“Oh shit, he sounds like one of us!” an Australian-accented punter shouts from the middle of the crowd. Rory Trobbiani – frontman of Melbourne trio HighSchool – has just introduced himself after ‘Sirens’, an eerily beautiful number that waltzes with gloomy new-wave chords, and a collective feeling of shock has rippled through the room. For a band that is so British in their aesthetic and influences – a sweeping of black eyeliner away from looking like The Cure; reviving the disaffected mumbling of The Stone Roses – it’s almost hard to believe that they honed their sound some 10,000 miles across the globe.
But throughout their first-ever live show, HighSchool don’t coast on the nostalgia that their songs prompt, but rather explore the very specific and intimate emotions that they tap into, from the all-enveloping longing of ‘De Facto’ to the restless anxiety of ‘Frosting’, a swirl of spectral intensity with a deep, rumbling bass-line. Trobbiani channels the desolation that he sings about, performing with his eyes closed and his voice tender and beautifully frail amongst the shadows. The group’s delicately-arranged songs may have an edge, but they’re comforting, too; conjuring a darkness from the day-to-day. “I’ve tried so many times / It’s hard living on the inside,” Trobbiani repeats on ‘New York, Paris and London’. The effect is unifying, and one of real connection.
Headlining tonight’s new music showcase at east London’s Sebright Arms, Wunderhorse’s hurtling indie-rock glows with warmth, feeling and vitality. In a live setting, the new project from Jacob Slater – the former Dead Pretties frontman, who is also set to play Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook in Danny Boyle’s forthcoming Pistol biopic series – is intense and thrilling. Slater performs dynamically with his band behind him, tangled nests of precise riffs abruptly break into mega-anthemic choruses on ‘Poppy’. A feral squawk lets rip midway through ‘Leader Of The Pack’.
Slater’s fearless embrace of his deeply affecting songs comes to the fore on the bruising ‘Teal’. He sings low, until suddenly, the covers come off his rugged voice. “Now I live in a basement, a blade at my wrist,” he bellows, full of anguish. “I think this is over/I think this is it.” The drama of the song’s huge drums and anxious pace are quickly heightened further.
An understated confidence in both his vocals and gorgeously reflective storytelling could easily bear out comparisons to the emotional depths that Sam Fender explored last year on ‘Seventeen Going Under’ (which topped NME’s Albums of the Year list). However, Slater’s sublime, quivering holler suggests that through his new solo artist endeavours, he is quickly becoming his own person, and a rare, ever-evolving talent.
‘New York, Paris and London’
‘Leader Of The Pack’
‘Oprah Winfrey (Is This Love?)’