Six of the Best – Campus Bands

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Fables

Image provided by The Fables

Long long ago (two years ago to be precise), in the magical University of Lancaster, there lived four little students named Louise Turner, Holly Francis, Lauren Davidson and Hannah Mook. Every day and every night, the four would gather and sing in their kitchen, and from their mouths came the most dulecet, calming sounds ever to flood the campus. After seeing that, when in harmony, their voices produced such wondrous melodies, they thought; “hey, we might be onto something here.”

Thus, Fables was born, and since that inception no large scale campus event has felt complete without a twiddly, lavish smattering of strings and harmony. “We all love folk music, from Leonard Cohen to Bon Iver to Fleetwood Mac” says Louise, who shares her co-stars’ delight in converting pop songs to their favourite genre; “We love making non-folky songs folky, it’s really good to be able to fit harmonies or ‘twiddly bits’ into songs that don’t originally use them, in order to make them our own.”

Since their inception, they have been Folk music’s omnipresent campus representative, straddling the bills of every large scale event the University has had to offer – Extravs, winter festival, campus festival and ‘Still Human’, to name but a few. Interested, intrigued, induced? Then never fear – SCAN hears that Oxjam, The Vagina Monologues and LA1 TV are due for their annual Folk vaccination.

And the moral of this sacred tale? Never opt to stay indoors when Fables are in town.

— Ronnie Rowlands

Vinyl Jacket

Vinyl Jacket, who are signed to indie label The Calico Print, are a Newcastle based band with a Lancaster based singer. They have a background in musical theatre and influences as diverse as Paul Simon to Mariah Carey to Stiff Little Fingers. This band is quite like no other at the moment – their music is a unique and strange take on the standard math-rock formula, full of poppy and tropical twists. And their ambitious music videos are more than just a platform to promote their music, but a chance to “challenge the way people think about our music, or just to provide something new and entertaining” lead singer Ben Dancer told SCAN. Vinyl Jacket’s videos truly represent the band as and enjoyable listen with a unique sound.

Having played Glastonbury in 2011, Vinyl Jacket’s hard work continues (all five members either work full time or are university students, with the lead singer studying at Lancaster) as they promote their new single ‘Red Light’. The single launch will also play host to other up and coming bands such as Shields and Pandas And People. Having played both County Extrav and Pendle Freshers in 2011, Vinyl Jacket are already a big hit on campus, and seem to be increasing their fan base with each new single.

The ‘Red Light’ single launch takes place at The New Bridge Project in Newcastle on March 3rd.

–Charli Stevenson

Innamorata

Photo by Meher Gupta

Campus stalwarts Innamorata love straight up, no frills rock, and they’re not afraid to show it in their Dave Grohl inspired music. Sure, it’s not the most intricate or complex stuff in the world, but it’s impossible not to enjoy, if only because everyone needs to grow their hair, put on a Greenday T-Shirt and jump around to some power chords every now and again.

The set up is just what you’d expect, really; drums, bass, two guitars and vocals. Jonnie Critchely and Jonathan Doyle make up the formidable rhythm section, propelling every song forward with thundering drums and punch bass, and they are ably supported by Conor Scrivener on rhythm guitar. And Stephen Revier’s guitar heroics – listen to his blazing solo runs and annoyingly catchy riffs on ‘Rest in Pieces’ – combined with Stephanie Beer’s soaring vocals add an air of theatricality to the proceedings. It’s a potent combination, and one that is given an extra edge by their professional sheen – some bands on campus often sound a little rough around the edges, but Innamorata never seem to drop a note when they play live. They gig almost constantly around Lancaster – they’ve torn apart Lonnie Live and the Yorkshire House in the past – and will be attempting to do the same at the Bowland Battle of the Bands on Wednesday 29th February.

— Joe Henthorn

Underwater Gunfight

Photo by Mike Pendlebury

Underwater Gunfight. Where does that name come from? Well according to the band’s bass player Alex Williamson, that strange aquatic/pyrotechnic moniker is basically just “what we sound like”. Having never donned a diving suit and fired a musket at a heavily armed foe, I can’t confirm Williamson’s claim, though if it did sound anything like a sprawling musical hybrid that fused together the best of blues, jazz, rock and metal then I imagine a lot of people would be grabbing a weapon and taking a dive.

