Issue 109 / September 2020

bidolito

September 2020 issue of Bido Lito! magazine. Featuring: TEE, JAMIE WEBSTER, ALL WE ARE, DECAY, MOLLY GREEN, FRAN DISLEY, FUTURE YARD, WHERE ARE THE GIRL BANDS and much more.

ISSUE 109 / SEPTEMBER 2020

NEW MUSIC + CREATIVE CULTURE

LIVERPOOL

TEE BEIJA / ALL FLO WE / ARE LO FIVE / DECAY

JAMIE ASOK WEBSTER/ / SIMON MOLLY HUGHES GREEN


12 Aug - 13 Dec 2020

AND SAY

THE ANIMAL

RESPONDED?

FACT / 88 WOOD STREET

FREE EXHIBITION

Image: Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, The Substitute (2019). Installation view at FACT, Liverpool. Photo by Rob Battersby.


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New Music + Creative Culture

Liverpool

Issue 109 / September 2020

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Words

Christopher Torpey, Sam Turner, Elliot Ryder, Nik

Glover, Will Whitby, Julia Johnson, Tara Dalton,

Anouska Liat, Jessica Phillips, Cath Holland, Stuart

O’Hara, Stephen Lewin, Sufiah Abbasi, Eve Machin.

Photography, Illustration and Layout

Mark McKellier, Tamiym Cader, Stuart Moulding,

Michael Kirkham, Esmée Finlay, Rebecca Hawley, Liam

Jones, Zoë Moungabio, David Cusack, John Johnson,

John O’Loughlin, Xenia Onta, Daniel Frost, Martha

Harris, Ella Fradgely.

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EDITORIAL

I

don’t know about you, but there are several elements of

the Covid recess that are really starting to grate: the social

distance that has developed; our clunky new vocabulary of

‘lockdown’, ‘new normal’ and ‘Zoom’; Matt Hancock.

The upheaval we’ve had has been necessary, of course

(apart from Matt Hancock). We owe a lot to the selfless

among us who’ve been working hard to limit the effects of the

pandemic. And while I could get used to the new table service

regime and click-and-collect supermarketing, I do still long for

the before times, the sharing of moments, the communality of

groups, the witnessing of a performance together. There’s only

so much music you can listen to on your own, after all.

That cycle that we had grown so accustomed to is now

massively different, changed by our basic knowledge of

epidemiology and infection. Live performances and even

medium-sized gatherings look to be verboten for the foreseeable

future, which causes a massive worry for the precariouslybalanced

music ecosystem – which barely gets by anyway.

We’ve already seen fractures develop in the foundations of this

culture; a quasi-religion of going out, ‘doing a festival’ and Red

Stripe cans at gigs, which is second in the unofficial national

faith stakes to football. In the closure of venues and space, it

is the small fry who prop this pyramid up who have suffered

the most, without the capital to tide them through these tough

times.

There are actually lots of similarities between music and

football. Like in football, if you only protect those at the top then

you remove the very soul of the game. Football in the UK isn’t

just the Premier League. Sure, it’s the home of the best players

and the biggest crowds, but it’s not accessible for everyone,

and as much joy is derived from the fans and players of Prescot

FEATURES

12 / PLAYING IN

The first findings from research in partnership with University of

Liverpool assessing the impact of lockdown and social distancing

on Liverpool City Region’s musicians.

14 / ALL WE ARE

“It’s a summer record. It’s about the good times and we need to

focus on the good things when they aren’t going so well at the

moment”

16 / BIRKENHEAD WON’T DIE

Can culture-led regeneration be the way to narrowing the divide

across the river Mersey? Enter Future Yard.

18 / MOLLY GREEN

Tara Dalton looks for the threads that hold together the jazzy,

soulful undertones of the abundantly creative singer-songwriter.

REGULARS

Cables and Wallasey Wanderers as from Liverpool and Everton.

Value isn’t just measured in profit, or turnover, or jobs sustained.

It’s something more primal that is felt, enjoyed, shared.

I’ve long thought that the health of The Zanzibar was

indicative of the general health of Liverpool music, even if it’s not

been the cultural hotspot that it was 15 years ago. The building

occupies a prime spot on Seel Street, but its presence is far

greater, giving music a place at the heart of a bustling, noisy city.

Sound, on Duke Street, was perhaps on its way to becoming

The Zanzi’s spiritual successor, a special place for a small group

of artists who saw it as their playground. What does it say that

The Zanzi, Sound, and even Parr Street Studios, can’t afford to

hack it in our new-look city centre? Admittedly, the cracks in

this venue-gig-artist-crowd ecosystem existed pre-pandemic,

and have been accentuated because of the lockdown. But that

doesn’t mean we should accept our lot and let them slide away,

does it? When I think of what I want to enjoy in a world free of

Coronavirus anxiety, I think of places where I can listen to music

with others, and feel part of something bigger. Is that too much

to ask?

It might be a small thing, but having Bido Lito! back in print

is a step towards that ideal. Through these pages, we can start

to share an appreciation of music again, as a community rather

than as isolated individuals. And as the gears of pink industry get

moving once more, it’s an apt time for the new people leading

this drive to take up the baton and run with it. Here’s to the new

team leading Bido into a bright new era, as I watch on from the

Mersey’s west bank. This ain’t farewell – it’s see you soon. !

Christopher Torpey

Founding Editor

21 / TEE

With the long overdue arrival of his debut EP, TEE is finally ready

to take his rightful place front and centre.

26 / DECAY

Stuart Moulding / @OohShootStu

“I’ve done everything in my power to be emotionally transparent”

28 / CURATING SAFE SPACE

“Even as an artist I recognise that galleries can be quite

uncomfortable places”

30 / JAMIE WEBSTER

With a debut album centred on the everyday symphony of

working-class Liverpool. Cath Holland profiles the personality

breaking through in his original songwriting.

32 / AS CLOSE TO FLYING AS

YOU’RE GONNA GET

With the way we travel changed for the foreseeable, Stuart

O’Hara looks local and makes the case for finding our two feet on

two wheels in the age of the new normal.

The views expressed in Bido Lito! are those of the

respective contributors and do not necessarily

reflect the opinions of the magazine, its staff or the

publishers. All rights reserved.

8 / NEWS

11 / HOT PINK

34 / SPOTLIGHT

36 / PREVIEWS

38 / REVIEWS

44 / ARTISTIC LICENCE

47 / FINAL SAY


NEWS

LAAF Film Programme

In 2019, four filmmakers responded to four Yemeni poets

from four different Yemeni communities in the UK; Liverpool,

Cardiff, Birmingham and Sheffield. What resulted is a

series of new poem-films, created in direct response to new

works by the poets and commissioned by Liverpool Arab

Arts Festival, forming the heart of Yemen And Conflict,

a new partnership bringing together the festival and the

Universities of Liverpool and Leeds. How can Yemeni

literature and poetry be preserved during the conflict, and

how can it be used to further the understanding of those

outside of the country? The poem-films are available to

watch at arabartsfestival.com/yemen-in-conflict.

Two Coloured House by Noor Palette

Writers Workshops

Aspiring scribes take note! BYLINES is a free Arts Awards-accredited course

facilitated by the editorial team at Bido Lito!. Starting from mid-September,

the course offers future writers from a wide range of backgrounds the

opportunity to develop their craft. Over a period of 10 weeks participants

will learn key journalistic skills, the best ways of documenting culture,

and tools to equip a career in the industry. We encourage applications

from artists from underrepresented backgrounds, and are committed

to prioritising spaces for participants who identify as BAME, LGBTQI+,

working-class, disabled and female. Applications are open now to

participants between the ages of 16 and 25, closing on 13th September.

bidolito.co.uk/workshops.

Vinyl-ly It’s Happened To Me

As with just about everything else on the planet, Record Store Day – the

annual event celebrating the humble vinyl emporium – was inevitably hit by

the pandemic. Organisers decided to pivot from the usual April date to three

separate ‘Drop Dates’ on 29th August, 26th September and 24th October. In our

neck of the woods, Probe, Jacaranda Records, 81 Renshaw and Defend Vinyl,

as well as Southport’s Quicksilver Music, Chester’s Up North and Kaleidoscope

Records of St Helens, will all be stocking limited edition releases for the occasion.

The three dates will be followed by a RSD Black Friday in November when more

rare wax will be up for grabs. recordstoreday.co.uk

Film Fund

A funding pot of £250,000 is open for applications from film and TV

makers until the end of September. The Film and TV Development

Fund from Liverpool City Region is offering awards between £2,500

and £25,000 for established and start-up production companies to

develop scripted or factual programming. The pot was repurposed

from an existing production fund to support regionally-based

producers, writers and other creative talent during a time which has

been tremendously challenging for screen professionals. Priority

has been promised to diverse, high-quality productions which will

spend budget locally, and decisions will get a 10-day turnaround.

Go to liverpoolfilmoffice.tv for more information.

Theatres Update

Everyman Theatre

While at the time of writing the return of public performances to

our theatres’ stages is still unknown, Liverpool’s thesp roster are

ensuring their community is not going completely unused. As well

as the charming Love, Liverpool podcast story series, the Everyman

and Playhouse’s youth company YEP have recently concluded a

radio series entitled The Visit, available from their website. Around

the corner, Unity Theatre is opening its doors for artist support,

community engagement, and business hire. From the beginning of

September the Hope Place hub is also inviting artists to apply to use

their spaces for free rehearsal and development. Meanwhile Liverpool

Empire have been busily rescheduling shows for what is shaping up to

be a massive 2021.

8


Direct Input

Ever wondered how a band suddenly shot from nowhere to

everywhere? Future Yard’s new webinar series, DIRECT INPUT,

might be able to help. By speaking to the people – managers,

agents, record labels – behind some of music’s recent success

stories, this series of fortnightly live events aims to lift the lid on

some of the techniques, and bring you the inside track on the

different kinds of careers and strategies that work across the

music spectrum. Each live webinar is free, and you can sign up at

futureyard.org. Following on from the opening conversation with

Girl Band’s guitarist Alan Duggan, who also manages the band,

the Direct Input series catches up with Leeds-based musician

Katie Harkin on Monday 31st August, uncovering her path from

indie duo Sky Larkin to solo project Harkin, via session work,

backing vocals for Dua Lipa, and touring as a live member of

Sleater-Kinney and Wild Beasts.

Katie Harkin

Liverpool Lighthouse

Hillsborough And Me

Anfield music base Liverpool Lighthouse are

calling out to the creativity of their community.

As they are putting the finishing touches on an

album commemorating the final memorial of the

Hillsborough disaster, they are asking for a fitting

name for the charity LP. Money raised from sales

will go to the Hillsborough Family Support Group

and has been made possible by contributions from

more than 60 volunteer singers. The mixture of

professional and non-professional vocalists have

been working with the Love and Joy Gospel choir

over Zoom, and, at the end of a round of auditions,

have formed a newly established choir around the

project. Go to the Hillsborough and Me section of

liverpoollighthouse.com for more details.

Art Studios Network

As with many facets of the culture sector, arts

studios have come under increased pressure

over recent months. Independently-run spaces

which provide vital space for freelance and

self-employed creatives to produce their work

are the lifeblood of the city’s visual art scene,

and are now looking to work together to

achieve strength in unity. A newly established

network which connects 35 studios, home to

over 500 artists, has been set up to carry out

research into how coronavirus has impacted

their work and how best to recover for longterm

sustainability. The project is being led by

Art In Liverpool with help from Arts Council

England. artinliverpool.com

Homotopia News

Homotopia returns in the Autumn with a programme to be announced

imminently. The UK’s longest running LGBTQIA arts and culture festival hasn’t

stopped working since lockdown; a digital performance with EAT ME + Preach!

was followed by a series of new commissions, Queer Art Always, capturing life

in lockdown and the power of art to connect and unite. The forthcoming line-up

promises to look a little different but will bring the usual eclectic mix of queer art

and culture. In a year where everything has changed, the festival will bring new

voices into the spotlight and tell us why the journey is just as important as the

destination. homotopia.net

Timeless Melody

The success of Melodic Distraction’s Breakfast Club broadcast

has given the Baltic based radio station cause to extend the

programming into the Autumn. Wake Up With! has become the

best way to rise for lots of music heads with the MDR team mixing

pitch-perfect beats with friendly chat. The following 10am-12pm

slot brings in the likes of NuTribe’s Sticky Dub, Go Off Sis Podcast,

Dig Vinyl and others for great tunes, competitions and even phonein

action. The station are also happy to announce they are returning

to their Jamaica Street base having been coordinating home

broadcasts from across the region since March.

Educating Beta

The learned folk at the University of Liverpool

have made their Continuing Education courses

more accessible than ever with a varied array of

subjects to indulge your passion, up your skills

or delve into a whole new discipline. Their online

short courses, seminars and workshops arrive

with the forthcoming academic year and include

Creative Writing, Ancient and Modern History, the

world’s most-used and influential languages and

much more besides. For many, now is the perfect

time to get that Computer Coding qualification or

Neurofinance certificate. Surf over to

liverpool.ac.uk/continuing-education for more info.

Pride Foundation Grants

A city based LGBT+ heritage tour, a campaign to increase

gender neutral toilet facilities, a ‘Big Irish Gay-lí’ and a multigender

inclusive hockey squad are among the recipients of

the LCR Pride Foundation’s inaugural Community Fund. The

£20,000 pot, supported by Barclays, was launched in June

with three separate funds for Inclusive Physical Activity and

Sport, Film and an Open fund. Trans Youth - Trans Truth

from youth collective GYRO, I See Gay People from Light

Factory and Betty & Jean by Tmesis Theatre make up the

trio of successful film projects. The full list of 16 successful

recipients represent an eclectic array of ideas and initiatives

from what LCR Pride Foundation Chair Lewis Collins

described as an “extremely high” standard of applications.

Pride Foundation

NEWS 9


(Michael Kirkham / @MrKirks)

SIX MONTHS LATER

Elliot Ryder considers the lessons learnt from lockdown and the need to take this summer’s protests forward.

It feels surreal to be writing in these pages again. If you’d

have said in March that we’d be able to return to print in

August, I’d have been sceptical. Back then, it was painfully

clear early-on that printing Bido Lito! would have to stop.

What was more worrying were our fears of when, or if, there’d

be an accepting climate for it to return. Even as I write this, the

cultural landscape remains in a state of rubble. But those early

stages were telling.

Like many in Liverpool, my life is unhealthily shaped by

the footballing calendar. By the first weekend of March, I’d

unscientifically assured myself that I’d see Liverpool play three

more times at Anfield before there was any real worry of a

lockdown and curtailment of the football season – similar to the

prelude of the UK’s fate that was

playing out in Northern Italy. The

suggestion of seeing Liverpool

play at home three more times

was partly in line with the ‘two

weeks behind’ narrative that was

prevalent at the time, and partly

because three more times was

the required number to finally

wrap up the Premier League. But

in the space of seven days the

situation changed at an alarming

rate. By the time I’d glumly trudged

from Anfield towards the train

after watching Liverpool lose to

Atletico Madrid, the focus of my

disappointments was to massively

change.

By 13th March, the government had been doing their utmost

to foster a state of ease. Boris Johnson was still shaking hands

with Covid-19 patients. Herd immunity was still bandied around

on radio talk shows as though a sterile fiscal policy. Yet, from the

morning of the 13th March all forthcoming football was to be

cancelled for an initial six week period.

Perhaps ironically, it took the removal of football from my life

for my head to click into gear regarding the severity of what was

taking place nationally. The initial humour and intrigue of a fan

dressed in a DIY hazmat suit, stood a few rows behind me on

The Kop for the Atletico game, paled into a harrowing reality that

was sat on the crest of coming weeks.

The severity of the moment set in. The night after I was

struggling to see how Bido Lito! could continue as the cultural

sector pulled down the shutters and gig after gig was cancelled.

As the penny dropped internally, so did a guillotine cutting off

the magazine from potential advertisers for the foreseeable. I’d

have taken a glass-half-full outlook in that moment. But in the

initial doom it resembled something more empty and shattered.

“As ever, we’re

looking forwards”

The psychological impact of the virus would flare up in similar

instances in the coming six months. As a magazine that is

always looking ahead, it felt like the future was already written.

I wasn’t certain of the significance of my profession in such a

moment.

How much of a city can you see through a 13-inch screen

or never-ending scroll function? That’s what I wrote in early

May, eight weeks after the digital plunge we’d taken – issue 109

lost somewhere on the horizon. As it turns out, you can still see

quite a lot of a city, its creativity and communities. They do not

cease to exist when removed from their natural habitat. As I’ve

noted previously, in our lockdown zine released in July, the early

stages of lockdown were punctuated by adaptation, generosity

and accessibility. Music may have

been on hold for the most part, but

everything that we produced on

a weekly basis aimed to shine a

light on the creativity that took on

the health crisis locally. So much of

this was arranged and organised

via laptop screens and chatboxes,

collaborative playlists and via

community radio stations.

The online world was always

created as a great equaliser. A

realm in cyberspace that borrowed

from the ideals of 1960s acid tests

to sketch out the potential of a

different reality, one free from the

over-bearing corruption and control

of the established order. Ultimately,

the internet was designed to offer an alternative. Yet, rather than

be a home to counter culture, the resulting weeks of lockdown

saw the internet become home to culture en masse. Family

occasions, escape, work, society in general rested on the online

world for an essential line of communication and communality.

It may have been far from the utopian vision that the latestage

hippies had hoped for the internet as a place to make the

acid test become reality – with large corporations and callous

algorithms governing much of what we can see – but there were

strong indications that life can continue bound to micro and

macro webs of community in the online sphere. In Liverpool, so

much of what is good about the city raised its head above the

parapet, with community groups and individuals leading the

way where central government would not. Culturally, too, the

landscape had never been so accessible and democratic. With

online variants the main offering from artists and institutions,

so many have never seen so much. But even with this static

omniscience we attempted to acquire from our homes, there was

still so much as a city we didn’t see or challenge until the days

following the 25th May.

As Jennifer John wrote in Bido Lito! following the killing of

George Floyd, Black Lives Matter was a long time coming. Not

in a sense of momentum, but in the glaring systemic inequalities

that had been consistently overlooked. It took the modern day

lynching of a man on the streets of Minneapolis for people to

look closer at was happening on streets of their own.

That initial doom and fear I’d harboured in the days leading

into lockdown, the feeling of a future already being written;

all that weighed insignificant when taking part in the protests

that took place outside of St George’s Hall in the weeks that

followed. Prior to the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, I’d felt I

had a good handle on Liverpool’s role as an exporter of systemic

racism, something still felt in street names and the necessity

of an International Slavery Museum. But this is only the macro

picture and far from comprehensive or contemporary. The legacy

of chattel slavery is more subtle, more institutionalised. Its very

nature will argue its non-existence. Look closer at Liverpool in

general and it’s important to consider whether it stands as a

destination for black artists, both musical and visual. Just how

many stages are there across the city that aren’t predominantly

filled by indie, psychedelia and rock ‘n’ roll? Why is it that The

La’s one album is widely regarded as the defining sound of the

city’s streets rather than The Real Thing’s 4 From 8? It is simply

because one paints an alluring picture of white working-class

existence, and the other displays a contrasting reality felt in

Liverpool’s minority black communities?

It’s important not to be lulled into the belief that Liverpool is

a utopia of socialism, anti-racism and equality. This city leads the

way in so many social movements, but we’re not yet at an end

goal. In believing so, systemic issues will continue to proliferate

quietly under the radar. More work needs to be done both

institutionally and personally to confront systemic racism and the

health crisis that is far from over.

Bido Lito! returning to print is a joyous occasion personally

and signifies a win in a 2020 characterised by upheaval (oh, and

The Reds making it 19 – eventually). But, as ever, we’re looking

forwards; the tangible aspect of the magazine isn’t what defines

it. More so, it’s the open source nature of the ideas contained

within that make this worthwhile and, I hope, a community

asset. And thankfully these pages cannot yet be guarded by an

algorithm, meaning each idea can be as democratically served as

the next.

In many ways, through being cut off from the city our

eyes were opened wider than before. It is my hope that this is

reflected in this and our upcoming issues. Special thanks to all

those who have supported Bido Lito! over the course of the last

six months. Without you, this magazine wouldn’t be in your

hands right now. !

10


HOT PINK!

Our HOT PINK! playlist is the place to find the newest, brightest and hottest music from across Merseyside.

Featuring the newest drops from local artists, the mix is updated regularly with a multitude of bangers from

an array of genres, guaranteed to pique your interest and please your ear drums. It’s the perfect digest to

keep you briefed on the best sounds currently coming out of Merseyside.

