Two bands, gently pressed from the same mold, provided an evening of accessible indie/dream pop in the heart of Shoreditch.
I seem to be spending more and more time in the trendy East End of London. The Lexington is another of those Victorian pubs with an expanse of craft beers on offer downstairs and a snug venue on the upper floor. Tonight saw two complementary bands play delicate sets to the sold out audience.
I last saw Softer Still as part of The Alternative Escape festival in Brighton. The Surrey-based band is a dream-pop four-piece of Alexander Williams (guitar), Oliie Kitson (drums) and real life couple of Grant Williams (guitar/vocals) and Ellie O’Shea (bass/vocals).
Grant told me that their influences include: New Order, Tears For Fears, Ice Choir, and Wild Nothing. To me, their band could probably best be described as the love child of The Railway Children and Prefab Sprout. Any of their repertoire would not be out of place next to “When Loves Comes Down”.
Grant’s breathy voice and the accompanying ethereal backing vocals of Ellie tell stories of love and affection. The music is inoffensive, cheerful, and unassuming. It’s the sort of stuff you’d probably want on the speakers when punting through Oxford on a summer’s evening with a bottle of Pimms and a girl that you’ve fancied for months, but haven’t had the nerve to tell how you feel. Hang on, I think I may be remembering the ‘Sprout’s Steve McQueen and my time as a student. The Pimms was a bad idea…
Songs are dreamy and guitars straight out of the ’80s. Softer Still have taken the love song and made it relevant to 2017.
Next gig is on 20 October at The Smokehouse in Ipswich.The band is currently working on an album due to be released in 2018. They also have an Everything but the Girl cover coming out on a Sophistipop compilation at the end of the month.
The perfect follow up from Softer Still, London’s Swimming Tapes gently blend a brand of indie music with marshmallows and clouds. Even softer still.
The quintet of Robbie Reid, Jason Hawthorne, Louis Price, Paddy Conn, and Andrew Evans combine two singer/guitarists who take turns in the lead role. Until recently, Louis and Paddy were the front men for the Northern Irish indie band, Kowalski.
If Softer Still reminded me of Prefab Sprout and college days, Swimming Tapes took me back to school and memories of discovering the close vocals and effects pedals of The Byrds. Struggling to find other musical references, Engineers and some of the quieter Doves and Arcade Fire tracks also come to mind.
Favourite songs (for me) were probably the effortless “Say What’s on Your Mind” and a new song, the upbeat “Alison”.
Their set recalls a time when 64 bits were considered more bits than you could shake a joystick at. Songs are driven by clever melodious bass lines, two singers exchanging parts, beautiful harmonies and jangly, understated guitars. It’s shoegaze without the noise – nostalgic and dappled sunshine music, filtered through Autumnal leaves.
Right, where’s my Spectres CD? I’ve gone all soft…
Marcus Jamieson-Pond is a regular contributor to The Revue. See his back stories here. More than 200 band shoots (including more Softer Still and Swimming Tapes photographs) can be found at www.jampondphotography.com/gigs.
This event was promoted by Stay Loose are a Bristol-based PR/promotions and artist management company.
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