This Come Play With Me article was written by Alistair Ryder, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
Duke Studios in Leeds is unquestionably a beautiful and unique venue, hidden far away from the main venues on the Leeds gig circuit. Yet its singular appearance seems to confound many who are only appearing at the venue for the first time. Deadwall lead singer Thomas Gourley inexplicably compared it to a “Danish meat market”, whilst Post War Glamour Girls vocalist James Smith referred to it as “like being back in your dad’s garage”.
As everybody onstage tries to wrap their head around the identity of the venue, audience members are here to see both these bands, as well as David Gedge and the latest line-up of Leeds indie legends The Wedding Present, help launch and define the identity of a new Leeds-based record club, Come Play With Me.
The label aims to release split 7” vinyls of both unsigned and prestigious bands from the local area, set up as a community interest charity in order for the proceeds to be reimbursed back into the vital and diverse Leeds scene. To celebrate the first release later this year, split between Gedge’s Cinerama and solo material from Sky Larkin’s Katie Harkin, there is no more fitting venue than the under recognised Duke Studios to start off what hopes to be an extensive celebration of the city’s most unrecognised artists.
The garage-like surroundings of Duke Studios all but demand the bands strip down and deliver intimate sets, which in the case of support acts Deadwall and Post War Glamour Girls, appears to strip them of their obvious influences from the noisier side of the alternative spectrum.
In Deadwall’s set, comprising largely of material from their untitled new album (due for a Spring 2016 release), we only get a brief glimpse at their twin shoe-gaze and 80’s/90’s US alt-rock influences. Stripped down to their basest elements, their new material sounds winningly like that of Grizzly Bear, with Gourley’s vocals never sounding better than when in this low-key setting- whether it will sound the same on the uncompleted record is anybody’s guess. “I played the album to my mum the other day and she said it sounded like The Beach Boys”, quipped Gourley at one stage, “Which pretty much summarises her limited musical references”.
In fairness, you can understand what his mum heard in the recordings – they have the same style of instrumentation that Brian Wilson brought to ‘The Pet Sounds Sessions,’ so unconscious or otherwise, the influence is clearly there to see, if only in this environment.
After an entertaining Q&A with David Gedge and The Guardian’s Dave Simpson (where it was revealed that the first singles they ever bought were ‘Two Little Boys’ by Rolf Harris and ‘I Love You, Love Me, Love’ by Gary Glitter respectively), Post War Glamour Girls took to the stage.
Vocalist James Smith informed the audience that “we are normally more punk rock than this”, a needless apology on behalf of the stripped down nature of their set. Rather surprisingly, his idiosyncratic vocal style is far more affecting when stripped down like this; a penultimate cover version of Elvis Costello’s ‘Shipbuilding’ is a highlight due to how well his vocals translate to the medium of a classic pop song, even if he looks uninterested throughout not just this performance, but the entire set. It’s a shame, as their set is still winning even at its most stripped down, but he seems willing to undermine it- trading verses in-between sips of a can of Jamaica’s finest, delivering monologues in-between songs like a detached hipster equivalent of Alan Bennett.
Finally, there was the headline performance by three quarters of the new line up for The Wedding Present. Without current drummer Charles Layton present, the drum machine was instead utilised in the form of a person in a full-body bunny suit playing 7” recordings of drum tracks to play along to, sitting motionless on stage when the band were performing, only moving to switch records.
Instead of getting the band to stick rigidly in time with the record, it actually allowed a welcome sense of unpredictability to the proceedings. Gedge forgot the opening lyrics to ‘Suck’, which heralded the start of the audience interaction that continued for the rest of the set; an audience member shouted out the lyrics, to his bemused response of “why didn’t you tell me that when I needed to know it?”
With many audience members singing along to their earlier works, a recurring joke between Gedge and an audience member about which of the band’s songs were in their “personal top five” continued throughout, as did talk of where the best Leeds attractions for Brighton guitarist Samuel Beer-Pearce to visit – it was settled that the Owl Walk and the City Museum (with its artifacts of the Armlet hippo) are the best places for an out-of-towner to visit.
With the event being a celebration of the up-and-coming, this headlining set was a celebration of everything that has been great about the Leeds scene for decades, as well as a celebration of the city’s culture as a whole. Lets hope Come Play with Me has a bright future and hope for more events like this in the future.