What better way than to spend a birthday than at a gig? Rather than sit at home midweek counting grey hairs it was time to have a trip to Leeds Oporto, slowly sink a couple of schooners of real ale and most importantly listen to class music. This time Larkins were playing their first Leeds headliner to celebrate the release of their latest single, the summer infused Sugar Sweet.
Prior to the fun of Larkins live, Oporto had two other bands on show for our delectation and I enjoyed the synergy (all bands gave tight, light but bouncing guitar based vibes). First up was Tiger Twins who are obviously a new young band and they have come up with a tag of Tropical Indie or “Trindie” to describe their music. They set off at pace, were well received and launched the evening off in fine style. With its current line up Tiger Twins are 2017 vintage with their first single Sunset Ocean released in March 2017; while they sounded tight together there is clearly more development to go. Second on stage were the more experienced Leeds based Peace Frog. I’m not sure why, but I got it into my head Peace Frog would be one of those very proficient bands but with few ideas and so I was pleasantly surprised to find them both musically good and enjoyable.
Larkins opened with the new single Sugar Sweet. Having heard the entire Larkins catalogue to date, I find Sugar Sweet their strongest offering yet. From its opening jangling guitar and summery offering there’s something both early 1980’s (Haircut 100’s or early Wham’s much cooler younger brother?) and current pop indie about the track. In giving it the live treatment, Larkins gave the song a strong belt out bringing the audience quickly on side.
I’m a devil for people watching and I enjoyed watching the cool strong performance of the Larkins’ band members. Lead singer Josh Noble has a strong voice which reminded me a little of Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan (to add to that 1980’s vibe) and I noted he sang a number of parts unaccompanied and note perfect each time; not that many vocalists are comfortable doing that. Josh also shouted out for a lad called Luke in the audience and pointed out that The Larkins was his first gig. While I’m not fully sure any teen wants to be associated with the term “gig virgin” or have it shouted out by the lead singer, it was at least a fine way for the guy to break his duck.
Interestingly the Sugar Sweet single CD shares a very different acoustic version of Sugar Sweet and this track really shows off the versatility within Noble’s voice. I suspect there is far more in this curly top man’s repertoire than we have seen so far. The lyrics of the song come through more strongly here too. The band name comes originally from an early version of the band being at college together who were taken by the poems of Hull’s Philip Larkin. The sensitivity in the lyrics remains.
Bassist Henry Beach was a delight to watch on stage and not just for his swinging dreads; it was that regular easy big grin, and again Beach isn’t shy at putting himself forward and making the very most of the 4 stringed beast. While Josh Noble also plays guitar, the big pulsing heart within the music was provided by lead guitarist Dom Want. There are so many killer hooks in Dom’s guitar just crying out for a much bigger audience to stop and listen.
Finally, drummer Joe Stott makes up the quartet. Joe perhaps isn’t the naturally flamboyant drummer despite his recently bleached white hair, but he is definitely no slouch on the sticks. I apologise to drummers around the world but I rarely remark upon drummers unless they frustrate me by being slightly out of beat or timing (unless it’s deliberate). Joe’s playing here was solid and flawless and it was good to see the easy interaction between the guys and his consistent timing.
Also in the set were the other tracks that Larkins have recorded, including their first big single from 2015, Hit and Run, which has a good anthem sound and Velvet; to call it a hybrid 1975/ Depeche Mode mix is too simple a description, but I hope it gives something of the vibe.
Overall Larkins gave a good, strong and varied 45 minutes or so. The band were great on stage giving a relaxed, controlled and easy set for those of us fortunate enough to witness it.
Anyone looking out for more Larkins gigs this summer can check them out at a number of places including at the magnificent Sheffield Tramlines, Blackthorne Festival in Stockport, Kendal Calling, and Head for the Hills in Ramsbottom (near Rochdale). You can also do far worse than buy the perfect summer combo of a signed Sugar Sweet CD single and Larkins T-shirt for £15 from the Larkins shop at: https://www.larkinsband.com/shop
During past interviews you speak about managing to juggle priorities fitting band activities in while the guys are at University. I saw the video in Germany where Dom was rushing to get his essay completed. How is that working now? Do you get as much time as you would like to write new songs and do all that band stuff that needs doing?
Juggling uni and band has been incredibly difficult over the last couple of years, especially as both have got much more intense with both gigs and essays becoming much more frequent and important! That essay actually ended up being one of my best, even though I did it in like 2 days. Me and Josh have finished uni now so we can spend much more time writing and practicing. Henry and Joe both do music in Manchester so it’s fairly easy for them to juggle both.
I detect a lot of different influences in your music and you keep it current and light too. I love s summery, accessible and complex sound of new single Sugar Sweet. How do you feel you have developed musically over the past couple of years. What do you do differently?
Our evolution has been very natural, we were really young when we started this band and weren’t really sure which route we wanted to go down sound-wise. We’re really enjoying what we’re playing at the minute and have some cool songs in the pipeline.
What song is buzzing in your head at the moment?
We are the freaks by The Opera Comic is a tune and friends by Marsicans
From social media posts I see band members are interested in politics and want to share knowledge with followers; I think its great to encourage everyone to get involved. Can you see yourselves as political songwriters? Do music and politics mix?
We’re very interested in politics but don’t get political when it comes to the band, our music is for everyone, no matter what political beliefs. Obviously there are many incredible politically motivated bands and artists and we have no problem with bands using politics as an influence. We just personally prefer doing it this way. We could talk for hours on this topic haha
What’s the strangest place and or time you heard your music being played?
Was pretty surreal when Dermot O’Leary played Hit and Run on Radio 2, he chatted to Joshs mum about it live on air as well which was funny
Do you have any tips for a new band starting out? Anything you would do differently?
If you’re serious about it then you just need to dedicate as much time as possible to the band. Although writing, recording and performing are the most important aspects of being in a band, you can’t neglect building the bands social media image because that’s often how you gain new fans and keep them interested.
Do you have a favourite venue or city for playing gigs at? Would you like to do more Europe touring?
Manchester is our main stomping ground and we’ve done some insane gigs there including a mad sold-out show at Gorilla in February! We have been blown away by how many people have come to see us in different cities across the UK, it’s incredible. We’d love to do more European tour dates, Germany was a great few days, especially Munich, it was absolutely packed and the audience was great.
What’s next for Larkins – I can see a lot of great gigs coming up over the summer months. Is there an album in the pipeline?
Yeah we’ve got hectic summer! Kendal calling and Blackthorn festival are looking great, we’ve also just announced a big Manchester date at band on the wall on the 18th August which will be insane as it’s such a prestigious venue. We definitely want to do an album in the future but we are just biding our time at the minute!