Music ‘scenes’ have always been prevalent in the world of rock and pop. Manchester, for example, was (and still is) famous for its ‘Madchester’ scene, with the likes of The Charlatans, Stone Roses and Happy Mondays all involved. Oxford, meanwhile, is more renowned for its off-kilter, more alternative bands, with the likes of Radiohead, Foals and Supergrass all earning it a place firmly on the musical map. The latest city to create a burgeoning and popular scene, appears to be Birmingham, with its bands and fans dubbing the new wave of music coming out of there as ‘B-Town’.
Birmingham has certainly had a great number of bands to come out of it in the past, boasting names such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Napalm Death and Godflesh. Back in the 1980s the city was awash with heavy metal bands, while at the same time evened out with more light-hearted, even cheesy, ones such as the flamboyant Duran Duran. Since the 1980s, however, the city appears to have taken a back-seat in the musical sphere, as the heavy rock sounds started to sound archaic to the minds of the public, hungry for more alternative sounding music.
Now it is 2013, and the city appears to be clawing back its status as a breeding ground for musical talent, although the sound this time appears to be more grungy. Bands emerging from the B-Town scene include leather-jacket clad Peace, dirty pretty boys Swim Deep and jocular hipsters JAWS. All incorporate a slightly flippant attitude to their music, not concentrating on polishing their records to perfection, but playing for the joy of creating music and for entertaining their audiences.
It is probably helpful to the bands that they are for the most part all friends. Swim Deep, for example, promote their friends JAWS as they become well known, and many of the bands tour together. In some ways, this perhaps detracts from the bands’ identities, but it also ensures that people will turn up to their respective gigs.
To give you a feel for the B-Town scene, here are three bands you will hear a lot more of in the coming year.
Peace are certainly a band of style. With their sharp hair-cuts, leather clad frames and endearingly insolent faces, this is a band that means business. It is clear they take inspiration from grunge bands from a couple of decades ago, although a lot more clean and aware of their appearance. This band are not perhaps what you could call the epitome of the B-Town ethos, as their appearance and music is perhaps somewhat more polished than their counterparts. On 9th December, the band were nominated for the BBC’s ‘Sound of 2013′. Although they did not make the shortlist, this shows just how talented the group are, considering the band were virtually unknown until a few months ago.
Members: Harrison Koisser (vocals, guitar); Same Koisser (bass); Douglas Castle (guitar); Dominic Boyce (drums).
Defining Sound: Grunge rock mixed with more upbeat indie rock. The band owe a lot to music of the 1990s
Upcoming Releases: ‘Wraith’ – The band’s upcoming single released January 13th. Their debut studio album is set to be released on March 25th
Track to Download: ‘Follow Baby’
Swim Deep are certainly the most playful bunch in the B-Town scene. With their floppy hair, boyish frames and fresh faces, this band are currently enjoying their new rock and roll lives and pretty boy band status, and none of them have yet hit 21. Arguably, this band are the most successful to have come out of the B-Town scene so far, as their single ‘Honey’ has earned plays on various radio stations and they recently completed a tour with pop princes Spector and quasi-grunge hipsters Splashh. The fact that the band started after a chance encounter in Morrisons pretty much epitomises the laid-back attitude this band possess, and this is reflected in their music. Don’t be led to believe this means lazy music, however. The band create music of a high calibre, with an earnest, original feel. Catch them at York’s very own Duchess in February.
Members: This band are not one for dull names, as Higgy, Austin, Zachary and Cavan make up the four-piece.
Label: RCA Records
Defining Sound: Grunge pop. To some their sound may appear twee, but the playful, tongue-in-cheek element to this band make it endearing.
Upcoming Releases: Not confirmed as yet, but 2013 promises to bring plenty of new material from this band.
Track to Download: ‘King City’
Despite being relatively unheard of, Troumaca played a part in the creation of B-Town music, with connections to lots of bands such as Peace, playing before they were even created. Their sound, however, is probably the most unique of the whole B-Town bunch. With influences ranging from Radiohead to Timbaland, they bring a number of sounds to their records, the overriding vibe of the album being what they themselves proclaim to an eclectic ‘tropical’ mix. With a penchant for interesting percussion, the steel drums appearing in various parts of their records, the group are perhaps undervalued.
Members: Geoffrey Foulkes, Samuel Baylis, Tom Gregory, James Nayak, Matthew Campbell
Label: Brownswood Recordings
Defining Sound: Swirling, electronic indie
Upcoming Releases: ‘Lady Colour’ E.P – February 2013
Track to Download: Download their ‘Gem EP’ for free off their website in exchange for adding your email address to their mailing list.