Well, they could do that, or take the slightly less dangerous route and watch Underwater Gunfight live. And I say slightly less dangerous, because their brand of heavily improvised blues-rock is still likely to combust in showers of improvisational funkiness. It’s not surprising that their music is this eclectic, though, considering they count the infamously bonkers Mars Volta-n Omar Rodriguez Lopez amongst their influences. “Our style started out as free-form improvisation, but now there’s a lot more structure to it; people respond well to having forms they can recognize, as well as the excitement of not knowing what to expect next.” With a win at the WaterAid Battle of the Bands and plenty of studio time already under their belts, Underwater Gunfight are certainly ones to look out for – they play the Grizedale Battle of the Bands on Friday 24th February.

–Joe Henthorn

Part Biscuit/Satan’s Abortion

Satan’s Abortion – also going by the slightly less ridiculous name ‘Part Biscuit’ – who are clearly a popular group of guys on campus, showed off their stage presence at the first heat of Battle of the Bands (Lonsdale, Week Four). Performing a crowd-pleasing set of Tenacious D and Sum 41 covers, the group managed what earlier bands on the night had struggled with; getting the whole bar to sing along. Satan’s Abortion’s performance also brought an element of theatrics seen in many live shows by involving the audience in an extravagant way to introduce a cover of Sum 41’s Fat Lip. This was done by “auctioning” off the band members souls, only to cause a “fight” in the audience. Yes, you read that correctly.

The band admitted to only having got together the morning before their performance to practise, and although this showed in the singer’s lack of ability to remember all the words, they proved that they are skilled musicians. By the time the Battle of the Bands final takes place it would be good to see the band having had more time to rehearse and possibly a chance to write together as an element of originality would certainly enhance their performance massively.

Satan’s Abortion (or Part Biscuit – whichever you prefer, really) can be seen at the Battle of the Bands final which takes place Saturday 10th March in Cartmel Bar.

–Charli Stevenson

Yellow Bird

Photo by Aradhya Gupta

The Beach Break Battle of the Bands is Lancaster’s largest musical competition, so kicking the whole thing off is a pretty big ask. Still, if anyone was going to do it, it might as well have been a veteran campus band like Yellow Bird. Due to a delayed arrival, they were faced with a half-full bar of pre-drunk and impatient students, making the task even tougher. But thanks to their folk infused sound, the band managed to get the crowd excited from the offset and displayed their high quality performance skills, even with a last minute replacement drummer. The band were clearly influenced by folk/punk mainstay Frank Turner, with their ramshackle guitar sound and brilliantly passionate vocals drawing in the impatient crowd.

Their set list kept an ever-growing crowd entertained with a mix of original material and a wonderfully different cover of David Guetta and Akon’s Sexy Chick, one of the night’s highlights as the audience sang along. Even though the tempo slowed down very early on in their set, the band managed to keep Lonsdale bar hooked. A vocally flawless performance by lead singer Matt Hayes started the Battle of the Bands first heat on a good note and Yellow Bird were certainly one of the acts to be remembered for the right reasons. After watching five other acts I was still singing “We’re all going to hell” at the end of the night and wishing to see Yellow Bird again.

–Charli Stevenson

Our Day Remains

Photo by Matthew Smith

Our Day Remains is another musical project that involves Innamorata drummer Jonathan Doyle. Their more synth led sound is not a million miles away from the “Pop n’Roll” approach of his other band, though Doyle thinks that it makes songs like ‘Take This Night’ and ‘Lights Go Out’ a bit more experimental.

So how is it working with two different bands? “Innamorata is very much going right back to my roots, whereas ODR I see as much more experimental,” Doyle said, “plus it means I get to play many more gigs than I would get to do with just one band. It helps that the two bands are pretty separate too as they do not encroach on each others ‘turf’ too much.”

Doyle also believes having two musical interests allows him to stop getting worked up over the academic side of University. “It is a great way to get away from the stress and pressure of everything for a few hours, no matter how much of a bad day I have had. That stress doesn’t exist in the rehearsal room, it’s just me, the guys and the music, nothing else matters.”

Our Day Remains frequently tour in the North West and have played some fantastic gigs in Lancaster, so make sure to see them when you get the chance.

–Joe Henthorn

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