasgow is known for having some of the best venues in the world – King Tut’s and the Barrowland are revered by touring musicians. Also, Glasgow has such a strong history of great bands. That spurs on younger musicians.”
How would you describe the city’s musical ethos?
“It rains so much in Glasgow that the people who are into music tend to stay in and play guitar or listen to records. I think that’s why there’s so many good guitar players in Glasgow! There’s no big music industry here and it’s good because bands get a chance to grow, rather than be thinking about getting signed after three gigs. It’s an eclectic scene too – its strength is its diversity”.
Who from Glasgow should we be listening to right now?
“The Twilight Sad are great – they’re coming on tour with us in May. Also, check out Twin Atlantic and Errors and a new band called The Unwinding Hours – they’ve got some of Aereogramme in them.”
Kyle Falconer, The View
Kyle, you’ve never been shy about championing new bands from Dundee.
“Well, my brother is filling in for a band called The Twists and my niece goes out with the lead singer. They’re fucking shit hot. Then there’s Three Times Over. They’re like Biffy Clyro but their songs are longer.”
How much of a scene is there in Dundee now compared to when you were starting out?
“When we first started, there was no scene. It was just us and The Law. There was nothing happening. We always got buses to Glasgow to play. But we brought a lot of attention to the city and people started to cotton on and now it’s fucking hardcore. The music scene is fucking constant now. Every night there’s something going on.”
Does it help being isolated from the major cities?
“At the beginning it did. It was a really big deal and we were telling everyone, ‘We’re from Dundee, we’re putting Dundee on the map.’ We’ve always had a bit of a chip on our shoulders, being the fourth biggest city in Scotland. Dundee is never mentioned on the weather reports. Grand Theft Auto was made in Dundee – in fact loads of games were. Actually there’s a museum that’s just opened here and there’s a big bit for Grand Theft Auto and a big bit for us!”
So how do you think it compares to Bristol?
“Fuck knows. I’m from Dundee.”
Tom Meighan, Kasabian
What do you think of Bristol being named the UK’s most musical city, Tom?
“They’ve got a lot of urban music coming out of Bristol, haven’t they? And of course they had the trip-hop scene in the ’90s with Massive Attack and Morcheeba and Portishead. It’s got a variety of different cultures and tastes, so I think it’s wicked that Bristol’s the most musical city.”
But how does Leicester compete? What was it like when you were on the up?
“We were sort of left alone, because there hadn’t been a lot to come out of the place before us. It hasn’t got the same kind of vibe that Manchester or Liverpool carry because of the bands that were considered important in past decades. People never looked at Leicester as a musical place. I think the Midlands gets overlooked anyway, even though you’ve got Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and Slade and all that. We had to do it by ourselves and fight and we’ve put Leicester back on the map.”
You still live there – what new bands should we be checking out?
“Well, my mate’s got this band called Super Revolver. Not the band with Slash in! I try to see them if I can. But the venues are really tiny and it’s hard for bands to grow – hopefully another band will get signed from Leicester soon, that’d be really nice.”