loner noise

Loner Noise presents: FreakScene All Dayer

I went to the Freak Scene All Dayer at the Invisible Wind Factory Substation last Saturday for an 7 hour extravaganza of tinnitus inducing experimental weirdness, featuring near enough the entire roster of acts from local indie label Loner Noise.

Much smaller than the main Wind Factory venue, the dark and dingy basement room, stage almost level with the crowd, was a fitting setting for a roster including so many DIY and outsider bands. (Although the venue suffered with some issues with sound, and the nuance of some of the more textured bands of the night was lost a little bit in the mix.)

There was a great diversity amongst the musical styles on offer from artist to artist, (and song to song!) but the Loner Noise roster are unified by their invariably punk aesthetic, and the outsider status of their music. Throughout the night the crowd were offered slabs of noise, garage, psychedelic, hardcore, post-rock, and just all round genre hopping madness.

Overall, there was a real feeling of the eponymous freak scene coalescing among the assembled bands, helped along by the atmosphere of mutual aid between the Loner Noise guys, with labelmates more than happy to egg on the (surprisingly thin, but devoted) crowds for each other, and a few cameos in each others sets along the way.

Bleach Sweets were first up, and set the tone for the day, a two piece noise-punk oddity which brought to mind Country Teasers. Their feedback drenched offerings were interspersed with some really strong riffing, and the contrast between the two members was an interesting one, with the drummers inane mid set banter and vocal style, next to the frontman’s more serious demeanour. Honourable mention to the apparently White Stripes inspired track I know we are going to be fucked to death, which lived up to its name, with every alternative line being a borderline grindcore abomination which could raise Seth Putnam from the grave.

Salt the Snail from Widnes were definitely one of the highlights of the day for the sheer raucousness of their set. The vocalist eschewed the stage to spend most of his time amongst the assembled crowd, while the setlist was chosen on the night by firing marked ping pong balls into the crowd, with track titles like Spanish Announce Table and new single Coffee among the  no frills hardcore tracks on offer. StS also used this once in a lifetime opportunity to unveil their unique branded merchandise, including a Salt the Snail onion, Salt the Snail salt, and a box of cheese and onion rolls which the crowd promptly devoured before they launched into the next track. (“We thought about the vegetarians too!”) Don’t let this make you think Salt the Snail are a gimmick band though, they played a solid punk set from start to finish and with an overpowering and infectious stage presence to boot!

Leeds based Garage Rock trio Black Pudding took the stage next, with Salt the Snail surely a difficult act to follow, but they brought in tow the first offerings of the night with a semblance of “conventional” songwriting. Their moody stage presence was a stark contrast to the first two acts, and catchy, fuzz laden riffing and a strong rhythm section (with a whiff of Thee Oh Seas) had heads banging around the Substation.

Pocket Apocalypse, the first and only four piece on the bill, took to the stage with a tighter and more layered sound than earlier acts, and probably felt the brunt of the venues less than perfect sound. That said, the post-rockers delivered an impressive set, with the frequent use of odd time signatures and vocalist Nick Jones emotive style making their sound Tool-esque. The newly written instrumental track towards the end of their set was a standout.

Next up was solo artist Kapil Seshasayee. Kapil is difficult to categorize even compared to the other artists on the bill. Frantic drum machine backing tracks provide the backdrop to his inventive guitar playing and vocal style, along with his innovative use of the waterphone, a niche instrument usually confined to horror movie soundtracks. Common comparisons to Scott Walker seem apt upon seeing Kapil’s live show, with the waterphone and droning guitars, adding an eerie vibe like that of Walker’s work with Sunn O))). The vocal style really grew on me as his set went on, with the music as a whole evoking an almost religious or spiritual feeling. Unfortunately on the night the aquaphone didn’t resonate too well for him, but he was still one of the more attention grabbing acts I’ve seen for a while.

Welsh Gravves were next up to bring their infectious grooves to the Substation floor. A band with an eye for hooks and catchy melodies, while still retaining a doom laden heaviness rumbling underneath. Tracks off their new EP “Rattle” went down a hit with the crowd, and the crowd was bouncing right through their set.

SPQR took the stage next, the penultimate offering from the freak scene, and definitely a highlight on the day. Oddball Art Rock, with the rhythm section of Bex Denton and Jack Sanders providing the jarring backdrop for frontman Peter Harrison’s blunt and eccentric vocal delivery. Suffer from their upcoming EP, The House that Doubt Built is a tour de force, with great contrast between the stop-start, edgy rhythm of the verses and the soaring, anthemic chorus. These guys are definitely one to watch!

Now it was time for the headliners, Elevant. Later than billed, and with Edward having spent the rest of the gig either working the doors, or hyping the crowd for his labelmates. Still, their set was more than worth the wait, and right from the opening of “Normal Life,” the small crowd were totally hooked. The set also included Somewhere Safe and single Acral Affection from the Normal Life EP, along with crowd favourite Hide it Away. The pure energy coming from Lodge, Shand and Edward shows that there is good reason they are the most prominent of their freak scene accomplices. Their headline slot is in no way down to Edwards organiser status. As Elevant’s set came to a close there was a crowd invasion of the stage, the battering of the instruments by drunken fans a perfect end to a brilliant day of outsider music from the freak scene.

