It’s no coincidence that some of the country’s most dynamic new noise has emerged from sleepy northern towns in the last few years. You only have to listen to the incisive, pummeling anthem of ‘Valleys’ by Working Men’s Club (Todmorden) or the politically loaded groove of ‘Burn The Heather’ by The Lounge Society (Hebden Bridge) to see that rural isolation can prove incredibly fertile ground.
Enter then, Priestgate; the latest bunch to weaponize their humdrum surroundings into a formula set to win the hearts of the wider country. In the space of two pandemic-released singles; the band presented a rousing and euphoric blend of dream-pop with a gothic post-punk undercurrent. It was a defiant arrival that came about by kicking against the non-existent local scene around them in their home of Driffield, an old market town nestled in the Yorkshire Wolds.
Speaking to NME over Zoom from their respective homes on the eve of their first full UK tour – where they take in stops of Brighton, Manchester, Hull and London – vocalist Rob Schofield and guitarist Connor Bingham explain the project was started to kick against the boredom.“There’s nothing to do here and bands aren’t a thing,” says Schofield. “I was doing it to spite the fact there’s nothing going on.”
Needless to say, it was somewhat serendipitous they all found each other in such a small stomping ground. He continues: “I knew Bridie [Stagg] played drums through school and heard that she was making music with Connor. I just wanted to get off my arse really.” Soon after guitarist Issac Ellis was recommended to the band by Schofield’s dad, who he works alongside building coffins. Schofield stops to acknowledge the slightly morbid profession: “Everyone laughs when I say it and it is quite weird… but with the band, it all just fell into place.”
Finding each other only proved half the battle; the next step was finding a way out. “It felt impossible pushing the live thing because you don’t have the industry at your feet,” says Schofield. “You go into pubs in Manchester and you’re sat across from people who can make things happen. In Driffield, I’m sat next to the same guy who fits roofs up the road.” Bingham says the band eventually broke through to the Hull scene after exhausting the local boozers. “They have an indie night at the Humber Street Sesh and the promoter there asked us to open up. It was such a big deal for us, it was an indication that we were doing something right.”
The first major turning point came when the band penned the first single ‘NOW’; it’s the perfect balance of glossy synth-pop and youthful turmoil that once launched the likes of Peace and Swim Deep into the indie stratosphere. It’s also ripe with the same teenage melodrama the B-town bands pulled off so well as Schofield sings: “When will I change / I’ll make the same mistake / I guess I’ll never know / That’s how it goes.” The sound didn’t come overnight, and the band can now thank Driffield for offering the time and space to develop it. Schofield says: “There was a lot of trial and error. I wasn’t confident singing-singing, I think that’s where the line between post-punk dream-pop came in.”
Those elements effortlessly blend with the escapist lyricism, perhaps most notably on the latest single ‘Bedtime Story’ which is tinged with romance as he violently croons over the festival-ready anthem: “All I wanna do is dream away with you.” Schofield says the track deals with the inevitable passing of time, something of which he had plenty in his hometown. “It was this thing in my head that the only thing where nothing actually matters is when you’re asleep. It was me trying to fight the fact that you can’t just stop those constant thoughts and the only way you can do it is by trying to sleep.”
Such existential themes weave through the band’s debut EP which will come via Lucky Number (Dream Wife, Sunflower Bean, Walt Disco) next year. Bingham says the signing was a dream come true: “I remember getting the email and thinking it was a joke, they put all the band names of who they work with on there and I was like, no surely this can’t be real.” For Schofield, the champagne moment couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. “I was working in a dog food factory and when I got the email, I was like, I can’t work here for much longer.”
Any job concerns are firmly cast aside for now, with the focus on the run of dates ahead which culminate in a triumphant headline show at the capital’s Sebright Arms (November 4). It’s one small venue, but one giant leap for the five humble Northerners who no longer find themselves sitting alongside the local roofers propping up the bar. “It’s massive for us that,” says Schofield. “We’re all quite emotional people. It’s the tiniest of things that make us keep doing it and where we’re from only puts a microscope on that; because people from Driffield don’t get to do it.”
Priestgate’s new single ‘Bedtime Story’ is out now