Blanketman: soaring punk-tinged indie from Manchester

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you'd have no doubt seen opening the bill for your favourite bands. This week, Blanketman on how following in the footsteps of Manchester's guitar heroes has shaped their own determined blend of playful indie

A common rite of passage for any music fan moving to a new city is delving into your new stomping ground’s musical heritage. Manchester-based four-piece Blanketman, whose joyous blend of indie-pop and post-punk is starting to turn plenty of heads, went one further to get the creative juices flowing after moving to the city a few years ago.

“We rehearse in Brunswick Mill Studios and apparently the space we play in now is The Fall’s old room,” frontman Adam Hopper tells NME over Zoom. It also happens to be in the famed red-brick industrial building where Joy Division recorded their ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ video. “You can feel it in the walls: it probably smells the same as when those bands were there. You just imagine all the split beers on the carpets and memories that have never quite washed away.”

While such musical greats are name-checked by just about every emerging guitar band, Hopper says he drew on more classic influences while crafting Blanketman’s melodic yet gritty debut EP ‘National Trust’. “I love classic songwriting like the Velvet Underground, The Beatles and Bowie, so I had that in mind when writing. There’s a lot of things in common that drew us to that post-punk sound initially, but I’d take a classic-sounding song and then the band would mess it up with weird, jagged riffs.”

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As well as following in the footsteps of their musical heroes in a quite literal sense, Manchester has also thematically shaped Blanketman’s first EP as the record looks at life through something of a Northern lens. This is perhaps best demonstrated on the fiercely catchy single ‘Leave The South’ where Hopper whimsically sings: “I know the North can be quite grey / It’s too expensive down there anyway.”

The anthem addresses the feelings of isolation the vocalist experienced while studying in Reading. “It’s one of those stupid situations where you’re in a place, you feel shit and, rather than look at the actual reasons why, you just blame it on everything around you,” he recalls. “I don’t have anything against the South particularly, but the song deals with everything from the loss of friendships through to thinking ‘I’m skint’. It was written through hindsight, really.”

The EP’s title track, meanwhile, pokes fun at the trivialities of British culture. “My girlfriend’s parents bought her a National Trust membership for her birthday. I just thought it was hilarious because it’s quite a middle-class thing to have. We like to satirise things that are going on in the country: it’s always good to laugh at it, otherwise you’d be crying.”

The ‘National Trust’ EP also faces up to some more challenging issues under its playful surface, with ‘Blue Funk’ straying into harsher territory and addressing feelings of depression and anxiety. “It’s quite hard to sing [about] those things sometimes,” Hopper says. “The one lyric that stands out is: ‘Now I no longer hear the beauty in the songs I love’. When I’m feeling down, I can’t listen to music. That’s a common theme with mental health issues: you struggle to find enjoyment in the things you’d normally like.”

Blanketman believe they can turn their hand to just about anything musically – and why not? “I want to try and serve the songs as best as we can,” Hopper explains. “Luckily, [song ideas] are so bare-boned to begin with that by the time I take it to the rest of the band and they write their parts, it sounds like us.”

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The band are especially excited about playing the ‘National Trust’ songs in sweaty, packed-out venues across the UK once live gigs can safely resume. “It’s going to be weird because by the time we play these songs live we’ll have been playing them for over a year, and we’ll probably be on our debut album,” Hopper adds about Blanketman’s current creative streak.

Becoming ingrained in the live music community in Manchester has already helped the band secure some well-known admirers. “We became friends with The Fall’s Steve Hanley by chance encounter,” Hopper says. “He loves what we do and is really supportive, and even ended up playing a few shows with us.” Another game-changing moment came in 2019 when Blossoms frontman Tom Ogden praised Blanketman before playing one of their songs on BBC Radio 1. “We couldn’t believe it. It was incredibly helpful that he did that off of his own back with such a huge platform [listening], and it really did open up lots of doors for us.”

While the bonds they’ve already forged in the Manchester scene have been vital, Blanketman firmly believe that staying true to themselves musically will be key to their longevity. “I think it’s important for us to follow our own path,” Hopper offers. “We often disagree within the band now, and that’s great because we get these different strands coming together. We’re doing lots of writing now for whatever comes next, and we’re sticking to that formula because we believe in it.”

Blanketman’s debut EP ‘National Trust’ is out now

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