Ragz Nordset

Don’t You Forget (Drumwarp & Guevarism Psychedub)

Mellowtone

The Nordic singer-songwriter continues a triumphant return with some delectable mixes of her

single out on Mellowtone Records. This bassy reimagining, from a duo melded from the Super

Weird Substance and Keep It Cryptic stables, explodes the tune wide open to find trippy Eastern

scales which suck the listener into its dubby vortex. ST

Feral Wheel

The Dolphin Way

The second slice of FERAL WHEEL is a loungey throwback to Echo & the Bunnymen and arrives

with its own Python-esque animated video. More expansive than their previous track Death To The

Humans, The Dolphin Way builds upon the sonic landscape of that track and calls back to classic

Scouse New Wave. NG

Bye Louis

Between The Hedges (Steve Amadeo Remix)

Emotion Wave

Here we have the first fruits of BYE LOUIS’ egalitarian experiment of throwing the stems of his

Same Boy record out into the ether and inviting reworkings. Producer STEVE AMADEO’s addition

of sumptuous strings gives the song pronounced emotional heft while retaining the intimacy

of the original. Gone is the lo-fi feel of the original and in its place a more expansive, dramatic

atmosphere. ST

Niki Kand

It Ain’t Cool

NIKI KAND seemingly arrived fully formed. We last spoke to her at the back end of 2018, when the

Iranian-born singer waxed lyrical about her development as an artist and feeling comfortable in

her own creative skin. It Ain’t Cool feels about as natural as is possible – yearning, dusty soul that

recollects the wonder of Mary J Blige. As is the way at the moment, the next time we’ll be able to

see her live isn’t until February 2021, when she’s set to join All We Are at Arts Club. Should be a

good one, that. NG

Dan Croll

Hit Your Limit

Communion Records

Adopted Scouser DAN CROLL returns with a summery LP packed with pop hammers. The title

track continues to pay Croll’s career-long respects to King of American Pastoral Paul Simon in the

vocal style, but with additional synthy groove vehicle which sets the tone for another well-crafted

collection of tunes. “Everyone succumbs / Everyone’s got their point / Everybody bends and breaks”

Croll coos on Hit Your Limit. I think we all shared this sentiment at some point during the isolation

marathon just endured. ST

Campfire Social

Awake In The Wake Of A Wave

Mai 68

Deacon Blue aren’t everyone’s idea of a good time but as the concept of the guilty pleasure has

all but been assigned to the history bin with CD giveaways and alcopops, maybe time’s ripe for

a reappraisal of the Glaswegian soft rockers. CAMPFIRE SOCIAL seem to be setting out such a

campaign with this single. The satisfying build from sustained keys and skeletal guitar to beatdriven

boogie and anthemic chorus is fitting for arms-round-shoulders set closer glory once we’re

seeing live music again. Then the Deacon Blue debate can begin. ST

Georgie Weston

Around My Room

Lush harmonies aplenty, forlorn vocals, and a driving beat make for a fabulous sophomore single

from GEORGIE WESTON. The addition of sax is always welcome in these parts, and it’s used with

tempered expertise towards the end of this pop nugget. ST

Words: Nik Glover and Sam Turner

Follow Hot Pink! on Spotify: bit.ly/bidohotpink

(Photography from left to right: Ian Skelly, Niki Kand, Dan Croll, Ragz Nordset)

Ian Skelly

Wake The World

Silver Song Records

A highlight from The Coral drummer’s new album Drifters Skyline, this is noisier than much of

the record and steps further from the template you’d perhaps expect from a member of one of

the country’s most distinctive acts, with a fuzzy rock ‘n’ roll strut punctuated by Skelly’s languid

vocal. The rest of the record walks a satisfyingly hazy path between countryfied rock and softer

Americana. A discreet gem. NG

FEATURE

11


PLAYING IN

Lockdown and social distancing delivered a huge blow to Liverpool’s cultural sector, with

its music scene one of the most adversely affected. In response, Bido Lito!, in partnership

with University of Liverpool, has carried out research looking into the impacts on

musicians across the city region, with initial findings painting a devastating picture.

Back in February, if you’d have prophesised that by the end of the

summer the city’s musicscape would be on its knees, few would have

believed you. Enter Coronavirus.

When Boris Johnson addressed the nation on the evening of

23rd March, the country was commanded to grind to a halt in fear of the global

Covid-19 pandemic. Venues across the country shut their doors not knowing

when they could reopen. All gigs in the following months were cancelled. Festivals

were called off. Release schedules damaged, stacks of gig opportunities for

emerging artists no longer going ahead. The best part of a year of live music and

artist progression completely wiped out.

It’s an adjective that has been thrown around the

past few months to the point of extreme tedium, but the

impact that Covid-19 and lockdown has had on the music

industry in Liverpool and internationally is unprecedented.

The loss of live music in Liverpool in the months

that followed have had a devastating effect on the city’s

musical communities. The Zanzibar and Duke Street’s

Sound have now permanently shut their doors after the

ramifications of lockdown took their toll. These stages

were essential for emerging artists to hone their craft,

get key experiences and develop fanbases in the process.

The former was a building of cherished memories shared

by multiple generations, with the latter a key part of the

contemporary DIY scene. Without them, Liverpool is

weaker.

While the devastation of the last few months have

rightly generated an emotive reaction, this emotion needs

to be channelled into cohesive conversations for change.

Bido Lito!, in partnership with the University of Liverpool, constructed a survey

exploring the impact of lockdown on musicians within the Liverpool City Region

boroughs of Sefton, Halton, St Helens, Knowsley, Liverpool and Wirral. It collected

data on a range of themes, including the immediate economic implications,

quantifying creative loss, how supported musicians have felt during lockdown,

adaptations to new limitations and attitudes towards moving forward and social

distancing.

The proposed outcomes of this information will allow us to present a datasupported

reality to policy-makers outlining how lockdown has devastated local

musicians. This will help influence key decision-making processes as musical

organisations and the local combined authority aim to roadmap a strategy that will

get the region’s music economy and communities back up and running safely. The

data further allows the voices of many to be taken into account in the process, and

to make the case for what support LCR’s musicians actually need moving forward

to offset the losses of the last six months.

The survey was open from July 27th to August 7th. In total 175 respondents

took part. We saw replies from all types of musicians from all genres and projects

of all sizes, from bedroom producers to bands, community choirs and larger scale

groups and ensembles including musicians from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

Orchestra.

“At one point in

lockdown I was

made homeless as

income stopped”

We aim to cover the survey results and what they mean thoroughly in the

coming issues of Bido Lito!. This first piece will focus mainly on the loss of live

music within the city.

Firstly, 87 per cent of the musicians who took part in the survey had scheduled

performances cancelled due to lockdown and the temporary closure of music

venues. The combined total number of gigs unable to go ahead between March

and July was 2,991. As venue doors shut and the lights turned off for lockdown,

the city’s promoters were eager to reschedule, but wary whether this could be

achieved. Out of the performances cancelled, 2,584 (86 per cent) have been

completely cancelled and not rescheduled, with only 442 shows getting rebooked

for potential future dates – which may yet be subject to

social distancing measures. More shows are expected

to be rescheduled in the coming months, as performers,

promoters and venues get used to the new conditions.

But it will still be a fraction of what we would have been

likely to see had the pandemic not intervened.

While it is possible that some of the same shows

would have been included in different individual

responses, it is also likely that the number of lost shows

is greatly higher than the identified 2,500 when we

consider the sample size of the musicians asked and the

greater amount of musicians within the LCR that might

not have taken part in the survey.

The numbers are overwhelming and hard to take

in; at the time of publication, lockdown has closed

Liverpool’s music venues for six months. Some of these

lost performances were headline shows where emerging

acts finally reached that milestone of topping the bill

themselves. Others were the acts’ biggest shows to date, and some respondents lost

out on entire world tours, with upwards of £1m in performance fees taken away.

One individual said it has been “Totally catastrophic, financially, emotionally,

socially and creatively. Everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve has just crashed

to the floor”. Although most were understanding, given the global pandemic

situation, this sense of a doomed future was echoed throughout the responses.

Performance is a key aspect of being a musician and to some it is a

fundamental part of their identity as an artist. For developing a fanbase, live

performance is the best vehicle of promotion, with support slots being a key

platform for putting an artist’s music in front of an already eager and attentive

room of potential fans.

Even when excluding high profile artists’ international tour postponements

from the calculations, the financial impact of lockdown on the city region’s

musicians is seismic. The estimated total loss in performance revenue for the

regional performers asked was a massive £1,747,527. On average, each musician

will have lost £2,397 of live fee income so far due to lockdown.

With the venues closed, many musicians’ incomes were devastated with one

respondent saying they had “90 per cent reduction in earnings gone overnight”.

Another added: “At one point in lockdown I was made homeless as income

stopped.”

12


Creative organisations nationwide, and more locally the LCR

Combined Authority, provided funding to support affected musicians.

Funds were used to allow musicians to support themselves and to

buy new gear to be used at home to help generate new income.

Other services like Help Musicians provided important mental health

support for struggling individuals and their Coronavirus hardship fund

helped out 19 of the artists surveyed. Organisations like PRS and the

Musicians’ Union were also praised for the direction, advice, funding

and support they gave during this time.

However, only 23 per cent of respondents actually sought funding.

And althought the majority of those who did were successful, 45 per

cent received less than £500 and half of them received less that £100.

The funding received has been a drop in the ocean compared to the

amount of money lost to cancelled performances.

A further concern is that 44 per cent of those surveyed were

unaware of the range of specific support available to assist musicians

as they continued to struggle, uninformed about the potential help on

offer.

Funding pots continue to be created to help support musicians as

lockdown continues for the performance industry. The National Lottery

is the latest to open funds to help support artists. Details on how to

apply for this funding can be found on the Arts Council website.

Aims to get the live music sector back onto its feet and running

to a pre-Coronavirus level have moved at a snail’s pace. As we saw at

the start of August, moving into stage four of the reopening strategy

was postponed as the infection-rate nationwide remained too high.

However, the government has since announced that socially distanced

events can take place from 15th August. Yet it must be noted that

the Music Venue Trust remain sceptical of making live performances

financially viable under social distancing. More clarity from central

government is clearly needed.

The nauseating figures noted so far were regarding the six months

of lockdown. Looking ahead to the rest of 2020 the scene is pretty

bleak. The survey ended on 7th August, and from then an expected

143 shows were still scheduled for August, few of which actually took

place. The financial loss of just these shows alone was an estimated

£56,443.

Looking at the remainder of 2020, only half (49 per cent) of the

surveyed musicians have any shows booked, and though these could

potentially generate nearly half a million pounds (£496,622), even with

the easing of certain restrictions most of these are unlikely to go ahead.

If venues remain shut until the end of 2020, Liverpool’s musicians

will have lost out on over £2.2 million in performance revenues.

Furthermore, this estimated figure does not include the loss to the 38

per cent of respondents who had gigs cancelled but are yet to have any

new performances booked in.

The return of live music raises as many questions as it actually

solves. Yes, live music can return in front of an audience within a venue,

albeit with stringent safeguarding measures in place, curtailing the

very essence and enjoyment that live music offers.

Interestingly the split in confidence between the artists towards

the viability of performing with social distancing was quite even in the

results, with those confident or unconfident both at around 37 per cent,

with 24 per cent left undecided.

“I feel if we are innovative, patient and willing to do things

differently to what we’re used to, then it could possibly work out,” said

one respondent. Contrastingly one unhopeful reply said “my job is to

bring people together, to make them dance and create an atmosphere.

This is now entirely discouraged.”

Audience rules for limiting transmission of Covid-19 are almost

draconian. No singing along, no dancing with other people, as little

contact with others as possible within a set one-to-two metre distance.

The prospect of going to a show and being unable to sing along and

dance is otherworldly. It eliminates the collective voice and humbling

moments that are only available when hundreds of people sing along

to their favourite act on stage. Replacing it with subdued applause inbetween

songs just isn’t the same.

Worse still for venues, socially distanced shows put immense

stress on the organisation, the logistics, staff and finances of the

building. Live events are a financially precarious business at the best of

times, and it just isn’t possible for both venue and artist to benefit from

a 10-20 per cent capacity of a usually sold-out room.

The first analysis from this study proves that the impact of

Covid-19 on not just Liverpool’s but the nation’s musicians is massive.

But without proper intervention on a national level the state of play

will only get worse and more venues will be forced to close, more jobs

will be lost and more musicians will simply not have the capacity to

continue. This cannot happen. Damningly for the Tories, 55 per cent of

those asked didn’t feel supported at all by the national government. Put

simply, more has to be done to support the music industry.

The next issue’s analysis of the survey will investigate how

musicians have coped and adapted during lockdown while moving

operations online to try to stand out and break through the cacophony

of online gigs and promotion. For now, we long for the first encoure,

sing-along chorus and the joyous escapism that fans and musicians get

from live music. !

Words: Will Whitby / @WillyWhitby

Lead researchers and data analysis: Richard Anderson and Mathew

Flynn (University of Liverpool)

Illustrations: Esmée Finlay / @efinlayillustration

The next stage of this research will take place in October via a Zoom

consultation event led by Bido Lito!, University of Liverpool and other

musician support organisations. The event will consider the wider

impacts across the sector with venues, promoters, educators and other

industry professionals encouraged to take part. Registration of interest

is available on the Bido Lito! website under the feature.

FEATURE

13


The trio return to dish out sunburst rays of joy in the face of an ever uncertain climate. Sophie Shields sits

down for a socially distanced chat with the band following the release of their third album, Providence.

We’re pretty familiar with ALL WE ARE at Bido Lito!. Since emerging almost a decade

ago, the band have woven themselves deep into the fibres of Liverpool’s music

scene through two albums and countless spirit-raising shows. As we reconvene for

what will be the magazine’s fifth interview with the band, in what’s been a year of

unpredictability, All We Are remain as essential and joyous as ever.

We’re returning to talk today in an old converted primary school turned artists’ dream space. It’s

the home of drummer and vocalist Richard O’Flynn. It’s also where we first caught up with the trio

of Rich, Guro Gikling (bass) and Luís Santos (guitar) back in 2012. Back then the trio had only just

stumbled into formation and lit the touch paper for their eight-year career that’s followed. But today

is all about album number three.

Looking on from EP Heart Of Mine, the bridge between 2017’s Sunny Hills and new LP

Providence – at first listen you get the sense that album number three is a bit of a step away from

their first two offerings. It has a similar vibe, the same twangy guitar hooks, funky basslines and

groovy beats; but it leads with a much more euphoric sense of positivity and warmth in the themes

and narrative. Where debut All We Are had ice running through its funky veins, and Sunny Hills

channelled a more insistent aggression, Providence is the perfect combination of catchy tunes with

a summery outlook on life. An apt time to be releasing it into the world after the last few months

and a fine example of how the power of music can offer a bit of respite for musicians and listeners

alike.

Sitting comfortably on tiny chairs (we are in what was a primary school after all) in the

sunny back garden of Rich’s home/music studio/groove factory, it’s difficult to not take a second

to acknowledge we’re able do this again. To physically sit together, albeit at a distance, and talk

about music without a computer screen and a dodgy internet connection between us. A sense of

normality may not have completely resumed but it’s a step in the right direction.

You can’t come to Rich’s creative heaven of a home and not want to know more about it, and

how it feeds into the make-up of the band. “We got this place when the band started nine years

ago, about May 2011,” Cork native Rich tells me. “We were talking about starting a band and then

my girlfriend broke up with me and I was looking for a place. Luís came with me to see the nursery

and it was totally fucked,” he adds. “There was weird shit everywhere. I think some artist from

Newcastle lived here. I didn’t really have any vision and was like, ‘Yeh, I can’t live here,’ but Luís

[convinced me of its potential] and so we just moved in and started the band.”

The space has played an important role in the workings of All We Are, an unofficial fourth

member and the birthplace of Providence. “We wanted to have the familiarity and the space to

spend as much time as we wanted on the album. It’s always been quite key.”

The trio of All We Are hail from all corners of the world: Rich, as mentioned comes from Ireland,

Guro from Norway and Luís from Brazil. Coming together in Liverpool and adopting it as a place

to start their musical endeavour feels like a bit of a calling for them. Like a lot of bands in Liverpool

they met in the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. There’s something about the city, it draws

people in from all walks of life, with an abundance of talent. But, looking back at the first steps that

bring us here today, what was it about Liverpool for these guys?

“I just wanted to come to Liverpool, I had heard about LIPA and wanted to come,” Guro

explains. “I was also a huge fan of The Beatles growing up. I always found like I had a bit of a

connection to Liverpool.”

These sentiments are shared by Rich who describes coming to Liverpool as a bit of a

pilgrimage. “It definitely felt like coming to Liverpool was quite monumental. As a young Irish fella,

it was like ‘Oh My God, this is where it all happened’. It has such an amazing musical history it felt

amazing to be coming here.

“When I used to visit I came into Liverpool through Bootle. I got a black cab and had a pocket

full of pounds that my dad gave me,” Rich laughs. “It’s really stereotypical but I was like, ‘Fucking

hell, this is amazing!’”

In the midst of all the reminiscing of everyone’s travels to Liverpool, a wasp lands on Luís’ lip

which leads to an impromptu conversation about the unscripted scene in Raiders Of The Lost Ark

when a fly lands on Dr Belloq’s lip and crawls into his mouth. The jovial swerve in conversation is a

reminder of the comfort and ease the band share with one another. They project a welcoming sense

of friendship and familiarity into their presence, owing much to their friendship for over 13 years.

“We figured out that lockdown is the longest that we’ve been apart from each other and not

playing music in about 14 years,” Guro explains, highlighting how close-knit their relationship is. It’s

a friendship that seems to have only strengthened over the years.

“I often think about how different it is now to when we first started hanging out or even if it is

different at all,” Rich muses, as Guro responds: “I think the importance of things has changed. What

seemed like the most important thing back then might not be now.” A valid point for a band who,

early in their career, signed with Domino Records imprint Double Six, for the goals only to keep on

coming. “I guess when we started, we wanted to get signed and then we did,” Rich explains. “Then

we wanted to put out an album, which we did. We wanted to play Glastonbury and go to Australia

and we did those. Things change but, ultimately, we just want to put out music. Putting out records

and being signed to Domino is pretty much like… we couldn’t ask for anything more than that.

“We’ve always had a connection. That’s integral to All We Are and it’s inspired by our

different musical backgrounds. It makes the band special,” Rich continues. Having such different

geographical backgrounds alongside a range of musical influences sheds light on their varied

musical stylings. Described in the past as everything from “The Bee Gees on Diazepam” (Spotify)

to specialising in “creeping psychedelia” (Bido Lito! 2015) and producing “languid funk” by Lauren

Laverne, it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what they are, but that’s not a bad thing.

Rich notes his musical influences come from listening almost exclusively to 80s music. “Prince

is a massive influence for me, as well as Tears For Fears, Madonna and Japan. I also listen to a lot of

hip hop from the 90s.” It’s a far cry from Luís who states Radiohead, Broken Social Scene and music

from his home country as his influences. “The last few years I’ve been listening to a lot of Brazilian

music to reconnect with my roots, alongside loads of boogie, funk and soul. I’m not going to say

it’s a guilty pleasure because I’m not guilty but also, Steely Dan. My housemate is really into Steely

14


ALL

W E

ARE

Dan. We have Steely Dan Sundays where we get together and play Steely Dan songs. It’s a very

exclusive club,” Luís laughs.

“It’s hard to know what you’re inspired by as well,” Guro adds. “It just comes out of you and you

don’t know what has influenced you so much. When you’re a kid and listen to music you might pick

up stuff not even knowing you’re doing it. Thinking now, when I play basslines, they are very all

over the place and when I think about it it’s quite like Paul McCartney, but I would never think that.”

“You just thought it…” Rich laughs.

“I did listen to a lot of The Beatles growing up,” Guro clarifies,

laughing, “but I’ve never thought it was my influence. I listen to a lot of

pop music – big bangers with massive hooks is always something I’ve

enjoyed.”

Hearing about their musical influences makes it clear why their

songs have so much variety running through them. You can hear the

80s synth influence from Rich, the funk elements from Luís, and the

pop hooks from Guro. It’s the perfect combination that results in their

toe-tapping tracks. Take recent single Not Your Man as an example:

the bouncing, funky bassline, tropical trumpets and catchy lyrics make

for the perfect summery track to bop away to. With the lyrics “Like a

piña colada, you’re not going to waste me” filling up the chorus, it gets

stuck in your head for the rest of the day. “We had a lot of excitement

from the label about that track,” Rich says after I explained how my

housemate now has a bit of an obsession with aforementioned drink.

