Punk Rock & Art Deco: The Liars Club Teaser
What a belting day Saturday was. Woke up and the autumn sun was shining, and for once as a group, we didn’t have any last minute heart stopping worries whilst setting someone up for a live stream — whether it be a DJ or musician. Believe me you haven’t felt pressure until you are 20 minutes away from going live and some inexplicable technical malfunction, that makes absolutely no sense, is laughing at you as you sweat cold beads of terror. Horrible.
So the sun was shining. No worries or pressures. And just the small matter of a video shoot with the sensational Liars Club lay before us. The venue this time was the Roxy at Ulverston, so not only was it a chance to get together with the boys and crack jokes all day at each other's expense. It was a marvel to take in the Roxy, and always is. I was looking at the photos of the staff on the wall from 70 years ago, beaming proudly, and you knew that the place they called their second home was pretty much the same place that I was strolling around admiring today.
It was a chance to watch a band we unanimously think very highly of. And with good reason. If you haven’t caught Liars Club yet, you need to sort that out. They are an explosive snarling band, with tight musicianship and some absolutely killer hooks. I may be mistaken, but don’t all the best bands have all those attributes?
Theres always a buzz about set when we are recording a band. You get to see the lads so everyone is ripping into everyone from the offset, which I always rather enjoy. Also, it was great to catch up with Mark Hughes, a long time friend and supporter, he always has good ideas and conversation, and it was really interesting to hear his views and long term ambitions for the Liars Club, as a co manager along with Pete Mills. Both lads know their onions, and like us, we were gobsmacked at the raw power and true potential this band have. It would feel unfair to not mention Gripper and East Beach studios as well for nurturing and believing in that talent right from the start. That respect is felt when the lads play one of their incendiary gigs at their hallowed turf BUMS.
We had a real talent on the floor as well during the afternoon. Ethan Hughes, who directed the shoot, is highly regarded as a true up and coming force within the industry in Manchester. I privately wanted to just watch him work and note how a pro captures images. We are new to this game. But it's something Liam, Hammo and Josh are really getting a handle on. So working with someone of Ethan's standing was real opportunity for us to learn. More on him later.
Individually we were sort of sauntering about having conversations with the band. Andy was deep in conversation with Noah, sharing a few laughs with Mallo. I had a chat with the drummer Matt Southwell and Frank Kendal the bassist. Josh and Liam larking about with Dan Milmine. Hammo and Robbie discussing sound with Bryn. I guess you are just trying to keep the atmosphere light on the lads. Helping in with equipment always goes a long way there. Take a shin bashing for the team so to speak. But one thing about Liars Club as a group, is that they are cold as ice. Don't seem to get nerves and always laser focused.
I remember before their legendary set at Fudstock 2019, I was running about barking out orders, stressed, looking at my watch. I thought... well its a big stage, these lads might need a bit of hand holding. But they just wanted to get on. Politest group of lads you could ask for. Weren't snapping at me and the other sound techs on sound check, calm and methodical. Which again, in my eyes, sets bands apart. Losing your cool there, leads to a bad sound check and not sounding as good as you could. It's another tick of a wide variety of boxes bands with high ideals must have.
Anyway, Noah, calm and polite as you like, said he usually likes more length on his mic lead. So I changed it out, gave him a good ten meters of cable, and he was really polite and thankful. Like it was weird, because at that stage, your heart must be going — because they were sub headlining. You know they had a big crowd of expectant people in front of them. Moods change. But polite as anything. Then the band kicked in and he went absolutely mental. Stomping the ground, then he launched himself over the crowd barrier and into the crowd. I was like... er... alright then. Then he stripped off and did the whole set near naked.
Set of the festival for me. But it was so weird, the contrast of literally two seconds being the politest guy in the world, to being completely overwhelmed by his own music. Nice one I thought, I'll have that.
But they keep growing and are professional. They weren't phased, they knew we all to a man in the room fully support them. And they duly obliged, with a snarling, ripping set, full of menace but laced with control. I sit and analyse them because thats what music nerds do. And the absolute pinpoint precision of Frank and Dan's guitar is really quite something. When your guitar pops into Bass, when you match it note for note the music becomes fuller. It's a pretty basic house music principle but you are using programmed equipment there. It's something else entirely to have a band produce it song after song. And that's what these lads do. That's testament to practice hours. But these lads are on the same wavelength. It's also a compliment to their effect choices.
And you don't fully achieve that without your drummer. And Matt Southwell, I think, is a hidden gem. It's easy to just be on point and drum hard for a band like this — to coast. But he has a controlled ferocity attacking at the right moments and has flourishes to his drum playing. When you really zero in, you are rewarded for doing so. That triumvirate enjoy what they do and that friendship and closeness is no doubt their ally, as they no doubt have spent long hours to get that finish and power to their songs.
So Noah then. Noah leaves to another planet when he's performing. He believes and feels his lyrics. Sometimes you can see the pain or frustration etched on his face as he spits and screams his displeasure. His lyrics are beautifully poetic when you sit to consider them. But delivered live, it's like he's howling at the gods for committing his anguish. It's spellbinding to watch, and it just rubber stamps the overall authenticity of the band as a collective. They believe in what they do, they put the hours in, they are polite and focused, ultra accomplished musicians, with a front man that is like watching a man eat live sticks of dynamite just to see what happens.
I don't want to ruin the surprise, of the big screen showing, so I will resist. But it was a fantastic run of favourites, and their newer stuff - which in my humble opinion, is showing a broader range to their song-craft.
Coming back to Ethan, he directed the whole shoot with total efficiency and coolness. It was every bit the pleasure I was hoping for. For a young director to come to the Roxy, which is a huge space - get every camera calibrated to perfection; issue complete instructions to those wielded toward the afore mentioned camera men; liaising with the sound techs; and issuing instructions to the band on how he wants them, from every camera angle perspective, takes authority. And he had every angle already thought out and spoke to everyone with respect at the same time. And to that end the shoot cracked along, not asking the band to shoot, shoot, shoot again. Which can be excruciating. And because of that approach, we captured a band full of energy and at the top of their game.
Truly a pleasure to be part of. The early results certainly do look amazing. Don't miss the big screening. I for one will be at the front with my popcorn. Don't anyone make the joke about the bottom being cut out. I wouldn't do that.
Malcolm is part of the Fudstock event team, and co-director of The Lock In.