Schizophrenic Sussex band

Sometimes music moves you to look back in the past. Philip Larkin, groping his way to bed after a piss, comes across the moon through the curtains: “The hardness and the brightness and the plain / Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare / Is a reminder of the strength and pain / Of being young; that it can't come again / But is for others undiminished somewhere.”

Although I’m still not old enough to frame my posters, I felt the keenness of this line when watching Nimmo and the Gauntletts today. All in their early twenties but somehow looking much younger, NATG arrive at the Clarks Originals store on a watery sunlit midday dressed very Brighton art house. With a polo shirt resembling a mediaeval mapa mundi, and pale orange ginger mop savaged into a step at the back, lead singer Sarah Nimmo looked teasingly androgynous with Reva Gauntlett on vocals and guitar in bow tie, shirt and beanie.

Their best song, ‘Woe is Me’, is a new effort apparently, segueing violins, and a sung conversation between the two vocalists, with beautiful lyrics exploring the moral value of the act of love.

The medley of different instruments, from violins [Josh Faull] to saxophone [Hannah Rose] let air into the group’s sound, but it was the lead’s vermilion energy which injected the Larkin-taunting beauty into things.

‘Bandol Blues’ injected touches of post-punk and folk strings, lyrics delivered charmingly rushed and compressed ‘’Are you scared of flirting with death’, well I said no ‘I’m just afraid of flirting with myself’’.

Almost tempted to give best song award to this track, but to be honest most tracks were filled with a ragged, peach blossom angst that charmed the packed store into whoops of approval at the end of each track.

Nimmo [Sarah] and Gauntlett [Reva] met at school together and now study at the Sussex University, home of many an art rock band as we know, [and god help us, DJ Scotch Egg].

Sarah has confessed her love for Duran Duran and Depeche Mode, as well as taking influence from Talking Heads. Their influence goes as far as ska, with ‘Chin Up’, a cheery syncopated little number. There is certainly a little of the Libertines gypsy-jangle to them. Their EP, Starcrossed Lonely, contains a fair few of the strong tracks available on their MySpace.

It’s been said before that this band are schizophrenic – they have the knack for manic sets and also slow numbers. The dimensions of the Clarks Originals store meant that they couldn’t allow for the drum kit [played with skill by Jack Williams] so the crowd remained a lot more sedate than perhaps a Brighton Art School free party.

Apparently some of the crowd had travelled from even Glasgow to catch the set; a cheering sight for Sarah, who had suffered heartbreak on Valentine’s Day, being dumped at 4 in the morning.

Being a Strummerville band – in a huge leap for the band they featured centrally in Don Letts’ documentary on the foundation – they – Josh in particular – remember listening to The Clash as kids, whilst Reva was addicted to Motown. A wide span of influences, then for one of the most stimulating and moving bands of 2011.

Words by Miguel Cullen

Find out more about Clarks Originals 'Original And Live' gig series on HERE.

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