“We shot the music video for it in the middle of lockdown, which

was interesting. We had to sign health declaration forms and it was

all properly socially distanced. The director and the stylist were on

Zoom and it was just us in the studio. It was all a bit apocalyptic.”

Watching the video back you would never think it was made under

such constraints and shows how creative and dedicated the band are to their craft. “We never really

discussed postponing the record,” Rich explains, nodding towards some high profile releases that

have been rearranged due to social distancing measures. “It’s a summer record. It’s about the good

times and we need to focus on the good things when they aren’t going so well at the moment,”

Guro adds.

A bit of positivity is something we could all do with at the moment and it’s a theme that

runs throughout their album, alongside everything from friendship, love, lust and loss. “It’s a very

human, honest and emotive record,” Rich muses. “I think the spirit of it is really positive. Making the

record and moving on from the second one was quite healing. To get a different vibe out there and

spreading joy feels incredibly appropriate to put it out.”

The album wears the clothes of a cast of characters, shapeshifting and bouncing in a Hawaiian

necklace. But do any of the tracks carry a personal entity? “I really like How You Get Me,” Luís offers.

“It’s a summer record.

It’s about the good

times and we need

to focus on the good

things when they

aren’t going so well

at the moment”

“We wrote it in Ireland on a writing trip in this cottage by the sea. I wrote it on this guitar that I

found when I went back home in my grandad’s old house. It turned out to be this 60s Brazilian

guitar, so I brought it back because it has this really special sound. There is a lot of sentiment and

feeling to the guitar and it came out in that song.”

“It does kind of sum up the spirit of the album as well,” Rich adds. “The songs are different

thematically and there is a narrative running throughout them, but How You Get Me does sum up

the joyous vibe of the record.”

“For me [it’s] maybe L Is For Lose because it captures all the best

bits from all of us,” Guro adds. “We all shine in that one. All of our

personalities come out in it. It was also written in the same cottage in

Ireland. It must have been something about the air.”

The title Providence also has a rooted connection with the band,

apart from being the first track on the album. “Providence is like, it

is what it is, things will be as they are, an act of God, so in a way it’s

quite a positive thing. Things are the way they are and you just push

on,” Rich explains. “We had to change the album artwork last minute,

too, and it all worked out in the end. Another act of providence in

itself!” On the finalised cover, the trio are scattered around a sunburst

throne of their own making. Each one of them has an air of nobility

about them, a deft assurance. It’s a metaphor that rubberstamps their

entitlement of deity status within not just Liverpool, but modern funk

itself.

As we come towards the end of our chat, the sense of pleasure in

simply being able do that, chat in person at a safe distance, returns to

the fore. Lockdown will have been a contrasting period for many, but

its constraint on the day-to-day regularity of before is not lost on the

band.

“I feel extremely creative now,” replies Luís. “You forget how important practice is and you can

get a little rusty sometimes. It’s good for me to start doing stuff again.”

“I think I needed the break to figure out how much I missed it,” Guro adds. “Now I just really

want to play. We’ve started again and it’s bringing me so much joy.” !

Words: Sophie Shields

Photography: Rebecca Hawley

thisisallweare.co.uk

Providence is available now via Double Six Records. All We Are play Arts Club on 26th February

2021.

FEATURE

15


BIRKENHEAD

The River Mersey draws a physical and psychological line between Liverpool and Wirral, allowing opposing

narratives and identities to take hold. With a publicly accessible bridge over the river’s shortest crossing

a near engineering impossibility, cultural regeneration may just be the road to shortening the divide. Enter,

Future Yard.

Birkenhead, where the dominant waves of Liverpool

broke and rolled back, carries an echo of historical

stasis rather than any discernible glimpse of the

future. On the dockside, ships remain still in a

stripped back Cammell Laird. The town hall and Hamilton

Square remain grand, but even this Grade I listed cluster is

presented as a historical artefact of more favourable times.

Towards the town centre, a frayed array of once optimistic

post-war modernism haunts the contemporary commercial

district. It’s an area that’s neither coming nor going. So, why

look for a creative future in its apathetic resilience? A harsh

question, but perhaps overdue.

Culturally, Birkenhead sits in something of a no-man’s land,

claimed by nobody as their own. Much of the rest of Wirral

doesn’t seem to want it. From New Brighton, Liverpool is

literally more visible. Towns on the western coast such as West

Kirby have their own sense of identity, partly informed by the

‘Leisure Peninsula’ image that doesn’t suit the industrial streets

of Birkenhead. Even Oxton – which is definitely Birkenhead,

geographically – prefers to define itself as a village apart.

And then there’s the river. There’s just about a mile between

the two sides, but the psychological distance it creates is much,

much wider. It’s believed that the Mersey was a historical

border between two ancient kingdoms; on the East bank lay

Northumbria, while the Wirral peninsula lay in Mercian territory.

Maybe it’s the echoes of this historical divide which still pervade

along its shores. Different councils, ‘wools’ and ‘Scousers’, the

river is still seen as a demarcation of difference. Never mind that

the two sides are extremely well connected, with it taking just

three minutes to reach the centre of Birkenhead from Liverpool,

convincing people to make that trip is easier said than done.

Because right now, why should they? A long period of industrial

and commercial decline has left Birkenhead lacking not just

destinations, but a sense of identity or purpose. Right now, and

so close, Liverpool just has more: more venues, more artists,

more willing audiences. More to shout about.

But there are those who see the separation set by the river

and current aimlessness of Birkenhead as opportunities, not

obstacles. After all, this is a town which has always traditionally

been a commercial and community epicentre in its own right –

the town hall and Hamilton Square proudly remind you of this.

Rather than tagging onto the coattails of “over the water”, the

potential exists for Birkenhead to find, or create, its own purpose.

FUTURE YARD began 2020 with the intention of working

towards this purpose. Having tested the waters of what was

possible with 2019’s two-day music festival over some of

Birkenhead’s main landmarks, a series of gigs in a pop-up venue

on Argyle Street was announced. Featuring artists including

Evian Christ, Self Esteem, She Drew The Gun and a special,

two-man performance by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s

Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys, the venue was to be

a great statement of a vision for Birkenhead that cut through

the prevalent negative stereotypes of the town. Decorated

with enormous pink letters which read “THE FUTURE IS

BIRKENHEAD”, Future Yard declared its ambitions even before it

opened, when the very structure of the venue was still a work in

progress.

With the spread of Covid-19 putting the brakes on these

plans, some major rethinking has had to take place for the venue

and CIC. The fact that the music programme hadn’t started has

in some ways left Future Yard in a better position than some

venues. The postponement of their pop-up summer schedule

has only hastened their long-term ambition of becoming

established as a permanent space for Birkenhead. And while

the “Near Future” shows originally scheduled for this summer

have mostly been moved to 2021 in one form or other, the team

behind the venue have also been able to schedule new events

for “Near Normal”, a series of socially-distanced in-person

events in their venue on Argyle Street, which will also be live

streamed beyond the 60 people allowed inside. The first limited

capacity event is with She Drew The Gun on 19th September

– a date which feels tantalisingly close after so many months of

empty schedules. More socially-distanced shows are still to be

announced, coming in clusters of three in September, October

and November, appetite-whetters before normal service can be

resumed next year.

It’s a much-needed positive story from the cultural sector,

which has so prominently and heavily struggled under the

lockdown restrictions of Covid-19. Amidst numerous stories

of music venues, theatres and arts organisations being forced

to close – Liverpool already losing integral spaces such as

Sound, Studio 2 and now The Zanzibar – we’re being forced to

consider the reality of what a world without easily accessible

live culture looks like. And for many of us its absence has been

keenly felt; holes left in plans for weeks and months ahead. The

recommencement of live music, in whatever capacity, is cause

for celebration in this climate. But Future Yard co-founder Craig

Pennington’s vision for the venue goes beyond it being, as he

puts it, “a space that opens to the public at half 7 and closes

at 1am”. It’s not just the events that are being missed, but

the culture around them. The opportunities not only for social

interaction, but for artistic growth. Future Yard is about more

than just putting on shows. It’s about building, sustaining and

supporting cultural shifts of the kind that feel more needed now

than ever.

Choosing to open a venue in Birkenhead might be regarded

by some as an unusual choice at the best of times. This is

perhaps best exemplified by the reaction on social media to their

“THE FUTURE IS BIRKENHEAD” mural being unveiled back in

March. For every supportive comment there were three snide

voices: “If Birkenhead’s the future, God help us” and the like. This

reaction actually delighted Pennington, who had “hoped there

would be as much piss-taking and negative reaction as positive”,

adding, “That’s the point!”. The mural is now gone, replaced by

a new design more suitable for the venue’s now-permanent

status as it works towards being the UK’s first carbon neutral

grassroots venue. But the objective of being a starting place for

changing the perceptions of an entire region has been achieved.

“It’s like setting off a flare,” Pennington illustrates. “The response

to that is the conversation.”

There’s a growing recognition that Birkenhead has been

culturally under-served and seeking to correct this imbalance.

There’s a real potential for Birkenhead to be a cultural hub of

its own, to be proudly claimed by Wirral, and Liverpool, as their

16


“It’s about

changing

the story of

a place”

WON’T DIE

own and a model of optimism for others. To have a relationship

with Liverpool that’s not just in its shadow, but to be a centre

for new, self-sustaining, ambitious activity. The audience

certainly exists; Future Yard found that the majority of last

August’s festivalgoers were from the peninsula. And no words

are minced when Pennington calls it “a tragedy... that there’s

not a venue dedicated to supporting new music on the Wirral”

– an astounding fact when you consider the bands which have

emerged from this part of the world.

For culture-led regeneration to begin laying foundations, a

quality music venue is as good a place to start – a stark contrast

with the gentrification that has swept through many areas, such

as the Baltic, laying claim to its few, integral music venues. It

may sound idealistic to say ‘music can change the world’, but

the Future Yard team not only believe this, they have a clear and

practical plan about how to make this apparent in Birkenhead.

That fact about having no new music venues in Wirral matters,

because opportunities which aren’t visible can’t be understood

as real possibilities. How will the next generation access careers

such as sound engineer or promoter unless they have access

to a space where these roles are modelled? Again, there’s a

danger that we can take Liverpool for granted when it’s actually

local involvement which matters most. “When you’re at a stage

at your life like mid-teens, you’re not spending all your time in

Liverpool,” Pennington reminds. “Working within the live music

industry – if there’s not a venue in the town, that story is not

even presented to young people as something they can do with

their lives.”

Right now, when the majority of the news seems weighted

towards the gloom of closures and losses, Future Yard is

determined to set an example of how venues can actively

support the artists they exist for. “We know what we can’t

do, but we also know what we need to be able to do,” says

Pennington. “We’ve got to find ways of artists navigating this

new reality. Both in terms of building their way back into playing

live shows, but also thinking about how we support artists to be

the best versions of themselves.”

As a start, from August, they’ll be running Direct Input,

a programme of webinars with established industry figures

exploring the stories behind their careers. With live gigs set

to restart in September they’ll also be running Sound Check,

a training programme for young wannabe sound and lighting

engineers. “We’ve got a fully structured programme...you come

and shadow on all the shows, and by the end you’ll be able to

proficiently mix a live band.” An exciting and meaningful entry

point into a career which, though central to live music’s success,

is often hidden from the spotlight.

The ’new normal’ has also meant the introduction of other

new ways of working, particularly with the increased importance

of online events. Though they’ll never be a replacement for

the full experience of attending live music events, interest

in streamed performances has undeniably grown amongst

audiences since March. They have been crucial in maintaining

interactions between artist and audience, as well as vital

opportunities to recoup some income. Pennington and his Future

Yard partner Christopher Torpey recognise the potential here

for artists to build audiences by creating an experience which is

deliberately different to the live show – not a pale substitute, but

a product of its own. “If you can make it work in a format which

is considered for the way people are engaging with it,” believes

Pennington, “you can create some element of a cinematic

experience.” “You’ve got to approach it differently,” agrees

Torpey. “I think there’s space for streams, ongoing. It’s never

going replace live music, but it’s going to be an additional tool.

But it might not necessarily stay along the lines of traditional live

performance.”. With Autumn’s preliminary Near Normal shows

operating at low capacity, and some people understandably

reluctant to return to enclosed venue spaces, the option of a

digital ticket to stream the gigs is also available. She Drew The

Gun’s show on 19th September will be filmed and mixed live,

relayed to punters at home as a high-quality live broadcast in a

step on from the now tired bedroom gig live stream.

Even if the digital experience still dominates for some time,

the ultimate aim remains to get audiences to connect with this

venue in the heart of Birkenhead. Digital may even offer greater

opportunity, the chance to pique the interest of audiences who

wouldn’t ordinarily think of making the three-minute journey

under the Mersey. “We can build the situation where people are

going to a venue, rather than going to see a particular artist,”

says Pennington. With exciting programmes of gigs, artists

and events to get involved in, we can all add our voices to the

emerging conversation.

“It’s just about storytelling. It’s about putting on great shows

and events, and changing the story of a place.” That idea of the

world-changing power of music can be more than a dream;

Pennington points out at how it was music venue The Picket

and arts group A Foundation who first saw the potential of the

Baltic Triangle. How it was the incubation of culture which began

the process of revival that’s led to it now being one of the most

popular districts of Liverpool. Similar shades of change can be

observed by the community power that’s literally reclaiming the

former Smithdown Road Conservative Club, now the Smithdown

Social. Co-operatively run, the venue is a hub of socially

conscious club events with external promoters Wavertree

Worldwide leading their own culture-centred regeneration in

South Liverpool.

Lockdown may have curtailed Future Yard’s plans this

summer, but it’s also made the existing excitement about the

opening of a new venue feel like a beacon of hope. Future Yard

has always been about the long-haul process of major change.

Pennington’s estimation prior to lockdown was that it would take

10 years and continuous innovation to change popular attitudes

about Birkenhead. But with its programme of quality events to

attend and participate in, and offer of access to training in the

skills which can make a scene sustainable, Future Yard feels like

the right place at the right time. Its opening is a welcome piece of

optimism for both Birkenhead and its cultural scene, brightening

otherwise gloomy conversations around the outlook for both

a long-undervalued town, and a sector which has value to so

many beyond the stark financial calculations holding its fate in

the balance. The need to come together and help music thrive

is more urgent now than it has been for a long while. While

the river may still divide many aspects of Merseyside identity,

there’s no reason why it should also be the boundary of cultural

opportunity. !

Words: Julia Johnson / @Messylines_

Photography: Liam Jones / @liamjonesphotie

futureyard.org

Full listings for Future Yard’s 2021 live programme, and further

limited-capacity Near Normal shows for the Autumn, can be

found at futureyard.org. Artist-focused Direct Input live webinars

take place fortnightly, with conversations with Katie Harkin (31st

August) and Rebecca Lucy Taylor (14th September) free to

attend.

FEATURE

17


18


MOLLY

GREEN

Tara Dalton looks for the threads that hold together the jazzy, soulful undertones of the abundantly creative

singer-songwriter.

On the outside, MOLLY GREEN is a youthful 22-year-old

dripping in style from head to toe. But on the inside,

she holds an old crooning soul that can grip you from

the moment she opens her mouth.

The native Bristolian singer-songwriter has a past that will

leave you green with envy; performing from a young age and

hitting stages from Colston Hall to Glastonbury. As if that wasn’t

credit to her talent enough, four years ago she decided to move

north to study music at the Liverpool Institute for Performing

Arts. This year, over a Zoom call and a cuppa, we are both totally

dressed to the nines, and I’m eager to dive deep.

Although we’re 100 miles away from each other, it’s crystal

clear to see that Molly’s upbringing was integral to her sound.

In her smooth and jazzy undertones, you can hear the entwined

romance between her grandpa’s love

of sax and her mother’s love of RnB.

While not as obvious from the outside,

even in her acoustic sets, Molly admits

her late father’s love of artists such as

Jack Johnson and Paul Weller crept its

way into her life.

Yet, behind her old soul, Molly is at

most a realist. “I’m actually pretty shit

at genres for a musician,” she giggles

as she attempts to describe her style

to me. To Molly, music shouldn’t just

be another listening process. With a

middle finger to the idea of genres, it

isn’t just sound that’s important, but

where it will take you.

“It’s purely just from how I

appreciate music, I like music to take me somewhere and I

almost forget where I am. When the song finishes, you just want

to be transported there again,” she replies. “I think that’s when

music is at its most powerful, when you forget where you are.

Especially at live gigs as well, I like being totally lost.”

We’ve all felt it. Total enchantment by an artist on stage,

wrapped around their fingertips while the room around them

turns. To Molly, that click into reality after a set has finished is

how she wants every song of hers to end.

With Molly, it’s all her. If music was her personal paint box,

she’s all authentically green as her business and pleasure are

merged together. Her stage name is her own, her girlfriend is

her manager, and her sister is the illustrator of the Naked EP

artwork.

Created and recorded in lockdown, the acoustic EP shows

a stripped-down style to Molly; her usual RnB style straddling

modern neo-soul. As well as original tracks I’m Ready Now and

Dusky Haze, Molly proves she’s ready to capture your heart with

a slowed-down cover of Brockhampton’s SUGAR. In its delicate

13 minutes, you can feel its lockdown influences, as it transports

you to a serene setting of not total isolation, but relaxation.

From the nape of a neck to the curve of a waist, all the

silhouettes featured on the single artworks are a part of Molly.

Each pose is based on a selfie sent to her sister in order to paint

“I like music to take

me somewhere

and I almost forget

where I am”

the full ‘naked’ picture. While it creates a beautiful black and

white storyline, it has, however, left a mark on her photo library.

“I now have a lot of weird pictures on my phone of my ankles

which I should probably delete now,” says Molly. “I’ll be showing

people pictures of my holiday and go one too far and, surprise,

there’s my elbow!”

From single artworks to social media, Molly isn’t just here to

be heard, but to be engrained in your senses. Through her looks,

she aims to capture attention. “You kind of want your fans to

see you as a desirable thing, not sexually, but you want them to

look up to you. There is something to be said for going a little bit

extra, rather than being boring and average,” she explains.

And boring she is not. As well as being musically gifted,

Molly can hear this vintage rhythm in her everyday life. Not only

is she a talented songstress, but a

talented seamstress, creating her

own outfits for both onstage and

offstage use. Having learned the

skill for her Gatsby-themed 21st

birthday, Molly wants Alicia Keys

to be her first client. She channels

her sound into her outfit because

who needs genres, when you have

organza? “I do think if you can pull

something off, you can pull it off,”

she replies. “If you go on thinking

you look ridiculous, people are going

to think it’s ridiculous.”

Fashion is to Molly what

purple is to green; a match made

in heaven. She tells me of her love

for style, and even over our call you can see the twinkle in her

eye as she compliments fabrics and patterns. Her latest peach

piece, created for her supporting set with Abbie Ozard, was

the first item she had made entirely herself, but it’s definitely

not the last. To some of us, the thought of a sewing machine is

too stressful, but in Molly’s eyes, it is another creative escape

outside of music. “Sometimes when you’re so focused on doing

the one thing, it can get a bit monotonous and you can get a bit

bogged down,” she starts. “I can get into a rabbit hole where I

have no motivation to write and I’ll be thinking ‘You know what,

the music’s not doing it for me today, let’s make an outfit’. It

sometimes feels so nice to get that bit of escapism but still be

doing something I love.”

Where some artists try to maintain a persona online, Molly

is here to be herself and no one else. From her socials, her

connection to fans is unrivalled, letting them in to her day-to-day

life to understand who she is as an artist. Her latest video Just A

Girl is a “visual photo album” for fans, showing snippets of the

singer-songwriter having fun and being herself.

It was quite the task during lockdown to create a music video

for the acoustic sets so, as she was already looking back on old

times, she delved into her library. While the track sweetly deals

with parted lovers, the video encapsulates her youth through

snippets of her performances and adventures faced over the

past few years. Collecting these snippets from friends and family,

Molly experienced the same feeling you get when you’re tidying

your room and pick up that one childhood toy from underneath a

cupboard. The faint nostalgia just ignited a spark that she knew

she had to share with friends. With life outside the window

remaining unrecognisable, to make a simple video to get lost in

took on a greater importance.

“I didn’t want it to feel laborious,” she says. “You don’t have

to try and figure out a meaning. Just watch it and enjoy. It is what

it is.”

Being an artist is difficult at the minute, with it being an

unwritten social cue that you have to be creative in lockdown or

else… well, you don’t want to know. The pressure to be creative

can be a motivator for some musicians, giving them free-rein

to experiment. But for musicians like Molly, isolation has only

widened the gap between an artist and their art and therefore,

an artist and their fans.

“I was going to post on Instagram for a monthly recap

in April, so I thought ‘Let’s get a few pictures of me being

productive, like learning how to play the guitar’,” she explains.

“But I remember turning and thinking as I waited there, who’s

that helping? Just because I have been sat at home looking at

everyone else doing this kind of thing, thinking, what the fuck am

I doing?

“I’m not going to lie to the people that support me,” she

continues. “Instead, I’m going to be straight up and say, ‘You

know what, it has been shit and I don’t have any nice pictures of

me because I look like shit so this is what it is’.”

While truthful to fans, Molly giggles as she lets me in on the

white lies woven into her records. “No matter what I do, I always

stand by one thing,” she says, “and that’s to not write a song

about anyone you’re close to.” Molly learnt this lesson after a

writing session with her girlfriend, when a simple brainstorm led

to a romantic tune telling the story of how they got together. For

the outsiders looking in, this seems like the ideal outcome, and

we all do have a sneaky desire to be the character of a ballad.

But the truth isn’t always desirable, as she explains. “Sometimes

you bend the truth a bit or exaggerate a bit because that’s how

you feel when you write the song. If somebody hears it’s about

them, but you threw in that you fell in love right away, just cause

that’s what worked and it made it a bit more romantic, and you

have to say that you threw it in for that reason, it’s always better

to never do that. Ever!”

Lockdown hasn’t hindered her on her path forwards. Even

as she stumbles for a charger to save her laptop, she hasn’t

stumbled once in illustrating the bright future that lies ahead of

her. And we’re on the edge of our seats, waiting. !

Words: Tara Dalton / @tistaradee

Photography: Zoë Moungabio / zoevictoire.com

mollygreenmusic.com

Naked is available now via Modern Sky.

FEATURE

19


BYLINES

Workshops for Culture

Writers of the Future

Free writers skills workshops

with the Bido Lito! editorial

team start September 2020.

Bido Lito! is committed to providing places on

courses to writers of diverse backgrounds.

Applicants who identify as BAME, LGBTQI+, working class,

disabled, and women are encouraged to apply.

Go to bidolito.co.uk/workshops

Apply Now!


TEE

For the past four years, Tee has established himself in roles behind the

scenes as bassist and producer. With the long overdue arrival of his

debut EP, he is finally ready to take his rightful place front and centre.

FEATURE

21


“I’m not

allowed to hide

anymore”

Today’s sun is stretching high above the Anglican

Cathedral as it moves through the steps of its summer

ascent. It’s the hottest day of the year so far. Everything

below wears a lick of golden paint. This includes Terell

Farrell, as the hues catch his pristine white T-shirt on the corner

of Duke Street where we meet.

Much like the religious icons that bears down on us

(including the sun), Farrell, better known as TEE, is an artist

quietly defined by faith, by commitment, by purpose. His

character and music have been tentatively shaped by faith as

much as the cityscape that looms on the shoulders of the skyline.

“If I hadn’t gone to church,” he says, as we retreat into the shade,

“I probably wouldn’t be into music as much as I am.”

Rather than perusing the storied collection of houses of

worship across the city, we’ve climbed the humble spire of our

office space to meet today. The window is open as far as it will

allow. Through it sweeps the clunky symphony of city centre

beer gardens. Sadly, a breeze doesn’t follow.

It’s currently above 30 degrees in the mid-afternoon sun.

It’s the type of heat when unforgiving chairs fuse with your back

and spinal cord. Unforgiving like the two leather office chairs we

occupy, seeking to find a quiet spot away from the beating rays

and sun tipsy streets. Tee remains unfazed.

Sitting there, nonchalantly swaying on the axis of the chair,

he’s almost excitedly beckoning the red light of the recorder to

be turned on and our interview to start. Comfortable would be

an understatement. Confident? Humbly. Cool? More than most,

especially in today’s heat. “I’m, like, the coldest person,” he wryly

remarks as we savour the heat streaming down. Judging by how

he’s happily reclining in the chair, you’d be lulled into thinking it’s

a fresh spring day.

Just as faith quietly punctuates his art, Tee, originally

hailing from East London, has quietly been garnering attention

in Liverpool over the course of the last five years. But you’d be

excused if this is the first you’re seeing of him, front and centre.

Until now, you’re more likely to have noticed his handiwork

on the other side of the recording-studio glass, to the side of

the stage. Maybe in prosaic writings and monologues which

occasionally surface on his social media.

His production fingerprints can be seen on recent releases

by Sub Blue, Deliah and Little Grace, with his services highly in

demand by local artists pursuing an emotively charged spectrum

of pop and RnB. As a bassist, you may have seen him backing

local behemoths MiC Lowry and neo-soul polymath XamVolo.

But in the artist’s own words, now is time to move to the front of

the stage. “Producer,” he started in an Instagram posts at the tail

of 2019, “this is a hat I’ve had on for a couple years now. I think

it’s time to hang it up for a little while.”

This has given life to A Dozen Roses // A Love Story, his

debut EP as Tee. Given that the assertion to move away from

producing came in over nine months ago, you wouldn’t be wrong

in thinking there’s been a few obstacles for the transformation.

“Lockdown has been up and down,” he says as we start to talk

about everything that’s shaped the EP, unintentionaly beginning

with the inevitable conversation starter of 2020. “It’s been good

in that it gave people a bit of a break. I definitely need the rest

and to revaluate,” he starts. “But it’s also been bad as the EP was

supposed to be put out in April with a full installation presented

at LightNight.” The event, like many in the cultural calendar of

2020, was postpned.

Delays aside the EP has no issue speaking for itself, whether

now or when it was originally slated for release. In many ways

the themes it covers have grown in perspective over the course

of five searching months. And the digital shift in life is met,

too, as Tee and his band will deliver an immersive live-stream

performance in place of the original show.

A Dozen Roses // A Love Story is Tee in his comfort zone,

dealing with the uncomfortable. Across seven varied tracks,

spoken-word interludes and soundscapes, the EP tackles

fatherhood, vulnerability, mental health and love within its

umbrella concept. It is highly ambitious and cinematic in its

sensory delivery. “In the most basic sense, it’s a twisted love

story between a man and a rose,” he says, with eyes and hands

gesturing as if to say ‘wait, hear me out!’. “It sounds wild but… I

played with the concept of the rose, which never had thorns in

the garden of Eden until Eve ate the apple. A lot of it all stems

from the baggage people carry, and that they will love you, but

can still hurt you.”

The end product is all the more impressive given it’s his

debut body of work. Opener A Dozen Roses authoritatively sets

the pace, but the EP offers plenty of time to reflect On I Hear A

Kid, a song written from the perspective of a man who grew up

without a father, reciting the conversation he’d have when the

two meet again. From the early rush of 808s which fades into a

moonlit croon, to the explosive Real, both tracks have a bi-polar

character as they duck and weave through Tee’s repertoire of

22


delicate arrangements and raps, delivered so hard they almost

bleed with conviction. But it’s not just elaborate for the sake of it.

“The art that I was wanting to produce and the music that I was

wanting to create has been leading to this point,” he tells me. “I

think for me, more than anything else, it’s all about storytelling.

That’s why there’s spoken word, rap, why the music is so

emotional. Whatever I deem necessary to tell the story.”

The sonic palette is therefore complex in its emotive range.

It’s as you’d expect when going so deep below the skin. No

binary this or that, happy or sad. It stirs the emotion of social

experience to evoke a vast understanding of the human

condition. In relative terms, it reflects much of the chameleonic

Madvillainy, minus the hazy headspaces of MF Doom and Madlib.

There’s no smoke and mirrors in Tee’s observational lyricism.

“I wanted to talk about things that I’ve seen and been a part

of,” he tells me when pressed on whether the EP is a personal

diary entry. “I’ve lived the experiences through other people.

Telling the story the way that I do helps it seem more real,” he

adds. “Not a confession, more observations.” In the role of the

observer Tee paints self-portraits on other’s faces, instantly

building an emotive connection to the subject and their stories

put to music. These songs aren’t solely from him to learn from.

Crown Of Thorns is the song most discernibly owing to faith.

It’s a track that lays its roots in gospel, albeit spliced by Tee’s slick

production and lyrical motifs of self-empowerment and worth.

It’s the entry point to Tee’s innate musicality of natural rhythm

and deft ear for choral arrangement.

“Both of my families are religious,” he starts when looking

back to the first building block in his musical journey. “Me and

all of my cousins grew up in church and we’d go every Saturday,

which meant I’d be playing drums in church every Saturday. I

was very much into it, asking about which churches we’d be

going to. You’d see your friends there, listening to the same

music. When the latest gospel album dropped, you’d all be trying

to learn it. That was the environment I grew up in, the music that

I was surrounded by.”

Religion itself isn’t something Tee wants to draw on

too much as an artist, but he’s open about its influence and

atmosphere surrounding his musical beginnings. “Gospel is such

powerful music,” he replies, “it’s the kind of energy that I want

to bring into my own music. Being able to do a gig, and for the

music to hit the audience in the same way gospel did for me back

then.”

The early introduction to music would suggest a firm rudder

in following life’s path. And yet, music remained a church-bound

vocation through his mid-teenage years. Ideas of becoming

an engineer were more prevalent until blown off course by the

results of his first year’s study of Maths, Physics and Business at

college. Looking back, it may prove to be divine intervention.

“I remember walking through the park on my way home

and crying, wondering what was I going to do,” he recalls of

receiving the results that suggested engineering may not be a

true calling. “I remember speaking on the phone to my dad, and

he said, ‘Well, what is it that you want to do?’ And I hesitantly

replied ‘music.” He says this, elongating the word, almost as

if to relocate the shy subconscious influence that took hold of

him almost a decade ago. “It was the first time that I ever felt as

though I’d been asked what I wanted to do with my life, because

until then I’d just assumed what would be best. Him asking the

question was the turning point in my head.”

Already well-versed on drums through years of church

concerts, studying music at college saw a switch towards bass.

“There were already too many drummers,” Tee remembers,

outlining his transition to the instrument he’s now renowned for.

“My teacher suggested I go with bass, and I just went with it,

which was probably a terrible idea,” he says laughing to himself,

“as I had to learn it all as quick as I could in two years.” Though

the challenge was happily undertaken, and two years later his

abilities secured him a place at LIPA and a move up north.

Surrounded by a wealth of classically trained musicians at

university, Tee himself was more of an instinctive player and

listener. Most of his experience had come from gigs in churches,

hours sat around in a practice studio with his friends in college.

The change in scenery didn’t instil illusions of star power in his

first few years in Liverpool. “It took me a while to find my feet,”

he says honestly. “I’d been writing my own poetry all the way

before university, but I didn’t return to it until mid-way through

my second year. It just took me a while to work out what I was

comfortable with.”

Come the end of university, Tee had started to leave his

own mark, but through the work of others rather than his solo

production. As the sonic range and intricacies of A Dozen Roses

// A Love Story would allude, his abilities at the studio controls

stood out. “If you’d have told me I’d become a producer I’d have

said, ‘No, I don’t have the time nor the patience’,” he laughs with

a jovial disbelief.

FEATURE

23


It’s rare for an artist capable of mastering a wealth of instruments and sculpting

a dense debut EP to still evade the charms of self-confidence. “To be fair,” he quickly

follows up, “producing was something that I’d done [on my own], but only as a

means of making my own music. I didn’t have the money to pay people to make the

music that I want to make, so I had to learn.”

The self-taught path of producing has proven fruitful. Rather than market his

services out, it was writing sessions and collaborations with fellow artists that led

him towards the studio chair. More natural than a determined choice. In a room full of

voices, it’s his hands that always appeared to draw out the best from the arrangement.

It’s no coincidence when Tee nods back to the years engulfed by the intricate power of

gospel choirs. “[Producing] grew from being in church,” he says when I ask him where

the seemingly innate ability to arrange stems from. “Playing pretty much all of the

instruments in the church band, swapping over with everyone, you get a knowledge of

what a band should sound like. And in a live sense,” he continues, “you get a knowledge of

what a producer should listen out for. Having the ear to do that, I was definitely building it

up subconsciously in church.”

This subconscious framework he’s honed is built on emotion. The feeling of the music

“hitting you”, as he explained earlier, is always the desired effect. That same feeling when the

gospel choir is in full flight and blankets the audience with its wall of sound. Emotion therefore

acts as the compass that guides his music, and those he produces. “I think people come to me

to get their songs produced because we can bring out whatever emotion or feeling you want to

bring out,” he explains. “That’s something I strongly believe in.”

There’s been no mercurial rise with Tee. Every step has been measured along the way. Every

step a lesson of sorts. Rather than take blind control when producing other artists, he’s allowed

their qualities to reflect onto him. The holistic approach of emotive production opens up his own

creative outlet as well as those he’s working with. All the initial shyness about ability is deceiving.

It’s actually a state of study. “As a person I am very observant,” he starts, with the sun jutting in

through the windows at a lower angle, causing a swivel in his chair.

“In 70 per cent of social circles I am quite quiet – human behaviour intrigues me. Being able to

predict or make someone feel a certain way is fascinating. It’s something that I want to be able to do

on stage. I want to be able to silence a crowd, make people lose themselves a bit. I’ve been able to sit

in and watch performers like MiC Lowry and XamVolo and work out what parts of their art I’d like to

build into my own. I don’t want to be the person who draws the attention in a room, but I do when I’m

on stage.”

Understandably there’s currently a limited number of stages where Tee can announce his new front

facing role. But it’s not all lost. In many ways it’ll only enhance the eventual power of the coil when the

live embodiment of the EP springs out. He notes that after the first performances of his own projects at

university he was often greeted with reactions by his peers of “Where did that come from?” The quiet

and humble demeanour of the day-to-day was in stark contrast to the emotive displays some were able to

glimpse. It’ll likely be a different reaction now, four years down the line; assertively planting a flag as if to

say, “I’m here”. And ultimately, it’s what Tee says is most important to his music.

Across the EP and a scattering of live performances, there’s a consistency of monologues and spoken

word. The medium isn’t unfamiliar to him. One of his

first forays into music was part of Spxken, a spoken

word duo set to music. Even now his more contemporary

performances remain punctuated by the starkness of the

spoken word interludes.

In a similar vein to Kae Tempest, when Tee arrives

at these moments, such as on I Hear A Kid, each word

seems to press against the skin. Each rhyme seems to be

wrestled out of the body. You hear the joy in the eventual

release. Every sentence seems to bulge and swell with

magnitude; even the pauses and silences in between the flow

say so much. In his view, the style of delivery isn’t acting, but

enhancing. “I’m very aware that I’m bringing out an emotion,” he

says. “Even if I write a lyric, it’s not necessarily of that moment,

but I’m bringing it from a moment that I’ve experienced.” But this

is not to say words are sterile until forcibly hurled from the body

with performative effect. The written language is what inspires

“Language can be

a really strong tool

for change. It’s a tool

and a release”

the stirring delivery, as though the words are tangible and Braille-like, with a trapped emotion released by the reader and

listener.

“Language can be a really strong tool for change. It’s a tool and a release. If we talk about fatherhood and if we talk

about Black Lives Matter,” he begins, looking to the sky in a more thoughtful manner to his earlier nonchalance as the

conversation moves the role of language in the continuing protests. “Over the past few months, I’ve posted lots of things,

but I struggled to work out what to say. Everything around [Black Lives Matter] was so quick and emotive. I’d feel like I’m

doing myself a disservice because, yes, I’m reposting things and I’m fully here for this, but I don’t fully know what I want

to say. I’m assuming that I’m not the only person who didn’t know what they wanted to say.”

It’s here where Tee sees an ability to unpack the self and world around him through written art forms. He continues in

outlining how his thoughts came to find their flow when changing the medium for using his voice. “For me to be able to put

[the feelings] in a piece of poetry and put that out, hopefully it captured my voice and what I wanted say in the way that I

wanted to say it. It was undeniable,” he affirms. “And I hope that somebody else heard it and thought, ‘That’s what I wanted

to say, too’. Language is important because it gives people a voice. It gives me a voice.”

This desire to connect with other voices is the watermark of Tee’s music. It stems from his observational tendencies, the

idea of placing himself in as many pairs of shoes as possible in order to understand their stories better. There are no solipsistic

tendencies on show. He’s the ear on the other side of the confession box, one that listens out for the diversity of the chorus as

opposed to zeroing in on the soloist. The communality of gospel is always present. “Talking to my audience, in a conversational

way,” he says, “I hope it’s therapeutic for other people as it is for me. It’s the same thing as talking about vulnerability.

“It’s like saying, ‘I go through this as well’, so you can talk to me about it. because I’m telling you I’m going through it. And if

you don’t want to say it first, I will – I’ll take that plunge. Having that conversation is letting people know that it’s going to be OK.

I think that’s necessary in this time. If I have the time, I will 100 per cent talk about issues and what’s happening to me, and the

relations to the songs. Every one of my songs is a conversation, a feeling that I’ve had.”

For Tee, music and lyricism are the purest form of communication, the medium whereby he can best make sense of his own

feelings, and those around him. “The best message I could receive is someone coming away from the end of a gig and saying, ‘What

you said there touched me, I’ve been having similar conversations’. You know what I mean?” he says with a genuine air of sincerity.

“That makes me feel like I’m doing my job. That’s what I want to do. I want to be able to open conversations. As a society we’re better

at it. But there’s not enough conversations about real shit.”

The sun is now lower in the sky but the heat hasn’t departed. But there’s no sense of fatigue in Tee. If there’s any on show, it’s

nervously stemming from having to talk about himself for such an extended period. He clearly sees himself as the messenger rather

than the message, the interpreter for so many others and their vulnerabilities. So much of his journey to now has been about everyone

else, his place in their lives and the whole communities he’s a part of. Until now he’s never been the spotlight focus. I ask him if there

still remains a will to remain behind the scenes. He’s humble as ever, happy in the self-understanding of his once veiled capabilities and

talent. “This, it’s front and centre for life,” he rounds off, as we descend the stairs and back out onto Duke Street where the golden hues

reattach themselves to his white T-shirt. “I’m not allowed to hide anymore. [Being Tee] is me telling myself I can do it.” !

Words: Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder

Photography: Tamiym Cader / @tamiym.photo

soundcloud.com/anartistcalledtee

Real and Crown Of Thorns will be available on 11th September and 2nd October. A Dozen Roses // A Love Story will be released 17th

October. The VR immersive experience of the EP in partnership with LightNight takes place 23rd October.

24


FEATURE

25


26


DECAY

The four-piece have been making considerable waves in the UK’s post-hardcore

scene over the course of the last year. Following up on their debut album, released

in July, Anouska Liat taps into the unguarded emotional spectrum of the band.

“At first I’ll think, ‘Oh, it wasn’t that bad’, and then

after I’ve written about it, I’m like, ‘Oh, shit’.”

DECAY’S frontman Danny Reposar is

currently recalling the colourful self-assessment

and repeated ritual he puts himself through in order to come to

terms with the more disconcerting areas of life. Although a hardhitting

moment of realisation, it also provides a higher sense of

understanding on how musical appreciation is a platform for so

much more than just audio pleasure. Rather, it’s a pivotal moment

in time to comprehend the complexities you may not initially

acknowledge – something that Danny is more than happy to

revisit during a pleasantly down to earth bus-ride chat over the

phone.

The post-hardcore band’s full-length debut album, Staring

At The Sun, is the pinnacle of these reflective moments. Each

song weaves together stories of self-loathing, loss and love.

Although obvious themes of melancholy protrude throughout, a

parallel theme takes shape. The album

illustrates how with each unfortunate

card dealt throughout life, there comes

a time where things become easier

via a sense of feeling “uncomfortably

comfortable” in your own skin. Be this

an honourable inner strength or a chink

in the mental health support chain, the

album overall presents the bare bones

of human emotion; both reactive and

reflective. This in turn provides a sense

of common ground with their audience,

in hope that speaking their bluntest

truths may be something of a beacon,

as Danny confirms: “I just want people

to connect with it, and I think that’s

what this album was really about – trying to help people.”

This attitude of help-get-a-leg-up is common among the

Liverpudlian community, enhanced further by Decay’s modest

beginnings before rising to become one of the most exciting

movers in the post-hardcore scene. “We all grew up on council

estates or just not in the richest of areas,” Danny notes. “There

are a lot of bands who act bigger than what they are. I know

you have to do that to a certain extent, but we’ve always been

humble and honest from the beginning which is a good portrayal

of our background.”

