There’s a cheekiness to Willie J Healey as he talks to the crowd at the Green Door Store. “How’s your day been Brighton? 5/10? We’ll make it 15/10” he says, tongue firmly in cheek. Indeed he does lift the spirits of the Monday night Brighton crowd, too, with his witty lyricism, deep baritone and fun mix of slacker and surf rock. He’s a confident performer, but one that still seems approachable and understated.
Opening on the night was Brighton newcomers Drip Gloss, who were mightily impressive. For a relatively new band, their polished performance was exceptionally remarkable. With a hypnotic background full of spellbinding colours, anime and provocative messages, they make alternative pop music that sounds like a mix between The Big Moon and Alvvays with a hint of Pixies. Ending song ‘Caffeine Queen’ has an addictive bassline with a fetching and fun chorus.
Fruity Water were up next. Refreshing in their distinctiveness across the whole of the Brighton music scene, the duo make dreamy pop reminiscent of 80s electronica. Debut single ‘Wasted Summer’ sounds like a mix between Tears for Fears absorption blended with New Order’s knack for a catchy chorus, while at other times they’re a whole lot more dancey. There’s a hint of the experimentation of Kraftwerk in there too. On the whole, Fruity Water are very rough around the edges, but a wholly striking and exotic band that’s hard to come by.
There’s a strange balance that Willie J Healey manages to straddle between the lackadaisical and the lively in his music. Whether he’s crunching a guitar solo, or his drummer is smashing his drums with ferocious rhythm, there’s an affable, genial aura about the band on stage. They look so relaxed it instantly puts the audience at ease. It appears Healey is increasingly confident in showcasing his natural disposition for both groove and musical inflection.
There’s been times when Healey has been compared to slackers like Mac DeMarco and Kurt Vile, but in a live atmosphere he’s anything but aloof. The likes of ‘Would You Be’ and ‘Love Her’ are uncompromising indie-rock songs with a pungency. Considering he’s been plunged into the indie scene, supporting the likes of The Magic Gang and Sundara Karma, there’s a gnarliness to his music with way more intensity than his contemporaries.
It’s ‘Pipedreams’ where there’s a real connection between the stage and the crowd, though, with both parties sing-shouting the chorus of: “I/I/I”. There’s a bluntness to Healey’s delivery throughout, seemingly adopting the guise of a deep crooner, where he sheds the image of the slacker. He sings: “I could never be like you cause I can’t skate, just got the shoes/ I wish I could read Thrasher mag, but I’d be faking it real bad.” Healey is a clever songwriter, constantly poking fun at his critics and the press.
It’s his sense of fun that shines through in his live show, too. He loves interacting with the crowd and his band, while cracking jokes left, right and centre. “Play that one again” someone shouts after he’s just played ‘Subterraneans’. “I don’t know that one” Healey replies.