7th April, part 2 – Sœur and Demob Happy

So the British underground rock scene only went and bloody did it again didn’t it?! I was already all over it when Demob Happy announced the tour to promote new album ‘Holy Doom’. By hook or by crook I was gonna make it to a show; and then they only go and bloody announce Sœur as the support act!

I bloody love Sœur! They’re ace! Out of last years 2000 Trees line up they were the one band that I accidentally saw (…there were many other great bands and great performances, but these were one of the few acts I hadn’t planned on seeing) that genuinely blew me away. I’ve been listening ever since, and been desperate to see them live again. They did a free entry tour back in November, and heart breakingly I couldn’t make it to any of the shows. I was super stoked that I was finally going to get a chance now.

So what’s so good about them? They sit firmly in the middle of a blossoming British alt scene, and I challenge anyone who enjoys any variant of rock/grunge/punk/alt music not to like them at least a little bit. But rather than fade in to the bushes (<– Homer Simpson reference) amongst what seems to be becoming a fairly crowded scene, they shine out with their own original take on the genre.

What’s different? Well, where do I start? The three piece consist of two guitars and drums (no bass, though admittedly the odd bass line does crop up via an effects pedal). Their riffs contain chord changes that would sit very comfortably on a decent metal record, yet they’re delivered via a sludgy baritone guitar aesthetic that sets them apart from a more cliched metal sound. They use really clever changes of pace, mixing unpredictable moments of the quiet/loud/quiet dynamic with occasionally syncopated rhythms and clever pauses. And they’re vocals are shared by their two female guitar players, but in a unique take on the dual-fronted format whereby neither singer ever seems to take the lead – they’re either harmonising, exchanging alternating lines in a verse, or on some occasions even competing against each other whilst singing different words to a different melody. All of this adds up to an intriguing but in my opinion extremely effective sound.

I rock up to The Deaf Institute in Manchester with just enough time to sling my bag in the cloak room and buy in a round of beers. Sœur are opening with ‘Put You On’ just as I get my change from the barman. Full disclosure: having been at Falsestival all afternoon (see 7th April, part 1 for details) I may have had a few drinks by this point. Add to this a round of Jagermeister supplied by my mate DT and it’s safe to say that any gig going inhibitions had been well and truly shed, and I spend the entire set in my own little Sœur-loving dancing bubble at the front of the room. I had such a good time though!

As well as other songs from their EP ‘What Separates Us’ we’re treated to recent stand alone single and personal favourite ‘No Fire’ before the middle of the set comprises of a couple of new songs. I can kind of sympathise with audiences watching Sœur for the first time, because their unpredictability potentially makes them a difficult watch if you’re not familiar with their songs. That being said, I’m kind of predicting the unpredictability, so I definitely took time during this section to chill and take in as much as I could. I hope these songs make it on to a release sometime soon and I’m looking forward to the chance to hear them again. The set closes out with the anthemic ‘Slow Days’ followed by a triumphant ‘Left Living’ that leaves me with a beaming grin. It was really nice to have a catch up with the front ladies Tina and Anya afterwards, and I’m unapologetic about being a tragic fanboy as well as regurgitating a lot of the same superlative sentiments used in this blog entry. I can’t wait to see them again!

Phew! Deep breath needed… I’m not even at the main event yet… Similarly, on the night I took myself out to The Deaf Institute’s terrace for a breather, but was back in the venue just in time for the start of Demob Happy’s set.

I saw Demob three times last year when they supported label-mates Dinosaur Pile-Up (yep, that’s me bleating on about DPU again… one of my absolute favourite bands that are gonna continue to get name dropped on this blog). Their debut album ‘Dream Soda’ is a really good listen, and whilst they were a band firmly on my radar, the DPU tour was the first time I’d seen them perform. They did that annoying thing where they hardly played any of the songs you know and instead opted to use the tour to test drive new material. On the first show in London, once that annoyance had subsided, I was really enjoying the new stuff. By the third show I went to, I was singing along and absolutely hooked!

There were pretty much four months between those shows and the eventual release of album number two ‘Holy Doom’, but listening to those songs again on release day felt a little like unearthing that forgotten record from your youth you hadn’t remembered you loved so much. The new record has a totally different vibe to ‘Dream Soda’. I’ve heard other people describe it as sounding similar to early Queens of the Stone Age (‘I Wanna Leave (Alive)’ is very nearly a rip off of QOTSA’s ‘Quick And To The Pointless’), however, whilst I can’t disagree with that sentiment, personally it wasn’t the first thing that struck me about the new Demob Happy sound. The fuzzy bass, tripped-out guitar sounds and vocal harmonies really remind me of 60s psychedelic rock, channelling supergroup three piece Cream as well as, dare I say it, The Beatles.

As good as ‘Dream Soda’ is, I think ‘Holy Doom’ is definitely an upgrade and the new sound gives Demob Happy a uniqueness that will help set them apart from that aforementioned crowded scene.

The live performance is a real treat and the crowd are really up for it. My little Sœur-loving dancing bubble is soon turned into an energetic happy dancing mob. The set starts with album opener ‘Liar In Your Head’ and we get to hear most of the tracks from ‘Holy Doom’ including ‘Fake Satan’, ‘Loosen It’, ‘I Wanna Leave (Alive)’ and personal favourite ‘Maker Of Mine’ as well as a really awesome (and unexpected) rendition of ‘Runnin’ Around’, which is the type of album track you think will never make it to a live show. There’s also room for stand alone single ‘Dead Dreamers’ and a little ‘Dream Soda’ nostalgia with crowd favourite ‘Succubus’ as well as ‘Junk DNA’ (go watch the music video for this, ‘cos it’s great) making the set too. The set rightfully ends with Demob’s biggest and arguably best hit to date ‘Be Your Man’, the crowd being whipped into a frenzy and the night ending on a real high.

And so an epic day came to an end (well, not strictly speaking true… I had another two hours until my bus home, so hit up a few bars with DT, but that was the end at least from a live music perspective) . Part 2 of 7th April was possibly even more epic than part 1 with me getting to fully immerse my self in drunken sweaty appreciation of two up and coming bands who I adore – here’s to the opportunity to do it many more times in the future.

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