Growing up with shared streets and stories, the members

of Decay – Nathan Peloe (rhythm guitarist), Toby Hacking

(drummer) and Matthew Pickford (bassist) – are a refreshing

breakaway from your laddish traditions of bottling your emotions

up and turning a blind eye to the more pressing issues ‘at large’.

Instead, they speak about them in an upfront and personal

manner – both through lyricism and achingly expressive riffs

and crashing drum fills. Danny explains this approach. “I always

thought that when comparing our songs to others, I don’t feel

like we’re a real band because we’re so on the nose lyrically – I

just say what I’m thinking instead of just chatting shit about

metaphorical stories.”

Crediting the likes of the emotionally-charged Welsh rock

band Casey for their straight-talking lyrics, it’s explained how this

overarching honesty and openness is what they wish to portray

to listeners – demonstrating their solidarity towards the problems

“I’ve done everything

in my power to

be emotionally

transparent”

of the average fan.

“The type of music we make resonates with listeners, and for

me it struck a chord and helped understand that not everyone

has that perfect generic life that you see on TV,” says Danny.

Digging further into the roots of Decay’s philosophy, Danny notes

how much more unflinching music has become in the past 10

years. “It’s blunt and the storytelling is so honest,” he says, “there

are a lot of artists coming out with their hearts on their sleeves

now.”

Mental health awareness is talked about a lot these days,

progressively getting on with it is a debatable area of discussion.

Where promotion of further aid falls somewhat flat in some

circumstances, other means of self-help present themselves;

a creative umbrella facilitating the healing, understanding and

growth of each individual. For Decay, and many others, this

comes through the form of music. Whether you find yourself on

the creative or the simply appreciative side of the fence, the two

often intersect to make music the

unifier for ways to help deal with

your mental struggles. Similarities

begin to surface that bring to mind

how the making of an album can be

viewed as metaphorically parallel to

the process of improving your mental

well-being.

Keeping your head active and

creative is key for continual positive

growth, however it may not appear

instantaneously, and that’s OK. “I

saw a lot of people getting really

creative during lockdown,” replies

Danny, “and I’m just not that sort of

person – when I force creativity, it

just causes stress.

“I like to keep myself busy by creating things,” he adds,

“whether that be writing, drawing or creating artwork on

Photoshop – I need to keep creatively busy to keep my head on

straight and stay sane!”

Things become easier once the ideas begin to flow, a goal

difficult to reach by those deterred by the intimidation of time and

persistence. Despite fear of the unknown, new experiences are

usually the ones that push us out of our comfort zones and into

a higher state of understanding; a place where we can see what

works for us, and what is in fact hindering our progression. Off

the back of releasing their first EP in the summer of 2019, the

idea of Decay immediately creating an entire full-length album

was quite a shock to the system. “With the album you have to

structure it narratively and find out how it ebbs and flows into

each song, and just overall tell a story with it. It was hard,” Danny

admits. “We’d never really done something like that”.

Creative growth is an ongoing discovery; whether

subconscious or intentional, both are integral to success and

should therefore be embraced. “I’m always writing lyrics,”

Danny recites when discussing his creative process, “especially

definitions of words, which I’ll then write down along with certain

phrases. Writing is like closure, in a way.”

Closure is a word that many refer to, devoting their faith to

the ideal, in hope that, once they peak the mountain, closure is

there waiting to relieve them of their dismays. A journey towards

this desired sense of closure comes in many forms. “I’m quite an

emotional person and I’m not afraid to cry, but I don’t really dwell

on things long enough, so I tend to disregard my life situations,”

Danny continues. “So then I tell stories from my childhood or

current life in order to gain that sense of closure.”

The old mantra of ‘it’s not about the destination, it’s about

the journey’ sometimes may be looked over by those striving for

greatness with their blinkers on. Taking the time to pause and

ground oneself can lead to a better understanding of feelings,

and therefore how to better help others via our experiences. “Feel

Better is an emotionally-driven song that deals with a whole host

of things, from love to loss to love again,” says Danny. “It’s an

honest and naive representation of our story telling that I hope a

lot of people can resonate with and take comfort in.”

While there have been some positive movement towards

shattering the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses, the support

for male mental health in particular is still fighting an uphill battle,

as Danny asserts. “It’s never hard to talk about it, I just don’t want

to feel like I’m burdening others or trying to gain pity.”

Be it pride or shame, it’s no secret; more must be done

to reinforce the valuable awareness recently brought to light.

Thankfully, there are those who are more than aware of the

impact those around them can achieve. “I do feel as if the

emotional openness of a lot of males is rejected, I’m just blessed

to be surrounded by so many people who embrace being

emotionally open because it gives me a good sense of security,”

Danny says. “A lack of openness is a toxic masculinity trait that I

absolutely hate because I’m quite an open person emotionally,”

he continues. “I was always told at a young age to not express

negative emotion and to bottle it up – so, since then, I’ve done

everything in my power to be emotionally transparent.”

As drained by Covid-19 as we all are, it is only fitting to

emphasise the impact such a high-risk global hazard has had on

a fast-rising band like Decay. With their debut album released in

July this year, it’s an obvious assumption that social distancing

will come to hinder touring. “I’m dying to get back to gigs,” Danny

confirms excitedly, “but, obviously, we’re not going to try and get

back out there until it’s safe to do so. I’m happy to let the album

speak for itself – it’s done well so far, so no harm in waiting a little

longer. I think we’re doing a full UK and possible EU tour when

this is all over.

“I’m definitely more excited than nervous, although I do have

to relearn everything,” he adds, with a jovial sense of trepidation.

While some may take music at face value – dance to it,

sing along with it, learn how to play it – it is the moments

in-between that are equally as valuable. Those pauses to

acknowledge the laughter, the tears, the reflection, and then how

gratitude, understanding and growth follow. Danny conveys this

thankfulness towards Decay’s music in just a few simple words.

“It helped me embrace all the negativity in my life and turn that

into positivity.” And that is what life is all about. !

Words: Anouska Liat

Photography: David Cusack / @cusackphotography

decayuk.bandcamp.com

Staring At The Sun is available now via Fox Records.

FEATURE

27


CURATING

Visual artist Frances Disley’s latest exhibition, Pattern Buffer, housed at

Bluecoat until November, invites visitors into an atmosphere of tranquillity,

contemplation and relaxation. Before lockdown, and prior to the exhibition’s initial

opening in March, Jessica Phillips delved inside Pattern Buffer with its creator

to talk about the importance of making galleries more welcoming spaces.

28


A

beige and green room, late afternoon sunlight filtering

in through floor-to-ceiling windows. Exotic – perhaps

extraterrestrial is more apt – bromeliads erupt from a

cream carpeted floor; moss grows lazily on the walls.

Behind me, there’s a trickle of noise as someone lovingly waters

the still-growing greenery. On a television screen a video zooms

into the lulling motions of someone having their hair brushed.

This is FRAN DISLEY’s latest exhibition, Pattern Buffer, at

Liverpool’s Bluecoat Gallery. Both a blend of classic sciencefiction

tropes and a celebration of self-care, the exhibition space

itself is carefully curated to instantly lower an audience’s anxiety.

“Even as an artist I recognise that

galleries can be quite uncomfortable

places that are difficult to linger in,”

Disley tells me. “I tried to realise what

it is about these spaces that makes

people feel anxious, and to puncture

that barrier between the artworks

and the viewer. The ambience was an

integral part of that.”

She’s right. The exhibition, which

spans two floors of The Bluecoat,

doesn’t give off any of the stuffy,

clinical vibes I’d associate with a

traditional gallery. The beige and green

walls have been interspersed with

adhesive tape to create a grid pattern

which opens up the room, and huge

stickers to give the impression of standing inside a painting. The

audience is no longer a separate entity – they become the art.

In this vein, Disley intially set up gaming tables around the

room for visitors to play dominoes or complete a jigsaw, either

solo or in tandem. The tables themselves had been decked out in

felt, pleather, resin, to leave a tactile impression in players’ minds

(though, for health reasons, many of the tactile elements of the

“Even as an artist

I recognise that

galleries can be

quite uncomfortable

places”

note. “There’s a fun and a freedom to the way he talks about art;

rather than it being anchored in heavy theory, he values play and

fun, which I find really liberating. Art is about not listening to the

negative voices in your head.”

Disley’s return to her northern roots after a stint at the Royal

College of Art in London allowed her to rediscover some of this

freedom for herself, and her relief is almost palpable. “Everyone

felt really stuck in London. It was all about controlling output,

and there were loads of negative voices about doing your own

thing. When I moved back to Liverpool in 2010, finding people

at the Royal Standard just playing with stuff and having fun was

really inspirational. There’s a sort

of collective happiness when one

of your fellow artists is doing well,

which was liberating in itself.”

This is all very evident across

Pattern Buffer. The created spaces is

dedicated to lowering anxiety from

the get-go, and allowing Disley to

share this newfound freedom with

her audience members.

We follow a trail of painted

stickers to the second floor, where

nature has taken over the window

boxes and the space above. Between

the quasi-terrariums, the slow curls

of steam keeping them alive, and the

greenery above our heads – all taken

in the Palm House at Sefton Park – I’m not sure where to look

first.

Prior to social distancing measures being introduced, there

were plans for this space to become home to group guided

visualisations, animal yoga sessions and kung fu classes.

Additionally, twice a week, a huge quilt would be taken down

from the wall for people to sit comfortably on, wrapped in fleece

SAFE SPACE

exhibtion have had to be amended). Most notably, it’s all quite

‘green’, from the colour of the walls to the plants growing freely

about the place.

“I looked at studies into spending time with greenery, and

how it can have a restorative cognitive impact,” Disley says. These

studies found that urban green spaces can help lower stress

in people on their lunch breaks, or even how just looking for a

while at a green roof can boost mood. The bromeliads, a type of

epiphyte whose native home is on the side of trees in the jungles

of South America, have been transported to Liverpool to sprout

from volcanoes of cheerfully coloured expanding foam, while the

Spanish moss – or beard lichen, for obvious reasons – survives

solely on the moisture in the air. “I like the idea that they appear

exotic, that they can transport you somewhere else,” she divulges,

“but they’re also representative of the transient nature of the

artwork itself, and its ability to find a home in various hosts.”

Pattern Buffer clearly takes much of its inspiration from

classic sci-fi, plants and all; Disley’s obsession with Star Trek

seeps through into her artwork, and the whole space boasts an

otherworldly feel. She aimed to create her own version of the

Holodeck – a virtual space for hardworking Starfleet officers to

unwind with a leisure activity. “They pick whatever experience

they want, whether that’s skiing in the Alps or something

completely different, and relax that way,” Disley says. “I love the

idea of turning the gallery space into the Holodeck, and running

my own Holo programme.

“Most of all I [wanted] people to spend time together and

have their anxiety lowered. I liked the idea that people can

socialise, play games, do something that’s completely comfortable

while being alien to the gallery space,” she adds. “I’m an artist and

sometimes I still stand in galleries wondering if I’ve spent enough

time looking at a piece. I like the idea that someone could be so

immersed that they take in the art in an incidental way.”

Disley’s affinity with artistic freedom stems from some of her

contemporaries, namely post-minimalist Richard Tuttle, whose

work focuses on bridging the gap between art, philosophy

and life. “You could empty your bin in front of him and he could

compose it in an amazing way,” she says of an artist who’s

clearly left a mark on her, her voice taking on an almost wistful

blankets to imagine themselves as air plants travelling through

familiar countryside. The initial aims of the exhibition were to

encourage socialisation and, despite the pandemic-induced

changes to these tactile, communal aspects, Disley believes such

activities are an integral part of self-care, or rather “group care”.

“I do feel like sometimes self-care can actually be a

distraction from group care,” Disley admits. “It’s obviously

important to offer yourself that kind of care if nobody else is

going to do it for you, but I’d also like to encourage more group

care, and to see more collective positive experiences. Here, you’re

safe in a room with other people, whether you’re starting a jigsaw

for someone else to finish or playing a game of chess together.”

My gaze is drawn to the videos playing on a smattering

of screens around the gallery space. One features hair

stylist Sheetal Maru and her model, who Disley met through

Liverpudlian dance company Movema. “Seeing someone get their

hair done is a big ASMR trigger,” Disley tells me. “I’ve always

loved having my hair played with, and watching other people

have theirs done feels like it’s happening to me. That’s why

there are loads of close-ups of the French braiding, and why the

camera lingers on the brushing. There’s no narrative structure but

hopefully it’s a comforting relaxation aid.”

There’s something distinctly alien about the whole

experience, but if Pattern Buffer achieves anything it’s this

instinctive, almost foetal state of comfort, helped along by the

incubated soothing white noise emanating from somewhere

beneath our feet. It’s something best experienced in all its

multisensory glory, in quiet companionship, or with a stranger

spaced out at safe distance. As I leave the gallery, I’m glad I got

to experience it with the artist herself. !

Words: Jessica Phillips

Photography: Bluecoat Gallery

francesdisley.com

Pattern Buffer runs at Bluecoat Gallery alongside Jonathon

Baldock’s Facecrime until Sunday 1st November. This article was

initially written prior to lockdown in March.

FEATURE

29


30


JAMIE WEBSTER

The singer-songwriter has already witnessed his words sung by a chorus of tens of thousands. Yet the

echoes of football terraces are far removed on his debut album, replaced by the everyday symphony of

working-class Liverpool. Cath Holland profiles the personality breaking through in his original songwriting.

Walking through Liverpool’s north docks, it’s

difficult to ignore the conspiracy theories

sprayed on to walls in big, angry red letters.

If we love our family enough and want a free

world, we need to wise up about 5G, or something like that.

A few steps away, in the building round the corner, and I’m

inside another world entirely: JAMIE WEBSTER’s modest but

well-equipped rehearsal space. There’s a nice selection of guitars

hung on the walls. Each has a personal back story, cheerily

relayed to me by the affable Webster. The affectionately-told

précis of each is in tune with the singer-songwriter’s reputation

as a consummate storyteller, a skill evident on his debut album

We Get By.

I’ve read interviews and listened to podcasts in preparation

for our meeting, and they principally focus on the 26-yearold’s

intrinsic relationship with football. With colourful tales

to accompany events around the sport, both funny and sad,

working-class assurances are typically peppered in. And, true

to form, he describes We Get By, chockfull of stories, as “a

document of the joys, escapes and struggles of working-class life

in a nutshell”.

This seems a little too rehearsed. What does being workingclass

mean to him? It’s tough to define. It can mean poverty, but

doesn’t have to. If we go to uni, move to a leafy suburb and have

two cars on the drive, can we still claim ‘working-class’? The

pair of us chew it over, listing criteria in a ‘how long’s a piece of

string?’ scenario. We settle on an awareness of our roots never

leaving us, no matter what.

“Having that mindset where you can respect people who

don’t do as well as you, you understand their struggle. I could sell

three million records but still be working-class in the sense that

I still understand my mate’s been laid off and he’s looking round

for work,” he explains. “I feel that feeling, that fear. Having that

automatic thought, ‘Is there anything I can do, what can we do?’.

Having that sense of togetherness, sense of community.”

Webster’s album views the world through a working-class

lens, for sure, alternately stark, and in a broader romantic sense.

It’s both scathing and affectionate. Witty,

too. On Common People he sings, “So

officer is it your arse I’m supposed to

kiss/I’m sorry lad today I’ll give that one

a miss…” Carrying a strong narrative,

Webster’s songs can be intensely personal.

He lost a couple of friends due to mental

health issues, and The Joker is “about how

many times someone is abandoned by the

system and for how long does someone

have to put on the mask of a smiling clown

before it cracks”.

He may take a well-aimed swipe at

things that get under his skin, like valuing

appearances over people, and the Tories –

of course – and in the striking Weekend In

Paradise he takes to task going out on one bender too many; but,

ultimately, it’s a record of affection, warmth and honesty.

Webster’s ascendance is a story in itself, “an anomaly”:

winning popularity singing songs long loved by The Kop, videos

of football chants going insanely viral before introducing his

audience to his own material, all while working as an electrician.

His story is the epitome of working-class kid done good, if you

like. We get sold the myth of the everydayness of pop stars,

politicians and public figures all the time, but scrape the surface

and the strong whiff of bullshit clarifies the situation pretty damn

quick. Webster literally got his hands dirty, starting work on a

building site the day after he left school. “Didn’t even have my

summer holidays!” he attests.

At work, at the match, in local pubs, he got to know lots of

people. “Some of them have it well, some of them don’t have

it so well,” he says. It’s their stories as well as his, he explains,

informing his songs on We Get By. In a band when in his midteens

(“we weren’t very good”), he kept his hand in by doing

covers in pubs on Friday nights before moving on to playing what

he calls “the Liverpool gigs”.

“I’ve had the strangest route ever into this industry through

the football back door,” he admits.

He performs with a full band now, and in true Liverpool

tradition, has Scouse music royalty firmly around him. With

Lightning Seeds’ Tim Cunningham on bass, Jim Sharrock

(nephew of There She Goes-era The La’s Chris Sharrock) on

“I’ve had the

strangest route ever

into this industry”

drums, Mick Head’s Red Elastic Band member Danny Murphy on

guitar; plus, he’s produced by Rich Turvey (The Coral, Blossoms)

in Parr Street.

Jamie is proud of his Lakewood acoustic hanging on the wall

in his rehearsal space (“I paid it off monthly over three years. It’s

paid for itself”), and his acoustic singer-songwriter roots earn

comparisons with fellow anomaly, Scotland’s Gerry Cinnamon.

Both men found success by “people power”, as Webster puts

it proudly. But he is gutted he won’t get to play legendary King

Tut’s in Glasgow on the forthcoming tour. Like the Liverpool date,

it’s been upgraded to a larger venue. I suggest it’s a nice problem

to have. “Yeh,” Jamie laughs. “It is.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Webster’s musical references

are familiar and close to home. Based on his acoustic singersongwriter

origins, 1980s Liverpool scally pop is unashamedly

present, with toe-tapping tunefulness and heart-on-sleeve

sincerity. The Beatles and Oasis pushed through in his teen years.

“My early songs reflect that,” he replies. The La’s are an ever

present source of inspiration to him in the here and now as an

adult. Bob Dylan’s a big one for him as well, on the surface slightly

more random but in the hours before we meet up, he is taken to

nearby Dublin Street for photographs, where those famous Barry

Feinstein pictures of Dylan with a bunch of Liverpool kids in 1966

were taken. Dylan looked like an alien in black and a noisy checked

shirt, Cuban heels and bird’s nest hair against the empty brick

backdrop, and yet totally at home at the same time.

Jamie finds solidarity with the logic of Dylan’s “I’ve got three

chords and the truth” ideology. “His music’s not unbelievably

complicated. Alright, his lyrics are profound, but he says things

how you’d say them in a conversation.”

Writing a song about Liverpool as Webster does in This

Place, about his love and respect for the city, it’s easy to fall facefirst

into a vat of cheese and sentimentality. He neatly sidesteps

that trap.

“It’s about not forgetting where I’ve grown up. To try

and make the lyrics like me, rough and ready, but they hold a

meaning, there’s a story behind it. Once you’ve got the full story

out, the lyrics start to make sense a

little bit more. It’s like an argument;

you start off an argument but you

don’t stop it two sentences in and take

questions, do you? You put your point

firmly down.”

We go over Noel Gallagher’s

songwriting, how Oasis lyrics are often

as close to nonsense as you can get. In

truth it’s the melodies which capture

the imagination. What Webster takes

from Gallagher is keeping melodies

fresh.

“When I write songs I’ll get my

phone out, record [hums a tune], then

I’ll listen back, and I’ll be, ‘Is that too

generic, maybe?’ So I’ll listen again and [hums similar tune but

not the same], it’s finding the little differences. Wonderwall is a

cracking song, but if every line was ‘today is gonna be the day

they’re gonna…’, and then another one and another one is like

that, it wouldn’t be the song that it is.”

These days he’s more likely to throw on The La’s than The

Beatles, he tells me. That’s even with The La’s reaching its 30-

year milestone this year, meaning it’s older than he is.

“I think it’s a lot more working-class,” he says after a pause.

“He’s talking about Doledrum… without being snobby. I love The

Beatles, but I’m looking for something more ‘now’ in lyrics.”

The Beatles were incredible in capturing their own time, from

those early fresh Lennon songs to the later, darker, more cynical

psychedelic works. Could it be The La’s sum-up your world now,

maybe?

