Leeds. A word, a city, a place that has defined my life more than any other. In 25 years of life, nowhere has had such an impact on my day-to-day, like Leeds. Music, sport, education, theatre, beer, you name it, Leeds has left it’s mark on the person I am today. Never has a city given me more ups and downs than Leeds, from the happiest memories of the Premier League in 2003, to the best live music at the Cockpit and the Brudenell, to tears streaming in League 1 and the final shows of some of my favourites. It’s a place I’ll never not love.
Football and music define mine and so many others in Leeds. The club is so intertwined with the music scene too and not many people know, or realise it. This mini series of articles and podcasts will explore the city of Leeds, and the connection between club and culture, that is so often forgotten.
First up is an insightful, wonderful interview with Graham Hyde of the Leeds United Supporters Trust and local events promoter at Step One Promotions. The guy who gave Skylights their big break, Graham was the perfect person to first feature in this series. Enjoy this Q&A with Graham and look out for a recording coming very soon.
Q&A with Graham Hyde, Vice President of the Leeds United Supporters Trust
First off can you give a little background to you and your involvement with the club?
I’ve been following the club since I was a small lad first match was a close season friendly with Borussia Monchengladbach and the relation has been in my blood since then. Currently a season ticket holder in the Kop and Vice Chair of the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust (LUST) having worked with them for around two and a half years.
And to you – what does promotion to the premier league mean?
It’s a release. A release of all the 16 years of built up pain and emotional negativity. There were times when it felt like we’d never make it back. Times when it felt like the various owners had no intention of trying to get us back and that the footballing gods were happy to help them avoid it too.
When you think of Leeds United, what sounds, music, bands do you instantly think of?
Leeds United for me musically is associated with indie guitars. Back in my youth in the early 90’s no band summed it up more that The Bridewell Taxis. They had a big Leeds following and the gigs were always very lively because of it. In the more modern era, the Kaiser Chiefs are closely linked to the club and their Bassist Simon Rix is President of LUST.
On a smaller scale Skylights are following in The Bridewells footsteps by tapping heavily in the sweetspot of football fans that are into their music. Apollo Junction likewise.
It’s been an incredible 24 months or so for anyone involved in the club that goes without saying – going back over time though, how involved and connected has the club being with music?
As you say an incredible two years full of emotional rollercoaster moments. At a club level I think that the dawn of social media and its use has enabled the club to become closer to aspects of the local music scene. Way back in the late 80’s I saw striker Ian Baird at a Wedding Present gig in town but on a more official level the club probably started its ties via being a venue. I can remember especially the Happy Mondays gig back in June 91, its only more recently that this has found a rebirth with the Kaisers. Although former madcap owner Massimo Cellino took to the stage with the Pigeon Detectives at the club’s Christmas party one year in a bizarre turn of events that probably summed up his style of ownership. More recently the club’s digital media manager Craig Wilson has tried in part to harness some local bands to provide the musical backdrop for content.
Your podcast gave an opportunity to a band now synonymous with the club Skylights – how did that come about and why Skylights?
The Trust podcast had been brilliantly established by a Gary Devonport (Talking Shutt) but he’d moved on from the LUST board and we wanted to change things a little. At the time the intro music was the Pigeon Detectives and clearly they needed no introduction to anyone and were hugely successful. I’ve always been a keen champion of new emerging bands and felt that we could use the platform of the podcast to give someone a bit of a break. We opened up submissions and from the influx, the song YRA by Skylights stood out. It stood out because not only was it so obviously tied to the club and its fanbase but it also had that belting guitar riff that made it instantly recognisable. The decision was easily made.
So many artists are tied with the club and indie-rock seems to be the dominant sound, much like Manchester – where do you think that influence and inspiration comes from?
I think that link to indie rock in Leeds dates way back to the 80’s music scene which was really strong in the city. Much like those in Manchester had their heroes, Leeds had their own. Gang of Four, Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry, The Wedding Present and many of the young lads watching football who were into their music were into these bands. As the influence of the 88’ Summer of Love hit and the baggy scene kicked in across the Pennines, The Bridewells matched that sound and became the representatives for Leeds.
I think indie guitar has remained the soundtrack for that link between football and music primarily because there’s a strong crossover between the two crowds.
The Leeds music scene is one that largely goes under the radar nationally, much like the club has for a number of years, why do you think this giant of a city is often missed out on tours and artists don’t seem to get the recognition of other cities?
Same as back in the 80’s the city’s scene is superb and vibrant but gets less attention from a very London centric music industry. Manchester was always the darling beyond that and Liverpool running a close third. One of the advantages of a more localised music press now through blogging, podcasting and internet radio is that localised scenes are getting a little more focus. The Leeds scene is so diverse at the moment. Whilst there’s the indie guitar sounds of Skylights, Apollo Junction, Leodis etc there’s also a very different vibe coming from the whole host of bands being born out of the Leeds College of Music (LCoM) alumni.
You yourself are a promoter of local music and this year has understandably been tough – what can you tell us about your promoter and who should we be looking out for?
There’s lots of great promoters operating across Leeds from the large scale guys to people just putting on small gigs. I work alongside Ian Addie at Step One Promotions. We noticed that it was tough for young bands (under 18) to get gigs and for their fans to come and experience live music affordably, in a safe environment so we started staging our ‘Assembly’ gigs. After a sell out first show in September 2019, our second gig was scheduled for late March 2020. History and the pandemic meant it is still on hold. It’ll be rescheduled at a time when its safe to do so but it was a huge frustration for the bands involved for who this represented a rare chance to build up proper live experience.
In terms of who to look out for I’d split the scene into different areas.
First up take the LCoM crowd. There’s Caro, Heir, Peakes, Tallsaint, to name a few all creating brilliant stuff in a more synth style. At the younger end of the spectrum there’s lots of bands hitting the well-worn groove of Indie guitar sound (In Peru, Backspace as just a couple of examples) but also some interesting punk sounds going on too (e.g. Growth Spurt). I was hugely impressed with the energy of Electric Press when I saw them just before lockdown. I’m not usually a fan of hardcore but they definitely had something. Then there’s bands trying slightly more grandiose styles such as Macroscope who I have to declare an interest in but who tie us back into the Skylights having supported them at both of their two sell out gigs in Leeds last year at Belgrave Music Hall and the Wardrobe.
The good thing about the Leeds scene is that it looks after itself. Established bands like Skylights and Apollo Junction will actively seek to give a debut opportunity to bands just starting out. That’s great to see. It’s like a big family. Much like Leeds United fans will always look after their own.