London’s shoegaze sisters Novella were known as the hardest working band in the capital, playing the circuit relentlessly, gaining admiration from industry and fans while taking it all in their stride. Recently they’ve been quiet, channeling that same energy into the studio. Now they’ve emerged with new track ‘Mary’s Gun’ and are testing out even more new material on the road. Tonight we check them out in Manchester with Bristol’s baggy four-piece Towns, and the city’s own hot-prospect Temple Songs.
First up are Temple Songs, kicking things off with their sleazy low-fi pop and fuzzy bubblegum rock. They take to the stage with little fuss, quickly gathering a rabble of intrigued ticketholders. Frontman Jolan Lewis hides behind his mop of hair with his head hung at a constant low. It’s in this stance that he and the rest of the band coolly serenade Sound Control with a cocktail of dirty pop, echoed vocals and dreamy refrains. It’s an alluring combination of nostalgia and something nail-bitingly new. Every now and then you’ll catch a glimpse of something familiar, like the bouncy chorus in the carefree ‘I Could Kill You Any Time’, but before you can grab hold of this surf pop chant it’s engulfed in a liberal dose of hazy guitars. Clearly a band with intention, Temple Songs let their music speak for them, leaving the stage having hardly uttered a word to the audience. Not that it matters; their exciting sound speaks volumes.
Towns take to the stage next. The floppy haired four-piece hit the ground running, performing a set with vigor and confidence. As spindly lead man James MacLucas croons into the mic, frequently nudging his head into the torso of guitarist John Paul Beaumont, fans play witness to an on-stage love in. In between, the guys find time to squeeze in a selection of ace tracks and a fair amount of banter. Renditions of their whirling single ‘Gone Are The Days’ and the irresistibly boisterous ‘Heads Off’ are the real gems in this set. Both get the service they’re due and both have “future indie-floor faves” firmly plastered all over them. What’s more, some quirky pre-song intros help spread the smirks: “This song is about a girl that’s insane…” reveals MacLucas to a bemused crowd. However, it’s not long before that Doherty-Barât swooning reaches boiling point. As Towns close out their set in a climax of crashing sound and piercing feedback, MacLucas is left cross-legged on the floor tampering with a horizontal guitar. When the dust, and stage, finally clears, all that’s left is tonight’s crowd and their ear-to-ear grins.
Our headline act has travelled far to be with us tonight. Last time the Novella girls were in town they opened for Veronica Falls at The Deaf Institute. Here at Sound Control they have the stage entirely to themselves. Standing before tonight’s crowd, this all girl trio ease into their dreamy rock-meets guitar-dirge groove with each member hidden behind sheets of long, flowing hair. Don’t mistake them for some kind of hair-metal act though; Novella’s music couldn’t be further from. With their slow-burning sound, Novella have the unique ability to transform each track into a larger-than-life mood piece thanks to their chaotic, all encompassing melodies. New one ‘Mary’s Gun’ proves to be a highlight tonight, as leading lady Hollie Warren effortlessly enchants the crowd with its dangerously catchy refrain. Meanwhile, the band’s relentless guitars and tangled bass turn the remainder of their set into an epic storm of live sound. That said, breezy numbers like the happy-go-lucky ‘Santiago’ try to keep things carefree while ‘Don’t Believe Ayn Rand’ extends the buzz with some swirling ethereal rock. The girls exit the stage in a musical whirlwind leaving fans wondering about what’s just hit them. However by the looks on their faces, they’d happily go again.
Words by Simon Bland
Photo by James George