EP Review: Traits – Illuminate

The new ballsy, melodic punk rock EP from Leeds’ Traits will gnaw its way into your subconscious. FFO: No Use For A Name, Lagwagon, The Human Project.

Review by Ollie Stygall.

The Traits were a garage rock band formed in 1967 who had a hit with Nobody Loves The Hulk in 1969…this isn’t them! It’s amazing the blind alleys Google can lead you down when you’re researching a band for a review. Traits, minus the ‘the’ are a new four piece band from Leeds featuring members of Random Hand and The Human Project, and a guy called Jon who is apparently lovely, according to one of the write ups my Google search threw up. I’m sure they’re all splendid chaps equally. [Ed: Sarah W personally vouches for this!]

Traits (don’t go putting “the” in front of it!) are a straight ahead, melodic punk rock band. By that description alone you can probably start to build a mental image of how these guys sound and you’d probably fall pretty close to the mark. Now, being honest, there are a million bands doing this kind of stuff right now so the question is, how well do Traits fare against their peers? Fortunately they fare extremely well. For such a new band, albeit with plenty of individual experience, they have a fully-fledged and powerful sound with a keen grasp on song writing and an ear for a naggingly catchy melody. Each song here has at least one hook that will gnaw its way into your subconscious, whether it’s the insistent chorus of I’ve Made My Bed or the quirky riff that rears its head during Drop The Status Quo. If the band had a mission to grab your memory and hold on tight then they’ve ticked that box!

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As you might expect, the energy remains high throughout, rarely dipping below an ADHD endorsed 100mph but, on the odd moments when the Ritalin kicks in and they slow it down, it provides a welcome breathing space and shows a strong grasp of song dynamics. The guitars of Jon Simmons are tight and edgy and stand front and centre in the mix whilst the rhythm section of Joe Tilston on bass and Dan Powell on drums lock together tighter than a pair of shagging dogs! Johnny Smith’s voice is an interesting one, and may be an acquired taste for some, although it’ll be a favourite for fans of The Human Project. He operates in the higher registers but still maintains some grit in his throat. In fact, and this may make him cringe, he would also make a pretty good metal singer, as evidenced on I’ve Made My Bed which flirts tantalisingly with thrash metal in places… fortunately staying just on the right side of the line though. He has a credible power and delivery to his singing though that should bring round anyone who might, at first, find his voice a little irritating. Continue reading “EP Review: Traits – Illuminate”

Random Hand: Can’t Stop Changing Plans [Interview]

Joe Tilston discusses Random Hand’s hiatus, their return to the stage and what they’ve been plotting in the meantime!

Interview by Sarah Williams. Photos nicked from Bev, from RH’s ‘last’ Manchester show.

It is hard to measure the impact that Random Hand have had on my life. They’ve been going since 2002, but I think I stumbled across them in 2007 when I first heard Scum Triumphant. They were one of the first small bands that I became properly obsessed with, so therefore they became my gateway into DIY. Literally, this website would not exist if Random Hand hadn’t been there to kick-start my gig addiction. I also wouldn’t own half as many sweat-encrusted band t-shirts.

For many years, Random Hand were one of the most explosive bands in UK ska-punk. Back in 2015 they announced that they were going on hiatus for a couple of years. Although they never used the words ‘break-up’ themselves, there was uproar in the punk community and many promoters billed their farewell tour as their last ever gigs. The news was especially shocking coming from a band who were a mainstay of the live circuit. No matter how many gigs they played, they always gave 110%, guaranteeing the best loud, sweaty and raucous performances you could wish for.

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The news of the hiatus was delivered alongside a crowd-funding campaign for a self-released album as a farewell gift to their fans. Hit Reset dropped on 13th September 2015, just as they came off stage at their final, incendiary gig at The Camden Underworld. The album was an unusual parting gift (particularly as they weren’t playing it live) and an opportunity to record with the final iteration of their line-up.