He nods. “Looking Glass is one of my favourite ever songs. I

think the journey it takes you on – the way it builds – is amazing,

but it leaves open-ended questions. The La’s make you think,

they sort of make me want to explore, make me want to write.

Looking Glass is ‘tell me where I’m going, tell me where I’m

bound’: that’s a question everyone asks themselves because no

one knows that, do they? ‘Turn the pages over, turn the world

around’ that could mean one of a million things, but to me it

means let’s keep going, keep moving, see where it takes us.”

Webster’s life has changed so much, going from the day job

to full-time musician. Stopping working for the family business

a couple of years ago was unavoidable after realising mid-tour

he’d been working the equivalent of two full-time jobs. “When I

should’ve been at my happiest because I’m doing all these great

things, I’m thinking ‘Ah, I’ve got loads of paperwork to do when

I get home’. It was an awful lot of pressure, and my personal

relationship with my mum and dad suffered because of it,” he

explains.

“It’s a good trade, it’s made me what I am,” he says of his

days as an electrician. “It’s done everything for me, I wouldn’t

change a thing. But it was my dream to be able to get up in the

morning and play my guitar and write songs.”

He tells of the support he’s had from his community, family

and friends, the Liverpool fans, BOSS Nights, practical advice and

support from The Anfield Wrap and label Modern Sky, adjusting

to this new stage in his life. When his record label explained

to him about booking agents, press, the different people who

support an artist, Webster’s response was “what, can one fella

not do all that?” Everything was a learning curve, writing songs

to a deadline, recording, playing to a click, even maintaining his

social media.

“It was a whole new world to me.” He gestures around us.

“I sit in this room sometimes 13, 14 hours a day writing songs,

thinking about so many different concepts and complexities.

Even changing lines, sometimes, because people might think I’m

having a go but I’m not. Stuff like that. It’s nerve-wracking.”

He confesses to nervousness when he first introduced his

own songs to the world. He sells venues out now, but has recent

memories performing to audiences unfamiliar with his songs. The

crowd gassing to each other about what they had for tea, waiting

for the headliner to come on.

“When it’s not your crowd and you can hear people talking,

you can hear people coming in and out. I can’t wait for the album

to be out so people can get used to the music and fall in love with

it, hopefully.”

So if he has an awkward crowd, how does he cope with it,

how does he get them on his side?

“Early on it put me off big, every single thing was getting

to me. But you’ve got to win them over, that’s what you do, you

can’t let it get you down or moan about it. There’s 300 people

there, but 100 people clap and cheer. You take that and move

onto your next song. It builds as the gig goes on.”

Recently, he was named on the Liverpool Echo list of most

influential people in the city. Does he feel influential?

He laughs. “I just feel like a normal lad who’s had a lucky

break, really.”

Oh, come on! He admits younger musicians “might try and

emulate how I’ve done things, take a few little tricks off me,” but

jokes “it’s not going to add any inches to my height”.

What about your lyrics’ impact?

“I’m hoping so. I’m not trying to start a massive movement

where I’m marching down to Parliament, but there’s a lot

of things that I know people like me feel, people from my

background not only in Liverpool but up and down the country

and other countries.”

It seems to me, seeing his audience’s response to him and

even looking at comments on social media, it’s a collective sense

of shared experiences, that notion of community, which seem to

me as much a part of Jamie Webster’s success as his links with a

popular football club.

“If you feel on top of the world stood on your own, you’ll feel

ten times better on top of the world with ten mates that feel the

same. That sense of togetherness is an invincibility.”

Granada TV are due to film Webster after my allotted time is

up, but there’s a lot to pull apart in the time remaining. The way

the working-class were manipulated over Brexit and blamed for

so much of society’s ills, fingers pointed for using the bus to get

to work during lockdown, and the first ones to suffer in the bad

times. Eventually, I bid him goodbye and return back to town

the way I came, the 5G graffiti still very loud and very there. But

from this angle I glimpse up ahead rolled up nuggets of chewing

gum lined up neatly on a rubbish bin’s ledge, because ‘Only Meffs

Drop Litter’, further graffiti reads. Positive community spirit? It is

alive, and very well indeed. !

Words: Cath Holland / @cathholland01

Photography: John Johnson / @john.johno

@JamieWebster94

We Get By is available now via Modern Sky.

FEATURE

31


AS CLOSE TO FLYING

AS YOU’RE GONNA GET

With the way we travel changed for the foreseeable, Stuart O’Hara looks local and makes

the case for finding our two feet on two wheels in the age of the new normal.

As fine a sport as cycling is, this article isn’t about

Lycra, doping, yellow jerseys or cowbells. It’s about

what might simply be called Riding Your Bike.

Getting from A to B, vernacular cycling, Active

Transport (Liverpool City Region’s term), or just whizzing around

Liverpedlarpool with a bird on your head. There’s a forgotten

Mark Ronson single from 2010 called the Bike Song, featuring

a lad from The View who briefly clambered out of landfill to

sing it, like an indie Stig Of The Dump. That was a good song

about bikes. The chorus goes “I’m gonna ride my bike until I get

home”, which is the most wholesome sentiment going, relatable

to anyone who’s ever gone about on two wheels. On the other

hand, Queen’s Bicycle Race is a bad band’s bad song about

bikes. That of which we cannot speak, we must pass over in

silence.

Getting from A to B on Merseyside has a chequered history,

and been dominated by the car – or, rather, the predicted

dominance of the car. Post-war reconstruction banked on

increased car ownership (pending social mobility that didn’t

always come to pass), justifying the dismantling of the tram

network in 1957 and complementing the closure of railways

which left estates like Norris Green stranded. There were even

plans for the M62 to terminate at the Queensway Tunnel – hence

The Rocket being junction 4 – and a Ballardian city centre with

separate levels for pedestrians and motorists, ne’er the twain

meeting. Even the compromised outcomes of these aborted

visions were dully car-orientated, with one-way systems and

partial street closures which, although they did slow traffic

in residential areas, were implemented with social order (and

control) in mind. In trying to prevent rat-runs, city centreadjacent

neighbourhoods like Everton, Kensington and Toxteth

were neglected as their commercial fortunes faded. Whole

communities were uprooted from condemned terraces in the

north end and those who weren’t housed in piggeries or the

few central new builds were moved to Huyton, Skelmersdale,

Kirkby, Maghull – satellites, suburbs, and new towns(). With a

motorway between them and Liverpool, a car was the only way

of commuting, or just getting the heck out of Dodge.

It’s a bit better these days. Some of those disused railways

have been converted into cycle paths, like the Loop Line, part

of the National Cycle Network, under the auspices of Sustrans.

It runs between Aintree and Hunt’s Cross, a sort of cycling

counterpart to Queens Drive. But it’s wild in parts and, crucially,

unlit, meaning it’s not the commuter’s first choice for half the

year. In great swathes of the city, cyclists must share the road,

facing heavy traffic, poorly maintained surfaces like Kensington

and Picton Road, and brutal (the cycling journalist’s adjective

of choice) inclines into headwinds – though the weather here is

no worse than in cycle-friendly countries such as Denmark and

Holland.

Those streets barred to cars partway along their length,

in Kensington, for example, are now largely passable by bike.

The dock road has segregated cycle lanes, hopefully benefitting

entities like IWF, Ten Streets Market and Wired theatre company,

and surely implemented with Sound City, the Titanic Hotel and

Everton’s dreamed-of Bramley-Moore stadium in mind. But the

result of that 20th-century carousel of semi-fulfilled planning is

continued dependence on cars (and, to a lesser extent, buses)

around a modestly-sized city. Therein lies the insensibility of a

car-dominated Merseyside – it’s not huge. According to Liverpool

City Region’s Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan

(LCWIP), two-thirds of all journeys made here are under 5km.

Half of those are taken by car. In May 2019, it says, 2 per cent of

journeys were by bike. The LCWIP’s goal is to improve the image

of cycling on Merseyside, but the desire to ride was already there

in those cycling casually, those thinking about driving less, those

teaching their kids how to ride a bike; it’s only in the last decade

or so that the infrastructure’s appeared. More could have been

done already, but all that can be done now is to look ahead.

So what’s the plan? In 2014 Liverpool City Council pledged

to triple the number of cyclists by 2017, a goal of 45,000 people

cycling once a week. It isn’t clear if that target was achieved, but

there were visibly more cyclists about in 2019, and there seems

to have been another spurt during lockdown, but it remains to be

seen if that will last. Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has appointed

Simon O’Brien (off Brookside) as a Cycling Commissioner,

and their current plan fits into a ‘Connectivity Scheme’ which

aims to make walking and cycling the primary modes of city

centre transport by 2023, through extensive redevelopment of

Lime Street, the Strand, Tithebarn Street, Victoria Street and

Moorfields. Note that these are mostly around the business

district, though Brownlow Hill – probably the most significant

non-student residential area in the centre – is set for wider

pavements and bike racks.

It’s a nice gesture, but with the best will in the world, it

appears that increased cycling is the means to an end – namely,

reduced traffic, lower emissions and a healthier population.

There is an argument for not looking a gift horse in the mouth,

but why not invest in cycling for cycling’s sake? Not as a discrete

activity but just ‘getting on your bike’. As Guardian journalist

Peter Walker has argued, ‘cyclist’ is often an identity in a way

that ‘driver’ is not. Maybe we need to become the new drivers in

that respect.

The blame can’t always be laid squarely at the council’s

door though. There is a ‘Car is King’ culture on- and off-road

which, being kind, is the inevitable product of a society that’s

long been geared toward car use at every level. Being less kind,

it’s just plain entitlement. A case in point – pop-up cycle lanes

piloted around Liverpool during the relative calm of lockdown,

segregated by plastic bollards, have been repeatedly ignored by

drivers parking across them. It brings to mind Casey Neistat’s

viral video from 2011 in which he gets a $50 fine from the NYPD

for not riding in a cycle lane. He then stays unswervingly in his

lane, literally crashing into scaffolding, parked vans, and a police

car. It’s a bit childish but it makes the point painfully.

Cycling has the potential to be a truly popular mode of

transport in every sense of the word. It’s been argued that the

invention of the bicycle expanded the gene pool in the late 19th

Century, letting people reach the next town or village with ease,

no longer limited to starting a family with their neighbours and

most distant cousins. Bikes aren’t exactly cheap (and sexism in

the marketplace needs calling out more), but running one is far

more affordable than a car for a lot of people. You can tinker with

a bike in a way you no longer can with most cars due to reliance

32


on onboard computers. Those 60s urban planners could (just

about) be forgiven for reading the signs as they did – cars were

small, there was ignorance about fossil fuels, and the post-war

project was utopian, in an individualist way. It wasn’t so long

after, as that project began to sour, that it was plausible for the

Prime Minister to have claimed that anyone over the age of 26

riding a bus was a failure (some people need to sit at the front of

the top deck more). That forecasting created a negative feedback

loop which is still going.

To be clear: this is not a crusade

against all motor vehicles. Buses are

vital, particularly for those with need

of greater mobility and accessibility.

In a city with a strong music scene

and – yeuch, sorry to use this term –

nocturnal economy, there still needs

to be access for motor vehicles to

load bands in and out, for vans to

stock restaurants on Bold Street. But

it should be equally safe for couriers

and Deliveroo riders to navigate.

Influential research conducted

by New York City Department of

Transport found that independent

businesses fared better in districts

with segregated cycle lanes. That

might be a single piece of data but it

opens up a rabbit hole about how cycling can be our means to an

end too – the end being getting politicians to listen in terms they

understand. And bikes are cool. They will never suffer the stigma

other modes of transport have.

On the face of it, competitive cycling’s had a positive

influence on your average rider in the 2010s. Moves to ‘clean up’

doping, a string of British Tour de France winners, and 2014’s

Grand Départ in Yorkshire have almost certainly contributed to

the increase of urban cycling, and not just at rush hour. But the

“It’s not about

picking a far-off

date by which to lay

more red tarmac;

it’s about prioritising

the cyclist from

here on in”

available data isn’t always so useful. Lists of ‘best and worst

cities for cycling’ tend to draw on numbers of cyclists and

Strava, and though that’s often shared with local authorities,

it isn’t always easy to find out who cycles, why, and where to

and from. Though we’ve all heard horror stories illustrated by

footage of road rage and driving that, merely sloppy to the driver,

is potentially lethal to the cyclist, it isn’t easy to track down

quantified data about the cyclist’s experience and how safe they

feel on the road.

There is hard data about cycling

fatalities. Liverpool came bottom

in a Walk And Cycle Merseyside

(WACM) table of metropolitan

boroughs, with 42 deaths per

100,000 of the population (the UK

average is 29/100,000) between

2014 and 2018, and Sefton sits

only a few places higher. Focusing

on fatalities and injuries among

child cyclists, the North West

fares little better, with St. Helens,

Liverpool, Sefton and Wirral in the

bottom 10. But it’s hard to parse

the data (not every local authority

is a metropolitan borough) and put

it in context – higher numbers of

cyclists may imply a greater risk of

injury, but most cycle lanes in Liverpool so far have been painted

on, rather than segregated from other traffic. Cyclists can only

protect themselves so much. Here’s the rub: should building

bike-friendly infrastructure encourage and determine future use,

or reflect and improve the current cycling experience?

Syd Barrett’s Bike occupies the God tier of bike songs. It’s

a very good song but it’s not really about bikes, a bit like many

cycling initiatives at local government level. Similar language

appears over and over in plans for improved conditions for

cyclists. Pretty utopian, drenched in colourful graphics, with a

sense that the only thing stopping better cycling was the lack

of a plan. But cycling’s already simple enough. You strap on

your helmet, check your lights, and you’re off. But the language

of the focus group, the cabinet meeting, or the optimistic

item on North West Tonight doesn’t adequately describe the

cyclist’s experience. It doesn’t describe the near miss with the

cement mixer, the prayer that the dotted line will be enough of

a barrier, the polka-dot jersey waiting at the top of Rice Lane

or Smithdown when there’s a bus up your arse. There’s a gap

between vision and reality, between policy and people, that

could be closed if more cyclists were involved in the process. It’s

not about picking a far-off date by which to lay more red tarmac;

it’s about prioritising the cyclist from here on in. One of the best

things about cycling is the freedom – faster than running, with

the wind in your hair, it’s as close to flying as you’re gonna get.

Every now and then, ‘before and after bikes’ photos of

Amsterdam surface on Twitter’s online trash vortex. The narrow

streets familiar from centuries of Dutch painting and stag dos,

photographed in the 70s, could be present-day Walton, with

cars parked bumper-to-bumper on either side leaving just

enough room for a third to crawl through. It seems astonishing

that such a car-centric European capital could eventually

prioritise the sole, the pedal and half as many wheels. The grass

isn’t greener on the other side of the fence – it took 20 years for

those changes to take place, but they are proof that there’s no

need to accept how things are now. Those holding the purse

strings can’t just clap their hands together and say “job done”,

whistling off to the next planning application for more student

accommodation. Climate change is already happening, cultural

change is necessary, and those making the decisions must be

persuaded to de-incentivise the car. !

Words: Stuart Miles O’Hara / @ohasm1

Illustration: John O’Loughlin / jolworkshop.co.uk

FEATURE

33


SPOTLIGHT

“I’m influenced by

a sense of urgency

to acknowledge

and open up

dialogues about

more challenging

subject matters”

LUKE MAWDSLEY

On his debut album Vulgar

Displays Of Affection, the prolific

polymath goes solo and digs deep

into the human condition for a

sonic exploration of the self.

As with many creative personalities, trauma and

internal conflict are touchstones of Liverpool polymath LUKE

MAWDSLEY’s work. Just as his debut solo EP, Obsessive

Compulsive was, in parts, a reflection on the emotional ebb and

flow of that often-misunderstood condition, his first long-player

Vulgar Displays Of Affection is a work derived from therapeutic

creativity and compulsive necessity. Drawing on a journal of

collected intrusive thoughts, Mawdsley has recorded spokenword

performances bolstered by glitchy soundscapes and

chiming guitar, somewhat akin to Tim Hecker, Xiu Xiu or lateperiod

Scott Walker.

Released this summer on Maple Death records, the album

also features the production talents of Doomshakalaka/Bad Meds’

own Paul Rafferty as well as the bass abilities of Waffle Burger,

from Glaswegian garage-troupe Fallope And The Tubes.

Fans of Texan metal may have already spotted an elephant

in this particular room: that there’s a striking similarity between

the title of Mawdsley’s latest release and Arlington thrashers

Pantera’s 1992 opus Vulgar Display Of Power. However,

Mawdsley is keen to dismiss any notion of paying homage to

a band led by a “white supremacist arsehole” and claims to be

much more interested in the “deconstruction of metal as a tool of

masculine dominance”.

Despite his aversion to the white male machismo of Pantera,

Mawdsley admits that his interest in music does have a childhood

root of sorts in another incarnation of masculine Americana.

“I was gifted a country and western tape with, amongst

other gunslinger classics, various versions of Rawhide on it,” says

Mawdsely. “Dressed in makeshift western attire and whipping a

chair with a belt in time with the beat I would listen to this tape

till the prairie wind changed direction.

“This kind of percussive experimentation was encouraged by

my parents, likely due to the fact that I did not show particular

aptitude for much else,” he adds. “I think the physicality and

accessibility of percussion as a child was hugely empowering and

enabled me to manifest the desires my imagination seemed to

demand.”

There are hints of this early infatuation with Western

soundtracks noticeable on Mawdsley’s latest release; with tracks

such as Misery Gland reimagining the sparseness of Morricone’s

compositions, while Little Blanket maps out a prairie landscape in

screeching oscillations.

As we talk, Mawdsley recalls other childhood memories

which he sees as equally pivotal to his immersion in music and

performance. “I was really sick as a baby and vomited a lot. My

parents nicknamed me Puke,” he illustrates. “As is consistent with

all children at that age, the retching and crying was an innate

expression of something troubling I was unable to fathom. My

personal pallette of expression has, arguably, expanded since

then. However, the compulsion to express through sound has

never really felt like a choice I have consciously made.”

Finding a way to process these compulsions and the

unconscious is something which can so often be key to coping

with OCD. Mawdsley’s approach on Vulgar Displays… sees him

process these suggestions and intrusions from the unconscious

into spoken-word monologues. He then manipulates the tone

of the vocals, creating a sort of obtuse, distorted narration. It is

almost as if, by making the timbre of the speech unrecognisable

as his own, he has cathartically separated these unwanted voices

and ideas from himself.

Vulgar Displays… consists of nine such works, each with its

own level of lyrical and sonic profundity. From the bubbling pulse

of Piss & Leather and the distorted drone of The River Takes

It All to Beberian Sound Studio escapee A Grudge Supreme,

every track manages to entrap Mawdsley’s unnerving modulated

confessions perfectly within its noisy grasp.

In addition to processing trauma and addressing mental

health issues, his compositions also tackle a variety of other

topics of importance to the artist. Mawdsley has described some

of the ideas which appear throughout the album as “shame,

disassociation, grief, control and repressed adolescence”. He

tells us: “I have made attempts to establish spaces to explore

and challenge my own perceptions of the human condition. I’m

influenced by a sense of urgency to acknowledge and open up

dialogues about more challenging subject matters.”

There is arguably much need for acknowledgment and

dialogue at the current moment in time. Certainly, mental health

is one area which could stand to be discussed a lot more. In the

quarter of a century since Pantera’s paean to aggression was

released, it could also be argued that not much has changed in

the sense that wider society, as a whole, fails to address these,

often crippling, tropes of the human condition. The real “power”

of Luke Mawdsley’s creation lies in the fact that he has found one

way of doing so. !

Words: Stephen Lewin

Photography: Xenia Onta / @xeniaonta

lukemawdsleymusic.bandcamp.com

Vulgar Displays Of Affection is available now via Maple Death

Records.

34


TOKKY

HORROR

Rising from the hot ashes of Queen

Zee, the trio of Zee Devine, Ava

Akira and Mollie Rush make their

full throttle introduction as Tokky

Horror. Blink and you might miss.

“When I was a child

I wanted to be Steve

Irwin but there weren’t

many opportunities to

wrestle crocodiles in

Birkenhead, so I decided

to learn drums”

If you had to describe your music in a sentence, what would

you say?

Fast music.

Have you always wanted to create music?

No. When I [Zee] was a child I wanted to be Steve Irwin,

but there weren’t many opportunities to wrestle crocodiles

in Birkenhead, so I decided to learn drums, which, I was

disappointed to learn, has equally few opportunities.

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that initially

inspired you?

