The Letters

Let’s Do That Time Warp Again More

Live Review

Written By Ria Wilkinson Thursday, May 1st, 2008

The Nightflyers Dance Band, The Letter and The Analog Bombs May Day Mayhem - PCS Local Campaign at The Love Apple, Bradford

The evening kicked off in unusual style at the Love Apple with a 14 strong swing music band, The Nightflyers. With a generous 4 saxophone, 3 trombone and 3 trumpet brass sound enriched with a bass, percussion and organ, and occasional flute and clarinet, we were soon aurally transported back to a time when men were besuited cads and bounders and women in tea dresses were grateful for the silk stockings. Foot tapping away and eyes closed, it was easy to picture The Love Apple alive with twirling dresses and brylcreemed hair as people enthusiastically danced together to some of the classics of Swing played tonight.

The Nightflyers deftly worked though a range of material encompassing, but not exclusively, Rat Pack classics, Louis Prima, Glen Miller, Ella Fitzgerald and even Marvin Gaye. Each piece was announced and anecdoted on and this was appreciated by the audience who may not have been overly familiar with Swing music beyond the rehash of it by Westlife et al.

Their set passed quickly and the pleasure of the band performing together was apparent as they threw themselves fully into the music - most notably the trumpet trio - and none more during the penultimate piece, Mas Tequila. Finally, after about an hour, the nostalgic spell was broken and suddenly we back in the room, clad in denim and t-shirts, pints in hand.

After a rapid turn around of the stage area, The Letters arrived to provide a welcomed bridge between the swinging brass and a rather more raucous Analog Bombs later. This was about the fifth gig for the quartet, although singer Kelly admitted they were starting to lose count which I think shows how well they are into their stride, especially with their 8 track set which has become like meeting friends when heard by these reviewers now. They opened with the anthemically stirring Woke Up In The 80s which included Kelly purring names of 80s bands into the mic and giving a period Blondie a run for her money. She was ably abetted by her (mostly) ex-Green trio of men, livewire Rob - trademark beam in place - punishing the percussion, Kev nonchalantly working his black bass whilst Leon made well judged use of the various pedals at his disposal on lead guitar.

After an uplifting start to the set, things turned a little more melancholy as tracks Just Remember and Lemony lingered on weakness and misconceptions of people. Here Kelly’s voice showed it’s range from the more powerful 80s style of Blondie or perhaps Jane Wiedlin to the vulnerable and hurt which also rendered What Do I Do Now? with more despair and sadness than Louise Werner could ever had let herself show on the original version. On Barfly, What Do I Do Now? and These Thoughts, Kelly added some rhythm guitar to add extra depth to the sound yet without overcrowding the melody and vocals - frequently misjudged by many a band currently. It’s a rare commodity that The Letters possess to have confidence to keep things simple and understated and literally let the music speak for itself. No gimmicks, no grandiose arrangements, just versatile vocals over skilled instrumentation which shows the maturity both musically and personally of the collective. The set draws to a close with Flurry and then to lift the spirits and to mirror the opener, Drive is the final song to leave the audience humming as they head towards the bar.

So with Swing music from the 1940s and if The Letters are waking up in the 1980s, did this mean perhaps Analog Bombs might give us a glimpse of music from 2020s? Well if that was the case then, it’s all going to be back to as early as the 1960s through to the early 80s for post punk, 2 Tone and generally psychedelic inspired noises. Where The Letters may have a more experienced and professional sheen to their band that gives excellent cohesion, Analog Bombs are all about the entropy of alcohol and cobbling it together as it goes on stage.

They are the loveable rogues of the Bradford music scene and never less that totally entertaining as distinctive singer Ben lurched about with the mike stand on stage, Magners bottle a fixture in his hand, and nearly took out guitarist Lee and simultaneously quenched the thirst of a large amp with some Fosters. However, disaster was averted by the observations and snappy reflexes of the relative new comer to the band, bassist Rick. He has really come out of his shell since his debut and apart from ska-skipping as he played, he already seemed integral to the group as Ben pointed out at one stage, almost ruefully, that Rick knew the lyrics better than he. Into the third song, one of his bass strings went and Rick valiantly played on as a mate attempted a Formula 1 type string change.

That change took more work so, the rest of the band filled with a bass free interlude of a lighter track, and The Letters Kev lends his bass for another song until the problem was rectified. Analog Bombs ran through various songs that are well loved like Lola , Hancock and their ode to the infamous Tumblers and several people were up on their feet giving it some of the hoppy, skippy ska dancing and clearly loved this exuberant, scruffy and charismatically chaotic ending to an evening of music that crossed both genre and time.

