In Conversation: Mercury Machine

The modern music scene is a tough nut to crack, and new music can come and go in the blink of an eye. Every now and then, a band comes along that stops you in your tracks, and you know you’re hearing something special; on that note, let me introduce you to Mercury Machine.

Another great addition to the world of Manchester music, this band is about to make their mark with the release of a new album. I was lucky enough to catch them in between their busy rehearsal schedule, to find out a little more about what makes them stand out from the crowd.

First things first, introduce us to ‘Mercury machine’. How did you all come together as a band?   

Mercury Machine was founded by Lee 7 years ago in his Stockport studio; he had the central vision for the band, is the chief songwriter, lead singer and guitarist. In the early days, he would invite musician friends to his studio and host parties, whilst creating tracks for people in order to add their creative input. These events sowed the seeds from which Mercury Machine has grown. Long time friend, Carl (bass), joined him around that time, alongside our visual artist and friend Liam, who now makes our videos and designs our artwork.

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Keeping it local: Mercury Machine rehearse in an old 19th century cotton mill

A number of different musicians passed through the band until the perfect line up was established- Tim has been the guitarist for 3 years now, along with Gav on drums. Kade (Keys/Synth) joined a little later, and has been with us for just over a year. The great thing about this line-up is that we all bring different skills that compliment each other, which is how we feel a band should be.

Where are you all from?

We are a Manchester band and this is central to our identity.  It permeates our music and we are very proud of it.

Mercury Machine’s home/ rehearsal studio is in an old 19th century cotton Mill in East Manchester- there’s a boxing gym upstairs, a mini golf course next door and all kinds of community based projects happening there. This is great, because it means we are situated in a hub of activity. It’s also very inspiring architecture to be surrounded by– all the red brickwork, large windows and lots of old world internal fittings.

Our name itself is of local significance, as it links to one of the first commercial computers ever to be developed here in Manchester- The Mercury ‘Machine’. There are more details on our Facebook pages about this if people are interested.

There has always been a buzz around the Manchester music scene- do you ever feel pressured to fit into a certain mould? What do you think makes you stand out?

We’re very proud and comfortable about being a Manchester band. There’s a really good feel around things here at the moment.  Lot’s of independent promoters, bloggers and online Radio shows. If anything it means we’re spoilt for opportunities here to connect with people. In terms of fitting into a mould, we have our own thing going on but there’s no doubt, there a bit of Manc swagger in there.

How would you describe your music style to anyone who hasn’t heard your music before?

There are many influences on the band’s sound- I think we should say 80s inspired, although we suspect this is quite obvious when you listen to our songs! It’s been previously described as dark electro, synth-wave, indie and industrial- all these terms are fair. We use synths and this is a central part of Lee’s song writing.  We’re also a band that loves technology, Sci Fi, Marvel, superheroes and all things futuristic.

What can you tell us about the new album? Are there any standout songs for you?

Lee has literally just finished mixing the new album last week, after an epic period of late nights and coming close to madness! We’re obviously biased, but we think we have something really special- there is a link between the songs; they connect and fit together to create an overarching story.  Ultimately, we’re excited for other people to hear it and get some feedback.

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A little sneaky peek at the set list

Each member of the band has a different favourite, but I think we all share a love for ‘Aurora’.  The overall structure, central piano and synth parts make it really stand out. Our album launch gig is at Night People on Saturday 16th Feb in Manchester, in partnership with Scruff of The Neck promotions. We’d love for people to come down and see what they think.

Which artists do you look up to?

As a band we are massive Gary Numan fans.  He was a pioneering artist who used synths in new ways, his performance style was and still is very inspiring. We see massive parallels between him, Lee and our music. To be honest we’ve already been tweeting him, as our dream is to do collaboration with him in some way. If we keep knocking on his door, hopefully one day soon he’ll answer!

Finally… are there any artists that you’re particularly enjoying listening to at the moment, or anyone you would recommend to the Blue Light Beat readers?

To stop any arguments, it’s probably easier if we answer this individually..!

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Practice makes perfect

Tim (Guitarist): Depeche Mode Live in Berlin.  Awesome album, the way they build the atmosphere and connection with the Audience is amazing.

Lee (Songwriter and Singer): Ha, Mercury Machine. I’ve not had a chance to listen to anything else recently!

Carl (Bass): My playlists always feature Led Zeppelin and Radiohead. My parents were both Led Zep fans and this influenced the rockier side of me. Radiohead, particularly The Bends and OK Computer came out at a pivotal point in my life and inspired me to learn the guitar and want to be in a band.

Kade (Keyboards): Gunship and their new album ‘Dark all day’.

Gav (Drummer): Gary Numan’s first solo album ‘The Pleasure Principle’ Great synth hooks and warm drum grooves.