I remember dancing around my parents living room in a lil white

vest and no pants pretending to be Freddie Mercury, so it was

probably just having MTV on constantly as a child that got me

intrigued. My first CD was a single of Queen’s We Will Rock You

covered by 5ive.

What do you think is the overriding influence on your

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a mixture

of all of these?

It’s definitely emotion. I’m very emotional and do just write

obsessively to help block out all my shit. I’m also just influenced

by the music itself and a desire to write better and better.

If you could support any artist in the future, who would it be?

I’d like to open for artists where you’re getting a mixed bag,

something we don’t properly fit with, like Slipknot, which would

be fun. But then again, all time heroes like Goldie or Underworld

would be major. To be honest, anything where I’m gonna get paid

at this point.

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in?

I got to play at Brixton Academy, that was weird. I was too

anxious to really enjoy it in the moment, but now I can look back

and be like holy shit that was Brixton. Liverpool Olympia is also a

beautiful venue, I really enjoyed playing there.

Why is music important to you?

It’s how I make sense of the world and how I connect to it. I’ve

always struggled with my autism, to really connect to people, and

I find the world overwhelming or confusing most of the time. So,

it’s through music I can have a common ground with people and

make sense of emotions.

Can you recommend an artist, band or album that Bido

Lito! readers might not have heard?

Get onto Donny Soldier, he’s rockin’ it on the main stage.

Photography: Dan Frost / @danfrost.jpg

@tokkyhorror

Girl Racer is available now via Alcopop! Records.

LAZYGIRL

Through saccharine melodies

cooked up in a bedroom studio,

Lazygirl draws you into her haze of

sentimentality.

If you had to describe your style in a sentence, what would you

say?

Upbeat-meets-melancholy bedroom pop – kind of indie, kind of

solemn, but soothing.

Can you pinpoint a live gig or a piece of music that initially

inspired you?

I was initially influenced to start producing my own dreamy, lo-fi

stuff when I saw Clairo’s Pretty Girl music video in 2017. Seeing

someone about my age making massive waves in the industry

from her bedroom was so inspiring, and made me start producing

the music that I would listen to myself.

Do you have a favourite song or piece of music to perform?

I really enjoy performing with my guitar, especially my songs

which are vocals and guitar only. I wrote Papercut (off my first

EP) when I was 16, and I love playing it because I feel like it’s an

homage to my younger self; nurturing her and carrying her on

somehow. The song is about my struggle with OCD which, after

years of treatment, is finally a faded memory. When I’m playing

Papercut now, I can show that vulnerability and really mean the

lyrics, but it’s like therapy – like being able to go back to 16-yearold

me and saying ‘Don’t worry, you survived girl!’

What do you think is the overriding influence on your

songwriting: other art, emotions, current affairs – or a mixture

of all of these?

Definitely a mixture. I write a lot about past and present feelings,

especially mental health, relationships or my sexuality, but my

new EP is based on a lot of stuff that makes me passionate… or

angry. I’ve got a song about rape culture and misogyny and a

couple about the various emotions I’ve felt in lockdown – mostly

missing my other half and annoyance at the Conservative party!

If you could support any artist in the future, who would it be?

It would be my dream to support Clairo. Her discography has

been so influential to me as an artist, so I think it would be the

perfect full circle moment.

Do you have a favourite venue you’ve performed in?

The Zanzibar. It’s such a sweet venue and everyone there is so

lovely – it was the first gig I ever performed in Liverpool, with

my Uni band, and the last gig I did before lockdown. I’m so

heartbroken it’s had to close its doors because of Covid. It’s been

such a special venue to me and countless others in the scene.

Why is music important to you?

It’s so universal. Quite often, people can be really closed off

about their feelings, and music is such a unique outlet to express

emotions and ideas. It’s been such a huge part of my life, but

every year I discover so many layers, artists, types of music

and more that I never knew about. Getting older, I’ve learnt to

appreciate the politics in music, too, and how it can be used to

talk about injustices but also to find community and togetherness,

like in queer culture. It’s so vast, you can never scrape the surface

in a lifetime. Every day there’s the potential for something new.

Photography: Martha Harris

soundcloud.com/lazygrl

Lazygirl’s Orange Roses EP is out on 28th August.

SPOTLIGHT

35


PREVIEWS

Paul McCartney

EXHIBITION

LINDA McCARTNEY RETROSPECTIVE

Walker Art Gallery – Until 01/11

The Walker Art Gallery is welcoming visitors back with a big hitter of an exhibition to

see them through until November. Rescheduled from an original opening date in April,

it’s a much anticipated show displaying the iconic work of a woman who captured the

essence of multiple decades at the close of the 20th Century.

The Linda McCartney Retrospective is open now and can be enjoyed via advance booking on the

Walker’s website. An impressively comprehensive career overview, curated by husband Paul and

daughter Mary, the exhibition covers everything from LINDA MCCARTNEY’s early-career music

photography among the movers and shakers of the 1960s, through intimate family moments at her

home in Kintyre, to her more stylised Sun Prints series. It is rare that a photography exhibition takes

in so much of a career and gives a fully holistic picture of a life at the same time.

The exhibition takes in more than 250 photographs, spanning from the photographer’s early work

when based in New York City, to the 1990s when McCartney was either side of the Atlantic having

conquered the pop world as part of Wings. For local audiences there are familiar scenes around

Liverpool and Wirral in warmingly candid familial moments; for the music historian, rock luminaries

Simon and Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin all make appearances in the exhibition. There are

rare shots of the Fab Four loitering at the iconic crossing before the famous Abbey Road shoot, as

well as in the studio for the recording of their later, seminal works. The show provides a fascinating

window into the life of a passionate activist, artist and family woman.

FESTIVAL

LIVERPOOL DIGITAL

MUSIC FESTIVAL

Various venues – 29-31/08

LIVERPOOL DIGITAL MUSIC FESTIVAL is building on the success of its inaugural event in May

to host a multi-venue streamed festival from across the city. The free event, featuring sets from

ZUZU, The Merchants, Munkey Junkey and Natalie McCool, follows a lockdown edition which

raised over £2000 for the NHS and Music Venue Trust. The M&S Bank Arena have contributed

their space as the headline stage for the August Bank Holiday event while a trio of worthwhile charities

will benefit from viewer donations. L8’s community mental health charity Mary Seacole House, Claire

House Hospice and Merseyside Youth Association are partner charities for the event.

Virtual festival goers in May were treated to sets by the likes of All We Are, Spinn and Zuzu playing from

their own homes, as was the style at the time. Now restrictions have eased artists will set up on stages at

city centre venues Phase One, EBGBS and SAE Institute, as well as the dockside main stage. The students

of SAE will get valuable real world/digital world experience with students of Audio Production to Game Art

Animation taking on a range of roles. Full artist line-up and stage times are still to be announced at time of

writing.

Zuzu

36


LIVE STREAMED GIG

She Drew The Gun

Near Normal @ Future Yard – 19/09

Birko’s newest venue opens in all its weird Wirralian

wonderment this month with a socially-distanced show

from some hometown heroes. While physical tickets

sold out in under a day, SDTG fans thirsty for live action

from a real venue can tune in online with a digital ticket.

The multi-camera broadcast will carry IRL-quality audio

and video mixed live by partners AdLib and Vessel, and

provide a near-immersive experience to virtual ticketholders.

The gig is part of a series of in-situ and streamed

gigs which the venue is rolling out ahead of full capacity

shows scheduled for early 2021.

FILM

September Cinema Events

Picturehouse at FACT is back up and running in a

safe manner with a smorgasbord of interesting indies,

mighty mainstreamers and streamed live-streamed fare

to scratch our big screen itch. Amongst the screenings

slated for September are NT Live: Fleabag Encore (3rd

Sept), La Haine (11th Sept) and filmed guided tour A

Night At The Louvre: Leonardo Da Vinci (16th Sept).

Also upcoming is a special screening of Karate Kid with

a Remembering Of… featurette preceding the classic,

and the beautiful Gints Zilbalodis animation Away, with

dates TBA. There’s lots more to be announced by the

cinema as they ease their way back to normality. Do

support your local cinema.

EXHIBITION

Don McCullin

Tate Liverpool – 16/09 – 09/05

A popular exhibition when on display at Tate Britain, the work

of photographer DON MCCULLIN has come up north to the

Albert Dock sister gallery. With an arsenal of iconic images and

a career taking him to historic conflicts all over the world, the

exhibition is an eye-opening show from a legendary lensman.

As well as his poignant images of war-torn Vietnam and Syria,

the Tate exhibition will also feature images from working-class

life in the north of England and London’s East End. The show

promises unforgettable images from a photographer who has

been unflinching in his recording of tragic conflicts and the

realities of life near the poverty line.

Don McCullin

FESTIVAL

Lime Carnival

Various venues - 29/08-31/08

LIME are bucking the trend and introducing a whole new IRL festival

for the August Bank Holiday. A trio of venues play host to three events

bringing a strong contingent of DJs for our socially distanced pleasure

across three nights. Friday night begins at Baltic bastion Constellations

with Dancehall and Afrobeats aficionado TOM HALL leading the roster of

selectors. On Saturday night the action is transferred to Kazimier Garden

for more wax jockeys turning the tables with the likes of PAPU.RAF and

DOOPS.SAN on the bill. Sunday night leads us up north to Meraki for the

closing party.

CLUB

Humanoid Collective

Table Service @ Meraki – 04/09

North Docks vibe hub Meraki are continuing their social distanced programme

of DJ nights with Table Service welcoming HUMANOID COLLECTIVE for the

first event of September. The popular nights have been a smash hit with those

wanting to hear the best beats while staying safely apart. Signal x Humanoid

are coming together on this Saturday night, 4pm-11pm, to bring a rare

selection of selectors to the Ten Streets. As the monikers alludes to, drinks are

served to tables of no more than six people and there are 22 tables to purchase

tickets for via Resident Advisor. Other guidelines are in place and can be read

on the Meraki website.

EXHIBITION

The Time We Call Our Own

Open Eye Gallery – 02/09-03/10

Dustin Thierry – Opulence.

The nightlives of cities all over the world are currently on life support due to the virus. The full

gamut of hustle, bustle, chips and discarded heels may not be making a return for a while, but

we can experience it to some degree at Open Eye Gallery with their new exhibition. THE TIME

WE CALL OUR OWN explores the nocturnal pulses of cities around the globe with photographic

projects from an assortment of photographers. Style, location and music are central themes to

a show that investigates visibility and counter-cultural scenes which thrives under neon lights.

There’s also a chance to see highlights from the Bido Lito! photo archive with You Out Tonight?, a

special exhibition curated for the Mann Island atrium.

EXHIBITION

And Say The Animals Responded?

FACT – Until 13/12

LIVE STREAMED GIG

Möthmas

Twitch – 30/08

Alongside their online offering of podcasts, live streams, videos, challenges and activities entitled

The Living Planet, FACT’s IRL exhibition AND SAY THE ANIMALS RESPONDED? has reconvened

at the Wood Street space. While lockdown gave us cause to reflect on our relationship with the

natural world, we can deepen our knowledge and seek further exploration through this exhibition of

works from international artists. Whales, dolphins, chimps and a wolf pack all feature in an eclectic

selection of work focussing on humans’ interaction with the animal kingdom. Ariel Guzik (Mexico),

Amalia Pica (Argentina/UK) with Rafael Ortega (Mexico), Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg (UK), Demelza

Kooij (Netherlands/UK) and Kuai Shen (Ecuador) all have work which can be safely consumed with

FACT’s Covid measures in place.

For a healthy dose of multi-threat unbridled creativity, VICE MÖTH return on

August bank holiday weekend for a special show. Bank Holiday Möthday,

streamed via Twitch, will feature live performances from BEIJA FLO, MT HALL,

DOM LEWINGTON and more as well as the usual mix of irreverent sketches from

the likes of MOUNTAINEERS, MELODIEN and LAURA SPARK. The brainchild of

Stealing Sheep’s Emily Lansley and Alex Germains (AKA Germanager), Vice Möth

started out as a musical improvisation project and has spawned life as a multilegged

collaborative project with the Möthmas annual arts show. The event will

be re-streamed as part of Liverpool Digital Music Festival. twitch.tv/vicemoth

PREVIEWS

37


REVIEWS

Angel Olsen and Hand Habbits (Ashley Connor)

ISLANDS

IN THE

STREAM

Well, this doesn’t half feel strange. In a normal

month, these reviews pages would be full of

tales learned from the floors of gig venues and

arenas. Reports of sweaty, cathartic or moving

gatherings – accompanied by photos taken from the upwardstilted

perspective of the pit – have been an integral part of Bido

Lito! for the past 10 years. Though the hundreds of reviews we

have published may not say it explicitly, their words speak of the

thrill of experiencing something together; they are memories,

homages to shared moments, a communion of sorts.

Then in March of this year, things changed. A live gig or

concert of any type hasn’t taken place in Merseyside for almost

five months since the country went into lockdown. And, with all

of the Covid safety precautions still in place, it doesn’t look likely

that we’ll see anything close to normal for the rest of this year.

Our reviews section – half of Bido’s output – will be forced into

hibernation for the first time (beyond exhibition reviews, of which

we are continuing), until it can resume its place in documenting

the stories made in the intense moments of connection that live

performances bring us.

Despite the closure of venues and halting of all performances

in March, the artists soldiered on, determined to still connect

with their fans. As a way of relieving the cabin fever of lockdown,

impromptu ‘gigs’ popped up on live streams all over the place,

hosted by those gamely mastering the new skills of streaming

and bedroom production. The sight of an artist (or occasionally

a duo) crammed in to shot, the dusty acoustic guitar jostling for

space alongside mics, laptops and novel lighting setups became

normalised. As an immediate reaction to the forced isolation

of lockdown, these certainly scratched an itch – see Bido’s

own Friday Night Live! series of streamed shows with ZUZU,

BYE LOUIS, STRAWBERRY GUY and DAN DISGRACE – but it

wouldn’t be long until fans and musicians both started to grate at

the limitations. Despite some great efforts, the production values

of bedroom gigs were generally naff, leaving very little room to

do justice to the music. And for those whose only problem was

the buffering of a shaky broadband connection, think about those

artists without the wherewithal to perform from home at all, cutoff

from vital outside engagement as the walls closed in.

If there was any expectation that musicians would sit on

their hands and accept their lot, then that was short-lived.

SAMURAI KIP didn’t let the barrier of being quarantined in four

separate locations stop them from putting together a live version

of Smoke, with neatly collaged video to boot. ALL WE ARE

weren’t content for even those restrictions, setting up in Vessel

Studios for a full live set streamed on YouTube, amps, lights,

natty outfits and everything. In light of their cancelled tour, this

was a chance for the trio to keep contact with their fans ahead

of their imminent album release, and also push a crowdfunding

campaign to help them recover lost earnings from cancelled

live dates. Indeed, the concept of

leveraging financial support from fans

through digital tipping and crowd

funders was finally broached, which

could well be something that stays in

the artist’s arsenal once normal service

is resumed.

Michael Lovett, aka NZCA LINES,

was also not to be deterred from

having a party for the release of his

album A Pure Luxury. Along with

promoters Bird On The Wire, Dice

and Behind The Notes, he set up

a virtual album launch party with

breakout Zoom Rooms for fans to

chat and show off their downloaded

virtual backgrounds. A slick mastery of

video streaming brought the requisite sense of occasion, but the

performance was still a bedroom gig (albeit with programmed

lights and great-sounding audio). Support act CHARLOTTE

ADIGÉRY brought more of a suspension of disbelief with

her green-screened set, beamed in from Belgium as an hors

d’oeuvre. But this show wasn’t necessarily about the show – it

was about the connection with fans, promoting the album,

making it all feel real. Those points of contact that musicians

have with their fans – when they can truly develop the world

they’ve built around themselves – are few and far between.

Performances like this will never be a substitute for concerts,

“Digital shows can

only be a temporary

fix, a stepping stone

towards normality”

but they might be able to open up a different kind of connection

between artist and fan that has been long overlooked.

LAURA MARLING’s live streamed show at Union Chapel

in June saw over 4,000 fans pay £12 for a ticket to see the

Mercury-nominated artist play a show filmed in cinematic luxury.

Despite thousands of fans (plus hundreds more US fans) taking

the option to see Marling performing songs from her brand new

album, Song For Our Daughter, for the first time, the show still

didn’t run a profit. Or, at least, not the kind of profit you would

expect for a full-house Union Chapel show with a live audience

a quarter the size of the dialled in streamers. Naturally, the

streamed set’s lavish production

and multitude of camera angles will

have had something to do with that,

but the scale of economy shows

the level of risk involved in these

performances, even for artists of the

profile of Laura Marling.

But the bug for the cinematic

was catching, especially for those

artists caught mid-album campaign

who had seen touring and promotion

plans pulled from under their feet. I

tuned in to ANGEL OLSEN’s second

Cosmic Stream in July, where the

artist performed live from the

Masonic Temple in Asheville, North

Carolina. The performance was shot

by Olsen’s long-time collaborator Ashley Connor in one glorious,

sumptuous take, that occasionally pushed in close to Olsen as

she sang forlornly to an empty room, circling around her to show

the empty seats gathered in silent congregation. Even Olsen’s

sharp quips fell eerily limp as the absurdness of the situation was

laid bare in the awkward moments between songs. Yet, it all felt

worth it when the camera took you inside the artist’s personal

space, allowing you to feel an energy that you wouldn’t normally

get to experience. When Olsen and support act HAND HABITS

duetted at the pivot of the event, the crackle of emotion that

coursed through my internet connection made me temporarily

38


Tomorrowland Around The World

forget that I wasn’t there with them, in that room in North

Carolina with other fans, revelling in the crispness of Olsen’s

voice just as much as the bum notes and the mistakes. As the

show ended and the camera retraced its route back through

the entrance to the room, it felt like the ending to an arthouse

film: perfect for the setting and the artist, but a reminder of the

distance that was between us.

Jarvis Cocker’s fascination with the Peak District saw him

bring his new outfit, JARV IS…, to Peak Cavern in 2018. So, what

better place for Jarv and crew to host a live streamed show to

mark the release of new album Beyond The Pale in the middle of

lockdown? Streamed free on YouTube, the Live From The Centre

Of The Earth show was shot by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard,

who also directed the 2014 Nick Cave documentary 20,000

Days On Earth. The Devil’s Arse, as Peak Cavern is affectionately

known, added a delicious sense of oddness to the whole setting,

a 53-minute trip inside the mind of one of British music’s most

mysterious characters. The seven-piece group – featuring

Serafina Steer, Emma Smith, Jason Buckle, Andrew McKinney,

Adam Betts and Naala – came alive in a cave that was lit by

spectacular lighting and visuals playing across the walls. “This is

not a live album – this is an ALIVE album,” Jarvis intoned at the

beginning, as their kitchen disco house music swept through the

space in the kind of cinematic drama that only the British could

dream of, never mind pull off. It was a shame when Jarvis bade

us farewell in his breathy baritone; I’m not sure if it left me more

likely to visit Peak Cavern or buy the record.

The summer shutdown has meant that festivals have taken

a huge hit during the pandemic. Their very model relies on one,

big communal experience, which leaves them more vulnerable

than most in the live industry. Those owned by the large live

industry behemoths are the most likely to be able to tide things

over to next summer, while those festivals with smaller but loyal

audiences had to think creatively if they were to have a future

beyond 2020. Organisers of Bluedot and Supersonic festivals

were, somewhat predictably, at the head of this pack, re-tooling

some of their programmed content for an online variant.

Bluedot’s A WEEKEND IN OUTER SPACE featured plenty

of their popular science talks, done as online webinars. HENGE

presented some suitably oddball space-themed live streams, and

ORBITAL signed off the live proceedings with a set streamed

from a home studio, where the voices of Greta Thunberg and

Brian Cox were sampled over some of their organic beats.

SOFASONIC was Supersonic’s response, a similar collection of

live streamed Q&As and sets, which served as a chance to bring

their close-knit community together. PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS

PIGS PIGS’ hosting of an online bingo and some cooking classes

showed both ends of Supersonic’s bizarro spectrum, with

recorded sets from previous years of the spectrum serving as a

reminder of what should have been happening. Neither event

was hardly a replacement for the festival, but the digital activity

did give a chance for fans to show their support and raise some

much-needed cash for the teams behind the events.