The Letter Keep it Simple to Rise Above the Sum of Their Influences More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Monday, April 28th, 2008

The Letters, Sharp Darts, Geek at The PM Freestyle Lounge, Shipley

Sharp Darts include a cover of The Strokes Last Night in their set. They perform it faithfully and entertainingly but as they play through that and the rest of a set of song early in the day at The PM Freestyle Lounge in Shipley one is left with the impression that the band will struggle to be more than the sum of the parts they put together.

Which is not to say that they are not admirable - not as impressive as The Swing Movement perhaps but still not without their merits - just that the Strokes with a dash of Babyshambling lyrics and the de rigeur swagger leaves them rather predictable. They go up and down because - well - that is where bands like this go up and down and while the vocal gets lost under the impossible to master sound of this converted loft venue the band earn and deserve the applause at the end of their set.

Dalliance is in Shipley to greet The Letters who are performing gig number four in slot number three in the all day event. Guitarist Leon Carroll will leave the stage unhappy saying he made too many mistakes but he starts out impressively and ends too harsh a critic as the band work well with their charisma and simplicity coming through.

Simplicity being an underrated virtue in this world where post-rock's complicated soundscapes are increasingly common and The Letters are never better than when they had a guitar, a bass and a set of drums banging out classic (indie) pop tunes in a verse/chorus/verse structure which boils down the melting pot of experience into something smaller and purer. They add a second guitar for singer Kelly half way through the set which muddies these waters a little and suits them less well.

New songs are added in the place of covers and The Letters take on a more sombre, more mellow tinge - "I wonder if it is possible/To love somebody’s lies." emotes Kelly showing the potential breadth of the band. They finish off with Drive and Leon is too harsh a critic of his afternoon's work.

Geek follow the path of recent Pavement influenced would be American college bands in West Yorkshire and they soon turn into a wall of noise after starting the set with an inspired guitar flurry.

The vocal is lost and the organ sound superfluous. They play covers from Rocket from the Crypt and one is back to the idea that to impress a band should strive to be more than the sum of their influences and far too often they fail in this.

This post is about , ,

Here Come The Letters More

Indie Schmindie Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

The Letters, The Last Ones Indie Schmindie at The Love Apple, Bradford

“Bradford,” she said “is too music what L.A. is to the movies. Everyone is either in a band, starting a band or getting involved in bands.”

In the last two or three years Bradford’s music scene has changed beyond recognition as much of that change has come in some way from this small bar with a room that is The Love Apple and the people who populate it. Tonight they give local bands the route forward towards the BD1 Live and Granadaland nights that - if this week’s NME coverage of Saturday’s Make Model gig is an indication of – are beginning to get noticed.

Not that one would imagine that The Last Ones are going to advance much further than wet Wednesday nights in Bradford coming over as they do as a Oasis tribute band who do not know any Oasis songs and while Beccy Stubb’s bass drifted into Stone Roses territory too often Robin Stern’s vocal snarl is more of a purr and a rough purr at that.

Wake Up shows some promise but the band need to find their own sound rather than pilfering sp wholesale through the early 1990s Manchester scene for inspiration. The better bands of whatever scene there is in Bradford are lofty because – in this writer’s humble opinion – they create music across genre but definitely from Bradford.

The Letters emerge as a fine example of this. This is the third gig for the band build from bits of seniors of Bradford indie Green but confidence and heldover experience are a combination to drive any performance and tonight is smooth and entertaining.

The Letters on at The Love Apple

Kelly Heaton’s low key vocal through Atomic layers onto some impressive guitar work by Leon Carroll – the band have three covers and six original songs as they build a setlist – augmenting Kev Pryke’s bass and Rob Mills’ sterling work on the drums but it is in their own material where the band’s distinctive mix of fuzzed up, fast tempo, treble high guitaring begins to shine. Just Remember is C86 with added Jesus & Mary Chain and stands out.

The stand at ease on stage with Rob swapping quips with the audience from behind his kit and hearing a shout of “ten a penny” but in truth immediately arresting and entertaining bands are rare and as Leon’s tweaking of guitar buzzes along Kelly’s vocals the decent Wednesday night crowd smiles and enjoys.

The Letters are likeable and liked. Green ploughed lonely furrows in Bradford’s music scene but hardly got past venues such as this. One suspect The Letters will find more followers in the flourishing, well tended Bradford music scene of today.