Judging by the show The Mysterines have just put on, you don’t get the impression that their hometown isn’t that into them. We’re at Liverpool’s Arts Club, the beating heart of the city’s music scene to watch the rising rock band in familiar circumstances. The crowd – a mix of impressionable teens and seasoned fans – are belting out the choruses at every opportunity. It’s an ear-splitting victory lap on the band’s UK tour, but it’s not always been that way. The approval of their hometown has been hard won.
“This place used to be quite stand-offish, but I think that was because we were classed as a Liverpool band,” singer Lia Metcalfe tells NME hours before stage time. We’ve swung by Parr Street Studios in the city’s Ropewalks district – just around the corner from the venue for a chat about all things Mysterines. It’s here at this studio that bands like Coldplay, Pulp and Blossoms recorded some of their biggest songs, while bands like The Mysterines are starting off their recording career in good care.
“Initially it was quite hard to gain fans in Liverpool. It definitely shocked me,” Lia says of the muted response. “At that point we realised that people always supporting bands – especially from a city with such cultural history – has maybe died out. I didn’t want to give up because we were smashing it in other parts of the country as well.”
That mindset hardened the band and confirmed the belief they already had in themselves. Rounded out by bassist George Favager and a thrilling live band, the pair continued knocking around the country recruiting fans with each show, despite a different crowd from city to city. Nottingham? A bit on the reserved side. Manchester and London? Love to be in the thick of it. But it was only after a recalibration from Lia that they saw themselves making progress.
“When we used to go to London, I used to be quite intimidated by other girls watching me,” she says. “I thought they didn’t understand me. I was young and a bit insecure, but once I decided in my head that ‘girls don’t dislike me’, that problem went away. I was just making it in my head.”
It’s little wonder that the band are already in the mindset of a seasoned pro. Lia’s first gigs as a performer were stripped back acoustic shows instigated by her manager, when Lia was aged just 13. With little to no experience performing live – and still mastering the guitar – it’s the kind of sink or swim environment that they thrive in.
“I was thrown in the deep end, but I was glad that we did that. We had to learn pretty fast. I just didn’t know what was going on. I felt quite humiliated sometimes,” she says, reminiscing about those scrappy introductions. But she’s seen how people can exploit those gaps – so why don’t they just fill them themselves. “The industry is quite cut throat and you either learn now or you don’t,” she says. “I remember Jay [James Skelly, The Coral] saying that if you don’t do it now, some other band will come along and do it – and they won’t be as good as you, but they’ll just do it and you’ll be fuming.”
Few bands in Britain are doing it better than The Mysterines right now. Their most recent song ‘Love’s Not Enough’ is a bruising reminder of this nation’s rock credibility – and why it shouldn’t be knocked. An understated verse powered by Lia’s genuinely spectacular vocals reaches its climax in the song’s powerful chorus. A sonic boom for their career – you’ll never forget when you first heard it and certain things won’t be the same again afterwards.
This’ll come as no shock to any fans that have been paying attention for the last few years. Their debut EP, 2019’s ‘Take Control’ was similarly explosive – pairing the snarl of Nirvana’s more feral moments, with the pop sensibilities of Wolf Alice. It’s the kind of music that is unashamed in it’s embracement of the history and lore around rock bands, even in an era of genre-less listening. It’s little wonder they’ve supported bands like Royal Blood, The Amazons with barely a handful of songs out.
Lia’s songwriting, meanwhile, is a modern twist of the anti-anthems crafted by Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, while she admires Billie Eilish’s and Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker and their razor-sharp observations. She’s recently signed a publishing deal with Domino Records, home to artists like Big Thief, (Sandy) Alex G and Arctic Monkeys. It’s just the start, too. Their current live set, which features blues-rock stomper ‘I Win Every Time’, showcases that there’s even more where those come from.
That kind of confidence in their back catalogue instils a level of confidence that’s hard to combat. During our chat – and in their show that evening – Lia is a powerful force, just as adept as telling naysayers to get fucked for knocking Britain’s rock scene (“There’s so many good bands on the grassroots”) to combating the festival circuit’s inability to book gender balanced bills (“It shows how deep the misogyny goes. There’s always going to be great female talent”).
Later that night, Lia’s rockstar credentials are proved even further. She saunters onstage sporting sunglasses, looks fairly nonplussed anyone is there – they should be lucky to be in attendance, frankly – knows when to stare blankly at them and swagger around stage. By the time things wrap up, she walks up the front of the stage, whips the sunnies back on and takes an affirming nod at the wreckage they’ve left and walks off. Liverpool is The Mysterines’. Next, they’re coming for your town. You best be ready.