A big thanks to Mercury Machine for giving up their all important gig prep time to speak to Blue Light Beat – catch them at Night People on Saturday 16th February – get your tickets here!

Welcome to The Slow Readers Club

If I were to ask you to think of a city known for it’s music scene, I have a sneaking suspicion that Manchester would be fairly high up on your list of answers (said the unbiased Mancunian girl).

With this in mind, let me talk to you about The Slow Readers Club. This band has, with much determination and a loyal following of fans, steadily snowballed into a giant of the Mancunian music world. They’ve been releasing and performing music for nearly ten years, have toured the UK several times over and even filled tents at festivals such as Kendal Calling and Victorious Festival – but here’s the twist. While ticking off this huge list of achievements, The Slow Readers Club members were all still holding down their regular 9-5 jobs, and were an unsigned band. Long live rock and roll- but only out of office hours, naturally.

Relatively recently, the band’s popularity exploded to a whole new level, with the help of radio plays from the likes of BBC Music Introducing and XS Manchester.

The first time I heard ‘Supernatural’, with it’s heavy guitar coupled with the incredibly versatile voice of Aaron Starkie, I knew I needed to hear more; there were unmistakable hints of Joy Division, Editors and Depeche Mode all mixed into one, addictive sound.

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The Slow Readers Club acoustic set, October 2018. Albert Square, Manchester.

Shortly after becoming hooked on their latest album, Build a Tower, I heard on the grapevine, about a small acoustic set they would be playing in Albert Square in Manchester. Needless to say, I rolled up to the gig and couldn’t help but get caught up in the atmosphere; it was impossible not to feel lifted by the energy of the dedicated crowd in such a small space. They mentioned their upcoming gig at the 02 Apollo, and I for one, after what I’d seen that night, had every intention of being there.

Cut to December – since the acoustic session, there had been a huge buzz about the sold out Apollo concert on radio and social media. I’ve always felt that that there is something quite special about a band playing in their hometown; it’s something that perhaps can’t be explained in words, only felt in that moment the band walks out and that first chord plays. I’ve been to my fair share of gigs at the Apollo and it has the potential to be an incredible venue when the band feels and responds to the vibe of the crowd – I had a good feeling about this one.

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The Slow Readers Club, 02 Apollo Manchester, December 2018

Just like the acoustic session, the diversity of the audience was such a beautiful sight- young, old, couples, lone wolves, families – you name it, they were there. I’m not sure why (and feel free to call me the cheesiest human on earth after my next comment), but it really did bring me a warm, little feeling of joy to see music bringing people from all walks of life together.

It’s okay, I’ll see myself out.

The lights dimmed and through the haze of the spotlights, Starkie appeared in a thick black coat, collar popped, closely followed by Kurtis Starkie (guitar), James Ryan (Bass) and David Whitworth (drums). By this point, the bands words were barely audible over the noise and chanting of the crowd. Blasting straight in to ‘Lunatic’, all expectations I held were immediately exceeded – this was clearly a band that had honed their set and blended perfectly well together to create something extraordinary.

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The Slow Readers Club, 02 Apollo Manchester. December 2018.

The set spanned several albums, meaning that fans were left happy, regardless of when they had joined the band’s journey. We all knew what we were waiting for though, and the encore didn’t disappoint. The two final songs, ‘I Saw a Ghost’ and ‘On the TV’, saw the crowd turn into a collective superpower. ‘I Saw A Ghost’ is one of the band’s older tracks, from the album Cavalcade, and is probably one of the most well known from their back catalogue. It’s the final song, though, that brings with it a catchy, chant-able loop of guitar goodness. If you don’t believe me, have a look at this video on their Instagram, filmed by the boys themselves… I must warn you, I take no responsibility for this tune being stuck in your head all day/week/year.

The Slow Readers announced at the end of their set, that they would finally be giving up their day jobs in late December, in order to live the dream and pursue their musical careers full time.

New/Old/Undersold Playlists

“We can be heroes just for one day.”

-David Bowie

There are countless magazines and blogs out there dedicated to brand new music, and this is why I wanted to start a playlist section with a little bit of a difference. In the New/Old/Undersold playlists you’ll find amazing bands and artists from every decade; maybe they have been around since before you were born, maybe they released their first tune yesterday. The only thing they have in common, is that you probably won’t find them being played in the Radio 1 Top 40 charts…

This is a place for incredible, must-hear music and artists that might have/have had a huge following in their own genres, but may not be widely known, or even local bands who are just starting out on the gig circuit.

If you know of a band or song that needs to be heard by everyone, get in touch!

Playlist #01

To check out the rest of the New/Old/Undersold playlists (it’s worth it, I promise), click here.

Don’t Believe in Guilty Pleasures

“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you f***ing like something, like it.”

