I was a touch late arriving for this gig. As punctual as ever I’d arrived with loads of time to spare. My excuse; Birmingham Live! were given the opportunity to interview New Young Pony Club prior to them taking to the stage. As a consequence the 15-minute chat turned into an open and frank discussion touching on over eager, unaware record labels. Focus groups making decisions on a bands musical direction, and having forced introductions to street Monkeys. Interview will be published on Birmingham Live! in roughly the amount of time it takes to transcribe 30 minutes of rapid spoken word.
Walking in I’m slammed in the face by an electronic sonic assault provided by T3eth. I’m not sure if I should use colourful metaphors but they’re really fucking loud! According to their MySpace page they sound like a “Sub-atomic turd”. That description is pretty fitting. The three piece consisting of lead vocalist, drummer, and dancing notebook artist are putting out some serious volume. The drummer pounding hard enough to break his so called “unbreakable sticks”. Singer Veronica could easily lend herself and her voice to a grimy basement punk band. If you like experimental electronic punk, check them out. The set wasn’t polished, at times they were pretty loose but given how loud they were their sound was still listenable and managed to avoid becoming a total racket.
A machine-gunning snare sample announces Is Tropical are on stage and ready to go. Immediately, my head starts nodding back and forth, side to side. I really like what I’m hearing. The threesome resembles the types of young street adults your parents and the British media warn you about. Black leather, hoods up, bandana covered faces and long fringed hair reminiscent of Neds Atomic Dustbin or Carter USM. Their sound lacks the fierceness of T3eth but is much more refined in its delivery. Early on into their set I was having difficulty in trying to make out the vocals, going so far as to think they’d sound better without them. The drum break from one particular track reminded me of Vampire Weekends — Giving Up the Gun’ albeit faster paced. The set centred around good tight drum breaks, simple guitar riffs and a pummelling base line that reverberates through you as though Barry Whites humming directly within the confines of your stomach.
There was one complaint to report though. What happened to the lighting engineer? Apart the rear projected montage of images there was absolutely nothing happening with the lights. The stage was dark, moody, making the photographer’s job pretty difficult. The two photographers present both said Is Tropical would have been awesome to shoot had the lighting been better. From a punters perspective it doesn’t detract from the sound but it does detract from the experience.
One of the things I like most about small intimate gigs is the way headline acts and the supports are able to walk virtually anonymously around the venue. Prior to New Young Pony Club appearing on stage I’d spotted pretty much the whole band mingling with the crowd at various times throughout the night. The majority of the crowd seemingly unaware they were rubbing shoulders with the very people they’d paid to see. It’s not a young crowd tonight. Seemingly a good quality mixture of young and old alike, plaid shirts, tight jeans, black leather, high heels. If the audience marks the band. NYPC’s crowd is an assorted group of everyone and no one. People that have heard of them and people that have came along at the last minute because of a ticket going spare. It’s difficult to ascertain whether most of the crowd is here to hear the band, see the performance or take fashion tips.
NYPC are a few minutes late to emerge maybe fashionably so, but when they do it’s to virtual silence. There’s a quiet murmur from the crowd as they ready themselves and get started with ‘Chaos’. Tahita Bulmer’s voice sounds so much better live when compared against their recorded material. The flatness of her tone seems to come alive and there’s much more depth to be found. It’s almost as though she and the rest of the band have broken free from the restraints of the studio and previous recognisable music. And it has to be said they sound so much better for it.
Between songs there’s an undeserved silence from the crowd. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the odd spoken word from Tahita you could probably have heard a pin drop into a bag of feathers. Thankfully as the set went on the crowd got more and more behind them. Maybe the crowd was having a little difficulty getting to know their new sound? The driving Rio Carnival drumbeat of ‘Hiding on the Staircase’ has most of the audience dancing, singing along to the known parts. On the stage was a band that by all accounts appeared to be having fun. What do you do as a band at times like this? Try and develop the crowd, get them behind you or do you accept the fact you’re landed with “a very attentive crowd” and just live with it? Thankfully, Tahita decides to follow the former. On stage she looks amazing, wearing a tight, winged satin ¾ top that pales into insignificance against the brooding seduction of her eyes, the cheeky mischievous smile and dance moves as though an Indian snake charmer controls her. Simply mesmerizing!
I’m trying to figure out quite where the ‘New Rave’ tags come from. There’s not a single piece of neon clothing in sight and their sound just doesn’t fit. Perhaps someone who couldn’t think of a better fitting pigeonhole presented it? And that’s even if a hole exists for them in the first place. I can’t think of anyone quite like them, similarities yes, copycats no. NYPC are definitely out on their own making their own sound and forging their own direction.
I had high expectations of ‘Stone’, by far my favourite track from the new album ‘Optimist’. The gentle warbling bass line added to a soft wavering synth riff gradually building as new instrumental elements are added until you’re about ready for it to go off. It settles down into a hip-swinging groove before building again, finally erupting with one of the catchiest drum breaks heard in a long time. When the break eventually kicks in the forced into dancing effect didn’t materialise at the point I expected. As the groove continues, finally the audience began to understand it’s indeed a groove worth dancing to. Finally the crowd started getting behind them, cheers and calls replace the silence between songs. Tahita adds further to the ensuing mayhem by thrusting the microphone into the crowd and “wishes for the smile-o-meter to be increased”. It works, the silence has gone and replaced buy an audience baying for more.
The remaining perfectly delivered tracks forces the crowd to be more appreciative and louder. It’s a good feeling just being here in Academy 3. The rooms getting warmer, the air gets stickier as an obvious side effect to the dancing and singing. By the time NYPC reaches the end of the set there’s not a moments silence as the calls for them to come back continue unabated.
After a quick break The Quintet walk back out and Tahita announces “we’re gonna play another 15 tracks from the new album”. Deservedly it’s greeted with more rapturous cheering!
Last song of the evening ‘The Get Go’ is played out perfectly. The whole set was faultless, tight, in control. The music of NYPC is such a simple recipe — music you can dance to and sing along to. I’m genuinely surprised there are not more copycat bands out there.
Final word of the night has to be reserved for drummer Sarah Jones. During the interview she came across as being softly spoken, unassumingly attractive. Nice but nothing about her really stood out. Behind the drums she’s simply awesome! There’s something exceptionally special about the way she plays, in control and is more than capable of holding down a tight complicated groove. Why Jack chose Meg when Sarah Jones is in existence could be classed as one of the great wonders of this world. Why oh why oh why…
Hiding On The Staircase
Lost a Girl
We Want To
The Get Go
Review – Lee Hathaway
Photos –Keith West