Robin Leitch (vocals/trombone), Joe Tilston (bass), Dan Walsh (guitar) and Sean Howe (drums) recently announced that they would be reuniting in 2018. Their first gig back is in their home town of Leeds, followed quickly by Manchester Punk Festival. They are also releasing their first album Change of Plan on vinyl via TNS Records. It’s a gorgeous red record, encased in an updated version of Si Mitchell’s classic artwork, due for release on February 9th.

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I sat down with Joe Tilston to discuss their plans for the new year and to get some insight into why they left us in the first place.

Random Hand are back! Why now?

We were very honest about it being a hiatus. I know some promoters weren’t quite as honest and said it was our last gig on occasions, but on our social media statuses and at every gig we always said it was a hiatus. It’s a break. If anyone asked anything beyond that we said, “We need two years off.” That was the watershed; having two years off and seeing where that took us.

It literally ticked over two years. I was on the phone to Robin just after he’d finished one of the projects he was working on and we said, “Shall we have a practice then?” That was it, really! It was one week less than two years that we had our first practice back. I think we all just needed the head space. We needed to let it go, not think about it and become our own people. Continue reading “Random Hand: Can’t Stop Changing Plans [Interview]”

Gig Review: Pie Race Festival – Friday + Saturday

Pies, pals and pints at Leeds’ premier annual punk party. Featuring Matilda’s Scoundrels, Ducking Punches, Millie Manders, Nosebleed, Batwölf and many more.

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Hold My Pint and Paul Hannah.

Pie Race is Leeds’ annual punk-stravaganza; a regular date in the Northern punk calendar since 2010. This year’s event saw three days of punk, pie and pals at Wharf Chambers: one of the most welcoming DIY venues I’ve ever visited. Friday’s show was like a regular gig, but Saturday and Sunday combined to make 22 hours of noisy fun and an absolutely pukka weekend. It’s more than just the music, though: Saturday also featured the festival’s famous pie-eating competition. In short(crust), it was more fun than swimming in a barrel of gravy, and I can’t wait do it all over again.

In the course of this write-up, I have attempted to celebrate not merely the punk, but also the pies. As such, I aim to punish you with pie references although (I wouldn’t pie to you) I slightly underestimated the sheer amount of effort it takes to write atrocious pie-jokes. I gave up halfway through Saturday’s write up, but there’s still plenty of pie. Enjoy.

Friday (PieDay?)

I arrived at Wharf  Chambers exceptionally early on Friday, but there were still plenty of pals to run into. Pie Butcher, sorry, Pat Butcher, are first up, featuring a very tall man playing a very small guitar. Jokes aside, they play some hearty hardcore, featuring a couple of seriously meaty beat-downs. The highlight of their set is their carrot race, presented as a precursor to Saturday’s pie race. As it turns out, watching five punks try to wolf down a whole carrot in a minute is an unforgettable experience, and surprisingly tricky for the contestants.

Due to The Zipheads running late, HollywoodFreyBentos Downstairs (better known as Hollywoodfun Downstairs) set up next. Watching this heavy duo from New Zealand is like a blast in the face from a hand grenade. They are the most memorable act I have seen all year; they’re a band who don’t abide pie the rules. They turn out the main lights and set up the drum kit, amps and mic stand in front of the stage. Illuminated only by bright white strip lights beside their amps, the venue takes on a surreal post-apocalyptic vibe. Musically it is a beautifully harsh cacophony of distortion and I can’t tear my eyes away from the show as the drummer hammers away with stunning, grind-level skill.

The Zipheads are a change of pace, opening with a super-bouncy version of rocksteady classic 54-46 Was My Number. They follow with upbeat covers of Sublime, the Flintstones soundtrack and Got to Pick a Pocket or Two from Oliver, plus their own original material. In their own words they offer, “Sloppily played rock ‘n’ roll,” with the double-bass dressed up as a pint of Guinness (ideal as both a filling or an accompaniment to pie) giving it more of a rockabilly feel.  Continue reading “Gig Review: Pie Race Festival – Friday + Saturday”