-Dave Grohl 

Say hello to a new little feature for the Blue Light Beat! These playlists are made for full volume sing alongs – whether that’s with friends on a Friday night, or in the Monday morning ‘please don’t make me go to work’ shower…

Keep a look out for regular updates, but if you miss out, you’ll always be able to find the latest offerings by clicking on the playlists tab at the top of the page.

Here’s playlist #01 – Happy Friday!

Make sure you check out the rest of the Don’t Believe in Guilty Pleasures playlists by clicking here – you should probably turn the volume up!

St. Paul and the Broken Bones

When it comes to musical choices, it can be incredibly easy to become stuck in a rut. There have certainly been many occasions, when, if you were to look at my playlists over several days, you’d think we were still in the 90s. Oh hey Eddie Vedder, fancy seeing you here?!

Sometimes, it can be your current life circumstances that affect the music you find yourself reaching out for. You know how it goes: naff week at work = Nirvana on repeat. Should we add in some Foos? Oh go on then. How about some lively, early 2000s pop rock to cheer us up?

No thank you, how dare you even suggest such a thing? Let me be miserable in peace.

Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s really important to mix up your musical influences and occasionally step outside of your usual comfort zones. There is always something new to be discovered, and being fairly closed-minded is the easiest way to miss out on the good things in life. If you were to ask me what kind of music I like, I’d naturally head in the direction of rock and alt. rock, indie, Britpop and so on. With this having been said, there are artists I’d list in my top-listened-to-loves, that don’t fit my usual ‘type’ – this is something I want to explore a little more with you.

Let’s take a globally well-known example of Amy Winehouse; a beautiful soul who gave us lyrics and melodies that will never fade, no matter how many years pass. I challenge you to listen to the Back to Black album and not feel anything- go on, have a go. You don’t have to understand music composition or chord structures to appreciate what’s going on with her music, you just know that the harmonies and unapologetic honesty make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Her music spans several genres; some might describe it as soul, some might say that she was more of a jazz artist. Therefore it’s interesting, that I wouldn’t list jazz and soul as genres I enjoy listening to on a regular basis, yet she appears on many of my day-to-day playlists.

With all this in mind, let me move on to a gig I recently went to with a friend of mine. It was an acoustic set by The Slow Readers Club, who are another brilliant product of Manchester that I can’t stop listening to – more on these boys later! The friend I saw them with is very much into her soul music, and should probably have been born in a different decade. She told me about a band that was touring- one I’d never even heard of, let alone listened to. St Paul and the Broken Bones- an 8-piece, soul filled, brass backed, generally jazzy group of guys from Alabama. They would be supported by The Americans; think roots rock, folky guitar riffs and banjo parts that make foot tapping compulsory. Several gins went by and we made plans to go to their gig at the Albert Hall a couple of months later.

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The Americans @ The Albert Hall, Manchester, 15/11/2018

I didn’t really know what to expect, but didn’t think it would be my cup of tea. How wrong I was. That gig turned into one of the best I’ve been to this year. Let’s bear in mind that so far in 2018, I’ve been lucky enough to see the Foos, Iggy Pop, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice, The Hives to name only a few… so this is a pretty big claim.

The Albert Hall in Manchester, is a beautiful setting for any concert, but it fit this band perfectly in so many ways. The eerie purple spotlights lit up the stained glass windows and church-like alcoves in all their glory. The band emerged, lead singer Paul Janeway adorned in a sequin cape.

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St. Paul and the Broken Bones @ The Albert Hall, Manchester, 15/11/2018

The brass backing burst into life, the guitar and bass following closely- a scene and a sound that instantly brought a smile to my face. When the vocals kicked in, it was something else altogether- this was so far away from my usual go to musical style of choice, but on hearing songs like ‘Call Me’ and ‘Apollo’, I found my whole body covered in goosebumps. The musical talent on display was difficult to absorb all at once, but in the best way possible. It was so clear to see that this was a bunch of established musicians, both in perfect control of their own instruments as well as understanding the broader musical field. Yet, this was unquestionable soul. Soul isn’t ‘my type’. How could I possibly be enjoying it?

I should probably get to my point- I know you’re a busy person with a life to lead. Here it is: if Alan Carr’s Doppelgänger in a sequin cape (no really, Google him), along with an incredible band, who don’t fit into my go-to genres in the slightest, made for one of my best gigs of the year, what does that mean? It means, that we should all make the effort to broaden our tastes, because it might be that a band that you’d never think to listen to, will be the one to lead you down a path you never thought was for you. Think about the genre you listen to most. Now think of an artist you like, who doesn’t necessary fall into that genre…Got one? Let’s make a deal- next time you’re listening to them, look at the ‘related artists’ on Spotify and have a cheeky gander, or maybe skip through a few of the related videos if you’re on YouTube. You never know who or what you might find…

Now please excuse me, but I’m off the listen to more St. Paul on repeat.