Tomorrowland, the Belgian EDM festival that welcomes

400,000 fans to its two bonkers weekends each summer, are

renowned for doing things differently. So, when they announced

that they’d booked KATY PERRY and were taking the festival

online instead, not many eyebrows were raised. The festival is

an OTT carnival with garish set design, which comes across as

something between Disneyland and Middle Earth for fans of

Euro house music. Their plan for TOMORROWLAND AROUND

THE WORLD, their digital experience for 2020, was to create

a whole digital environment in which to enjoy a still ridiculous

line-up of performances: DAVID GUETTA, FEDDE LE GRAND,

AMELIE LENS and STEVE AOKI among those joining Katy Perry

over two days. At €12.50 a day, it seemed like a punt, even if the

economics didn’t completely tally (until, that is, you sign up and

get bombarded with never-ending ‘exclusive’ drink and merch

offers) – especially when you see what your €12.50 granted you

access to.

Pāpiliōnem was the virtual setting for the digital festival,

realised by Tomorrowland’s tireless visual team, that came

with the tagline ‘The Reflection Of Love – Chapter 1’. Entering

the festival was like the beginning of a computer game – and,

indeed, the whole festival felt like an extended cut-scene from

an elaborate fantasy game, with various stages (one of which

looks exactly like Fort Punta Christo in Croatia, used as the home

for Dimensions and Outlook festivals) perched on mountains

and in clearings on the island of Pāpiliōnem. As the camera

swooped in to each arena, thousands of computer-generated

arms waved as the most out-there light show danced

over their heads. The performers on the stages were

merely part of the vastness, with DJ performances

melded into the environments using green screen

technology. At times, it felt like the computer game

engine controlling your viewing was more keen on

showing you the elaborate structures it had built,

making for a rather exhausting mental experience

for someone sat in a chair at home.

Katy Perry’s headline set was a remarkable

piece of digital wizardy, giving the impression

that Perry and her dancers were performing

on this blatantly digitised virtual stage. As

bizarre as it was, you have to tip your hat

to the Tomorrowland team for creating

an experience true to their ethos which

also gave you an excuse to suspend your

disbelief long enough to have a good time.

Isn’t that what live performance is meant

to do, after all?

The efforts of artists, festivals and

their teams to find a way around the

problems that lockdown has thrown

up have not only shown remarkable

creativity, but a dogged determination

to keep the music playing. However,

this shouldn’t mask the catastrophic

effect that the paralysing of the live

music industry has had on thousands

of people. Countless artists saw

their plans go up the spout, with

long scheduled release plans for

albums and singles suddenly

compromised. Without the ability

to go out and perform in front of

fans, the ability for all but a tiny

handful of musicians to earn

money was immediately shut

off. And the teams behind the

artists, in PR, radio and at

labels, all suffered as a result.

Venues and promoters have

been pushed to the brink,

and production crews are

still facing huge uncertainty

over their careers as the

live industry remains in

shutdown.

There’s a thrill

to watching a live

performance, a knifeedge

uncertainty that

it may all go wrong

which tautens the

senses. The pay-off

when it lands is

massive, a rush that

is hard to replicate.

Streaming live

performances can

get close to that sensation, but not close enough to give you the

full hit. With the situation as it is currently, these digital shows

can only be a temporary fix, a stepping stone towards normality.

Hopefully, by the time we are able to return to the dancefloors

again, we’ll have a full appreciation of what live music means to

us, and be prepared to support it. !

Christopher Torpey / @CATorp

JARV IS… (Jeanette Lee)

REVIEWS

39


Accessible and

flexible learning

with the University

of Liverpool

Enjoy world class teaching with a short course from the

University of Liverpool.

• Over 80 online courses to choose from

• Teaching and feedback delivered by experts

• Fit your learning around you with our fully supported online courses

We have courses in creative subjects, business and management skills,

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Visit www.liverpool.ac.uk/continuing-education/

to view the full programme and to enrol


Jonathan Baldock

Facecrime

Frances Disley

Pattern Buffer

Thu 30 Jul – Sun 1 Nov

Free

Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX

Pre-booking recommended.

Visit thebluecoat.org.uk to book.

@thebluecoat

@the_bluecoat

@thebluecoat

Facecrime is commissioned by Camden Arts Centre with Tramway.

The work was developed through the Freelands Lomax Ceramics Fellowship.

The 2020 installation at Bluecoat is supported by the Henry Moore Foundation.

Pattern Buffer is supported by Art Fund.

Funded by:

Supported by:

Frances Disley, holo programme 222 – restful focus, 2020 Jonathan Baldock, Facecrime, installation view at Bluecoat, March 2020.

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ARTISTIC

LICENCE

This month’s selection of creative writing is by Sufiah Abbasi, a short

story that recalls a chance meeting with one of Liverpool’s most

shadowy and celebrated muses.

I Met Lee Mavers In 2012

We were both housekeeping and distracted by the thick grim air. I’d seen him before and the time had not been right.

I have nothing to lose any more.

I approach the car.

“Are you Mr Mavers?” He looks suspicious. I begin fawning. “I just want to say that I have known your music for a long

time and it is a genuine pleasure to meet you.”

He seems relieved and surprised. “Yes, it’s me, do you want to go for a coffee?”

Now, I’m surprised. I hesitate for a micro instant. “OK.”

Then it’s diving into the almost universal vision of the world. Not much is said about the cosmos, but there is God,

purity, insanity and perfection.

“Do you love Liverpool?” I ask.

“I love what it’s going to be,” he says mysteriously. OK, I think, but I’m confused.

“I hate music,” he says. I stay confused. “I know who you are. I can see you.” He looks at me.

“I know who you are too,” I respond quickly and reassuringly. “Oh, why 95 in Doledrums?” I’ve always wondered why

he wrote that into the tune.

“It sounded right,” he says.

“Oh, fuck you,” I shout.

I notice that his hands are small as he easily manages to stretch to the chords on my niece’s jazz bass. He’s playing

music and singing. Sometimes he just recites his lyrics. I ask him about the size of his hands. Our palms meet and his

are only slightly bigger than mine.

I play him Old friends/Bookends. He doesn’t like Simon and Garfunkel particularly. He likes real music, but I don’t

understand at the time and it becomes apparent a few days later. I play it to him to demonstrate the discordance

which spins into pure light and magically transforms into a clear note. He is untroubled by my question as to how this

happens. If God were playing the most beautiful music and taught all the angels to play as well, what would happen if

God stopped playing and took His teaching away?

“They would have to learn it themselves?” I ask. He smiles and I’m right.

All the reflections of the souls that ever lived folding upon themselves. I imagine that it would be the most infinitely

tremendous musical note.

Prophetic, lunatic, poet – all I ever expected him to be.

I told him my dreams and he told me his, with full performance and a raw revisiting of the feeling.

I tell him the Kali dream and describe how Dawn brings one of her friends into my flat. Dawn is supporting this girl

and two others are with her. Dawn is supporting the girl as she is very sick. He butts in, “Heroin addict.”

I stop, look up, “What makes you say that?” I ask.

“It’s like a leprosy round here.” He indicates with his eyes all outside the four walls of my lovely flat. “You need to get

out of here.”

He said that he had felt nauseous following me home through the yellow tipped park. He thinks its toxins – not literal

but mental and emotional – need to be expelled. I tell him that I was crazy nervous as I was driving home.

He says he doesn’t watch films. We both have a connection with Morocco, but he’s stayed with the Berbers.

I play him the Gonjasufi album and during the intro, he puts his head back against the wall.

“Hopi Indians,” he says.

“I didn’t know that.”

He sits up a little when Gonjasufi sings Duet.

“I like this one. It sounds like Walk On The Wild Side,” He says without looking at me.

He can tell as soon as Error Operator’s remix of Philip Selway’s Beyond Reason begins that it is a good one. He

reluctantly admits to liking Massive Attack’s Unfinished Symphony and I guess it’s the over production that he’s not

keen on.

I play him the only tune on the bass I know – House Of The Rising Sun. The bass is massive compared to me. I sit

cross-legged on the floor and play it so shit that he doesn’t recognise it. He takes the bass and plays it on open

strings and is trying to teach me.

“It just clicks,” he says. “When you’re on your own.”

I tell him two jokes: one in the Other Place – almost minutes after we met. I saw it on Old Jews Telling Jokes off the

iPlayer. It’s a blue joke and he laughs with his head back. I clap my hands quietly and quickly in front of my face

because I’ve entertained him.

The second joke is from the same programme but hinges on an image. He laughs and then stands up, “That wasn’t

funny. It was a bit Monty Python.”

I remember the sketch he’s talking about: from The Meaning Of Life where the waiter makes you follow him out of the

restaurant and keeps beckoning the camera and you as he walks and walks through the streets and countryside.

“Oh, you like that film as well,” I say.

He recited his own lyrics with me joining in the end of lines, like I was his hip hop hype guy. Then or at another time,

he cried, remembering the pain of his father’s passing. His father contracted asbestosis when building St John’s

Market. I wanted to dry his tears and was an inch away from his face. He didn’t want me to do this and wanted to

leave the salt on his face. He tilted back his head and looked relieved.

“I believe that tears are a mercy,” I proffer. I’ve already made a show of myself when recounting my dream. The one I

had when I moved into this place. We were in the Other Place sitting outside, me scavving a rolly off him, when I tell

him about the moment I hear him and the group singing a cappella. It’s tune so beautiful that I start to well up while

I’m remembering it. I’ve known him minutes.

“You must think I’m fruit loops.” The whole time he is with me, he never looks weirded-out by my behaviour.

“What do those mean?” he asks, pointing his eyes in the direction of my niece’s two small canvases which have

Arabic calligraphy on them.

44


“Grace and Mercy.” I look at him and explain flippantly, “They’re just words”

He made me tea.

He met Bill Shankly, who ruffled his strawberry blond hair. He’s a blue-nose, though.

He thanks me for the beans on toast or tea. I say, “I owe you, you owe me”. I suddenly realise that I have absorbed his

words into my consciousness and often say it to people.

I then punched the air with both hands in victory, like Ian Rush after a dink. “I got to say that to YOU,” I squeal.

He turns his face to me and says, “I know YOU can stand on your own two feet.”

I’m delighted.

I play him my party mix – it is a party after all. He plays the bass along with Silicone Soul’s Right On! and seems to perk

up when Carwash comes along.

“You know the bassline I love. The bassline to Hey Joe,” I say. He pulls the guitar and points it up to the sky, just knocks it

out – he’s got to like it too. I start conducting the steps of the notes of that most perfect bassline.

I ask him why he thinks I’m so excited. He says, “Because you’ve found a kindred spirit.”

“Thank you.” I’m surprised and utterly impressed with us both.

Another cup? We’ve run out of milk. Neither of us have slept very well. My back’s against the wall at work and he’s

recently been betrayed. We’ve caught each other at an unusual moment. I ask him to come to the shop with me. Neither

of us go out a lot but we didn’t notice anyone else. As we whisked past the corner of Ivanhoe, I ask him what his name

means. He doesn’t know.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” I shout. “You don’t know what it means?” I’m genuinely weirded out.

“So, what language is your name from?” he asks.

“It’s Arabic in origin.” I say. “A Semitic language.”

“I thought that was Jewish,” he says.

“Oh no,” I gesticulate wildly, “we’re all Semitic... in that neck of the woods,” I add.

We fly by Phil’s shop and turn the corner.

Now, we’ve picked up the pace and we’re bumping into each other as we swagger up the Lane. We pass the afternoon

drinkers outside the Rhubarb.

“So, what happened there, then?” he asks. “Why the split?” He’s referring to the Jewish/Arab spilt.

“Oh,” I splutter, “it’s that… erm, err… biblical story… erm.” I’m furiously trying to shake the facts in my brain into view. “It’s

the story of Jacob… no.” It’s coming. Bingo. “It was Isaac and Ishmael.”

“What’s that about?” He asks.

“I’ve got no idea.” I look at the ground, disappointed, as if the two of them had made a mistake.

We’re at the cash machine. He doesn’t realise where I’ve taken him because we’ve been engrossed in the talk. I get my

cash out.

“I’ve got £20, I know you’re on your arse. Why didn’t you say?” he says.

I tell him no and make a mental note to discuss this offer with him later. We’ve got the milk and we’re flying back home.

We both tend not to look around. We’re aware of our surroundings. I look up and catch the glance of a young-looking old

vampire. I’ve no fear when I see this guy now, though, I’ve got the Custodian with me.

We’re back in, the kettle’s boiling again.

“So what does my name mean, then?” he asks.

“Oh, it’s going to take a bit longer than that. I’ll have to look in a book or Google it.” I’ve had no internet for over a month

and I have had to entertain myself. This has been like living in a fucking cave and my nerves are shot.

(I cycle over to my sister’s some time later and ask my niece to look it up. Lee – sheltered from the storm. Mavers –

custodian. My sister quietly suggests the Arabic word for this – Khalifa. This word has great potency.)

I remember that he’d offered me money and I pick him up on this.

“You can’t be that generous. I didn’t ask for anything from you,” I tell him firmly.

He doesn’t understand. “There’s no harm in greasing your neighbour’s palm.” He quotes his lyrics.

“That’s right,” I tell him, “but not all the time.”

The kettle’s boiled. He’s tired, I know, but I’m surprised that he hasn’t picked this concept up. I shouldn’t be this frustrated.

I don’t have the right to be because I only learnt it from a book. My voice rises like a soft Dalek.

“Why are you getting angry?” he asks.

I check myself. Yes, I went too far.

“Tell me like I’m a child,” he says quietly.

I sit down at the table with him and demonstrate. “You can’t always have your hand open. It’s got to close sometimes,” I

say and demonstrate by flexing my hand open and closed – not a fist though, more like flapping the hand open and close

like a wing.

He mentions getting shivers as he saw that old building on the corner and tells a story about his friend who he thinks is

lost. He describes to me how she clutches at her rosary beads now. It’s related to a dream he had.

“What are prayers, but dreams,” I suggest. “And some of my dreams seem to be preparation.”

He looks over at me and nods in agreement.

I’ve asked him if I can write about him. He’s generous and comes up with, “Write so that I might know you”.

Words: Sufiah Abbasi / @sufiahbear

Quotes within this story are the account of the writer.

ARTISTIC LICENCE

45


75 ARGYLE STREET, BIRKENHEAD VISIT FUTUREVARC.ORG


SAY

THE FINAL

“After this pause, is

it time to reflect upon

and reassess issues

in the scene, or will

womxn continue facing

the same issues?”

Eve Machin is one half of Where Are The Girlbands?, an online platform dedicated to highlighting the

community of femxle musicians and artists operating in Liverpool. After a tumultuous and sobering few

months for musicians, Eve asks whether the indefinite hiatus on live music will open space for conversation

and eradication of previous microaggressions aimed at womxn in the music industry.

One August afternoon a couple of years ago,

my bandmate Ella and I were sat at our usual

brainstorming spot in Leaf on Bold Street, struggling

to plan our next gigs for the summer. Off the top of our

heads, we couldn’t imagine any line-ups where we would find

ourselves on the bill with a similar style to us; most of the gigs

we’d been to recently had been dominated by similar-sounding,

four-piece jangly pop boy-bands. Not that we don’t love that

classic Liverpool sound; we just felt pretty embarrassed to

admit that we couldn’t name more than two Liverpool acts that

included a woman.

And of course, this issue is everywhere. It was further

brought to attention in the autumn of 2019 after music blogger

Lucy McCourt tweeted a graphic of the 2020 Leeds/Reading

Festival line-up. The poster reveals that, after removing artists

without a femxle member, only 20 of the 96 acts remain. Soon

after, The 1975 frontman Matty Healy declared that the band

would only play at events with a 50/50 line-up, following the

PRS Foundation’s gender pledge initiative, Keychange, which

over 150 festivals subscribe to. This has been met by much

controversy and accusations of tokenism; a gender-balanced

line-up seems to value gender over talent, and at the end of the

day, good music is good music.

Esme Grace Brown’s previous column for Bido Lito!

describes perfectly how booking ‘female-fronted’ or ‘girlbands’

for the sake of it is patronising and diminishes genuine talent.

The issue lies somewhere deeper than just having balanced lineups;

encouragement, empathy, and a bit of respect would help

achieve genuinely fair representation, and so festival bookers and

promoters would have a bigger pool to choose from, naturally

restoring a balance. Really, it’s not about satisfying a statistic, but

rather integration

The meeting between myself and Ella got us thinking about

the reasons for this lack of representation. And so, WHERE

ARE THE GIRLBANDS? was born. It started off as a project in

the form of an Instagram account; we began seeking out local

musicians to feature on the page, and Ella – an artist by trade

– provided a little illustration. We wanted to create an online

community of femxle creatives, almost as a kind of reassurance

that more were out there.

You might be thinking: “I see plenty of women playing

music. There’s nothing wrong with the Liverpool scene; it’s a

very inclusive place.” And you’d be right. In fact, we were met

with immediate backlash, saying that our aims undermine all the

work womxn already do. But our name is purposely ironic; we’re

aiming simply to improve representation and create a space

where womxn can be celebrated, because it’s never easy.

There are all sorts of underlying issues that result in

subconscious microaggressions that affect femxle musicians

daily. We’ve been posting weekly polls on the account to hear

people’s opinions; one week, we addressed whether musicians

had ever felt discriminated against for their gender, and received

countless anecdotes. Being asked if you need help lifting kit;

ignored when talking about sound engineering; being told what

to wear at gigs; being mistaken for another band member’s

girlfriend, despite carrying an amp and guitar. To be honest,

I even think it starts at school; from lads dominating practice

rooms, to parents having their girls play the flute and boys

thrashing the drum kit. Before we jump to conclusions and think

that 50/50 line-ups will solve the problem, we need to look at

why this subconscious behaviour manifests itself in the first

place.

I moved to Cambridge two years ago for university, and

was immediately struck that there wasn’t an obvious music

scene to get involved in, despite the abundance of organ recitals

and choral evensongs. This year, I’ve set up fortnightly gigs at

different venues in the city, making sure they’re free, accessible

and have a jam element at the end so people can meet and play

together in a friendly atmosphere. But even at my own event,

the same subconscious sexism gets to me; the stage is usually

dominated by men, especially during the jams, where I speak

to women in the audience too shy or uncomfortable to get up

and perform. Myself included. At the last gig, I told the guys on

stage to wrap up jamming as the venue was closing. After being

ignored twice, I had to get my male friend to tell them to get off,

to which they immediately responded. It’s frustrating knowing

that although this isn’t overt sexism or harassment, it’s still not a

level playing field.

We’re also not entirely focussed on promoting womxn and

challenging the issues they face in the music scene; in order

to be truly heard you have to engage with men, too, because

otherwise you’re just preaching to the choir. The involvement of

men is just as important as the involvement of womxn because

you want them to be engaged in these kinds of discussions. We

Are The Girl Bands? is inclusive and open to address class, race,

sexuality, disability and more. We’ve also talked to people about

venues and space, age gaps in the music scene, collaborations

with visual artists and cliques. The account has become a

kind of hub for news on gigs, events and opportunities; a

platform where musicians and creatives can go for promotion

or encouragement; a network for promoters to seek out artists,

and, above all, a community – without the artists themselves, the

page wouldn’t exist, of course.

So is it important to have femxle-focused organisations

like ours, or is it patronising? We try to keep the conversation

as inclusive as possible to all genders. Organisations like

Bitch Palace and WeWantWomen do fantastic work to

promote and empower femxle musicians. In a recent interview

with Merseyside punk band Rival Unit, they expressed

their appreciation for the events these promoters put on:

“There’s definitely a different atmosphere. Particularly with

WeWantWomen; they want female artists, most of the crowd

know what they’re coming to see… a lot of the people who do

go to these events are people who want female artists to be

at the forefront… nights like [these] are important for getting

women onto that ladder [when starting out]. It’s a really tough

experience.”

In light of everything that’s gone on over the last few

months, the future of the gig scene is obviously uncertain. With

the closure of legendary venues like The Zanzibar and Sound

– which supported so many local musicians, first-timers in

particular – support for local businesses matters now more than

ever. In a post-Covid-19 world, it’s up to the consumer what the

gig scene will look like to a certain degree. After this pause, is

it time to reflect upon and reassess issues in the scene – or will

womxn continue facing the same issues? Will there be a new

hunger for live music once it can resume – and how can we make

sure that womxn are part of it?

Sometimes I’m a bit sceptical about how we come across; I

feel like a lot of the work I do in both Liverpool and Cambridge

seems to carry a big ‘Feminist Agenda’, but really I just want

womxn’s place on the scene to be normalised and more

integrated – sometimes it feels like it’s either belittled or overexaggerated.

At the same time, it’s clear there is a need for an

accessible space or community outside of what’s presented to

womxn on the scene. !

Words: Eve Machin

Illustration: Ella Fradgely

@wherearethegirlbands

FEATURE

47

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