To the uninitiated, a night of indiepop probably conjures up images of cardigans, ukuleles and coy grins shot across the bar. But it’s nights like this – hosted by the UK branch of Spanish label Elefant – which showcase the breadth of the genre. Four bands are on tonight’s line-up, and no two are the same; some are firmly in the twee corner, one even dips into industrial, another tips its hat to country . The joy of not knowing what’s coming next is what makes shows like this.
Elefant – born in Madrid in 1989 – is known for its work with bands on the gentler end of the spectrum, having released records by the likes of Tender Trap, Camera Obscura, The School, The Clientele and Heavenly. Tonight brings together some of its newer projects, along with the surprise late addition of Fortuna POP!’s Evans The Death – a far heavier prospect than the Elefant acts.
Evans have been quiet of late and tonight explains why; nearly three years after the release of their brilliantly received debut, they’ve got a new album ready to go and they use tonight to test run some of it. “It’s called Expect Delays…get it?” quips singer Katherine Whitaker, who peers out from under her thick, bleached white fringe to gulp at her pint and roar her sometimes delicate, sometimes raucous, always distinctive vocal. From this brief glimpse, album number two looks to be the same but…more. Heavier – almost industrial – strings jangle dominate, infecting even their older songs before they leave in a ball of fuzz, thrashing guitars to create reverb. But despite how good they sound, Evans still act like kids messing about, giggling between themselves, almost afraid of seeming in control…they never seem to quite take what they’re doing seriously, despite it sounding very serious indeed.
Whitaker is completely at odds with the insipidly shy, bashful Cristina Quesada – who opened the night with a sort of twee karaoke, singing along to a backing track with Andreas from the brilliant Alpaca Sports helplessly strumming along. She sings in a toe curling little girl voice, and the only glimmer of something listenable coming courtesy of a cover…Alpaca Sport’s Just For Fun.
Sitting somewhere between the two is The Cantenary Wires – aka Amelia Fletcher and her partner Rob Pursey, both of Talulah Gosh, Heavenly and Tender Trap fame. They’ve yet to record anything under their new moniker which, as Fletcher jokes, sounds a little different to their previous incarnations: “We like to say we’re being minimalist for artistic reasons but we moved to the countryside and the only people we can form a band with are chickens.” They might have just an acoustic guitar to their name, but their vocals are anything but minimal, fitting together perfectly for a country ballad-type sound; his gravelly voice against her smooth, prototype indiepop purr. They’re certainly gloomy enough for that: “We were going to call ourselves The Feel Bad Music, so you knew what you were coming to,” reckons Fletcher. Their beautifully twisted love songs stand up with the pair’s best work and whet the appetite for an LP.
The mood skips again for headliners, Wild Balbina, a four piece which, refreshingly sees the boys taking the back seat and the two girls throwing rock n roll shapes, singing in heavily (Spanish) accents – not surprising when their current 10″ mini-album is called Sisters Before Misters. A mish mash of ’70s rock n roll, surf and garage, they recall the likes of Vivian Girls, The Breeders and, at times, even Best Coast. Their seamless set was always meticulous in its chaos; revved up guitars rutting against dreamy, nostalgic twin vocals. It’d be brilliant if those pesky September Girls hadn’t got in there before them. A satisfying end to a fascinating night; Elefant kept us on our toes and, whether you liked all of the line-up or not, there’s not many record label showcases that can do that.