We found ourselves at The Hope on Tuesday night for an extremely promising bill of stand-out new bands from the local scene. Up first were Hollow Hand, a rapidly maturing band displaying an ever-increasing on stage synergy and pushing the edges of their compositions with confidence and a calm air of assurance. Tonight's set was never anything other than effortless and languid but also full of dynamics and playfulness. They have a fine array of influences from across the decades, with obvious connections to The Kinks and Television with more contemporary nods to present day Americana. They are going places.
Clever Thing followed and raised the decibels as well as the pulse in the room, delivering an explosive set full of purpose and poise. It's a great dynamic: dual boy/girl vocals with duelling guitars, bolstered by a muscular rhythm section. There's attitude-a-plenty, but they do have the chops to back it up. They’re a bit of a supergroup in their own right, featuring singer-guitarists Daisy Coburn (Pink Lizards/Daisy Dares You) and Rich Fownes (Nine Inch Nails/Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster). With a classic feel to their influences: regular nods to retro rock greats but with the tension and aggression dialled up a notch. There’s a lovely hint of chaos gnawing at the edges of their sound, like a wild animal coiled tight and ready to attack at any given moment.
Finally Other States took to the stage and there was an immediate shift of focus in the room. What we'd seen so far was certainly of a higher quality than you might expect on an average bill of three local bands, but there was no mistaking whose show it was tonight. Keyboards were placed facing inwards, stage left and right, with guitars, drums and bass spread across the back, giving lead-singer Mark S. Aaron maximum space to prowl that stage. He immediately obliged, and adeptly so, like a disgraced TV preacher who has swapped his collar and black for double-denim and a trucker's cap. And, we might imagine, his Bible and crucifix for a pack of smokes and some cheap whiskey, if that’s not pushing my metaphor too far. The band get straight down to business, wasting no time in treating us to 'My Beau', the B-side, and 'Make Amends', the single they're launching tonight. It’s the perfect one-two opening, the band sounding ace despite the fact they’re a man down tonight. Guitarist Max Numajiri had to take a leave of absence, but Rich Fownes stood in and did an excellent job, sliding seamlessly into the mix.
In the band’s biography the inception of the group is described as being dreamt up by keyboardist Mike Lord whilst touring with The Cure as their engineer, gazing out at the dry horizon as they drove the long highway from Dallas to El Paso. That dusty desert of the American outback is cut into the group’s sound, so much so you find yourself easily thinking of filmmakers just as much as musicians when it comes to trying to describe it. They have taken a lot from call-and-response 60s pop, and psychedelic rock groups of the era, but it’s underscored with a darkness that suggests skeleton-in-the-closet tales of dark deeds and seedy scenes hidden just below the surface. This is all driven along by a tight rhythm section, adding a healthy dollop of the ubiquitous kraut/motorik groove that’s everywhere nowadays. The band brought their own lighting rig, programming the entire set with a synchronised light show. It’s a really affective trick, making the show feel extra-special, but it also illustrates the attention to detail that’s going on when putting every aspect of this group together.
There’s a real focus on the ideas and putting them across with clarity, it’s great to see a vision coming to life in such sharpfocus. There’s no show-boating going on here, despite the high calibre of musicianship in the group, unless you count Aaron’s antics up front – pacing around the stage, crooning, confrontational and entirely appropriate. The band are at their best when matching Aaron’s baritone with responding backing vocals from Lord and second-keyboardist Laura Brown. The highlights are those two opening numbers and the final song of the night; ‘Both Worlds’, which has probably got the hookiest chorus of all. If anything I’d say these three songs stand out, maybe I’m more familiar with them, or it may just be that these are the best of an extremely strong first batch. It’s early days for Other States, this being their first headline show. If they can keep this level of focus up I can see them going very far indeed.
Adam Kidd (with Adam Luke Atkins)