In Elevant we trust

Crash met with Michael Edward, frontman of eclectic Liverpool 3-piece Elevant, for our first band profile. Made up of Michael, (guitar, lead vocals) Hannah Lodge (bass, backing vocals) and Tom Shand, (drums, backing vocals). Elevant’s sound is difficult to categorize. They manoeuver with effortless ease the fault lines between psych rock, hard rock, (post-)punk, and prog, even throwing elements of goth and metal into the mix. But there’s a clear sense that Michael, for his part, no longer wants to feed into an excessive labelling of their sound.

“(We’re) just a rock band, you know? It’s pretty eclectic, we hit the drums, play loud guitars.”

Michaels often oppressive and Kafkaesque lyrics meld perfectly with the ominous, brooding riffs and fuzz drenched guitars and together they plumb the depths of primal depravity.

Elevant burst onto the Liverpool music scene in 2014, and since then they have been positively prolific, self releasing 3 albums Elevant, Dreamface and There is a Tide, single Hide it Away and the 2017 EP Normal Life on their label Loner Noise. There has been a clear progression in their sound from the self titled debut through to their latest EP, which Michael attributes to a larger involvement from the whole band in the songwriting process. Elevant’s songwriting process, Michael tells us, has evolved over the last couple of releases to involve more input from the full band as a “process of quality control,” and he attributes the development in their sound to this change in how the band come up with songs: “When Hannah joined the band and started writing, it all got a better sense of melody!”

On top of their 4 releases in 4 years, Elevant maintain a busy touring schedule, with a recent highlight in April playing and (in Michael’s case) organising the inaugural Wrong Festival, billed as Liverpool’s “festival for the freak scene,” and described by The Quietus as a “titanic success!” Michael tells us that the freak scene slogan comes from the Dinosaur Jr track of the same name. Asked about the Liverpool scene more broadly, he seems hopeful that outsider music is on the ascendant in the city:

“Wrong Festival probably helped, because.. Y’know, you’ve got The Quietus reviewing that, and basically declaring that there is like this weirder, sort of, harder edged rock music happening in Liverpool. It’s been a kind of massive struggle to be from Liverpool and make this kind of music. Particularly because like.. No one who’s looking for this goes here. BBC Introducing Merseyside don’t do anything with a fuzz pedal”

But as Michael says, “maybe that’s changing.” And Elevant themselves are well placed to be at the very forefront of that change.

Their latest release, 2017 EP Normal Life showcases a band comfortable with their sound, whilst still genre hopping and incorporating innovative ideas into their songs. In Michaels words, “Normal life, looking back on it now, is a bit of a transition. An excursion into not being quite as heavy.” Normal Life captures the listener’s attention right from Lodge’s disjointed, primal bassline on opener and single Acral Affection, to the freak out guitars and yells of “I will lead a normal life” in the title track and album closer.

Elevant, lyrically and musically lay bare some of the darkest and most atavistic parts of the human psyche. Michael’s lyrics on the the EP have a welcome but subtle thread of political and social commentary, although he seemed surprised to hear it mentioned:

“So much horrendous political and social bollocks is going on that I really struggle to remember any specific thing I was angry about at the time. It’s just kind of like a constant..numbing.”

These subtle but clear political threads through the EP echo the seeping of political turmoil into every facet of normal life. Michael himself, while seemingly pleased to talk about the origin of his lyrics, is scathing of bands who try to force their views:

“We don’t really try and ram it down people’s throats.”

In particular, the track Somewhere Safe, which Michael tells us was inspired by the increasing “anti immigrant rhetoric around Brexit,” tells the story of a refugee and his surviving family attempting to escape war and seek asylum. One of the standout tracks of their catalog to date, it would be easy to imagine the bombastic stadium chorus played on a festival main stage in pouring rain!

While their recorded output to date has gone from strength to strength, it’s still clear from first listen that Elevant are a band meant to be experienced live, and, by all accounts, they deliver. Despite this, there is an unusual lack of live videos available online. (“Yeah! It’s really weird!” exclaims Michael.) Elevant are getting a reputation for the quality of their live performances, with reviewers constantly commending their stage presence, crowd engagement and their majestic sound, holistic and far more than the sum of its parts. You would be easily forgiven in places for forgetting that there are only three of them on the stage!

So, what does the future hold for Elevant? Michael tells us that the trio are currently working on new material in rehearsals, and they will surely be a staple in years to come of the Wrong Festival and the wider Liverpool “freak scene” emerging, with Loner Noise and Elevant as its focal point. While their self released catalog and punk aesthetic give them a well deserved reputation as a DIY band, Michael doesn’t rule out a future deal with a more established label, “if the conditions are right.” He laments the fact that, in the current musical climate, the only way you’re likely to tour the world is on a major label or with “venture capitalist backing.” Here Michael aptly quotes drummer Shand:

“Getting a band up and running is like flying a plane. Taking off and getting to altitude takes loads of fuel, but, when you’re up there, you can just glide.”

To all readers of Crash, make sure you catch these guys while they’re still taking off!

Elevant will be playing The Freak Scene all day festival at Liverpool’s Invisible Wind Factory on Saturday 14th October, alongside the rest of the Loner Noise roster. Make sure you catch Elevant in their ascendance! You can also check out their latest single Acral Affection, off the EP Normal Life, here: